A time to give birth, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.”
—Ecclesiastes (The Preacher) 3:1-2
Dear Cousin Appu,
I am glad you enjoyed the winter and spring pictures of the little banana tree in my backyard that recovered nicely from the ravages of last winter.
You remarked that you witness similar transformations of life along the Dombivli railway tracks. Right now, you said, the summer heat has turned that strip into a dismal, dusty stretch of barrenness. I hope the dustiness and dryness don’t overwhelm those who happen upon it. I hear the monsoon is on its way; I hear it’s raining cats and dogs in Kerala right now. I can easily envision the steady beat of rain on the roof, the earthy aroma of newly soaked soil, wriggling earthworms, muddy streams suddenly overflowing their banks almost overnight. When it gets to Dombivli, the rains will do their magic on that narrow dry strip.
Over here in Fremont, the change of seasons is just as crisp as the arrival of the monsoon in Dombivli. It is now summer, the season of long bright days and short pale nights. Farmers’ markets are full of the fruits and vegetables of summer— crimson cherries, succulent strawberries, juicy corn, tender greens, fleshy beats, pregnant beans and even drumsticks. Yes drumsticks! At the orchards in Brentwood and Watsonville, syrupy sweet smells flavor the hot dry air. Those places have usurped the moniker “Valley of Heart’s Delight” from Santa Clara Valley. Santa Clara is now more appropriately called the “Valley of Mind’s Triumph.” Silicon Valley too is appropriate for the Silicon wafers that capture the mind’s logic and also for all the sand that has gone into the concrete infra-structure.
Do people respond to the rhythms of the seasons like plants and animals do? No doubt, over in the “Valley of Heart’s Delight,” the seasons still dictate the planting and harvesting cycles. But, do the seasonal moons that tell farmers the productive and barren phases of the earth also invigorate or subdue the knowledge farms of Silicon Valley? Are our minds still rooted in the earth somehow, with tendrils waving in the wind, and thus affected by the changing seasons, or, are the seasons matter only to that which stays rooted at one place? Have human beings, with our mobile bodies and even more fleet footed minds, grown immune to the influence of the seasons?
When the rains came last year, you wrote, the change was almost overnight. Yesterday’s dry dirt had magically turned into a riot of varicolored flowers and leafage. Butterflies started playing merry-go-round about the flowers and song birds were offering free concerts. Even mice, snakes and mongooses appeared in quick succession, the latter chasing the former in a vivid illustration of a few links in nature’s food chain.
“The sun rises and the sun sets; then it press on to the place where it rises.”—Ecclesiastes 1:5
Clearly, the day and night cycles influence both body and mind. Dusk signals a time of rest. The mind grows increasingly lethargic with the darkening night and while asleep, the mind is not a consciously functioning entity anymore. So then, is it fair to suppose that in winter, when the days are short and the nights more pronounced, the mind is not as alert as it was in summer? It is tempting to push the simile and declare that the mind is more lethargic in winter because it is the night of the year. Silicon Valley, just like the rest of the country, slows down in winter to take time to celebrate the holidays of the season. There is much eating, drinking and mindless shopping but the knowledge farms lie fallow. It is perhaps no coincidence that the cultural and religious routines of winter cater more to the needs of the body than the mind. But I do wonder if these worldwide holidays resonate just as well for the South Americans and Australians. After all, it is summer in the Southern Hemisphere during Christmas and New Year.
I believe autumn, the season that precedes winter, is not a pronounced one in Dombivli or in the southern regions of India. But in the Uunited Staes, the changing colors of deciduous trees and the eventual baring of their limbs make it a very noticeable season. Fall is a season of transition from summer to winter just as dusk is the transition from day into night. It is still a season of business but there is already an anticipation of winter, particularly when the Thanksgiving holidays arrive. The harvest season is already over in the “Valley of Heart’s Delight” but it is very much a season of harvest for Silicon Valley since revenues are highest in the last quarter of the year. Those who believe in the dictum “Sell in May and go away, but, remember to buy back in September” are already scanning the ticker tape for stocks that will get them a good mark up by next spring. Do the products conceived by human minds come to fruition later than the produce of the earth? At first glance, it would seem so. But the fact is, the factories were producing at full steam in late summer to stock up inventories for the fall shopping season.
If autumn is dusk, spring is dawn for the year long day. Remnants of the winter cold, though fast receding, still hangs in the air. Deciduous trees are putting out new leaves and buds. For me, the sure sign of spring is ducklings swimming with mother ducks at Lake Elizabeth. Spring also brings the demands of the financial and school year endings to workers and students. The earth is at its bountiful best and so it seems also are human beings.
“Human beings and beasts, both were made from the dust, and to the dust they both return.”—Ecclesiastes 3:20
However in the world of cyber space that has overtaken our minds, people are apparently only born but never die, the Book of Faces hold images that don’t age with time, and one can have farms without borders that are immune to the Sun, rain and the seasons. But we can’t eat the produce from the cyber farms!
Yours Sincerely, Jojy .
Jojy Michael works in the “Valley of Mind’s Triumph’” but tries to spend as much time as possible in the “Valley of Heart’s Delight.” His cousin K.M. Thomas (aka Appu) leads a retired life in Dombivli, a small town near Pun. Appu and Jojy use the cyber space a lot to stay in touch.