Red Hot Tongue of Fire

My home state, California, specifically northern California is burning, fires ignited by dry lightning. Many had to flee their homes to safety as firefighters fight valiantly to tame the fires. The poem below was written in English yesterday and than translated to my mother tongue Assamese (Axomiya) about my feelings of the last few days as the fires rage on.

between sunset and sunrise,
lies the vagaries of the night,
destiny rings the bell,
lightning strikes,
dreams go up in flames.

as you flee,
as you flee,
you look back,
and there is
nothing to see,
there against the darkness,
dances the red hot tongue,
ravenous to devour all
in its path.

tears no match to
quench its thirst,
a scorched earth silently
curses a heartless sky,
and at sunrise,
sun hides its face, ashamed,
taking cover behind the
smoke screen.

as the tired bodies throw
themselves at the roaring monster,
nature claims victory
over the mortals,
dawn breaks,
a new day of dashed hopes,
and for many,
nowhere to go.

অগ্নিৰ লেলিহান শিখা

সুৰ্যাস্ত আৰু সুৰ্যোদয়ৰ মাজত
খেয়ালী নিশাৰ সপোনৰ খেল,
দূৰৈত নি‌‌য়তিৰ কূটিল হাঁহি,
বিজুলীৰ নাচোন,
ধোঁৱা হৈ উৰি গ’ল
সোণালী সপোন।

পলোৱা, পেলোৱা,
পিছলৈ ঘূৰি চাই দেখিবা কি?
অন্ধকাৰ আকাশৰ চিত্ৰপটত
নাচে জলন্ত অগ্নিৰ
ৰক্তিম লেলিহান শিখা,
সমুখত সকলো কৰি ভস্মীভূত,
প্ৰচণ্ড ক্ষুধাত
অগ্ৰগামী মূৰ্তিমান বিভীষিকা।

চকুপানীত তোমাৰ
নহয় পূৰণ তৃষ্ণা তাইৰ,
অগ্নিদগ্ধ ধৰণীয়ে দিয়ে অভিশাপ
হৃদয়হীন শুকান আকাশক।
আৰু সুৰ্যোদয়ত?
লজ্জিত অৰুণে
ছাঁই হৈ যোৱা সপোনৰ
ধোঁৱাৰ ওৰণি তলত,
লাজতে লুকাই মুখ।

ক্লান্ত দেহবোৰে যেতিয়া
ৰুধিবলে ক্ষুদ্ধিত বহ্নিৰ অগ্ৰসৰ
মৃত্যুকো নেওচি পৰে জপি‌য়াই,
প্ৰকৃতিয়ে মৰণশীল মানৱৰ ওপৰত
কৰে বিজয় ঘোষণা।
দিগন্তত তেতিয়া ৰাতিপুৱাৰ আভাষ,
এটা নতুন দিন ভগ্ন সপোনৰ,
আৰু বহুজনৰ
সপোনৰ শেষ,
নাই কোনো ঘৰ
ঘূৰি যাবলৈ।

Sunsets, Sunrise and Nature’s Fury

Just ten days back, the sky was cloudy that by itself should not be a matter of concern to anyone. However in northern California, in summer, we are more accustomed to see clear blue skies during summer than cloudy skies, so much so, that to take a photo with the sky as a background one needs to have a good circular polarizer filter to get some contrast. So when the sky is cloudy, it is much easier to take photos with the sky as a background and normally we are rewarded with beautiful sunsets. So on August 13, Thursday, I was up on One Tree Hill near our house to capture a good sunset photograph. But even I was not prepared to see what nature presented. It was awesome.

Sunset from my backyard on the afternoon of August 13, 2020. Someone said that it looked like Martian sky. Maybe it was just the prelude to what nature had in store for us.

On Sunday, August 16, early morning, California was struck by an unusual dry lightning and thunder storm. Within a very short period of time several hundred intense lightning strikes were reported. As per report, during the next seventy two hours, the state was struck by more than ten thousand lightning strikes, though the majority of intense strikes were on early Sunday morning. As expected, fire started to light up around the state with majority of them concentrated in norther California. Rapidly burning fires forced evacuation as well as destruction of properties and natural wonders. The Big Basin Redwood Forest State Park, about forty five minutes drive from our house was burnt. The visitor center was completely burnt down to the ground. The fate of the old redwood trees, some older than two thousand years and two feet plus tall are not known yet.

Not sure if any of these behemoths are still standing after the fire. These photos were taken on August 1, 2015.

The fires are still burning without much of it being contained. For last four to five days now, the sky is covered by smoke from all the fires burning. University of California, Santa Cruz was evacuated. Thousands of firefighters are fighting valiantly to contain the fires. We pray for their success because in their success lies our safety. Please send your prayers for their safety. Already six people lost their lives. As I am writing this, lots of properties were damaged and many had to leave their homes to safety and others are packed and waiting for the dreaded evacuation orders.

As the state burns and the sky is covered with smoke, nature has presented her colors with beautiful sunsets and sunrises. It’s of little solace to all who are affected by the fury of the fire. We were staying at home due to COVID and now hoping that everyone can stay at their homes and not get displaced due to the fires. Though at first the smokes from the fires produced beautiful sunsets and sunrise, now it is only gray sky hiding the sun.

Sunset on August 17, 2020 from One Tree Hill

Sunrise on August 18, 2020 from my front yard
Midday sun on August 19, 2020 from my front yard. Sky covered in smoke.

Shadow of the stars

When the stars cast their shadows

And the moon goes dark

Path uneven lies forward

Every step out of sight

Eyes of the octopus targeted

At your heart

Sinewy tentacles keep pulling back

Down to the bottom of a dark past

When everything seems lost

And pervasive defeatism creeps in

Wounded soul comforted

By false bravado of

Suicidal paranoia

There is still hope to clutch

As the world turns

Sunrise not far

Shadows retreat

Path uneven lighted

Steps surefooted

As the shadows of fear shrink

Retreating stars smile

Depression fades away

Vacation Time: Wrap Up

Nine days passed quickly and before we knew it, we were back home December 15 at around 9:00 PM.  I had missed posting about day two and day three. So I will summarize here day two and day three along with day seven through day nine.

Day Two, December 23, in Las Vegas went in a blur.  The day was spent mostly resting after a tiring  fourteen hour drive from San Jose, California to Las Vegas, Nevada on day one. Normally it should not have taken more than ten hours. We had a good dinner at Mount Everest India’s Cuisine in Las Vegas. Lines were long and the place felt little cramped but the food was delicious.  I will definitely recommend the restaurant to any one looking for alternative to buffets on the strip.  After dinner we went to see a Ka, a Cirque du Soleil show at MGM Grand. It was a grand show but I must have slept through much of the show as I remember my daughter nudging me continuously during the show trying to wake me up. I just crashed after coming back to hotel.

Day Three, December 24,  Christmas eve, drove from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon via Hoover Dam. It was a bad decision.  Traffic to Hoover Dam was terrible.We had been to Hoover Dam before but my two younger kids had no memories of those visits during their childhood.  We lost more than three hours of time and due to Arizona being one hour ahead of Nevada, by the time we arrived in Grand Canyon it was already evening and we missed viewing sunset over the Grand Canyon.  So we ended up having an early dinner at the Yavapai Lodge restaurant and retiring early to ensure not missing sunrise over Grand Canyon. Glad that we did it as we were rewarded with incredible sunrise view next morning.

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Sunrise over Grand Canyon, December 25, 2018

I posted already about day four through day six, so I will continue below with a summary of day seven through day nine.

Day Seven, December 28, started bright and sunny at Bryce and bitterly cold.  Our rental car did not have a scraper, so we had bought one on our way  to Grand Canyon.  It came handy as the windshields were completely covered with thick layers of ice.  We were planning to leave Bryce early to Zion National Park but by the time we left our hotel it was nearly 11:00 AM. The road from Bryce to to Zion National Park is incredibly beautiful.  Nearly every turn on the road presents travellers with vistas that can only be carried in one’s heart.  Camera can not do justice.  I am sure that if the creator is not a cruel one, I will have another chance in my next life to visit Zion again. One visit, no one life, is not enough.

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We entered Zion National Park through the east entrance and drove along the scenic road to the visitors center at around 2:00 PM.  Parking lot was full and signs posted asked cars to be parked in town ( Springdale ) just beyond the south gate. Luckily we got a parking spot just near the visitors center as some one left .  We took the shuttle to the last stop on the forty minute shuttle ride to Temple of Sinawava. It was a pleasant ride with grand vistas. After getting down from the shuttle, we took the trail along the Virgin river to the narrows. As we did not rent equipments to walk on the river ( also that it was freezing cold and late in the day), so would leave that to our next visit.  It was magical.  As we did not want to miss the last shuttle and face the daunting task of walking back six miles to the visitor center in dark and freezing cold, we reluctantly trekked back to the shuttle stop and drove to our hotel in Springdale just outside the south gate of Zion National Park.  After dinner at a Thai restaurant ( many of the restaurants in Springdale close for winter for two months from January to March), we called it a day as we had planned some long hikes the next day.

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Virgin River

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Icicles hanging on the cliff walls- reminded me of  a Shakespeare sonnet “Icicles hanging on The Wall” – a poem from my high school textbook

Day Eight, December 29, I got up early as I wanted to go to the park to view sunrise over the majestic canyon.  Alas, my family members prefered the warmth of a comfortable bed over the cold morning. So I was left to satiate my wish with the view of sunrise from the hotel walkway.

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After breakfast, we checked out of the hotel and drove the short distance from the hotel to the visitors center and took the shuttle to The Grotto.  We did a short hike to the picnic area and then went to the Emerald Pools.  These hikes were not very strenuous but some portions of the trail to Emerald Pools were icy.  At shady areas, icicles were hanging to the walls and in places where sun rays had heated the cliff walls sufficiently, ice melt water was streaming down the walls.

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We finished our Zion trip with a hike up Watchman Trail.  The elevation gain on this trail was three hundred and eighty four feet. However by this time in the afternoon the sun was up and the heavy jackets we were wearing made the hike up quite uncomfortable. The view of the valley below including the town of Springdale was majestic.  We bid adieu to Zion in late afternoon to Las Vegas for the last part of our trip but left our hearts at Zion.

Day Nine, December 30, Time to return home.  Dropped my son at Las Vegas Airport for his return to his workplace, packed and started our journey back to San Jose.  Completely uneventful return trip except for a stop at Barstow for lunch.  The fake railroad station, Barstow Station, that houses many fast food restaurants inside look alike railroad cars is intriguing but the food is same as other franchises.

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As we were driving down California 46 to Interstate 5, we were greeted with the view of a magnificent sunset.  By the time I managed to get a picture from the back seat of the car, sun had already gone down the horizon.  It was an appropriate end to our trip with my last sunset photo of 2018.

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All photos taken by author.  Equipment: Canon XSI and Panasonic LX10, except the sunset photo that was taken by my cell phone.

Vacation Time: Day Six – Winter Wonderland

Our plan was to hike in Bryce Canyon National Park and also to catch sunrise and sunset there on December 27.

The day started with snow flurries in Bryce. While it was great to look at from inside the warmth of the hotel breakfast room, it also became quite clear that viewing a Bryce Canyon magical sunrise was not in our destiny in this trip. By around noon it was clear that the flurries were not going to end and we decided to brave it. On driving down to the visitor’s center, we came to know that thanks to the partial government shutdown, only a small portion of the park was open, mainly due to financial help of the state government of Utah. Big thanks to UTAH.

Completely covered from head to toe due to the cold with temperatures in low 10 (F) and with wind chill around 4F and blowing snow flurries, hiking was not easy. My glasses fogged within few minutes and I had to take it off. Fingers were getting cold inside gloves but technology helped in this case. My eldest son had got some hand warmer packages. These little packages worked so well that I was able to take off my right hand gloves that helped immensely in using the camera.

I am thankful that we decided to hike though my wife was quite apprehensive due to the slippery trail conditions. Using crampons under shoes helped in hiking. What amazing vista’s. Though we were deprived of the colorful display of sunlight firing up various sand stone formations, we were rewarded amply by the display of the magical winter wonderland of Bryce Canyon National Park.

We arrived the Sunset point after about three and half hours of hiking hoping to see sunset but a grey sky and falling snow flurries dashed our hope.

Hopefully will be able to see sunrise tomorrow and then drive to Zion.

Penalty of shopping hungry

Was supposed to pick up my daughter from the airport in the morning.  Flight arrival time was 8:00 AM.  Airport is about fourteen miles north of our house.  During office days it is a nightmare driving those fourteen miles but today being Saturday it would be a breeze, I thought.  So I did not set the alarm.

When I got up in the morning and trust me it was not because any other sense of urgency but due to nature’s call, it was already well past 7:00 AM.  Hurriedly got up, brushed my teeth, put on some warm clothes and rushed out . As I took my car out of the garage, saw the beautiful sunrise.  I just could not resist taking a photograph over my wife’s vehement objection.  It was already near 8:00 AM and my wife scolded me that we were going to be late.  But hubby knew better.

Now what is the worth of a photograph if you could not share it with your near and dear ones via social media.  By that time wifey dear was near hysterical.

5e3ab65e-bedd-4216-bcd2-3fa8a7b3bb14The sunrise photo that was creating issues for me this morning.

We had to skip breakfast for being late ( supposedly ).  It’s difficult for me to function normally without the morning cup of coffee but clearly I was in no position to stop anywhere to pick up from a drive-in.  As we were still about 5 miles from the airport, my daughter texted that the plane landed.  I will not elaborate what happened for the next few minutes. Let me just say that deadly silence was interspersed with accusation of my callousness.

Now as we all know, those pure of heart are always loved by the gods.  In this case also the god of airport lent me his / her helping hands.  The air bridge malfunctioned and by the time we picked up my daughter from the baggage claim area, we had circled the airport three times.  Now was the time for me to brag but either hunger had dulled my repertoire or better sense prevailed.

By the time we were driving back home, our hungry stomachs were plying soulful music.  Over the protestation of my daughter, she wanted to get back home and hit the bed, my wife gladly accepted my offer of picking up breakfast items on our way home. She even volunteered to pick up some bagels as I shop for milk, bread etc.  And this brings me to the title of this post.  Never go shopping when you are hungry unless you are ready to pay the penalty.  As a picture is worth thousand words, I will  let the picture speak.

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Suffice is to say that we had a hearty breakfast.

And to add to the good feeling, WordPress alerted me that I am now three year old.  No, I am not talking about my biological age, no wish to become a second Benjamin Button.  Today is my third anniversary of blogging.  Though I started writing poetry again in February of 2014 after nearly four decades of being away from writing anything except exams and project/work proposals and presentations, I started blogging only in December of 2015 ( thanks to my nephew whose constant goading started my blogging).  That I survived for three years in blogosphere, credit goes to my blogily.  Your encouragement keeps me going.

3 Year Anniversary Achievement

Happy Anniversary with WordPress.com!
You registered on WordPress.com 3 years ago.
Thanks for flying with us. Keep up the good blogging.
Did I mention that by the time I remembered to send the sunrise photo with my whatsapp group, it was well past morning. Satisfying a hungry stomach always gets first preference over social media.

Kilauea Volcano : Tuesday Photo Challenge – Rise

This week’s Tuesday Photo Challenge prompt from Frank  is  “Rise“.

On September 17, 2017, Wednesday early morning, I and my eldest son got up and drove from our rented house near Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park  to Kilauea volcano to see the sun rise.  My wife and other two kids decided to give it a pass as they were tired from the drive from Kona and the day long activities and sightseeing of the day before. As it turned out, we were deprived of enjoying the sunrise due to the heavy fog created by rising steam from numerous steam vents.  As the saying goes that “when one door closes, another opens”, nature did not deprive us of its bounty. We were rewarded with another rise, lava and steam rising from Kilauea cauldron.  We had been there the night before but it was not as spectacular.  As Kilauea volcano is in the news currently, erupting and damaging a huge area and several homes, I thought this would be an appropriate post for this week’s photo challenge prompt.

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Trip to India – Dec 2017: A Mini Travelogue : Tuesday Photo Challenge – Place

During my trip to India in December of 2017, I had a plan to post a travel diary of my journey.  However someone up there had a different plan.  During my transit at Seoul, South Korea, on my way to India, I lost my notebook computer and that was the end of the story.  I had taken lots of photographs during the trip but never got back to write a travelogue.  Sheer laziness on my part.  Hope to share some of those today with you as an opportunity presented itself.
Frank’s Tuesday Photo Challenge prompt for today was “Place”.  I decided to take this opportunity to write a mini travelogue while adhering to Franks prompt.

Bagala Devi Temple ( Nilachal Hill), Kamakhya, Guwahati, Assam- December 16, 2017
Kamakhya Temple, one of the most prominent Shakti Pitha of the fifty one Pithas of Hinduism, is situated in Nilachal Hill, about 7KM from Guwahati.  Though Kamakhya is the main temple, there are numerous other temples on the hill, specially ten temples dedicated to ten Mahavidyas (ten forms of Goddess Durga). The temple to Devi Bagalamukhi is one of them.

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Banaras and Sarnath, December 18 – December 19, 2018
Banaras (Varanasi) or Kashi is one of the holiest place for Hindus and the abode of Lord Shiva.  It is also the city of my alma mater, Banaras Hindu University or in short BHU.  My family had never been to Banaras.  After 2000 AD, this was the first time the family would be together in India.  So we made it a point to make a trip to Banaras

SunriseoverGanges_R1Sunrise over River Ganga (Ganges) – December 18, 2017
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Boats on River Ganga, morning of December 18, 2017
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Dashashwamedh Ghat, December 19, 2017
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Ganga Arti (offering puja to Ganga Mata, Mother Ganga) Evening of December 18, 2017, Dashashwamedh Ghat (taken from the roof of the guest house we stayed). This is not to be missed while in Banaras.
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Indian Institute of Technology, Banaras Hindu University (my alma mater), December 18, 2017.  This visit was nostalgic, to say the least.
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Maha Bodhi Temple, Sarnath, December 19, 2017.   Sarnath is less than 15 KM drive from Banaras. Lord Buddha gave his first sermon here after attaining enlightenment in Bodhgaya.
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Dhamek Stupa, Sarnath, December 19, 2017. Site of Lord Buddha’s earliest sermons.
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Archaeological excavation in Sarnath by ASI , December 19, 2017.

Kaziranga National Park(KNP), Assam, December 21 – December 23, 2018.  Home of one horned rhinoceros.

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Dipholu River (KNP), December 22, 2017, morning.
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The gentle giant (one horned rhino) grazing peacefully at KNP’s Kohora range, December 22, 2017 afternoon.  Its population is being decimated by well armed poachers with AK47s and other automated weapons because of its horn. The horn is in high demand in oriental medicines due to its perceived aphrodisiac power. I wrote one of my earliest poems, ” I can’t speak out for myself, will You ( shortlink: https://wp.me/p73yZZ-7J)” about poaching of rhino. It is a subject that is very near and dear to my heart.
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Sunset at Kaziranga National Park, Dec 22, 2017.  No one is allowed inside the park after sunset except guards and rangers. Poachers, of course, do not wait for permission.

Majuli (Largest inhabited river island in the world), Assam, December 23 – December 25, 2017.
We crossed over river Brahmaputra from Neemati Ghat to Majuli on December 23, 2017.  The ferry trip took around one hour due to the sandbanks in the middle of the river.  We had rented a ferry to take our cars ( five cars in our family group) over.  We stayed for two nights at DekaSang Resort on the bank of river Luit ( original channel of river Brahmaputra).  Majuli is the seat of neo-vaishnavite monasteries (Satra).  Originally there were about sixty five monasteries. Now  only thirty two of them are still there as many had to move to the main land due to constant erosion of the island during the flood season.  We visited four satras on December 24, Auniati ( the largest satra in Majuli), Dakhinpat, Kamalabari and Samaguri.
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Crossing river Brahmaputra on ferry, December 23, 2017 to Majuli
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At DekaSang Resort, Majuli, morning of December 24, 2017
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Auniati Satra, Majuli, December 24, 2017
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Dakhinpat Satra, Majuli, December 24, 2017
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Samaguri Satra, Majuli, December 24, 2017.  The culture of mask making is practiced in Samaguri Satra for centuries and is being kept alive under the able teaching of Shri Hem Chandra Goswami..  These masks are used during religious performance and traditional dramas(Ankiya Naats  and Bhaonas).
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River Luit, in front of DekaSang, Majuli, morning of December 25, 2017
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Sunset in Majuli, December 23, 2017

Chandubi Lake, December 28, 2017, Dist. Kamrup, Assam.
Chandubi Lake, at a distance of 65 KM from the city of Guwahati ( my home town) is a natural lake formed due to a massive earthquake in 1897.  Situated at the foothills of Garo Hills, it is a very scenic and tranquil place.  We( my family of five and my brother’s family of four) drove from our home to the Inspection Bungalow by the side of the lake and after some refreshment there crossed over to the other side of the lake in a country boat.  There are a few jungle resorts on the other side managed by the local tribal villagers. We had arranged to have our lunch there( that nearly became a dinner due to our late arrival). The home cooked meal was well worth it.  Did some hiking but generally just relaxed and detoxified ourselves.
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Chandubi Lake
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Crossing Chandubi Lake by country boat
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Enjoying afternoon sun. It was very mild weather for late December.
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Enjoying a swing ride
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Lunch(dinner) time. Dining room in the foreground.
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Evening was fast approaching and boats were ready to ferry us across.  Time to bid adieu to Chandubi.