“The universe is made of stories, not atoms“
It’s spring. I return to the same place again and again. Something is different each time. The place has changed or have I. Or could it be the moment? The history of time that has preceded this moment. I see peonies in full bloom one week, lilacs the prior. Cherry blossoms before that. Fields of daffodils in early spring. When I return the next week, the trees have moved on. Leaves have taken over, pink blossoms are on the ground. The rose garden is empty, but for hidden rosebuds. There are hints of what is to come. I have always looked forward, but today, at mid-road, I also stop and look back, and grieve a moment for those fallen petals, those bedraggled lilacs, the tulips that have widened, the flowers that have made way for others.
To lose her would be to lose myself. I sometimes love her less, and sometimes more, no different than how I feel about myself. I think of the Seven Sisters, that string of stars in the sky. I imagine their existence. Of Atlas holding up the sky, his face contorted. None visible in the purple sky over New York City. I have to drive miles to see stars.
Shiva and Parvati
They are sitting next to each other. A handsome young man and a girl of thirteen, both aglow. It’s their wedding day in 1947. That’s the year, because mom took seven years to arrive. They stay together for nearly seven decades. When he leaves, her cheeks turn dark overnight. My hands still reach out for him at night, she says. The same disease will come calling for her a few years later, although mercifully she will not know. Our last conversation is about spices and a recipe for sweet rice pudding, firni, his favorite. “I want to talk to you, there is so much I want to say” she tells me, but the words don’t emerge. She can barely speak.
They are still there in that house. I’ll see them when I visit, although there are years in between my visits now.
She said, what stories did you grow up with? We’ve been married fifteen years, why haven’t I asked you this question before? We are still learning to love each other, he said. No but seriously, tell me, she said. The ones about Hanuman and Ganesha, he said. You mean how he brought the entire mountain for the magic herb to heal Lakshman when he was fatally wounded? Well, more than that, he said. The early stories. How he flew up and tried to swallow the sun, thinking it was a ripe mango. What happened then she said, an eclipse? No, Indra hrew a thunderbolt at him, and angered his father, the Wind God. The gods granted him all kinds of boons. He could grow his tail to any length, he could grow big or small and he could fly but he stayed humble, he said. How come, she said. He didn’t know his strengths. Not until he tested them, he said.
I call mom. Which god do you really like, I ask.
Buddha, she says. He left a kingdom, he gave everything up.
[recipe for Nanis’ firni]