Mother Nature’s Creation

I’ve been so involved in the Greenbelt restoration work that I’ve given my front yard garden very little attention. I’m loving how Mother Nature filled in the gap and made it beautiful in her own way.

For the last few years I have planted five or six pansies in the garden. Occasionally one has come back after the winter. This year, though, pansies of all colors have sprung up throughout the garden. There are so many of them! It seems so strange since that has never happened before.

Many of the blooms are withering but the combination of  colors are still beautiful.

I had an early bloom on one of the squash plants……..

…. but so far there isn’t any squash. The plants seem healthy but I haven’t seen both male and female blooms on any variety and I haven’t seen any bees. I will hand fertilize when that becomes possible.

The Lazy Susan plant and the Echinacea plants have buds. I look forward to seeing their flowers.

There is a seemingly endless supply of lemon balm and peppermint.

Thank you Mother Nature for all that you do for me, and for the world. You are a paragon of compassion and an artist that has no equal.

 

 

Blossom

Create

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Weekly Photo Challenge: A Good Match

Every time I thought about “A Good Match,” my mind went back to a 2013 photo. I felt a sense of fascination when I first saw this tromboncino squash…. and I am still fascinated by it. To me it is the epitome of a good match.

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Tromboncino squash are considered summer squash and are used in the same way as zucchini.

What I find most interesting about this form of squash, though, is that if you allow it to continue to grow, it will turn into a winter squash. In that process, it changes color and the skin becomes hard. The inside becomes sweet and reminds me of acorn squash. I really love eating it at that point.

I also love how big the squash grows. This one was five feet long!

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(I took the photo above by taking a picture of myself in a mirror. My arms weren’t long enough to take it facing me. Besides, in 2013, I probably didn’t even know what a selfie was!)

This and That

I’ve been wanting to provide updates on subjects I’ve written about in the past, so I decided to publish a This and That post.

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Those of you who followed my recent journey to Amma’s ashram in Amritapuri, India may remember that in January I was wondering why these “caterpillars” didn’t eat the Saraswati Garden plants. I’m used to seeing caterpillars demolish plants.

Two readers informed that the creatures weren’t caterpillars; they were centipedes. I had never considered that possibility. As I look closely at the photo above, I can see all of the legs, but I sure didn’t see them at the time.

I saw a centipede in Amritapuri two years ago. I remember it moved so fast that it left me speechless.

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That one was more like centipedes I’ve seen in the United States. I had no idea that centipedes could be brightly colored. Those readers also told me that centipedes don’t eat plants; they are carnivorous. Their diet consists primarily of insects and spiders.

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While I was in Amritapuri, crosswalks were painted on the street down the beach road. I saw about a mile of them, so I suspect they go the whole length of the peninsula. At the time, I wondered what crosswalks meant in India. I still don’t know what they mean.

I don’t believe that the crosswalks give pedestrians right-of-way, or if they do, that fact is being completely ignored. I didn’t see any change in driving patterns. I suspect a policeman or policewoman would have to stand there before the drivers would stop.

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When I wrote my Women’s March on Seattle post, I was not able to get the video I took of a group of drummers turned from vertical to horizontal. I have recently accomplished that feat, thanks to some advice from a friend. You can see a clip of the performance in the video above, and I also added it to the post.

I had edited the post once before so I could include two addendum. One of them contains beautiful Women’s March photos from around the world. I cried as I scrolled down that article. If you would like to see the added content click here.

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In January of 2015, I spent the night in the Dubai airport hotel. I was mystified when I walked into the bathroom. What was that on the left? Was it a man’s urinal? That didn’t make sense but neither did anything else.

There wasn’t even a flush on it. It was more like a bath tub. A bath for your dirty butt? I couldn’t get myself to try it that year or even the next. By then, I had been told that it was a bidet, and that you wash yourself some before you use it. The idea still seemed gross to me. It sure wasn’t like any bidet I’d ever seen.

This year I got brave and tried it out. Not bad. It was  a bidet that had better aim than the kind I was familiar with.

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I never found my lost iPhone, so have not been able to recover the photos I took on my last days in Amritapuri. I was able to find the Work With Nature YouTube channel that Lokeshwar, the man who organized the Amritapuri seed-saving garden, created. I just looked at that channel for the first time. There is SO much information there.

I also watched some of the videos. Lokeshwar’s Amritapuri garden has three of the plastic hives that you will see in the video below. They are for tiny sting-less bees. My understanding is that 50,000 bees can be housed in each of these bee hives and that the bees will always come back to that hive. (Lokeshwar is the man on the right.)

In this seed-saving garden, they are conducting experiments with biochar and terra preta.

There are so many videos on his site. I look forward to exploring more of them in the future.

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Photo Credit: Wikimedia
Photo Credit: Wikimedia

I slept 7 hours last night. Hallelujah! I know better than to assume my jet lag is over, but I can still hope! Sleeping only three hours at a time is exhausting.

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I think this is the end of my updates, at least for now!

Amma’s Vrindavan Tulasi Field… tulasi and so much more

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On January 8th, I visited one of the oldest gardens in Amritapuri. While it is known as Amma’s Vrindavan Tulasi Field, it has become so much more.

In the early years, growing tulasi was the main focus. Then, the volunteers who worked at the farm discovered that Rudraksha trees were scattered around the property. Rudraksha seeds are considered sacred in India so they started harvesting the seeds and planting more of the trees. They also began growing vegetables and other plants.

Farming on that property has been such a struggle over the years. Among the problems they faced were lack of water, poor soil, and bugs. When I visited the farm last year, what I saw took my breath away. It had turned into paradise. (To see photos of last year’s visit, click here.)

When I went there this year, I was amazed by all the new projects that were underway. The first thing I noticed was an irrigation system that was under construction. I thought about all the years they have watered using small hoses. What a difference the irrigation system will make.

Then I noticed all of the raised beds. I was told that when there are heavy rains, the farm floods. With raised beds, the plants will be higher than the water. Several swales have been constructed to drain off the flood waters, but the photos I took of those ended up looking like flat ground, so I didn’t use them.

There is a big pond on the property. The plants that are growing in the pond are used for mulching. I saw, and talked to, volunteers who were constructing stairs that will go into the pond to make harvesting those plants easier.

There are rudraksha trees on several parts of the property. They are easy to spot because their trunks have all been painted white. Next year I will ask why they do that!

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The numerous tulasi fields are thriving.

Many fruits and vegetables grow on the property.

I was surprised by the many varieties of eggplant. Later, I saw a bright yellow eggplant at Saraswati Garden but it was on the phone I lost on my last day at the ashram so you will have to use your imagination to see that one. I was particularly fascinated by the eggplant that looked like an egg!

The plant below is called Lakshmi Taru, The Paradise Tree, The Tree of Heaven, Simarouba or Simaroubaceae. It is a medicinal tree that has been used to treat dysentery, malaria, cardiac palpitations, asthma and epilepsy. It may have a role in cancer treatment.

I was intrigued by this flower.

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Later, I learned it is a Sita Ashoka flower. Ashoka means “without sorrow”. Hindus believe that Sita, wife of Lord Rama, sat in a grove of Ashoka trees after she was abducted by the evil Ravana. Buddhists believe that Lord Buddha was born under an Ashoka tree.

I found this photo of an Ashoka tree on Wikimedia.

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I will leave you with some final images of Amma’s wonderful Vrindavan Tulasi Field.

 

Living and Learning in Amritapuri, India: January 9, 2017

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Monday, January 9 was another full and rewarding day. My main goal was to visit Vrindavan Farm, which is located in a part of Vallikavu that is south of the Amrita Ayurvedic College. I wasn’t sure how to get there so I decided to go by rickshaw and then walk back to the ashram when I was finished.

I will be writing a whole post about that farm later, but will share some photos, including the one above, with you now so that you can get a sense of what it was like.

A sevite (volunteer worker) offered to take photos of me. Normally I would say no, but I decided to let her do it. I enjoyed seeing the shots she took. I had no idea how much my hat protected me from the hot sun!

While I was at the farm, I talked with one of the other sevites. I discovered that he works at the Amrita Serve Garden in addition to Vrindavan Farm. I have been trying to find out the location of that garden so was excited that I had met someone who knew the answer to that question. He was willing to take me there later in the week, but our schedules didn’t line up very well. I asked him for directions so I could go on my own.

He said it might be hard for me to find it, since I had to locate a particular foot path. I decided to try. If nothing else, my Fitbit would record a lot of extra steps!

On the way, I walked by a building that I have thought was a new supermarket. I had seen the supermarket sign, but the store it was on looked so small, I didn’t bother to check it out. When I walked by the sign this time, I noticed it was just an advertisement. The supermarket itself was located off the road behind the small store. I was astounded. I’d guess it is nearly ten times the size of the other “super” market in town. There is no other shop in Vallikavu that is anywhere near that size.

I continued walking, passing by the supermarket and a new temple that was under construction. I saw two foot paths. I started down one path, but in a short time decided it was the wrong one, so I turned around and came back to the main road and took the other path. On that path I saw these:

After some time on the new path, I reached a paved road. I was clearly on the wrong path so I again walked back to where I had started and re-took the original path. After some time, I saw the garden I had been looking for.

No one was present to show me around, so I just wandered. Before I leave Amritapuri, I’m going to meet up with the man that gave me directions so I can learn more about that garden. I will pass on the information he gives me when I write the main post about the Amrita Serve garden. For now, here is a glimpse of some of the plants. [Update: I met with the sevite on 1/12. When he looked at the photos he told me that wasn’t the Amrita Serve garden. I apparently was on a private farm that grows tapioca, coconuts and bananas! There aren’t signs on either property and there are private houses on both so I had never considered that option. I had been told that it was after a purple house. There was a purple house just before this one too. I’m going to see the Amrita Serve garden this morning, 1/13.]

When it was time for me to walk back to the ashram, I decided to take the canoe rather than walk over the bridge. It the first time I had done that since the bridge was built, eight years ago.

I felt so peaceful floating on the water, and the ride to the peninsula only cost 10 rupees (about 15 cents). I may never walk over the bridge again.

In addition to having a wonderful morning exploring the gardens, I had walked more than 13,000 steps!

 

To see all of the posts in this Amritapuri series, click here.

Living and Learning in Amritapuri, India: December 19-22, 2016

Saraswati Gardens

I have been working in Saraswati Gardens for about an hour-and-a-half most days. The sun is so hot that I can’t tolerate more than that. Sometimes I work in the garden and sometimes I help with dye related projects.

I saw three newly dyed fabrics yesterday. The dye for this first fabric was made from red onions.
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This color came from avocado peels and pits.

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The one that surprised me the most, was this one, which was made from spinach leaves! How can green leaves produce cream color dye?

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Today we harvested more turmeric roots. This big pan was overflowing with them. Some roots were small and some were quite large.

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Weather

It has been so hot the last few days. Someone had a weather app that listed Amritapuri. It said the temperature was 89 degrees but that it felt like 105 degrees. That sure sounded right. Even being at the beach in the morning for Tai Chi is difficult at times. There hasn’t been much breeze even near the sea. The forecast for the next two weeks is for the same, or hotter. No rain in sight.

Crosswalks

On Monday morning, I was surprised to discover that crosswalks had been painted in front of all of the ashram gates on the beach road. I thought maybe the ashram had done it, but when I took the rickshaw to Kuzhitura Farms the next day, I saw there were crosswalks at frequent intervals all the way down the road. I wonder if the drivers, and the pedestrians, will pay any attention to them.

Play

Today was the dress rehearsal for the Christmas Eve play. The costumes are so beautiful. The singers, musicians, actors and dancers are doing a fantastic job, as are the people in the support roles. There is so much I would like to share but I don’t want to give anything away so my sharing will have to wait until after the play!

Food

Dinner tonight was a real treat. The ashram gardens are producing a tremendous amount of organic spinach. It is used in the soups and in a variety of other dishes. Tonight we had it raw in a salad. Fresh spinach, plus cabbage, carrots and other things. It was so good that I felt like it had been sent from heaven. I also had some kitcheri, and later in the evening indulged and had carrot cake. Yummm.

Tai Chi

I am loving my Tai Chi classes. Doing that process for an hour-and-a-half six days a week is so helpful. At the end of the class we always do the Yang 108 form. That is my favorite part of the class. I find I am remembering more and more of it, although I still need to follow the teacher. I look forward to seeing if my work here transfers to my Seattle class.

Rupees

The money situation stays the same. I discovered today that for every 2000 rupee bill ($30) I withdraw from the ATM, I get charged a $5 transaction charge by my Seattle bank. That is very frustrating, but at least I have the money I need.

Kuzhitura Farms

I will end this post with more photos from Kuzhitura Farms. Five of the eight photos are from two water retention ponds. As always, you can click on the gallery and enlarge the photos.

To see all of the posts in this Amritapuri series, click here.

Flowers at Kuzhitura Farm

I spent part of this morning at Kuzhitura Farm, a site that is a 20 minute walk south of the main part of Amma’s Amritapuri ashram. I will be writing at least two posts about that visit. I’m eager to show you the flowers I saw, so I’m going to start with that one! You can click on the gallery to enlarge the photos.

To see all of the posts in this Amritapuri series, click here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: New Horizon

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I have spent several days at Saraswati Gardens helping in the dye area. One day last week, Padma noticed how much color was still left in the pulp after she made marigold dye. We decided to dry it out and see if something could be done with it.

The next day, the pulp still wasn’t dry so I separated into smaller pieces and placed it on cotton and silk fabrics. I thought it would dry better that way plus it gave us a chance to see what effect it would have on the cloth.

As I was distributing the pulp, I kept looking at the newspaper I had originally spread the pulp on. The color that was left on that paper was a vibrant yellow.

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By the next day, the idea of using the pulp to dye more cloth was discarded as it was obvious that the color it produced was too light.

Two days ago, the dye project staff finished the first prayer flag made using dye only from Saraswati garden flowers. I think it is so beautiful.

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The first flag below was colored with marigold dye, the second was from a rose dye, and the third was dye made from madder root. The dye for the yellow strip that goes along the top was made from turmeric root.

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The dye used on the first flag below was made from turmeric root; the second is indigo and the third is rose.

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The first flag below is another one dyed with madder root, the second and third are both from marigold dye with one being a lighter version than the other.

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Since I’m learning a bit about making dye from plants this year, I have wondered whether or not I will start making dyes when I return to Seattle. Growing the flowers sounds right; being creative with them sounds right; but at the moment I don’t feel called to dye cloth.

Last night, I thought about the bright yellow marigold dye I saw on the newspaper when I was working with the pulp. Then another memory came to me. Many years ago, I was intrigued by handmade paper. At the time, I wanted to learn how to make it, but never did.

Maybe in my retirement, I will make paper and find ways to dye it using flower petals or roots, or maybe even leaves. Or perhaps the flowers and leaves will be used in other ways, such as in this photo of papermaking in Burma.

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Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Is papermaking on my horizon? It very well could be.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: New Horizon

To look at previous posts in this Amritapuri series, click here.

Living and Learning in Amritapuri, India: December 5-7, 2016

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Time with Amma

Amma has been coming to the hall for bhajans ever392459_424932434197260_100000415226106_1515768_2126126191_ny night since she returned from the Europe and U.S. tour. On Monday evening, we thought she would also be coming to the beach to meditate with us. Traditionally that gathering occurs at 5:00.

I left my flat late, so expected that Amma would have already started the meditation. When I walked by her house, though, I noticed quite a few people were standing at the bottom of her stairs. That meant she was still there.

When I arrived at the beach it was 5:30. About 15 minutes later, someone either heard or made up that Amma wasn’t going to come and got up to leave. That rumor (if it was a rumor) spread quickly and many people headed back to the ashram. I decided to leave as well.

As I was stacking my chair on the others, I heard someone say, “Amma is coming.” Everyone started running back to the beach creating a lot of chaos. Amma arrived soon thereafter, laughing. There is Sanskrit word that means God’s play. That word is leela. This whole thing felt like a leela to me.

Once Amma arrived at the beach, she led a short meditation and sang one bhajan. She then gave darshan (hugs) to the people who were leaving that evening. Afterwards, she walked to the auditorium for evening bhajans. (Note: Amma has given hugs to 36 million people!)

On Tuesday, Amma came to the auditorium around 11:00 a.m. for meditation and questions and answers. She then served lunch to all of the residents and visitors. This happens every Tuesday that Amma is in the ashram.

Normally, everyone comes to Amma to pick up their plate. This time she passed the plates to the people in front of her and they handed them back until everyone in the auditorium had a plate of food. There were at least two thousand people there, and probably more. It took a lot of time to do it that way, but probably less than the time it takes for everyone to walk to the front. No one eats until everyone is served the the meal prayers are sung.

Today (Wednesday) was the day I planned to get my hug. It seemed like a comparatively small crowd so I thought it might happen. I knew from experience though, that there was a good chance it would be another leela.

In the morning, I waited in the long Westerner’s token line. We were told that anyone who hadn’t gone on the autumn tour could go for darshan today. Just as I got to the front of the token line, the directions changed. At that point, we were told that we should wait to have darshan tomorrow unless we were leaving the ashram today. This was definitely a familiar leela for me and a chance to practice letting go, equanimity, and seeing the humor in the situation.

During the afternoon, I walked by the area where Amma was giving darshan and noticed the prasad line. I had forgotten all about prasad giving even though that is one of my favorite things to do. Prasad is a gift to or from a spiritual being. Amma’s form of prasad is the sacred ash and piece of candy she gives each person who comes to her. The prasad giver is the person who hands Amma that prasad.

Before long, it was my turn. As always, I enjoyed being that close to Amma. Often the word “home” goes through my mind each time I hand the prasad to her. I love that experience.

Tonight, Swami Pranavamrita, who is one of my favorite singers, sang Amme Yi Jivende, which used to be one of my favorite bhajans. I still remember a time in the early 90’s when I was sleeping on a devotee’s roof during a program in Trivandrum. As I lay there, I heard a Swami singing that song in the nearby ashram and it felt like he was singing a lullaby to the infant part of me.  Tears rolled down my cheeks as I listened to the song and recalled that long ago incident.

As I am finishing this post, Amma has been giving darshan for 10 1/2 hours with no end in sight. I am likely to be asleep long before she finishes.

Saraswati Garden

I’ve spent some time in the garden almost every day. One day, I watered most of it. I really enjoyed giving attention to every plant. An edible plant was pointed out to me. I ate two of its leaves and loved it. Do any of you know anything about the plant in the photo below? I want to grow it in Seattle!

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In one of my last posts, I mentioned salvaging bricks from the construction waste. They will be used for projects in the garden. Here is a photo of one of those waste piles:

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Yesterday, the garden staff planned to dig up the root of a turmeric plant so that they could make dye from it. They checked two plants and decided that the roots weren’t ready for harvesting yet. I was able to take a photo of the root before they covered it up again. There is a lot of turmeric growing throughout the garden.

Tai Chi

My Tai Chi class will begin tomorrow. I am SOOOOOOOOOOOO happy. I was given a special gift yesterday. The teacher was going to check out the room we will use and asked if I wanted to go there with her. She said we could do some Tai Chi together while we were there. Needless to say I jumped at the chance.

The room was in the Ayurvedic building which is located near the beach. It would an okay room, but the car traffic was VERY loud. (Everyone incessantly honks in India as the drivers weave in and out of traffic. That happens even on the small beach road.)

We practiced the full 108 moves of the Yang Tai Chi form. I was in heaven. She does the moves a little different than we do in my Seattle class, but the Tai Chi I learned in Amritapuri last year came back to me so fast. My body definitely has memory of its own. My mind just has to catch up. I suspect I’ve been doing Tai Chi for many lifetimes.

As we left the building, we saw a place outdoors where we will probably hold the class. I am excited for tomorrow to come.

Play preparations

The preparations for this year’s play are underway. When I was walking back to my flat two days ago, I heard Sreejit singing. I followed the sound and found the musicians practicing. I listened awhile. The music was so beautiful.

This afternoon was the first time everyone participating in the play met. Chaitanya went over some logistical information and then talked about the play. She told the story, scene by scene. If you haven’t seen the photos from last year’s play that I posted during my layover in Dubai, take a look.

There are some pigs in the play and this morning Jani and I went to the kitchen to see Chaitanya with pig noses on. She started laughing when she spotted us. (Jani designs and sews most of the costumes. I help with the sewing.)

Rupees

I was asked to give an update on the money situation. It is difficult to get the 2000 rupee bills cashed and the banks and ATMs only give out 2000 rupee bills. I have found a few ways to get small change so I’m okay, but it isn’t easy. Everyone certainly has to think twice before spending money. This problem has to be hurting the merchants so much.

Weather

Last year, the weather at the ashram was hotter than I had ever experienced in December. When I reached the ashram this year, it was hot again. Over the next two days it got considerably cooler. One night, I even put on a long sleeve shirt when I went out. That night I didn’t turn on the fan in my room for the first time in memory. The next night during bhajans, the fans in the auditorium were all on and I got really cold. I didn’t want to walk out, but towards the end I went to the back of the room. I eventually returned to my room and put on a flannel shirt. That’s a first!

One afternoon, it rained hard. After ten minutes, it was over and the sun came out. The last few days it has been back to hot.

Exercise

I’ve noticed more and more people are exercising by circumambulating the auditorium. Each round is about 1/5 of a mile. Some people walk casually, some jog. A few days ago, I saw a woman around my age power walk around it for at least half an hour. I tried circumambulating it one day but stopped after four rounds. It was too hot for me!

Yesterday, I heard that Amma had told the brahmacharinis (female monks) that they should circumamulate the temple and the auditorium 9 times a day. That would double the length of the walk. I wonder what directions she gave the men. They can’t walk the same route the women are taking because it goes through the brahmacharinis’ living area.

I don’t concern myself about exercise here. I walk more than double the distance I walk in Seattle just in the normal course of living. Once the holidays come, the crowds will get big. At that point, I will start walking up the stairs rather than waiting for the elevator ,so that will add even more exercise to my day.

This post is long enough, and it is time for me to go to bed so I will stop for now. I hope all is well for you and yours.

To look at previous posts in this Amritapuri series, click here.