21 August 2020

The poetry of fallen petals and leaves


Jaathi. Jaraa. Marana. Birth. Decay. Death. Common to all things, biotic and otherwise. And so we have two questions. What was it before it was born? What does it become after death?

When it comes to a creature, the answer is, ‘no one knows,’ and even those who claim to know cannot offer proof to support the relevant claim. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there was no ‘before’ and that an ‘after’ is not possible. We just don’t know, that’s all.

We can imagine. We can speculate. That’s about it. But then again, there are moments we are made to wonder about things and processes, being and becoming, and the transformation that marks every single thing, tangible and otherwise.

වියලී ඇද වැටීමෙන් පසුවය
ඇවිදින්න පටන්ගන්නේ තුරුපත්
පරව ඇද වැටුනහම දියමත
හැම නෙලුම් පෙත්තක්ම ඔරුවක්

It is only after they wither and fall
that leaves of trees begin to walk -
and once they wilt and fall upon the water
a canoe is every petal of every lotus

Ruwan Bandujeewas is blessed with a special set of eyes.  Walking leaves and petals that move upon water like vessels — these he notes and spreads the word of these movements that the world is loath to acknowledge or worse, does not have the eyes to see.

Transformation is, in a sense, movement. Temperatures, winds and other elemental things conspire to transform, to move. Gaze, in movement ironically, captures ‘stills’ and in that fraction of a moment, movement becomes invisible. Unable to notice change, it is easy and natural to assume that most things are immobile.

Leaves fall and then we call them ‘fallen leaves,’ no longer are they considered to be alive. Things that are dead do not receive attention, they don’t demand to be reflected upon — we are not really good with dealing with death and the dead. So we revert to that which we believe is alive. The leaves on the trees. Petals that are still part of flowers.

I knew a man with a grand name which, to me as a child, sounded even funny: Edward Franklin Augustus Herat. 

He was the third in a family of six. Unlike his siblings, he didn’t do well in life, or rather whatever he did wasn’t accepted as enough to be referred to in 'doing-well' terms. He didn’t do well in school and in his early youth didn’t have a job. Without qualifications and skills, and of a temperament that made it hard for his close relatives to support him indefinitely, he spent many years working on a lathe machine for a paltry salary. This too because the owner of the company felt sorry for him.

He liked to place bets. Small bets on horses. He drank when he had money or friends felt and could afford to be generous. And after he ‘retired’ he lived alternately with one of his four sisters and in homes for the elderly.

He could become unreasonable and even violent when drunk and it was these quarrels that made it impossible for anyone in his family to keep him for more than a few months at a time. So he moved. Like a leaf that had fallen too early by accident and was still green enough not to be thought dead.

He may have been in and out of love but I don’t know with whom or when, but at the age of 70, he ‘ran away’ (as they said) with the 75 year old woman who was managing the home for the elderly he was at that time residing in.  She was a petal, I’m sure. She was a canoe. Somehow in this canoe there was room and caring enough for a leaf.

And so they glided upon the waters of their choice. Of course they eventually hit a shore called ‘Aghast Relatives.’ Petal floated away and the leaf continued to walk.

And one inauspicious day it walked into the path of an oncoming train at an unprotected railway crossing.

Where he walks now, I do not know. I do not know if he walks or flies, in fact. I do not know if he stands still. He had fallen. That didn’t stop him from walking. All over the lives he encountered and inside the hearts, veins and minds he decided were safe enough to wander about in.  Mine, certainly. I was immensely enriched by this uncle of mine, whose body I had to identify and arrange to be cremated and whose ashes I scattered into passing waters more than eight years ago. Perhaps they gathered somehow into a single leaf, met a singularly beautiful petal and scrambled aboard.

Happy journeys, Loku Maama.    

Other articles in the series 'In Passing...':  [published in the 'Daily News']   
Eyes that watch the world and cannot be forgotten 
 Let's start with the credits, shall we? 
The 'We' that 'I' forgot 
'Duwapang Askey,' screamed a legend, almost 40 years ago
Dances with daughters
Reflections on shameless writing
Is the old house still standing?
 Magic doesn't make its way into the classifieds

Small is beautiful and is a consolation  
Distance is a product of the will
Akalanka Athukorala, at 13+ already a hurricane hunter
Did the mountain move, and if so why?
Ever been out of Colombo?
Anya Raux educated me about Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA)
Wicky's Story You can always go to GOAT Mountain
Let's learn the art of embracing damage
Kandy Lake is lined with poetry
There's never a 'right moment' for love
A love note to an unknown address in Los Angeles
A dusk song for Rasika Jayakody
How about creating some history?
How far away are the faraway places?
There ARE good people!
Re-placing people in the story of schooldays  
When we stop, we can begin to learn
Routine and pattern can checkmate poetry

Janani Amanda Umandi threw a b'day party for her father 
Sriyani and her serendipity shop
Forget constellations and the names of oceans
Where's your 'One, Galle Face'?
Maps as wrapping paper, roads as ribbons
Yasaratne, the gentle giant of Divulgane  
Katharagama and Athara Maga
Victories are made by assists
Lost and found between weaver and weave
The Dhammapada and word-intricacies
S.A. Dissanayake taught children to walk in the clouds
White is a color we forget too often  
The most beautiful road is yet to meet a cartographer