16 May 2015
The park looks different today, as you enter from the rain tree avenue. The grass has been trimmed, and the fallen leaves taken away for compost perhaps. The kites are shrill above the silk cotton tree, they are flying around in circles. You notice that strangely there is very little cotton under the tree today, though it had just begun to fall last week. The unseasonal rains have probably played havoc with the summer cycle of the tree.
Right next to the silk cotton is this small tree that people worship, probably the sacred Banni tree. There is always a garland of flowers around its trunk, arranged inside a string someone has tied. People walk around it as if around a temple, hands folded in prayer. Someone or the other keeps adding new flowers. It is amazing that circumambulation is a ritual that cuts across all religions. Did we learn it from the earth, the sun, this going around, this centering ritual of wonder and worship?
There are more mosquitoes today, and you have forgotten the repellant, darn. You need to keep moving around, if you want to stay un-bitten. :) The barbet is very active, going inside its hollow frequently, and the calls are loud, there are others on neighbouring trees. The kites are seated at their favourite perches up there, the squirrels running around as usual, as if their tails are on fire. :)
You discover a new bird today, which you earlier thought was the sun bird. It is small, has gray and black stripes, and its chirping is lovely, lilting, joyful. You follow its path from tree to tree and then you notice that it goes into a hollow in the Copper Pod today. The same one where the mynhas and the squirrels live. Such an ordinary-looking tree that no one gives a second glance to, perhaps you alone know that so many birds and animals live inside it, it is a universe by itself. You manage to get a shaky picture, and a bird-watcher friend identifies it for you, the Cinereous tit, Parus cinereous.
The small and the big, the tiny fragile bird and the powerful raptor, all living around a single tree, in perfect harmony.
You notice a mynah bird walking around in the grass. And twice it comes very close to you, without fear. It picks up insects fairly close to your feet. You are so moved. This is the trust you were hoping for.
Your favourite saint has always been St. Francis of Assissi, the patron saint of animals. If anything makes you feel honoured, it is the trust of animals and birds, a trust you usually win easily. They know you without words. With them, you just have to be.
I think it was from the animals
that St.Francis learned
it is possible to cast yourself
on the earth's good mercy and live.
From the wolf who cast off
the deep fierceness of her first heart
and crept into the circle of sunlight
wagging her newly-shy tail
in full wariness and wolf-hunger,
and was fed, and lived;
From the birds
who came fearless to him until he
had no choice but return that courage.
Even the least amoeba touched on all sides
by the opulent Other, even the baleened
plankton fully immersed in their fate -
For what else might happiness be
than to be porous, opened, rinsed through
by the beings and things?
Nor could he forget those other companions,
the shifting, ethereal, shapeless:
Hopelessness, Desperateness, Loneliness,
even the fire-tongued Anger -
For they too waited with the patient Lion,
the glossy Rooster, the drowsy Mule, to step
out of the trees' protection and come in.
Page 45, 'The October Palace'
The full series here: http://whiletheworldisgoingplaces.blogspot.in/search/label/Notes_from_a_Ritual