The shadows’ call

Touring the shadows of this home
I see, I made some
I fade some
And I be them all.

When the light is right
Shadows are bright
And together at night
We fight the pall.

Ishita. October 22 2020.

I wrote this poem for my friend, on one of those days the shadows resembled us the most.

Her dying tree

Our golden rain tree
He had been dying a while
Harboring decay
From roots to tile
Curly fungi grew in rows on a stem
Most of the branches
Had no leaves on them..
Still it flowered a few more springs
Its pods dangling through fall..
On one of its tallest dead branches
A mockingbird delighted to call

He noticed the new lady in the house
Give his twisted trunk
A careful browse
He heard her grumbling on
about the million black and red bugs
The ones that mated
Joined at their butts
They did grow in his pods
But what could he do?
Life does defy odds..

For sometime she came out often
Talked to the birds
Chased the dragonflies
Became somewhat a gardener
After much toil and tries.

Later, he wished he could
Tell her, look, I’m half dead
But life’s good.
My trunk grows hollow
So the bugs bore
The woodpeckers love them
It’s makes a good store!
I have few leaves
But my branches still hold
Brooding fledglings
After their mom’s scold.

Last year the winds
Blew hard, but out of this way
I heard a lot of my old pals
Couldn’t hold their sway
That night spared me
And I’m glad I stayed..
Though some years lost grace
I see you smiling again
That smile can light up this place.

I saw her one last time
As I lay sighing my last
Too tired even for a weak storm
My time had gone past
I whispered to her, hush..
My friend, I'll bid farewell with a laugh
As I am not in pain:
You’ve called me boxelder
All these years, in vain
Elder I was, but my name
Is Golden Rain.

September 30 2020.

I realized my tree was a golden rain tree the day he fell, gently.I don't know what prompted me to look up his name again, because for years I called it a box elder tree.. So I think he wanted me to know! I have watched young robins, cardinals being fed on the tree. Woodpeckers did indeed love it. After our neighbors cut off their dangerously tall, also dead, tree earlier this year, this was the only dead or dying tree in the near vicinity. Birds have long memories of familiar trees, they visit and perch on them and also eat the bugs that inhabit the trunks. I Hope they will still know this lawn when they come back next year. 

There’s nowhere to go

There’s nowhere to go

Would you still have dreams
Of love
Will there still be streams 
Or cove
If there was,
Nowhere to go. 

Would you still hope
Of joy
Will there be scope
Or ploy
To be better, when,
There was nowhere to go

Would you remember that time
Stood still
Stunned, I took to rhyme
And quill
Till there was
Nowhere to go

I am there now. 

Ishita. August 24. 
Falling into fall. 

Happy Anniversary: Bird BUsiness

How do you know when you love a book? I know when I resist finishing it. It’s a habit I picked up for Lord of the Rings. Today, I did finish reading the Bird Business, by Rohan Chakravarty: the illustrated peek into the daily lives of a 100 species of birds in India (paraphrased). The last few pages greeted me like old friends.. As it turns out the last page was on Shaheen, the Peregrine Falcon of India, its namesake the peaceful battleground of anti-CAA and anti-NPR movement led by muslim women of Delhi. And the poster Rohan made that I took with me to Shaheen Bagh, because of which I have a photo that reminds me of, well, me.

I usually call myself a birder, which will tell you I officially took the tag on in the US, because in India, I would have called myself a birdwatcher. But I started in India, my most amazing friend from Bangalore introduced me to birdwatching in Delhi, I only had perhaps three outings with him and friends. With no personal binoculars, I clearly (!) remember seeing the golden oriole and a peregrine falcon, hahah, I know, I saw a greyish bird far-ish away and VSM jumped 2 feet, which was utterly peculiar behavior for him, even on a birding trip. So I guess my relationship with the falcon has culminated today and I am its forever. Thankfully, I am not a feral pigeon, as RC will point out in his illustration once you read his book. In my numbered birding (oh, it is fewer letters) outings in India, some were in Bangalore, one was to see water birds, egrets and ibises, in Rangenthittu. At that time two people in my group had binoculars, so I saw a lot better. Today when I flipped through Bird Business I was reminded of a bird I saw on the boat ride, the Indian cliff swallow in their ‘mud apartments’, as RC calls them. I had no recollection of these birds until he mentions where to see them. For each bird, since the book is on bird behavior, the illustration is of its characteristic behavior, presented in a way only a genius could have done. I do not use that word lightly, if you text mined my blog AND any other thing I have written you may find 3 instances of use of the word “genius” and they are all well deserved. To drive the point home: the bats reflected in the eyes of a Shikra, which only hunts in dusk for the pipistrelle bat, as the text tells you, are an example of the expert illustration. This type of a knack for detailing cannot be taught or learned, and therefore is genius, dang, text mining has to be supervised, but you get my meaning. Anyway, I digressed, so in addition to a characteristic behavior there is an explanation of mechanics: like for the Red crossbill and its special bill for pine seeds. There is also more than one dance illustration. Until you see them, or I saw them, I had no idea how well non-human dances can be depicted in masterful strokes of color, it was beyond my imagination and my generally hard-to-blow mind was blown back in January when I first opened the book. I have a thing for dancing (which I have never mentioned in this blog, so there’s another first).

Today I started with first looking at the illustration of the rosy starlings murmurations, because its now a part of a curated hall of fame in Singapore, and yes, I have seen European starling murmurations, I am not blind, but I don’t think even the rosy starlings can live up to what the illustration makes of them swinging around. Or they might.

The habitat birds occupy often determine their characteristic mating behavior, as I have been aware before of course, but had no idea that the Lesser Floricans leap high to attract attention in the tall grass they live in, “high-jump gold-medalist” RC calls them. I cannot-not-mention the coordinated courtship dance of the flamingoes, because, what else is there in this life if one is not at least aware of such a phenomenon (even if this “one” has never seen one, sniff!), flashmob he called that. The final piece of dance I want to mention is the Eurasian Wryneck and its twist (girls like to twist, and we will get to swing): this twist is accompanied by hissing and is an adaptation to ward off predators the wryneck faces, by taking the form of snakes.

While all birds are special and in this book they all get a VIP treatment, with spa and ego massage, I want to special mention two: the Nicobar Scrubfowl that incubates eggs using a special mechanism that you cannot just guess. If any of you make compost, that’s a hint, but read the book to know. The second is the white browed bushchat, which does a delightful dance move, which I would call a shimmy and a spectacle it is too. Last week I saw a video for it for the first time and today I saw it in the book, and I have to say both the bushchat and RC do the shimmy proper justice. As do I, so sorry, not sorry, for another mention of dance.

Finally I want to take space and time to make note and highlight how courtship, mating and raising the young is handled in the book with love, spice, mischief, majesty and respect. Birds do it all, males raise the young as female finds new mates (Pheasant-tailed Jacana), both raise the young, female raises the young, are promiscuous and may mate for life (Sarus cranes) , what they don’t do as RC will tell you: is be disrespectful. And he gives a peek into his own personality of being respectful and a feminist as you finish the book. Of course, if you follow Green Humour comics you already know that, but I hope this time I am not singing to the choir and someone reads this who does not already follow his work.

I want to finish with special mention to the Indian roller illustration as I have actually seen them roll (back in Bangalore) and that was the day I knew I would be a birder. My current most favorite illustration is that of the Greater Racquet-tailed Drongo, who knows individual rights, as well as how society works with cooperation, as it nucleates mixed flocks by mimicking various pretty birds. But may startle them with calls of a falcon too, so they drop a fly or two.. This is not merely an illustrated book on Indian birds, I have always defied categorization of ethereal things. RC is elven, this book is artistic, humourous, joyful and an uplifting treatise. Trust me.

While I still haven’t finished reading the last chapter of The Return of the King, because Frodo will reach his primary goal and what he does next is unknowable to me; Rohan Chakravarty – Green Humour and king as well as the ring-bearer ( since he defies categorization) of wildlife and environmental comics for India, has only just begun. The world cannot have enough of his work.

Happy Anniversary Bird Business.

Art 2020

A little on art this year, as a post even if I am cataloging most of my art work under projects in my art portfolio on this blog as well.

This year I visited India and made new contacts with nature enthusiasts, some professional conservationists furthering the cause of wildlife conservation through political campaigning. Being someone who always accepts their real reaction to significant events rather late.. ( perhaps because my subconscious is way more powerful and obscure than my consciousness) I was only to realize what a extraordinary trip this was going to be later, but this time, not too late (one hopes). In terms of its repercussions.. or what I hope will be the repercussions. I also went to show support to the women of Shaheen Bagh, now famous worldwide to lead a peaceful protest against GOI’s discriminatory CAA (citizenship ammendment act) and NRC. I felt kinship to the women sitting at the camp, that was supported by artists like Shubha Mudgal, writers, poets and professors who went on stage to explain the constitution as experts. The rights guaranteed by the constitution to every citizen, and how CAA is anti-constitutional. It is not clear to many Indians how the government can pass unconstitutional laws, even if it is quite a mainstream subject in the US. In India it is generally assumed that the government is lawful, and more so in these times of extreme nationalism when you are either with the government or anti-national. At any rate, somehow this minor (negligible) participation in something significant made me want to do make more negligible contributions to significant things that make my heart feel at peace with the world. Because it is in the right place, with the right people even if both the place and the people are under threat.

As witnessed in this blog and by my friends, I have gravitated towards being a conservationist for several years now, while continuing to use my “academic” training. Since last year I became more closely involved with the Sutton Avian research center in town, which is a very small (in terms of personnel) center pursuing breeding and reintroduction of at least three types of game-birds and separately conducting breeding studies in Oklahoma.So, coming back from India and with my continued and increasing awareness of phenomenal researchers and conservationists working in India, I find myself in the middle of a pandemic, and waiting to go back to India. As the Indian government make naught of forest protection acts, sentencing pristine, global diversity hotspots to destruction, like by (nearly approving) the construction of the Etalin dam in the Dibang Valley of Arunachal Pradesh or by the approval of coal mining in Dehing Patkai elephant reserve in Assam, I feel more drawn towards wanting to make a meaningful contribution. To somehow make concrete my connection to the Indian wild. Somewhere I have never really been, but I know I must try to see if it will have me.

Most of these drawings are not of India species, but everyone needs to practice somewhere, and if I may ask for your wishes to help me get to somewhere I can use this practice.

Other artwork from this series is also here in my blog.