Friday, April 1, 2011

Hawaii amidst Holi

Today gladdened towards the miraculous.  There had been a lightness in the air because it was, after all, International Hug a Medievalist Day, but the usual this that and the other hastened things along the quotidian.  I picked up Oliver and we went to karate; Mac picked up the girls and went with them to Iris's piano lesson; and then we met up at a pizza place for a school fundraiser.  We'd been invited by a student to go to a Holi celebration, the springtime festival of colors with a complex story involving demons and living forever and a bonfire and a huge celebration involving spraying colored powder and colored water all over each other. I remember loving the Holi scene in Sholay - a five and a half minute sequence of joy and color that explodes upon the stunned silence of a tragic scene (welcome to Bollywood).  Here, you can see for yourself! Holi!

 We arrived right as the festivities were ending, which didn't prevent the kids from getting themselves pretty thoroughly covered in colored powder - Iris did an especially good job making sure Oliver was covered. Eleanor has her arms tucked into her t-shirt because it was (again and again and again) cold. I love this picture: us covered in Holi colors against the backdrop of our utterly raccoon-coat-and-pennant college campus. 

And then we came home to a very long and beautifully adorned box - as tall as Eleanor and postmarked Hawaii.  Hawaii!  We bustled in with curiosity and gathered around the box while Mac made the ceremonial cuts here and there with words of caution all around (honestly, it reminded me of the scene in Christmas Story when the dad opens his "major award" box). And then we opened the box.

Nestled within crushed shredded paper was one after another after another of multiple tropical flowers from Hawaii.  Hawaii!!!  Leafy, glossy, vibrant, impossible flowers. The kids actually went silent. It was just incredible, the way the flowers were lying there, dormant, surely weary after having traveled such a long way.  Some of them had been provided with tiny little water capsules at their stems; others had had their petals wrapped for the journey; one was completely ensconced in tissue paper.  We unfurled them, held them, and marveled at their being here. At the embodiment that they are of sun from so far away, of warm breezes, and lush soil. This is wondrous to me: that the air we breathe around them is mingled with all they took in from Hawaii - the colors alone, but the textures, too, and the shapes and details... And then to open the card, and to see the names of two princes among men, and to feel our dear dear friends from Brittany right here - their warm words of well-wishes further banishing illness from our house. Mac (flower-whisperer) arranged the flowers, with much advice from the kids, and then they staged this picture - their Holi colors resonating now with the flowers.

Flowers heal. Colors make you feel like everything is going to be all right (if poppies can grow on Flanders field..).  Like there's liveliness and beauty at your finger's touch: possible and near.  Being visited by flowers, having them as guests in your home, hosting them cultivates a quiet I can't wait to dwell in.  Maybe it's the D.C. conference and its lasting impact, but I do think on the presence of these visitors. Maybe it's also a long-ago love of Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince and his impossible, tremulous rose. I can pause to wonder about the medieval book owner's fingers running over the shades and contours of the flowers on a page such as this one: exuberant nature stilled for contemplation. A wild array concerted, suspended. I feel our house graced by their presence.

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