Timeless places wash away petty worries

A theory on places where there aren’t a lot of people:

In such places, there is less static separating the present from other points in time.

And because those places lack the clutter of development and the noise of people’s daily busyness, they aren’t as anchoring to the present, harried moment.

They are good places to disconnect and reflect, allowing us to remember we are occupying but a small moment in the history of this world. Whatever is weighing on us right that second is truly irrelevant in the grand scheme.

Here are a small handful of such escapes.

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The Sweetest Little Moments from 2011

Keeneland; Lexington, Ky.

In no particular order, though I numbered them just to make it easier to read – here are some sweet little moments from my 2011. I think when you’re having a great time, every little bit of it sparkles.

1. Lily in the Heathrow airport: It is a complicated airport and we were racing to catch our connection to Bangalore, India, and we had to ride a shuttle, a train, and pass through several security clearances. Just getting to this point had been a bureaucratic nightmare, and I think my mother and I had our doubts we’d ever get to India. My daughter Lily, 9 at the time, never waivered. My favorite moment is standing on a shuttle, feeling a certain peace at our lack of control over the situation. I looked at Lily and she said very calmly, “We’ll make it.” I thought for the first of many times on that trip – Damn, she is so grown-up.

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The Best “Worst” Year Ever

Note: I wrote this for the Dec. 24 edition of The Tennessean. I’m including it here with links embedded to previous blog posts. Thanks again to the wonderful family and friends in my life. This has been an unexpectedly magical year for me, thanks to all of you.

I considered it a parenting success, if not a personal one, the other day when I ran out of gas and my 10-year-old daughter immediately saw it as an opportunity.

“It’s good exercise,” Lily said as we walked to the gas station. “And a good chance for us to bond.”

At the Shell station, a pizza delivery man offered to take us back to our car. When I struggled to pour the gas into my tank, a guy in a big truck stopped and did it for me.

Later, Lily noted that running out of gas gave us a chance to see the best in other people.

Like a pregnant couple looking for space at the inn, we’ve been vulnerable and we’ve been blessed.

What really should have been our most stressful year (her father and I divorced after 10 years of marriage) has been among our most joyous. Strangers, family and friends — including my ex-husband, a dear friend himself — have kept us moving forward.

It is humbling to accept the kindness of others, but those of us who do are made strong to the point of being able to return the gift. Continue reading

The best way to see the Taj Mahal

You can’t go all the way to India and not visit the Taj Mahal.

That was our thinking when we planned an excursion from Bangalore in Southern India to Agra in the north.

But in ways, it is easier to get from Nashville, Tenn., to the other side of the world. (And that’s saying something.)

Our journey involved planes, trains and automobiles – plus rickshaws and camels. It featured scam artists, 100-degree heat, lost luggage, groping and leering. People (my mother) panicked. Other people (me) cried.

By the end, I had two thoughts. One: I want all my friends who think I’m a princess to see if they can handle what my family experienced. Two: I wouldn’t change a thing about it.

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My daughter and I: Where we’ve gone together

Lily and me outside a 14th c mosque in old Delhi

We measured Lily the day before we left Nashville for Bangalore.

We measured her against the living room wall at my former in-laws’ house, where we gathered for Fathers Day with my parents, my ex-husband and his parents, his brother and brother’s wife, and her father.

Our family is complicated, and our Lily is five feet tall.

During our trip to India, she bloomed. Continue reading

Shopping in India and the nature of flirting

The peacock is the national bird of India.

That makes sense. India, like the bird, is colorful and demonstrative, flamboyant and proud.

I learned this today from Farhat Jan, who sold me a lovely ceramic bowl with an inlaid peacock motif. He works at Cottage Industries Exposition in Mysore, which is a great place to buy textiles and other handicrafts.

The quality and selection are very nice, there is no pressure to buy, and Farhat and jeweler Tariq have excellent taste. They will also totally flatter and spoil a lady, bringing her as many cups of chai tea and engaging in as many odd conversations as she pleases.

During my two hours or so in his store, Farhat and I discussed everything from yoga and American running clothes to my daughter’s fascination with the Hindu god Ganesha (the “Elephant God”).

Tariq and I, meanwhile, spoke of American women’s propensity to overthink relationships.

“Do I want to be with him? Do I love him? Do I want to marry him? In India, it’s the other way around,” he said.

I found myself flirting.

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