Meeting friends

The early morning rays find its way through the interwoven oak leaves and cast a shimmering glow over the garden. The silhouettes it produces start to look sharper as the glow intensifies. I can hear no birds, no squirrels, not even a rustling of leaves. A serene silence hangs in the air. The pair of squirrels who were chasing each other around the tree chattering and producing a rattling sound yesterday evening must have exhausted themselves out and are nowhere to be seen. The chase which resembled a harried scramble to catch the perpetrator ended in a playful tumble on the grass. It reminded me of the giggling kids running around the garden. Did the squirrels take their cue from them, I wonder, probably not. There are holes all over the yard where these rodents have dug up storage spaces to hide their stash of peanuts and fallen acorns. They are getting ready for winter. The two of them saw me as they clambered down the tree, stopped short and gave me one of the most menacing stares I’ve ever seen. First it was the ginger cat and now the squirrels. Form an orderly queue I tell them for your staring contests. 

There was a lovely photo of a couple getting married at sunset on the Brooklyn Bridge in the papers. A cyclist who happened to pass by, caught the couple at the right moment gazing into each other’s eyes as the person who officiated the ceremony looked on. The New York skyline with a dusky orange sky as a backdrop, the only other guest, bore witness to the culmination of a journey which started exactly a year previously. The young lady was backpacking in South America and they met at a dance club the night before she was due to leave Columbia. It was the beginning of a fairytale romance. The guy joined her and they ended up in New York just before the pandemic and lockdown began. The lockdown proved to be their relationship’s litmus test. Their relatives couldn’t attend the wedding and there was no photographer either. The cyclist posted the photo on twitter that evening and tracked them down. That is the only photo of their wedding. A wedding present from a stranger. Another serendipitous encounter. 

I meet up with Kanthi and go for a walk. There is an area of woods just near her house. We’ve both lived in this area for over two decades and never knew of its existence. It was the perfect opportunity to catch up and trade stories as we passed dog walkers and joggers. The temperature hit the high thirties yesterday. Today the mercury is slowly creeping up but the trees provide amble shade till we come to a clearing filled with blackberry bushes. The berries are ripe for picking and Kanthi has brought a plastic bag. We pick them carefully avoiding the sharp thorns. It seems there is an art to picking them. If they are ripe enough they will easily peel of the stalk. Back home, I wash and try them. They are not as sweet as I anticipated and those which are not quite ripe enough have a slightly tangy taste. My mulberries are also ripening and I tried one the other day. They look alike, taste slightly different but are from completely different genera and family. One from a bramble and other a tree. The quirks of nature. 

The lockdown is easing but there are signs of a second wave. Uncertainty and change is something most people loathe but when there is no choice we protest but join in. Gradually the change becomes the norm. We start getting used to it and might even enjoy it when suddenly everything changes again. It has been one of those years. The uncertainty is causing a lot of angst. A young woman with a beauty salon is breaking down in tears on the radio wondering how she is going to pay the rent. This is the reality these days. The furlough has been extended but is that enough. I turn the radio off. That is not the solution, I know but, there are times when only silence will do. 

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