I crack my face from the computer screen;
endless numbers and colours
and impressions of others’ lives.
I am drunk on noise.
I have drunk so much noise that it flows from my ears and eyes.
Now change the view:
fields at 7pm.
I don’t care if it’s a cliche to admire this
somewhere between night and day.
Today it has rained so much that even the soft light is washed clean,
My eyes ache, refocus on distant points,
sheafs of cloud, brilliant white and thunder blue.
The grass shivers as the sun slips lower,
There is so much movement even in this stillness –
striped snails navigate the paths with cautious grace,
one magpie dives like a playing card tossed through the air,
I can feel again,
I can drink this forever –
the wet pavements covered in spatters of orange
and pink, from the flowering trees,
the sound of your name spoken softly all the while.
Category Archives: Seasonal
I crack my face from the computer screen;
It’s that time of year again. Today is Govardhan Puja, when we remember Sri Krishna’s incredible lifting of a sacred mountain in Vrindavan. In the Vaishnava calendar there are so many festivals and as the years go by they stack on top of one another like layers of sediment. I imagine my life so far as a rock – each layer a testament to the moments that I spent thinking about Krishna – the thick, densely packed areas, or not – those are the crumbling parts.
I can remember so many distinct Govardhan pujas – many spent in the soggy English October, inside a white marquee, huddling in front of blow heaters while we listened to narrations of the amazing story. As children one of our favourite parts of the day was the creation of ‘the hill’. This is a giant mound of sweets, dressed to mimic Govardhan Hill – usually complete with ponds of honey, boulders made of milk sweets and bright green shredded coconut for grass. The hill would be covered with plastic animals – deer, birds and lots of cows. After everyone had performed the puja of walking around the hill three times, the sweets would start to be handed out, and along with them, the plastic animals. My toy cupboards at home were full of the most prized- the cows. My small herd grew each year, and I would eagerly look forward to each year’s festival, when I would wait with hands outstretched as a priest plucked animals off the mound and dropped them into the reaching palms of all the kids.
So why build a hill of sweets? It’s definitely fun, but deeper than that, it’s just one way to remember the miraculous activities of Krishna, and help our love for him to grow. It’s also a beautiful way to celebrate Govardhan Hill, also known as Giriraj – the king of mountains. In Krishna’s world, everyone has personality – nothing is just stone, or just a tree. Everything is full of life, full of love, full of desire to serve. Giriraj is considered to be one of the greatest servants of Krishna, since he limitlessly gives the bounty of his forests, waterfalls, minerals and more to the villagers of Vrindavan.
Last year I spent Govardhan Puja in Vrindavan, where it is extra special, since the real Govardhan Hill is only miles away. In the central courtyard of the Krishna Balaram temple, I stood on a raised platform with six other girls, scooping handfuls of scorching, fragrant halava and pressing them onto the plastic covered frame of the hill. Our hands quickly became tender, burnt by the steam, and we slid about as the hot ghee oozed from the mound around our feet. In the meantime, raucous, joyful kirtan thundered away. The following week, I was staying at the foot of Govardhan itself. It was one of the most sacred, deep experiences of my life. Each day I would wake and watch the sun light pass over the rocky face of the hill, and after a day absorbed in chanting and hearing about Krishna, I would sit in a small grove of trees and listen to the night songs of the crickets. I never believed I would really feel that a hill was a person, but after seven days, I felt his deep presence, blessing all who came near him to pray.
At the end of my time there, I built a tiny house of stones. Some people do this to pray to Giriraj for a safe, happy home to live in, but I prayed that however long it took, I may one day live there in that sacred place. These days I stay in Manhattan on the 21st floor. Outside my windows the tops of towering buildings remind me of his ridges and peaks, and I realise that whether here or there, his blessings are near.
Crunching through fresh snow,
better than putting pen to
an unwritten page
After a 24 hour journey we finally reached Australia! It’s spring here and I’m so enchanted by all of the flowering trees – magenta sprays of bougainvillea, clustered lilac jacaranda trees with branches like embroidered thread, long carob pods, and brilliant red flame trees. We’ve tried to just relax today but went down to a local park where we came across a Hang drummer. We couldn’t resist getting into a little jam with him and inviting him to the Brisbane Maha Kirtan on Saturday.
Dawn in the Harrison household. The first glow of orange tints the horizon. All is still.
Suddenly, a cacophony of alarms begin to sound. Electric beeping in six discordant tones, crackly self recorded music from mobile phone alarms, ringing sounds – coming from five different parts of the house. They ring for a few minutes, then gradually, abruptly stop. Exactly five minutes later, it all begins again. Someone stirs. Someone calls out for someone else to come and spray water on their face. The minutes pass. The third round of alarms begin.
We are a family with good intentions. We all value getting up early, and we all try, but we don’t always find it easy. Still, it’s much easier now that the seasons are changing. Winter in England is a terrible time to get up, whatever the hour. But now it’s almost May, and the mornings have been fresh, warm, and full of promise. Before the school children and people going to work stir the air, it’s heavy with the scent of spring blossoms, and the fields of yellow rapeseed nearby.
It’s not hard to feel inspired on mornings like this. In fact, I’m grateful for them, as they strengthen my resolve to be up early, no matter the season. In Vedic terms, this early time is called the brahma muhurta, and is considered extremely conducive to learning and elevating thought. I know I can feel it, very tangibly.
Today I came upon a quote I really like about getting up early, from Henry David Thoreau’s ‘Walden’. He said ‘All memorable events … transpire in morning time and in a morning atmosphere. The Vedas say ‘All intelligences awake in the morning.’ Poetry and art, and the fairest and most memorable of the actions of men, date from such an hour.’
I’ve been finishing of the bibliography for one of my university projects today, and I also found this piece of music, commonly sung every morning in the 1800s in Californian Mission churches – El Cantico del Alba. It praises the Virgin Mary, and I think it’s very uplifting and beautiful melody. I could write more about morning music, but perhaps I’ll save that for another blog.
Our cherry tree looks good in the morning too…
A few weeks ago I went for a walk on my university campus. It’s set in the middle of Trent Country Park so there’s a beautiful beech forest, and plenty of interesting flora and fauna about. I passed the pond full of placidly swimming ducks, as I made my way back to the main building. Then I did a double take. Bobbing around in the water, pottering around the bank, were the strangest looking ducks I’d ever seen. They looked like something out of Alice in Wonderland, or the way a child would design a duck – wacky, bright orange sails for wings and white painted eyebrows.
I stood for a while, trying to figure out if I’d ever seen them before. The clouds rolled over, and it was almost a mystical moment. These strange creatures, from another world, appearing, like magic in a North London pond. I vowed to come back and photograph them, and solve the mystery.
Long story short. I came back a week later and there was no sign of them. Only plain old mallards, who couldn’t give me any useful information. I was disappointed, and put it down to coursework induced hallucination.
But! Today they were back! I’m not mad! I ran over to them in delight, getting some funny looks from passing joggers. When I got home and showed the pictures to my brother, he took out a bird book we have, and looked them up. It turns out they are Aix galericulata, the Mandarin duck. They come from Far East Asia, though destruction of their natural habitat there, means that their numbers have dramatically decreased. They exist in Britain because of escaped pairs from exotic bird collections, and they number about 7,000 here now. However, they’re not protected, because they’re not a native species.
A happy mystery solved. I spent the rest of the afternoon looking up books on linguistics and body language, and taking photos of the annual daffodil carpet that springs up on campus.