Wednesday 29 June 2011

Faster than snails

My Nature series, Part X. 
Our small lawn was my favourite haunt in my childhood.
I loved to spot mushrooms under the hedge, to pop the balsam pods and watch the seeds scatter all around. You needed years of study and experience to know which ones were ready to pop. I'd track the path of butterflies as they flitted around: the yellow and black ones hovered over flowers while the tinier grey ones looked for nectar among the occasional wild flowers in the grass. I would also spend hours watching the caterpillars as they blissfully nibbled bare our lemon plant ... and was forever looking out for snails. Not the slimy, ungainly types. These were wondrous little creatures barely a centimetre in length: blobs of translucent sponge carrying lightly the burden of tiny yellow shells on their backs, nosing around in the soil.
I loved the open air then; I am glad to reconnect with nature in pictures now, using my phone camera. We don't have balsam plants around, and anyway I can't bend any more like I could, to peer into flower beds and watch them at work; but I miss those snails.

After more than three decades I have, however, encountered some their larger cousins, and I'd never seen such big ones before during my morning walks: not a patch on my little friends of old, but snails nevertheless.
A few days back, this dark brown mollusc was labouring across the path I take every day. To put it out of harm's way, I tried to coax it onto a dried leaf. Conveniently for me, it receded into its shell pronto, and I deposited it near a flower pot. In the twinkling of an eye it had uncoiled and stuck like glue to the edge of the pot.
Yesterday, I found three of them taking a morning stroll. For the first time, without an examination in mind, I read up on snails.
Apparently they are nocturnal, but may venture out on a cloudy day. But the tiny snails that I remember were morning regulars, getting busy soon after we'd watered the plants and the soil was nicely moist.
Snails don't move in a straight line, and leave a trail of mucus behind but the one I clicked yesterday certainly wasn't walking on slime; more like it had been visiting a bunch of fallen leaves still very wet from the night's rain.
Snails are also, well, notoriously slow; hence the saying, moving at a snail's pace. says "Garden snails are the fastest (of the) species and they can move about 55 yards per hour. While they don’t move fast, they do move at a very steady pace."
Despite my girth, I manage to outpace garden snails at least.

Thursday 23 June 2011

A generous bounty

Identified the tree I wrote about (From buds to blooms)?
There's this amazing feeling each time you see a flower has bloomed, when a tiny fruit appears on a branch, when it has ripened: nature's generous bounty.
These pictures of our lemon tree, all of course taken with my faithful phone camera, tell a tale of beauty: a rash of pristine white flowers, yellow at the core, changing shape and hue to metamorphose into green little globes that mellow into yellow.
And it's not a seasonal phenomenon. Lemons from this tree continue to grace our table through the year: in salads, as pickle, as nimboo paani...
Nature in pictures, Part IX.

Raring to go.
Prime time.

Laden with green.
Sweetly sour!

Tuesday 14 June 2011

Marble in the sky

As a young professional just starting out, I used to look up to many seniors with years of experience and maturity. One, a Bengali colleague in a sister publication, was the philosophical kind. He would sometimes walk me to the bus stop in the evening. On one such occasion I remarked to him how the star-spangled sky always sent a chill down my spine at its vastness and my smallness in contrast. He nodded, and added smilingly that this contrast applied to all mankind; it was just that not everyone acknowledged it.
Inky at night or bright and sparkling when the sun is out, the changing colours and moods of the sky are as unpredictable and awesome as they are beautiful.
Fist of fury
It's so true man can only imitate nature, never replicate it, as a walk across a marble floor or a visit to any shop selling marble and tiles will show. Always, unfailingly, each sheet or slab of the stone will have a unique pattern. Even when the sheets have been cut out of the same piece of rock, no two sheets will be absolutely the same.
And it's the same for the sky when it's at its most furious. As clouds scurry across the horizon or loom over your head threateningly, they form patterns we can never hope to copy.
Gnarled ferocity
Furrowed brow
Our family home in Punjab being located in an uncongested area, a recent visit gave me an uncomfortably close lens' view of the wrathful side of nature. It was as if huge slabs of marble had suddenly formed a dense magic carpet that had taken flight. The overcast skies stretched grey for as far as the eye could see. With my phone camera I began clicking the furrowed brow of nature, of course hurrying inside as the big raindrops came clattering down on us.
As the rain moved away, I heard my husband calling out urgently. I shuffled out, only to run back into the house on the double to grab my phonefor he was pointing to a rainbow.
Heavenly hues
Nature's palette
As he rushed upstairs to open the windows so I could have a better view, from the porch I quickly snapped the new colours of a sky that was so thundery and menacing just minutes back. By the time I gained the terrace, the rainbow was fading, but the clouds on the opposite side were now giving a serrated smile. The black and white marble in the sky had given way to a vivid palette. Almost scared by the angry clouds less than an hour back, here I was, clicking a more colourful and friendly horizon. Nature!
Part VIII of the series.

Thursday 2 June 2011

In memoriam

I do say on the top of my blog that the play between stone and water is fascinating, but it can be cruel too—and how. 
A young ex-colleague lost his footing while taking pictures and was swept away into the lap of nature forever.
A floral tribute to him, a life snuffed in its prime, like a bloom whom age will not be able to wither now.