Wednesday, 31 July 2013



Believe it or not, but most people are not in touch with their need for love. I include myself here for I have been lost a large part of my life with my attitude, who needs it? I can make it on my own. I am self-sufficient, independent, adult. IT IS PRIDE AND POWER that keeps us from love and loving. And even more than that, ignorance of our own needs and the needs of our soul. The body, the brain, the soul needs the food of love to flourish. We can survive without it -- many do and have. I cannot say how well, and cannot speak for them, for I am a creature that needs the sustenance of love. To know this about yourself helps you embark upon the journey of love.


Going off to visit my mother in the city of Chandigarh for about a week, where there is no email, except on my phone. I'm afraid my posts may smack of pride, as they probably do. I do not mean to imply I am a Mistress of Love and Loving. Just yesterday I had two or three frictional moments with Payson (small things, his asking me to keep the bathroom cleaner, for I am Queen of Litter, and a few other things), but we have both learned (perhaps it takes being in the sixties to learn this!) that instead of withdrawing from each other after friction and thorny moments, we acknowledge how we feel, allow ourselves to get irritated, but not hang on to the feeling, but be open when the other returns to apologize or touch. Much suffering and many failed relationships have taught us to be soft and humble.

I had a moment with my mother, too, ten days ago, where she tried to control and manipulate me. But I spontaneously yelled at her (she, who can't stand to be answered back by anyone, seemed to take it), and felt very distant from her the whole day. But after my father died in 2007 I resolved I would not break with her for ANY REASON, that I would call her daily no matter where I am. I called her back the next day, things were awkward, but in another day or two things returned to normal. This brings me to the question of power and ego, which is another post.


here is a poem I wrote thirty years ago on the same topic

If there isn't any,
let's make it!

Sexual connotations notwithstanding, it is still true today. First, that we make (create) love, by loving; and secondly, we are creators, reflections of the Arch Creator, Creatrix, and have it in our power to create that which we most need. I think we would be going astray if we thought we could do it entirely on our own, with the muscles of our will power, without divine help, and as with all major endeavors (isn't love the greatest of them all?) we have to begin with a prayer to the Arch Lover of them all. Seek divine aid honestly, sincerely, and you cannot fail.

FOOTNOTE: I do not only mean to include sexual, erotic love with the Other, though that is primary in our consciousness, but all sorts of love, including love for strangers. Just try it: sitting in an airport, in a mall, just send out love vibes as an experiment. Do it for your own sake. People may or may not benefit by our love (though they cannot fail to do so), but it is we who benefit most of all. I think love and loving can cure illnesses and can certainly makes the juices of our clogged hearts flow. Nothing can infect us more seriously than love ungiven. Human relationships can be hugely complex (I am not denying it in the least), but if we begin our journey towards love with loving the matrix of our being, the Universe, God, Goddess, plasma of this mystery in which we live so very unconsciously, we would have taken a giant step towards easing this brief journey we call life.


some of you couldn't see the picture well, so here is a larger version. Also, Libby, who took this photograph, remembered the artist's name: Clemente. Here's a portrait of him, too. Didn't mean to attach the photograph of Payson and me in Loreto, but here it is!

Saturday, 27 July 2013


Please look carefully at my picture in my profile -- it isn't very clear, but you can see that the mirror has a skull on it. I found this mirror in San Ignacio in Mexico when we were there for our whale kissing tour in Kuyima camp this February. We stayed in San Ignacio in the pensione of Juanita, an American expat whose home was full of the art of a local artist whose name I forget in my dotage.  Such is the story of obscure artists who labor in love in anonymity. Payson wanted to visit him and though I was tired of funky camp living and wanted just to return to the relative comfort of our hotel in Loreto, I accompanied him and our artist friend, Libby, to  the artist's studio. I was instantly drawn to the mirror and told Libby to please take this photograph.

Why do I mention it? Because I turn 65 today, the official age of becoming a senior citizen in the US. You go on social security, Medicare, and you start getting notices in the mail to pre-pay for your cremation. If you haven't lived with death before now, you better start doing so now, for you are on the threshold. Actually, you are always on the threshold, each moment can be the gateway to whatever there is or isn't on the Other Side.

If I hadn't thought the death's head mirror too heavy to carry back on the plane to the US, I would have bought it. But I didn't, not only because it was too bulky but because I am stepping into that space  time where things matter less as less, or matter only as symbols. The journey towards that abstraction from which we come has begun. I still love things, am still quite materialistic, was thrilled by Payson's many gifts to me this morning, paintings, a poem inscribed on a painting, and three pairs of 2500 year old antique gold earrings from Rome and Greece (a virtual gift so far, photographs on my computer, since I won't get to see or hold them till I get to the US), and our staff's annual gift of flowers, so many flowers that our house is full of them. But what I loved most of all was the very, very simple, ordinary (only till it becomes extraordinary in the death's head mirror) vibrant fact that I was alive, Payson was alive, my mother, my dogs were alive and with me; that a new day had begun, quite ordinary in every way, thank heavens.  Though I do not subscribe to the hype around birthdays, I think it is a good day to fill with gratitude. Ultimately, of course, it must be a reminder to live each day as if it were your birthday.

Thursday, 25 July 2013


Thanks, friends, for your comments on my last blog entry about Oxygen. I don't want to impose my blogs on you, so if you want, you can go to my blog at and sign in to receive  my posts. Or not. I will continue to forward for a few months to give you ample time to sign in, or not. This is the first time I have forwarded a post to my friends in over two years of blogging owing to a subconscious desire to be read by people I do not know, a sort of an objective evaluation of my 'worth' so to speak. But this is phooey baloney, so here I am, sending it to my dear ones again.

After I heard from you in appreciation of the last forwarded post, I had a subconscious (it's always that, isn't it, till you pull it out by its tail from the depths with conscious probing) urge and stress to write  more posts, get more wonderful comments! But I turn 65 in a week, and I have resolved to be mistress instead of slave to my subconscious urges. Another resolution is not to hurry anymore. This may be a sign of aging, but I adore the idea of not cutting corners with myself, of pushing, pulling, conforming to some idea of what is 'productive' and what is not.

Monday, 22 July 2013


I have two female dogs, Foxy, 6 or 7, and Bhalli, three this month. They live in our India home and I do not take them with me to the US when I leave to be there for around five months. This is difficult for  them and for me, though I try to make it as easy for them as I can. I have our chawkidar, or grounds keeper, Himmat and his wife, Meera, move into the house where there is a German woodstove, ensure there is plenty of wood for the winter, pay the Chawkidar really well for their food, chicken, milk, eggs, ghee, rotis and rice, doggie biscuits and bones. They are always healthy and happy when I return, and I know they have been well taken care of. But that isn't really the issue. Though I try not to worry about them too much (hungry leopards come down to the village in winter and eat dogs, goats, cattle) since Himmat takes really good care of them and we have a fence around our house, I always wonder on my return whether I should love them wholeheartedly or not, fearing we will get too attached to each other. There is always a distance when I return -- they don't know how much to love me, either, considering I have been leaving every winter for a long stretch. But each year I come to one conclusion -- I have to love them wholeheartedly, and more, if possible, because I know I am going to leave. I think this is a definition of detachment -- love wholly and then let go, easily, when circumstances demand it. And circumstances always demand it. If nothing else, there is always death.

Sunday, 21 July 2013


I know many people, including myself, who want to be loved for what they do instead of what they are. I had always thought that if only I wrote enough books, I would be loved. You think that if you are important, somebody, who does interesting things, achieves this or that, you become lovable. Nothing can be further from the truth. You will be admired, or envied, but you won't be loved.

I have learned that this is a very important thing to learn. It is not something one learns once and for all, but is a process of continual remembering. The only way to be loved is to love; to learn to love; to become the kind of person for whom love and loving is important. This includes, first of all, loving oneself.

What was that line by the Beatles? The love you take is equal to the love you make.

Sunday, 14 July 2013


It is very important to do new things for brain plasticity. I have had cabin fever, low grade boredom and depression, nothing serious, but just that nagging need for newness, something different, another way to be than the usual one of waking up and doing the same things every day: in my case, being in my study, reading, researching, taking notes, emailing, making music, embroidering a bit, knitting, playing backgammon, watching TV. I thought I needed to travel. I  know a lot of people who do a lot of traveling just to get out of the rut, so to speak. Let me clarify -- in the best of times, and most of the times it is the best of times for me, I love to do all the things I do, but sometimes even the best of things becomes a rut. So, I wanted to travel, but our driver in India was away for two weeks taking care of his severely diabetic wife, so that was out of the question. I knew I had to do something new right around here, for even the usual hikes in nature were not working. Even the days I took off from my chores were not rejuvenating because then I just lay about, and glorious laziness was glorious no longer.

Three days ago a very simple thing happened. I woke up, it was a warm morning, and I wanted to be outdoors, so I made myself a cup of tea, took the portable lounger into the garden, and just sat there, sipping the tea and watching the sun rise from the cleft in the high peeks around our home, and listening to the early morning chattering of birds. And it wasn't just chattering, but the Blue Whistling Thrush, that sings my favorite birdsong, lyrical, liquid, long and so soulful it makes you stop and listen, was in a happy singing mood. I must have sat for an hour and when I returned to the house, I was a new being. But the one hour wasn't enough. Payson and I took a picnic of cut vegetables, olives, cheese, and some snacks for the dogs and went to one of our favorite places -- Shoja Nala; some call it Jalora Nala -- to while away many hours later in the day. We crossed the Nala, a fallen tree provided a merciful bridge over the crystal waters, and we were on the other shore on a patch of moss covered earth by a huge boulder. The dogs were ecstatic and so were we. No, ecstasy is the wrong word. Nothing that dramatic, just a quiet being, doing nothing but looking and being in the green, listening to the sound of water, watching the movement of water and clouds. Nothing like nature to bring you out of your head and into the present, the moment, Now. We spent hours there, doing nothing, just talking occasionally, and playing with the dogs.

Talk about being in a rut -- it took us three months, workaholics that we are, to get to a place that is only twenty or thirty minutes from our home and which we both love. Too much of being in the groove of work makes the soul rebel, and we have to listen to it when it speaks to us so persistently that nothing we do of the usual thing works anymore.

That evening, too, we brought our chairs to the porch -- and wonderful chairs they are, that recline and make you look up at the sky and the wall of green across our home -- and watched the light fade. Sometimes, you know, it is just pure oxygen that the body and soul crave.

Monday, 8 July 2013

The Joy of Old Age. (No Kidding.) By OLIVER SACKS

LAST night I dreamed about mercury — huge, shining globules of quicksilver rising and falling. Mercury is element number 80, and my dream is a reminder that on Tuesday, I will be 80 myself.
Elements and birthdays have been intertwined for me since boyhood, when I learned about atomic numbers. At 11, I could say “I am sodium” (Element 11), and now at 79, I am gold. A few years ago, when I gave a friend a bottle of mercury for his 80th birthday — a special bottle that could neither leak nor break — he gave me a peculiar look, but later sent me a charming letter in which he joked, “I take a little every morning for my health.”
Eighty! I can hardly believe it. I often feel that life is about to begin, only to realize it is almost over. My mother was the 16th of 18 children; I was the youngest of her four sons, and almost the youngest of the vast cousinhood on her side of the family. I was always the youngest boy in my class at high school. I have retained this feeling of being the youngest, even though now I am almost the oldest person I know.
I thought I would die at 41, when I had a bad fall and broke a leg while mountaineering alone. I splinted the leg as best I could and started to lever myself down the mountain, clumsily, with my arms. In the long hours that followed, I was assailed by memories, both good and bad. Most were in a mode of gratitude — gratitude for what I had been given by others, gratitude, too, that I had been able to give something back. “Awakenings” had been published the previous year.
At nearly 80, with a scattering of medical and surgical problems, none disabling, I feel glad to be alive — “I’m glad I’m not dead!” sometimes bursts out of me when the weather is perfect. (This is in contrast to a story I heard from a friend who, walking with Samuel Beckett in Paris on a perfect spring morning, said to him, “Doesn’t a day like this make you glad to be alive?” to which Beckett answered, “I wouldn’t go as far as that.”) I am grateful that I have experienced many things — some wonderful, some horrible — and that I have been able to write a dozen books, to receive innumerable letters from friends, colleagues and readers, and to enjoy what Nathaniel Hawthorne called “an intercourse with the world.”
I am sorry I have wasted (and still waste) so much time; I am sorry to be as agonizingly shy at 80 as I was at 20; I am sorry that I speak no languages but my mother tongue and that I have not traveled or experienced other cultures as widely as I should have done.
I feel I should be trying to complete my life, whatever “completing a life” means. Some of my patients in their 90s or 100s say nunc dimittis — “I have had a full life, and now I am ready to go.” For some of them, this means going to heaven — it is always heaven rather than hell, though Samuel Johnson and James Boswell both quaked at the thought of going to hell and got furious with David Hume, who entertained no such beliefs. I have no belief in (or desire for) any post-mortem existence, other than in the memories of friends and the hope that some of my books may still “speak” to people after my death.
W. H. Auden often told me he thought he would live to 80 and then “bugger off” (he lived only to 67). Though it is 40 years since his death, I often dream of him, and of my parents and of former patients — all long gone but loved and important in my life.
At 80, the specter of dementia or stroke looms. A third of one’s contemporaries are dead, and many more, with profound mental or physical damage, are trapped in a tragic and minimal existence. At 80 the marks of decay are all too visible. One’s reactions are a little slower, names more frequently elude one, and one’s energies must be husbanded, but even so, one may often feel full of energy and life and not at all “old.” Perhaps, with luck, I will make it, more or less intact, for another few years and be granted the liberty to continue to love and work, the two most important things, Freud insisted, in life.
When my time comes, I hope I can die in harness, as Francis Crick did. When he was told that his colon cancer had returned, at first he said nothing; he simply looked into the distance for a minute and then resumed his previous train of thought. When pressed about his diagnosis a few weeks later, he said, “Whatever has a beginning must have an ending.” When he died, at 88, he was still fully engaged in his most creative work.
My father, who lived to 94, often said that the 80s had been one of the most enjoyable decades of his life. He felt, as I begin to feel, not a shrinking but an enlargement of mental life and perspective. One has had a long experience of life, not only one’s own life, but others’, too. One has seen triumphs and tragedies, booms and busts, revolutions and wars, great achievements and deep ambiguities, too. One has seen grand theories rise, only to be toppled by stubborn facts. One is more conscious of transience and, perhaps, of beauty. At 80, one can take a long view and have a vivid, lived sense of history not possible at an earlier age. I can imagine, feel in my bones, what a century is like, which I could not do when I was 40 or 60. I do not think of old age as an ever grimmer time that one must somehow endure and make the best of, but as a time of leisure and freedom, freed from the factitious urgencies of earlier days, free to explore whatever I wish, and to bind the thoughts and feelings of a lifetime together.
I am looking forward to being 80.
Oliver Sacks is a professor of neurology at the N.Y.U. School of Medicine and the author, most recently, of “Hallucinations.”


Watching me trying on my mother's silk suits before the mirror, Payson said, 'are you doing your old thing now?' And and I said, 'yes, why not get a head start lest it catch up with me unawares?'

There are many times during the day, catching a glimpse of my body and face in the mirror, I am reminded (but not troubled) by my aging. I had a week before I started on my conscious aging process when a sight of myself in a photograph (like the kind I posted earlier wearing my mother's clothes) sent me into paroxysms of despair and depression before I realized I had to face it head on instead of letting it fester inside me subconsciously.

Saturday, 6 July 2013


Of course, what I said about my mother in my last blog is not the whole truth. As I age, I admire my mother more and more for the way she lives her life. At 91, she is still very independent -- runs her own household with a cook, a maid, a cleaning guy, a gardener and a driver; she buys her own rations in a very organized way so that she is never out of any supplies; she is involved in every aspect of her life, and engaged with it fully. every winter her garden is easily the best in the neighborhood -- people often stop and take photos of the flowers; her house is clean as a whistle. It is painted and polished inside and out almost every year; just a few months ago she had someone upholster all the furniture in the house. now, in mango season, she makes sure the mangos are off the four trees in the backyard before the neighbors get to them, and distributed equally to all the many family members. and occasionally she still   arranges flowers in vases for her room.
I can only hope that I am just a fraction of what she is when I am 91!


I notice that my last post said nothing about my mother so let me make amends here. I don't want to be like my mother in ways that I can help it. I suppose that is what evolution is about -- learning from your parents mistakes. I suppose what I consider my mother's greatest mistake is her inability to see things from any but her own point of view. There are many others: wanting everyone in her life to be a 'yes' person, a sycophant, and then complaining that no one loves her. She can be a Dragon Lady, and in my life I have always avoided women who are into their own power. But for those women who have had such mothers, I offer hope. After my father's death in 2007 (I adored . . . no, adore him -- more of how dead people can be alive for us, later), I vowed to love my mother unconditionally. As she grows more and more lonely in her old age, I call her daily, visit her as often as I can, and love her when I am with her. She has said her mother didn't know how to love and she inherited it from her -- my mother has never been physical, but the last time I visited her she actually lifted her hand and placed it on my arm -- the closest she has come to making a loving gesture! Yes, I know a few people like that in addition to her. How sad it is.

Thursday, 4 July 2013


There, you can see a little bit more of the dress here. when you are about to be 65, like I am, you can't avoid noticing (mirrors are not kind!) how your face and body lose their contours, and you begin to look like a bag. I generally try to put a good face on it by wearing jeans, or black, and leaving my hair open -- partially because I have always done it, but also because hair framing your face makes you look a bit more 'girlish.' But no matter what I do or wear (I haven't colored my hair for tens of years now and am not about to), I can't escape the face of my aging. What you can't escape you have to turn around and face and eventually, embrace. this is my task now. It isn't easy, but one trick is looking at yourself as you look now with eyes grown even dimmer twenty years from now. I bet twenty years from now when I look at this photo I will think I looked pretty good. 


These days Dhani Ram, our local tailor, is here in the house, altering the silk, crepe de chine punjabi suits (5 of them) that my mother gave me on my last visit to her. I am wearing one of there, here:They are not clothes I would normally wear -- it's not my style -- but I have really enjoyed wearing the lightweight clothing and the feel of the luxurious silk. I am looking like my mother today -- something I have resisted over and over to no avail. Can't see much of the dress in this photo I took in the photo booth, but a little bit of the floral kameeze. I have made the necklace, by the way.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013


I never drink coffee because it always makes me very acidic and bloated. Once this winter when I started taking an ounce of Payson's morning coffee and diluting it with a lot of water and or milk, I had a dream that made me stop taking it completely. I say to someone in my dream, Socrates had his hemlock and I have my coffee. I interpreted it as : coffee is going to kill me! I say the same thing when I get on a roll of eating chocolate. Well, I have had four days of  doing very little of what I usually do, just lying about, reading, or not even that, embroidering, cuddling, watching the tube. I had thought, my brain is tired (it was, from too much research and making notes on the research), my lungs are giving me trouble (they were), I need a rest (I did). But this morning I had an urge for coffee like you wouldn't believe and whenever I have an urge that's so strong, I indulge. I went to the kitchen (our cook's away on leave) and made myself a cup (not an ounce or a hemi demi cup but a whole one) of coffee just the way I like it -- with milk and honey and yum! scrum! AND I've been at my desk all morning, quite stoked with energy and happy to be alive and doing things like babbling here!

so, I shall resume, hemlock or not. I will not drink it regularly, as a habit, but as medicine. That's the way to indulge in one's vices. Speaking of vices, I have another one -- playing electronic backgammon!  But instead of playing it the whole day ( I can, sickeningly) I limit myself to three games (at a time!).