Updated: Feb 16, 2021
When the lockdown happened in March this year, our world shrunk to within our
four walls. We were confined to our homes juggling between mounting
chores and work. Our living room morphed into an office, a classroom, and a play
area. While the internet was our virtual window to
stay connected with work and family, the freshly dusted home windows
opened to a vibrant scene. Copper pods, Gulmohar, Amaltas, Pongamia,
and other flowers were setting the sky ablaze with a riot of
colours. Cities that were noisy with vehicles were now teeming with the
songs of birds. A pollution-free air uncovered the mountains. The sky
sparkled a fresh blue. It was like nature had used a sharpening tool
to brighten the world. People identified Sunbirds, Bulbuls, Mynahs,
Sparrows, and Barbets in their neighbourhood. Even the ubiquitous crow
got noticed. Regardless of the lockdown and people at home, the
pigeons continued to lay eggs in flower pots. A small amount of
leisure that was lacking in normal life got created.
As a poet once said, people had finally found the time to stand and stare.
The most important skill any lover of nature should possess is observation.
Observation informs us and many a time surprises us.
There are a pair of rain trees in my neighbourhood which are a storehouse of fascinating stories.
They sport pink powder-puff flowers in summer and are also
called the five o'clock tree, for they close their leaves at
sunset. In the winter months of December and January, they shed their
leaves. When the Spring season begins, fresh foliage starts to
sprout. Flowers and seedpods seem to appear simultaneously. Parakeets
flock to eat the ripened pods, competing with the squirrels that are devouring them.
If the flowers had just bloomed, where then did the
seedpods appear from? I pondered. I was baffled. The resolution of
this mystery was more interesting than I had thought. The
flowers that bloomed the previous year, became seedpods eight months
later! So I was looking at fresh flowers, but the seedpods were from the
flowers of the previous year. What a marvel of nature!
Another quality of the rain tree is its sensitivity to close its
leaves when it rains. This allows rain to flow effortlessly down the
crown and reach the ground. The day after, the leaves open up preventing
sunlight from reaching the ground. This in turn slows down the
moisture from evaporating, making the area beneath the canopy
cool. For this reason, it is a preferred tree in parks, avenues and
Nature around us is forever trying to heal with its greenery. All that
we need to learn is slow down a bit and immerse in its serenity. A
walk in the park under the cover of trees relieves the pressures and
tension of daily life. In the 1980s, the Japanese started a practice
called Shinrin-Yoku, which meant “Forest-Bathing.” It is not
difficult to bathe our homes with some greenery. All it takes is a few
plants to convert a dull corner into a colourful one. It can be herbs
that you might want for the kitchen, a few succulents on the window
sill, house plants to add jazz to the living room or vines that will
sport colourful flowers in the balcony. The right type of plants and
flowers will invite bees and birds for a visit. The songs of nature
will surround you. This is the simplest way to practice Shinrin-Yoku.
Gardening is a peaceful activity that helps us relax. Once we get
accustomed to it and start spending time with our green friends, the
quality of our life will improve. “Motley Garden” is a series that
encourages you to grow a garden. People shy away from it thinking it is too difficult, a chore, and an onerous responsibility. It is not.
Instead, you will find it a joyous experience that heals the body and
In the coming months, we will talk more about plants and flowers. But
the first skill to learn is to observe. Do you have Rain trees too?
If not, what are the trees in your neighborhood?
Until next time,
Cheers from Flowers.
This article first appeared in DeccanHerald, under Motley Garden, https://www.deccanherald.com/special-features/pause-to-wonder-893166.html