He is always ahead of me. ALWAYS.

Adi is always ahead of me. ALWAYS.

Here are the questions that I had to field in today’s Ambal-Adi summer 2013 bootcamp.

What is the truth?
Does life exist after death?
Are we alone on this solar system?
Are we just energy sources?
Is this all a dream?
What is the meaning of life?
What is the Karma Yoga you are always telling me about?
I see…there are other Yogas – Bhakti yoga, Jnana yoga
Does God exist?
History of religions?
Are we in a dream?
It is all your perception, mom, really?
It is all in the mind, is it?
Does free-will exist?
Is everything predestined?
Why do you perceive purple during meditation?
Really, You and I might have energy and light transfer..and perhaps nothing else, really?

How do I feed his curiosity?
Seriously, how do I?
I don’t have answers…just more questions for him.

I told him what I always tell myself “Be open to all ideas. Be open to every thought. But, also be skeptical. Don’t accept anything as true. Look for what is not obvious. Keep seeking.”

I felt the urge to discuss Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle with him.
But, that has to wait until later.

2 Jasmine Flowers from My Backyard

I had some of the best middle school English teachers. They didn’t just teach me. They imparted love for the language and poetry. I also grew up with a great love for Tamil poetry.

I plucked these 2 fragrant jasmine flowers from the backyard. These flowers remind me of a beautiful poem from Poet Valli.

Here is part of the poem transliterated in English:

Kadavul thandha iru malargal kanmalarndha pon malargal
Onru paavai koondhalilae onru paadhai oaraththilae

Alaiyil midhandha malar kandu adhanmael karunai manam kondu
Thalaiyil iraivan soodikkondaan thaanae adhanai saerththukkondaan
Kuzhalil soodiya oru malarum koayil saerndha oru malarum
Irandum vaazhvil perumai perum idhayam engum amaidhi perum

Here is part of the poem in Tamil with English translation:

கடவுள் தந்த இரு மலர்கள் கண் மலர்ந்த பொண் மலர்கள்
ஒன்று பாவை கூந்தலிலே ஒன்று பாதை ஓரத்திலே
Two precious flowers given by God;
One fortunate enough to adorn a charming girl while other floated by placid water.
அலையில் மிதந்த மலர் கண்டு அதன்மேல் கருனை மனம் கொண்டு
தலையில் இறைவன் சூடிக்கொண்டான் தானே அதனை சேர்த்துக்கொண்டான்
Seeing the plight of the floating flower, the Creator with grace adorned Himself with that.
குழலில் சூடிய ஒரு மலரும் கோயில் சேர்ந்த ஒரு மலரும்
இரண்டும் வாழ்வில் பெருமை பெறும் இதயம் எங்கும் அமைதி பெறும்
Both the flowers get their glory by adorning;
So will the heart get filled with peace (for everyone)

English Translation was provided by my friend Daisy whose love for Tamil exceeds mine by many fold.

Spring Planting

“If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly our whole life would change.” – Buddha

Spring Planting - Ambal Balakrishnan

The boys helped me plant some flowers in the front yard.

Scouting for Pictures in Fall

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” – Albert Camus

For several weeks now, Adi has been observing the falling leaves and the beautiful red and yellow colors on the leaves. We both enjoy the fall beauty…but only hastly..as we rush to school and drive back and forth from activites.

Today afternoon, Adi came back from school. I surprised him by saying “The camera is all yours for 1 hour today afternoon. Look – the rain has stopped and the sun is out. Let us go photo shooting!!”.

His jaw dropped. He said “Are you serious?! Stop kidding Amma”.

We got in the car and drove around…stopping here…pausing there. We discussed how best to click a particular shot. I don’t know much about framing..but whatever I knew, I taught him.

In our part of the world (here in Northern California), Fall doesn’t bring as much beauty as in the Mid-west. However, we enjoyed the red and yellow leaves and how the vibrant colors stood out in our city.

Hope you are enjoy this Fall as much as Adi and I enjoyed scouting for Fall pictures.

Scouting for Pictures in Fall 2012 - 1 - Ambal Balakrishnan

Climbing Mt. Clouds Rest in Yosemite National Park

This is what it really takes to climb any mountain (both the real and the metaphorical). Put one foot in front of another. And, repeat.

Flashback to Summer 2010:
I summitted every peak that was on the training list leading up to Mt. Whitney except Mt. Clouds Rest. The snow hadn’t melted in the last 500 ft of Mt. Clouds Rest. Being sane & cautious, I returned back with my hiking buddies Durgi and Manju. As we climbed down, I felt disappointed and kept telling myself “I will be back” (yep, I want you to picture that like Schwarzenegger said it in Terminator).

Fast Forward to Summer 2012:
After a few weeks of training this summer, Kumar and I decided to tackle Mt. Clouds Rest (9,931 ft) this weekend. We drove to Yosemite on Friday….got very, very, very lucky when the Ranger assigned (after going through a long waiting list) us a First-Come-First-Served camping spot in Tuolumne Meadows (just 7 miles away from the Sunrise Trailhead for the Clouds Rest hike – how convenient!!). We couldn’t thank the Ranger enough and the Ranger couldn’t stop telling us how lucky we were. Anyways, we camped at 8,600 ft yesterday night. It was a great acclimatization spot for today’s high-altitude hike.

Yosemite was gorgeous and the hike was just awesome. The blue skies, the white-fast-moving clouds, the gentle breeze that smelled of pine trees, the little multicolored wildflowers, the deers with their fawns, the fluttering butterflies – all of these and more made the hike well worth it.

Kumar and I finished the 14 mile hike under 8 hours. Our beautiful planet is just that – beautiful.

Closing Note:
Thank you to my two dear friends Revathi and Usha who looked out for our safety during today’s high-altitude hike. I know this for sure. If they had not heard back from me by 6.00pm on the hike day, they would have moved heaven and earth and driven every living soul, every helicopter, every Search and Rescue team in the Yosemite Valley and beyond to look for Kumar and me.

I am indeed the luckiest soul on earth to have friends that I can trust my life with.