Sunday, January 9, 2011

Winter in Northampton

This season of intense cold reminds me of snow and sleet and fearsome cold in a small town three hours from Boston. I met a philospher there, a woman called Kathryn Pyne Adelson, who taught me that pain and freedom often went together, and that emotions were our birthright. She is a philosopher, and yet as an activist, was always deeply connected to the rights of communities to be what they are. "Regenerative communities" she called them. She and another close friend Frederique Marglin have a centre at Smith College for "Mutual Learning".
That winter, my identity card carried only one appelation or title. It said "Spouse". I used to look at it sometimes, a little distraught, since I had never thought of myself as one. How odd! In any case, every day, I washed dishes, and swept the floor and made the beds, with a little two year old daughter in tow. My older daughter went to school nearby, a spanking yellow bus would pick her up, from outside the Forbes Library. I was also, at that time pregnant with a third daughter.  The kind physician at the clinic, showed me her picture on ultrasound, and said "There she is, sucking her thumb. I have one just like that at home!"  Nineteen years later, I still remember that February to July as months spent in an exquisite campus, with a green house which grew the most amazing flowers, arum lilies being there most visible products in a snow covered environment. Hot spice smelling red, and sometimes striped lilies. Five years later, I saw another glass house in Belfast, where too, I spent February in biting cold weather, with soft drizzles of rain, and an occasional sun. The botanical gardens were well tended here too, a Japanese garden being there greatest delight, and inside the palm trees grew to great heights. In both these places, I was busy reading madly whenever I could. In Northhampton, it was 19th century mission records,  and in Belfast, there they turned up again. Sometimes I visit the Indian Institute of Advanced Study in Shimla. There too there is a vast colonial library, where I follow up debates on colonial administration, and yes, there is a green house,  with this time, petunias, begonias and hordes of lilies and pansies and dahlias, all winter flowers,growing while the temperature is 28 degrees outside!

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