FINALLY, AFTER WEEKS OF COLD, interminable spring showers, summer arrived here in Connecticut in late May, not with Mayflowers but with temperatures worthy of Bangalore, India.
I mention Bangalore for an acquaintance, a pen pal, an online friend who has become a treasured correspondent since he first stumbled on this blog some six months ago.
Ravi resides with his wife and two daughters—Suju, Inky and Babli (one daughter is a literature professor, the other a dental scholar)—in the southern Indian city of Bangalore, and because of his kind comments on one of my blogs, an email back-and-forth has sprung up between the two of us. He has brought many a ray of sunshine into my life during this past winter (dreadfully cold and snowy) and spring (did I mention the endless rain?). Fittingly, his name means “sun.”
I should mention this period was perhaps the most trying of our life for my husband and me, for a number of reasons. We were caring for my in-laws, who were dying; grappling with a dismal economy, with everything we owned on the line; and preparing our daughter for college—if we could figure out how to pay for it. Ravi lit joss sticks for us, sent comforting words from favorite poems and lightened my outlook with sunny stories of his charming family and vagabond life.
For instance, Ravi talks about the scorching heat in Bangalore at this time of year, and in places he travels to for business—Cambodia, Malaysia, and Vietnam, among others. (He is an engineer for a Chinese agribusiness, who advises companies on a wide variety of issues including organic farming of cashews and rice. Yum.) Below, he is at a cashew factory on the Mekong Delta.
And at lower right, he is amidst rubber trees where latex is harvested, also on the Mekong Delta.
I can only commiserate with him and his daunting, non-stop schedule as he endures endless plane rides and hothouse climates, while I enjoy my somewhat cooler sanctuary in lower Fairfield County.
As summer arrives in the Northeast, schools will close and our town will become a shadow of its busier self as an exodus to Martha’s Vineyard, Down East and the Outer Banks ensues. Like my friend Ravi, travelers will make their way amidst clogged highways, ferries, planes and humanity to their destination, in this case, summer homes. Countless gallons of gas and endless hours of people-moving are sacrificed in the drive to find the perfect summer place.
Meanwhile, my husband and I wonder: Why? What’s so great about getting away?
For us, summer arrives with the weather and when it does, we are on vacation. We simply change into bathing suits and head down our quiet lane to a pristine pond—actually, it’s a small lake—for our daily half-mile swim and communion with nature. No motorboats are allowed here and no home impedes the pastoral view.
Wildlife abounds at the pond. A great blue heron alights on a log for lunch. A scarlet tanager swoops overhead, flashing red among the ash trees. On the far side of the pond, a two-foot water snake, lovely in its black and orange geometry, suns itself on a rock before paddling away as we close in. Nearby, a muskrat munches his salad of grass—using his tummy as a table—inside the fallen, hollow tree swimmers like us use as a dock. A pair of red-tailed hawks circle and keen in the blue above, or, as often, turkey vultures, broader, darker but no less impressive for their aerial display.
“Louis” the swan arrives, so named by us for E.B. White’s title character in The Trumpet of the Swan, a children’s book my husband read to our daughter years ago. Louis plies the water in lone, silent splendor, his profile describing half a heart, as if he knows something is missing. And then one day his other half appears, the courtship begins, the design is complete.
I describe all this to Ravi and he writes to me of the history of Indian tribes and of Brahmins (of which his wife is one), the contradictions of his country’s traditions with those adopted from its former oppressors, the British, which Indians nevertheless fully embrace. He is knowledgeable about arcane tidbits of history, religion and power in the Middle East; fond of Egyptian Arabic; and working on his novel of a love triangle during Saddam Hussein’s reign. He is a practicing Buddhist, though he was raised a Hindu.
I email him about one of our own traditions, a summer one—cooking organic chicken over Cowboy Coal for its delicious flavor—and he sends me a photo of his youthful-looking wife (in her 50s, as am I) who is vegetarian. Perhaps, I am meant to rethink my habits.
At 64, Ravi is an intrepid traveler, at home anywhere, with many miles and languages under his belt. His is a generous spirit, ready to give to anyone, including a rather prosaic housewife who takes vicarious pleasure in his worldly doings but is perfectly content to stay at home.
Namaste, my friend.