Homestretch

So, Thanksgiving has come and gone. The Holiday Season has begun. What that means is up for grabs. My guess is that for most of us it is a combination of decorating, shopping, cooking, year end/Holiday events, It can feel frenzied. With family expected by the middle of December, I too am grappling with my to-do list. I’d like to get plenty done before their arrival so we’re able to make the very most of our time together. It’s been three and a half years since we last got together – so this feels particularly emotional and exciting.

But first, there’s much to do. Getting the house ready for our first house guests since the end of 2019 and Work From Home having changed the general configuration of how we now function means some creative thinking is in order. It seems as though every room must be reconsidered for purpose and aesthetics. I’m feeling excited and yet daunted by the challenge.

There’s shopping, baking, cooking and decorating too. I really want to get most things done before the guests arrive. And everything will indeed get done IF I stay on course with my agenda. At first, that aforementioned agenda started out looking really packed. But after some good deep breaths and common sense prevailing, I’ve simplified it. That’s the key – keep it simple. And authentic.

Simple, yet hearty meals cooked and frozen. Stews, soups, baked eggplant Parmigiana, lasagnas are ideal. Add a fresh, green salad, good bread, fine wine and dinner is served. I also love cheese boards, fresh fruits, crudites with a variety of creative and healthy dips ( homemade and/or store bought), an assortments of nuts, finger foods ( again homemade or store bought) in lieu of traditional meals. It’s about enjoying the company not about trying to impress anyone.

I find cleaning and organizing very cathartic. And typically, I do a big sort out in every room twice a year. Early spring and early winter. Hence, at this time, it’s all about getting cozy and comfortable. After a thorough cleaning, extra throws and blankets are brought out, the fireplace is made ready for use all winter, reading material and good lighting easily accessed, ditto for board games and puzzles, all the makings for enjoying the season. Candles and the paperwhites and amaryllis bulbs I’ve got going keep the home looking and smelling festive. Dried hydrangea spray painted gold adorn the mantel. In other places the hydrangea are left in their natural state of faded beauty. Pine cones, acorns and seed pods, leaves still clinging to branches, sprigs of evergreens and other treasures found around the garden adorn the house. I find it enormously comforting to bring the natural world in – they remind me of our divine connection to Nature and the part we play in the grand scheme. It humbling too.

As we enter the final month of the year, I think about the seasons gone by – the highlights and low-lights. More specifically, I assess the role I have played. What am I proud of, where did I fall short, what could I have done better or different? What am I trying to achieve and how can I do it? My covenant with Nature is lifelong and constant. As a result, what I do and how I live matters. My choices in products I buy and use matters. I think about what more I can do to better align myself to my mission of doing right by the environment. These thoughts are most often examined when I’m on my daily walks. They inform me on how I address my daily chores and leisure. Which comes down to how I deal with the demands of the holiday season – Do no harm, keep it simple, natural and most importantly, honest.

Being home for the holidays is the ultimate luxury.

Note: Images from previous years –

Home

Dried alliums painted gold – sparklers!

Golden garland of dried hydrangea

Homegrown lemons brightening everything

Amaryllis tree

(c) 2022 Shobha Vanchiswar

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August Aura

August Aurum

Rays so radiant, burnished bright

Sunflower faces beaming high

Solidago spreading yellow light

Peaches ripening as branches sigh

Flickering flames of Monarch flights

     Mantled in gold is August.

– Shobha Vanchiswar

Joy and gratitude in reuniting with my father notwithstanding, I miss my garden. The flowers that showed up and left, the butterflies that visited, imbibed and moved on, the nests that were built and occupied. Being cooped up in a city apartment has revealed most clearly just how much my garden contributes to my well-being. Don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely no remorse in coming to Mumbai at such a difficult, scary time. My heart could simply not bear the forced separation from my father any longer. He and I needed this visit equally. It’s been fraught with emotion and that’s exactly why I miss my garden. The monsoons rains prevent me from seeking a temporary sanctuary in a park or public garden. In fact, the sun has graced us on just two brief occasions over the course of almost 3 weeks!

Being in my little botanical paradise gives me perspective and balance. A daily dose of time in the garden admiring the flowers, being entertained by the wildlife, tending to chores provides the much needed time to muse over whats happening in my life and work out solutions, make immediate and long-term plans and often, take stock of all the many blessings I’m given – in essence, one gains perspective and clarity. It is the therapy so priceless and valuable that I miss it no matter where I am for any length of time.

As I wrestle with future actions to keep my father safe, happy, engaged and comfortable in these uncertain times, I wish I had access to my garden. It would help me make good, wise decisions. As always.

The images below are from last July/August –

(c) 2021 Shobha Vanchiswar

The Gift Of The Ordinary

It’s been hard to get away from the news these days. Everywhere one looks there is something gone awry. Disorder, discord and destruction is seemingly the new normal. Tempers are running high while spirits are low. Between Mother Nature’s might and all the political unrest, our world feels unsettled and out of alignment. It’s an extraordinarily heartbreaking time at present. It’s overwhelming and one wonders what the point of it all might be. While I reach out to those struggling to recover from natural disasters and man-made horrors, my heart reminds me to seek solace in the gift of the ordinary.

We take ordinary for granted. In fact, we often complain about it right? Seeking excitement and the extraordinarily, we whine about the same old-same old, the mundane, the quotidian. But it’s precisely those humdrum, routine tasks that give us certain assurance. They tell us that all is as it should be. Things are normal. There is wondrous peace in that.

This past week, in trying to process all the goings on and looking for how I can be of most service, I’ve found such comfort in doing the unremarkable chores in the garden. Whilst weeding, I’ve observed the earthworms tilling the earth and the bees making their rounds. The seed pods rattling in the breeze that brings a fresh shower of leaves in colors of the sun. I’ve taken note of the slender green needles of emerging grass from the recently seeded front lawn. In tucking away the pots of tender plants into the greenhouse, I’m reassured that they will be warm and safe through the cold months. Picking Swiss chard for supper, I’m struck by how much I enjoy this vegetable and how it keeps giving well into early December. Washing out the large pots now emptied of their seasonal contents, I watch the birds raid the meadow for seeds and bugs. The low slant of the afternoon light sets aglow the asters as though reminding the butterflies and bees there remains only a few more hours before visiting hours are over. Meanwhile, in another corner, the light turns the swaying heads of ornamental grasses into feathers of polychromatic optic fibers. Cutting back the plants will have to wait another week or two – this senescence is so beautiful .

These familiar chores put my heart at ease and for one all too brief period, my fear, anxiety, anger, sorrow and frustration are forgotten. Ordinary is good.

I wrote the poem below three years ago. It expresses the same sentiments.

The Gift Of The Ordinary

The early demand

to make room

for still warm toes

and sleep tousled hair

against my languid self.

 

Sandwiched between

husband and child

Wide awake

much too hot

wouldn’t change a thing.

 

Quick kisses, rushed goodbyes

Sudden quiet amidst the dishes

Hours open

creative freedom

the comfort of home.

 

Laundry rituals, weekly menus

Deadlines, submissions

instep with

family time, date night

snatched moments of solitude.

 

Belonging, beloved

sleep deprived on a good day

Supported, cheered

trailing behind on paperwork

The gift of the ordinary.

                                             –Shobha Vanchiswar

Note: I hope you will visit one or all of the art shows I’m in this month!

Rainbow chard

Moving into the greenhouse in progress

(c) 2017 Shobha Vanchiswar