I’m meant to be packing

…but I’ve misplaced a 2″ (BODY size, never mind the dozens of legs) Brown Spider.  Not an hour ago, he or she  graced the wall just above my mosquito net.  It could be a long night.


–> you’ve stopped taking pictures (these and the rest are from 10 days ago):

–> you are not surprised to find your laundry, waving in the wind for 30 minutes, is bone dry, probably because it  is 87F.

–> the table in your hut,  the table  you’ve had piled with books, empty water bottles, mosquito repellent, and more books, looks like this once again.



(+ this computer and also + a stick of burning incense, named “Opium Flower”)

–> you haven’t learned his name, but you have learned what he is doing:

Palms for mats

Palms for mats

–>you are almost inured to this sight from your porch:

–> you firmly believe that the Italian singer, Mina, has slipped into the ashram, because when Loradonna sang the Magnificat for grace tonight, this is how she sounded. Exactly (30 seconds makes my point).

–> you’ve still not located the gigantic arachnid, but you are ready to turn off the computer and go to sleep. You expect to dream about the story Andrew told you last year in this very place, Ananda Ashram.  It was about how he arrived back in New Zealand one year after spending several months in India, and when he opened his suitcase for Customs,  out crawled a Gigantic Brown Spider. Andrew is our resident naturalist, so he would tell that story, wouldn’t he? And laugh, oh, yes, he thought it was just hysterical, didn’t he? 

And now, Gentle Reader, if you hear something at this second, let me explain that  it is the sound of 2 tiny suitcases and 1 huge purse being zipped up very, very tightly, just before I dive under my mosquito net.

‘It obviously behooves me to practice being receptive, open for the business of gratitude.” – A. LaMott

Briefly, from Ananda Ashram —

Today (Saturday) I head out to Bless School again, to work with the teachers. V. excited. More, as it happens (and as Internet is available)!

Back to Bless School

Despite showing me at my less-than-attractive best, I think this short video catches the spirit of the day: some slightly bemused (ME), ever gracious (them):

Instead of teaching students in random classes, I asked this year to work exclusively with the teachers, 12 young women from nearby villages. They teach children, also from surrounding villages, who are between 3 and 10 years. I decided to teach them some Poetry (my term!) -writing. Mostly, we did Formulaic, or Pattern Poems: acrostic, catalogue (saving ourselves for the Cinquain and the Haiku…maybe next year). Image We posed with Senthil, Director of Bless School. Ananda Ashram supports the school, and Senthil also oversees day-to-day (and month-to-month, in terms of finances) life at the ashram. He has more than once come patiently to my rescue: innumerable bus,taxi, and Inter-India plane Q&A sessions;nearly-instant cell phone re-charging: 500 Rupees, about $9.00, gets me through nearly a month; expert slip-bolt repair: one night during the pitch black of an electrical cut,I somehow slipped out the bolt,irreparably, it seemed to me. That was the night I used duct tape on my hut door (against those night critters).

Relieved to be shaded from the mid-morning sun, we got to work right away in the outdoor classroom.


If laughing with (at?) the teacher is a gauge of success, we had some!

Someone snapped this photo of one of our finished products…

And after a morning of class, lunch!

Ananda: My Hut

Earlier tonight, Ceci (6 years old) found this video on my iPod. I had taken it my first week at the ashram, and when I watched it this evening, I was transported. I suspect, however, that not everybody seeing it will feel as I do.
Proof Positive: as I turned out her light, my wise granddaughter called out to me, “About that hut…? I don’t think it looked very fun.”

Video: (all-female) Hindu ashram: offering Puja

We visited on Republic Day, so only a few girls in this K-12 school, run by the all-women Hindu ashram, were around. Were they orphans? boarders from too-far-away villages? I was never entirely sure. In any case, they seemed well looked after by the yoginis we met and talked with that morning.
We were invited into the temple for Puja, and encouraged to pull out video cameras, which was felt a bit invasive – I never could bring myself to do it at Shantivnamam – but in the end, I did take this video.

Near the end of the 30-minute temple ceremony, when the high-pitched chanting was reaching its climax, the bell began to clang, then several of the young girls came in for arati. at the end:

The Last Word in Videos: Shantivanam/Ananda and Bless School

#1: Walking up the road, Ananda . On the video I call it “Shantivanam” – I think I’d just come from over there, and had pulled out my camera, switching it, on a whim, to Video.

#2: One morning after arriving at Bless School, I walked over to discuss plans for the day with some of the teachers, and found myself in the middle of this post-snack time recess:

Another Ashram

A note: I’m writing this from a delightful hotel in Delhi, a hotel that still reminds me where I am: when I got up @ 5 this morning and turned on my lights, no lights; when @ 6am I turned on the flatscreen t.v., no channels but the game channel [TJB, where ARE you?]; when I requested coffee, “black”, at breakfast, it arrived with the sugar already added [you know me, you know I do not do sugar.
So, this is by way of introduction to this post, which I thought would be a quickly done add-on about a morning’s adventure a couple days ago when I was still in Tamil Nadu, still in the south, still on what had come to feel like terra firma.
But the computer is an Acer (Elizabeth is nodding her head; so is Barb J): handy, freely offered for room use, a great convenience, really…but the connection? Like molasses. In January, and that would be January in Minnesota.
Last night, unaware, yet, of speed issues, I loaded 50 photos onto the Acer Desktop, but could not get them onto Picassa (Note to self…This means there are Speed Issues). This morning I again requested the Acer. The Front Desk Manager, who is George Clooney-only-more-so-b/c-of -his- maroon -turban told me he had erased the photos from the Desktop for me. How nice. THIS, of course, must have been why I had forgotten to delete them all when I finished last night’s upload. So — long story short: I have much to say, but will, instead, let 2 photos speak the 2k words for me this morning, as I am off for a day’s sightseeing in New Delhi, beginning with Humayan’s Tomb, which I really hope I like, because then perhaps I’ll learn how to spell it, and ending with…you will not believe it…”The Great Adventure of an Autorickshaw Ride through the Streets of Delhi” YES. Yes, that’s what the printout says, that’s what last night’s tour guide (as opposed to the Driver) told me as he checked me into the hotel, and that’s what I said “Oh, sure, why not?” to…

During my visit to another ashram – Hindu, all women – I learned a number of thiings, among the more publishable ones, if still necessarily cryptic in (printed) expression: I am not Hindu; the ashram, which oversees about 100 young girls, is well-supported (is this why they not only gave permission, but in fact encouraged photography, even during puja?

Meditation Hall in this rare place: an all-woman ashram

Praying Amidst the Wasps

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Dedicated a year ago, the new temple replaced a wooden one, a temporary structure that served Shantivanam and Ananda for 20-plus years. Yes.
And, yes, there are wasps this time of year, but as a Yearner for The Orkin Man I am a Minority of One, so have instead perfected certain Non-Mindfulness Techniques. One is to distract myself by watching one of the dark winged creatures make its way up somebody’s white shawl or saffron-colored robe, figuring as I do that somebody behind me is probably watching one of the creatures flit up or down my own clothes.

Having moaned for a paragraph, I must acknowledge what an absolutely and unquestionably wonderful place this is to pray. It’s a generous space, from these curving pink and white walls that soar towards an enormous white and gold lotus in the center of the ceiling, to these cool marble floors, so welcome on the warm-to-hot days. The Hours of the Divine Office, the Masses – the arati after all those – I think it must all take on a different texture because of this space.

Thanksgiving + Palio + New Year’s = PONGAL!

PONGAL, celebrated for 4 days, is a harvest feast-cum-new year celebration-featuring games and sacred cows. At the ashram, it’s reasonably low-key, but we could hear the celebrations across the road and (from my place) across the river.

Selecting the chalk for Rongolis (those chalk drawings, cf Pondicherry but imagine them 3x the size, in the village - Kulithalai) )

The Stars of Pongal (note the new fluorescent pink leads, through the nose behind the ears)

At Ananda, we have curd (as good as Greek yogurt) at every meal. It’s from the cows. My coffee (Nescafe) and others’ tea are both laced with sweet milk – thank you, Sister Cow. The banana cream we have for breakfast is made from one or two of the three banana varieties (even green, they are sweet and soft) from ashram plants. The cream is seasoned with cardamon, lime, a tiny bit of o.j., then expanded and enriched with cream, from…you get my drift.>

Life and People: Ananda Ashram, Kulithalai village

I can walk to Thannirpalli, but the trip to Kulithalai requires an autorickshaw. Here is my conversation with the “auto” driver these days:
ME: Hello, Jeeva?
Jeeva: Yes, Shantivanam? What time?
ME: Well, I was thinking, I mean…maybe sometime this morning, say…
Jeeva: I come now?
ME: Right. Sure. Yes. Thank you. I’ll be at the gate.
Jeeva: [click]

I could tell you stories...and sometime, I will: the place would not function w/o these two.

This morning's Breakfast Crew. The MIA's *drank the water* if you know what I mean.

In case you fail to read it in my face:"There is nothing quite like that sweet milk and powdered coffee."

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