Years ago my husband NJ had gifted me a bouquet of blue silk roses for our anniversary, but later a relative wanted it for her wedding bouquet. I didn’t have the heart to say No, nor could find another just like it. What followed was an endless search for the blue roses, in every shop and city we could think of, yes even after Amazon happened but no sign of any blue beauties.
Then this year as we dropped our daughter off at a lane across from nice shop called Green Tag complete with Einstein looking Owner who could sniff out our need; “What exactly d’you want?” Einstein asked his serious eyes lit up with joy. We mumbled. He understood and left us to ourselves and his collections of fern, ZZ, Water babies, Palm giants & dwarves, Bird of paradise wild stalk and then I saw her, clustered at the roof of Einstein’s green house. Not one bloom on her but she called at me.
“Jacquemontia.” Einstein whispered with reverent awe.
Back home I looked up the name. Oh my. Such a big name for wee creeper in my tiny balcony. Then the flowers arrived. Blue yeah. Not roses, not silk, but real. One, then two, three, four. And every bud a promise of restoration. Not just make believe but the real thing. A real planting of the Creators Words coming to Life. Our daughter Vihan took this pic and with every new bud I’m thinking on how He restores, with no limits, in ways we cannot imagine. I’m staring at His fingers writing sermons in little Jacquemontia, all for my tiny window on heaven.
My April flower – Jacque- montia, big name for a bushling, already a favorite in our tiny balcony garden. It is war with local pigeon though, that want to nest here. One feather head, Tina born here, now tries tag her brood in, every season along with speckled partner. They are a mess, and we’ve told them that. They need to get independent. Get a tree. They won’t listen. Now there’s Jacquemont– found her at a local shop, she loves the sun. Reminds me of India. Teeming with survival.
Her house was green: from a new painted roof to shutters in soft green. Every room was like a library, even their table was decorated with books, I’d never seen anything like it. My home was a museum of random memoralibia: drying rose bouquet in bamboo vase from Odisha, tatted table top made by Gran, a coir center mat and coir rimmed lamp shade that overlooked a sofa set in dying rust red velvet, yes we had books but nothing decorous like those at Shasi’s place: we had Reader’s Digest,Good Housekeeping old copies from the sales at the Library every year. And we had Caravan yellow backs, and Dad’s volumes of Carpentry&Tool care! Nothing in green except a stool he hand painted. And yes, 16 types of Bibles. Or more.(Not in green, those).
When Shasi came home, evenings after Math tution, she smiled all polite and wouldn’t look at my collection of feathers in last year’s old English Textbook. She was fussy I thought, but later saw how she wouldn’t look at her own books either, or at her own stamp collection. As a matter of fact she never looked much at much: but she listened hard, and I would later learn how big a gift that was.
Years later we met at college, and she recalled details I’d forgotten all about: like when we had had chicken pox and how Ma had brought us bouquets of neem leaf. She recalled songs,we’d done at contests, and which ones we lost at. In particular she remembered how I fell apart at an Essay Contest at school, and how we climbed a guava tree and ate every last guava to celebrate that sadness. Later we were sick with too much of that fruit and went to a gooseberry tree and ate some there till our teeth were raw. So yes, green will always remind me of Shasi, and how she listened to the sound of colors. And other things. She remembered us praying in the dark sleepover after cousin P.recounted bits of Psycho that weird horror movie; she never stopped praying after that she said. It gave her a better option than worrying or staying sleepless, on nights when there was illness or a thing to stress over. I never thought she’d be the type to receive comfort from prayer, or notice how it changed a room, but apparently she did. Did she read all the beautiful books in her house? Shasi nodded and said ,”Your Bibles were so loud at your place Ray, I had to go and
get my own collection. Come over some time to Kolkotta…”
(I could write more but am one minute past the five mins allowed to FMF prompts! Have a great day y’all)
Touch me Lord, deep within the fractures of my territory. Cleanse me here where darkness hides, but You know! You know every battle wound, curse & bleed. You who hears my cry, unlock my joy, fill my eyes with your Light, my ears with Your Life. Father God, liberate my sensitivities; may I need none else but You: Your gaze, Your embrace, Your absolute Friendship; all my citizenship in Your Kingdom-unshakeable, within this heart so easily broken.
Un break me Lord, forgive the sins of our fathers, melt my stones, rebuild my body as Your Temple. Healing God, birth me anew, regenerate me: only You can, only You.
I got one of the dearest surprise Christmas presents I’ve ever received: Lil Marijs! – a baby sheep in soft fur, oh the child in me came out to play. Marijs, from a literal far away country, is a gift from a generous hearted person who did not let a deadly viral stop her – am surprised silly how her Lil Marijs makes me unselfconscious dizzy happy.
I’ve always fussed over our childrens’ toys- their soft long ears and tails. Yesterday our second daughter tells me lovingly that I didn’t need to talk to her via Elle her elephant, or insist she puts socks back in via Turta, or make Purple(bear) remind her about her bed covers…I ask her why I’m this way, she says, “Ma, because you’re still a child…”
I loved the way those words settled in my ears; the way they pulled at my opinionated bones to rise and shine. How was I to know that today at 5pm there’d be a delivery of Marijs: a Reminder to regroup my inners.
Marijs‘ cross border Arrival @ a time of teeth chattering International misery is a thing to ponder at. Don’t tell me its just a child’s toy: this things Delivery is of the kingdom of the God of Impossibilities. Here one is Shepherded into a Place reserved for those who dare to be baffled
yeah, stare at how we could stare at where Joy and Peace and Mercy and Purity kiss each other,
touch the impossibly melting softness of human kindness, this quality that did NOT birth off the devil who destroys, accuses, lies,steals,kills…hates.
This quality births off the gentle lowly Manger, where Love came down soft one tender night: a Surprise Visitor that still loves like none I know can….
Marij is a 2020 Reminder of Him and how He moves us to Gift each other this Giving, of everything opposed to evil, of everything born of God, in the humility of a manger,
The Hush of That grabs me by the jaw and asks me to lay off grown up protocol. This is a time to peer through the dark glass and see
That the Giver of Gifts isn’t dead; He has mysterious ways of reviving our real selves no matter the viral forecast.
We are born with the constant hunger for reality; shut your eyes, feel that pulse, it was there when we took our first breath and walk and words. But we gave ourselves permit to retire into Doubt; Faith Hope & Love were for the ladies in the prayer circle who knitted socks for babies of refugees. Not Us. We were grown ups with toothpicks in our brain just in case we bit back into old ways. Faith was for Medieval mystics. Not for the Renaiisanced. We walked the Moon, we fed graves, we became the Machine that fed the beast in us. An earth that cud chewed Itself, ouch. That bunch of words hurts to just write it. Or read it.
Marijs makes me want to stare at the possibility of being free of doubt that all will be well, and that there will be peace on earth,
stare at the act of prayer that began me as a child; I prayed for Dan the tall boy with a hole in his heart, and he went on like Deep, the paraplegic 30 yearold who took me for rides in his chair he drove like a maniac: Dan & Deep had the manners of people who knew who they were and where they were headed, it was to God. These were real people who impacted me much as a child. Dan left me a book of Bible verses he cut from Calenders. Deep gave me a box of Legos I loved and gave to a tiny boy called Deepak – he had a pony fringe and worried eyes but when he smiled he grinned 360 degrees.
All this I revisited after Marijs came home to me a few hours ago from a country across my Northern border and am staring at how the Gift of Giving can provoke, promote Life: the kind that makes us kind in the purest sense.
My creative tribute to Dad, his Raleigh, & all the wonderful ‘challenged’ people in the world. You are my heart! May you find peace and love and joy in the truest sense of the word: and laughter! Thankyou Treadbikley!❤ (must add I’m still terrified of crossing streets. Doesnt help that I live in the world’s most tough lanes 😅)
I try not to stare at Jeeva and his BSA on the railway tracks at Maki Station, as the two freefall over the gravel slope in front of our gate.
Jeeva has eyes in his feet, I know, but I cannot watch this. He grins in my direction, the last rays of another sun settle across his eye bones, and for a moment, there he is, a lighthouse, the light spilling off him.
‘B,’ his BSA bicycle, lounges against the white wall, glistening bright red. I helped him paint it six weeks ago. My friendly neighbor ‘lighthouse’ scans the wheels, spoke, and chain with two sets of rags: one that’s wet and another for dust. He knows I’m here; I can tell he’s self-conscious because his left jaw muscle moves nervously.
We met exactly a year ago when he moved in. What a noise that was, with six metal trunks labeled in Braille and not enough parking space for his ‘B!’ It took a while for us all to recognize that instead of a guide dog guide or a long cane, our new neighbor walked along with his blood-red-cautionary bicycle mate. Genius.
A few weeks ago, he touched my face. When a blind person feels your face, it isn’t necessarily a romantic gesture. They want to know how you smile, and whether they can trust you the same way they trust their B’s bell at traffic lights and crossings.
I took it personally. I’m mid-thirtyish, a graduate from India’s best arts college in Bangalore city. Jeeva is 40, maybe 45? I’m unsure. He’s of my Pa’s generation, though.
Speaking of which, Pa owned a three-speed Phillip’s gearbox fitted into a Raleigh, which he rode like a teenager at 70. “Keeps me young,” he said, that rush of the wind in his ears. He was a cross between a true-blooded South Indian and a male Mary Poppins.
Pa brought home kittens in that carrier basket, kicking live lobsters, and even a drake and ducklings that had lost their partner and mother in a storm. Once, we rode with Pa down Jasmine hill to the steep turn where we fell into sheep. Another time, we fell in horse dung, sliding us neatly past Mr. McFarlane’s villa, Pa’s Raleigh cycle following in tandem.
Ach! The look in McFarlane’s face as he watched over his wall, mouth hung in the despair of delight. That Christmas, they invited us over, and Mrs. M.’s eyes twinkled with contained secrets. It was their last month before they went back to Perth, and the last thing he said to us was, “Oi, you girls, and Dad do a neat spin now and then, don’t ya? What were you doin’ all four of you in the seat of your pants down Jasmine hill, eh?!”
Mai, my mother, pretended like she never heard a word.
“How’s it going?” Jeeva asked.
“How’s what going?” I didn’t know what to say. Would he know I have shoulder-length hair, my 5’ 4″ frame was curled like a cane divan? Or, that my prosthetics still hurt? That I’ve been in ‘lockdown’ 24 hours a day since a car accident took my feet, and my parents? That my sisters are a teacher and a doctor, and I’m an artist with oils? That last detail, he knows, since we are colleagues at APH.
The evening Pa taught me to ride, I thought he was holding onto the rear of my bicycle, but he’d let go as I rode along the trail running parallel to the sea. I took a steep curve back down. I thought he was yelling behind me, but his voice was carried along with the sea winds, and my heart went like horses. “Keep going, Ray,” he yelled. His voice returns now, and again when I forget, I cannot fly.
When Jeeva speaks, he has no accent; no rolling of R’s, flattening of the alphabet’s W. “We could be good together…”
“I don’t know that.”
“We do not know much. Y’know about everything? About an Earth spinning with zero support from any of us, just gravity, the same thing that holds us down too?”
“You must be pretty. I can tell by the way you are not easy to please.” He’s laughing. If you call a snub-nosed elf pretty, then yes.
Jeeva finds my cane stool and straddles it. “Do you not want to get out? We could do shorter trips first.”
It’s hard not to smile.
“We both need our groceries and vitamin D. Then, when we can, let’s work out. This is important.”
He’s good at balancing manners with caution. That, and maybe he just wants company.
“I’ll walk my bicycle. You could join us with your chair?”
He means my wheelchair.
What a great-looking couple, going to get our greens and potatoes.
“You just want company,” I said.
“Yes, but not just any.” His grin is relieved; it lightens the air.
I worked as an Art Teacher at the Association for the Physically Handicapped, which was only a minute away. Jeeva taught music, now entirely online. It must’ve been dizzyingly difficult, but he was good.
Me? I sweat the details. How did he live with those whacked irises, all chained to reality and hope, light and darkness?
Twilight steeped with the monsoon.
Jeeva stood up, looking taller than his 5’10-ish frame.
I wanted to say to him, “Maybe this isn’t all about groceries.” And, that I saw how light spilled off him like a lighthouse this evening.
The last time I was up in the lighthouse with Pa, the coastal arc simmered blue. A low, orange door opened onto the outer lip of the black and white-striped tower. Here, winds plucked at my ears, arms, and legs. I tasted salt as I held onto the railing; it was scary, dangerous, “a lesson life taught you,” Pa said. “You need to hold onto all you can. Never stop that, never.”
Jeeva stays a bit longer. He wants to talk.
“I was born blind,” he says. “I grew up in a home for homeless boys like me. They taught us to test winds, listen for the sounds of people breathing and smiling. The air has these signals in temperature, like emotions. Like a ground that dips, swells.”
“If you focus too much on what you cannot do, you will fall,” he continued. “It is the worst temptation to focus on how you can fall.”
He turns his face toward me for one long moment, like he can see. Then, he begins to leave, saying he’s tired and must wake up early. “Tomorrow, we are going to do this. One little stretch at a time. I will not take the Maki railway route. Instead, we will go down by the park,” he said.
I stalled. This wasn’t going to be easy.
“Hey, Hey! No negative spins, Ray. You take a break whenever. When—ever.”
Fine. That sounded fine. How my ‘feet’ would take it, I did not know, but I wanted this. It was also the first time he’d said my name.
I arrived back at my house, with its wide doors for a wheelchair, its shelves within arm’s reach. Safe, easy. There’s a rush in my ears, the noise of negation.
It will be nice with Jeeva. Maybe, one day we can take the kids from APH and go someplace, maybe a safe slope to start.
‘Keep going, Ray…’ a voice calls past the spin in my heart.