25 July 2023

Did you notice 'the tiny, tiny wayside flowers'?

Pic by Kasun De Silva

A quote greeted me this morning from one of the walls of my sister’s house in Bala Cynwyd, a suburb of Pennsylvania. The walls of her house are decorated with quotes, paintings and photographs, each related to the lives and characters of the residents. This one was from ‘The Painted Drum,’ a novel by Karen Louise Erdrich.

I hadn’t head of this Native American author of novels, poetry and children’s books before. The novel, as per a blurb I found, is said to ‘explore the often fraught relationship between mothers and daughters, the strength of family, and the intricate rhythms of grief with all the grace, wit, and startling beauty that characterizes this acclaimed author's finest work.’

The quote:

‘Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and being alone won't either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You have to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes too near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself that you tasted as many as you could.’

Starts dark and ends in sunlight.

I am glad I am here in this house of words. I am glad I glanced at this wall and saw this quote. It spoke to me at the right time. The ‘right time’ is when one needs the words and the words appear. ‘Words’ as a metaphor of course for all things are eminently readable.

There’s more on ‘the right time.’ I read this a few minutes before reading a text from a mother about a daughter who has left home for studies. She know it would probably be a few years before she gets to see her little girl. The house seems empty. She is sad, naturally.

Louise Erdrich doesn’t know me, my wife or our daughter. She wrote about apples which of course don’t fall around us in heaps. But there are things, flowers for example, that turn parts of our garden into the softest carpets. There are skies that play the music of the rain. There are bird calls. There’s sunlight that write leaf-stories and wind that carry rhythms from lands we’ve never visited. And there’s a little girl who was an infant once and will remain an infant even though she’s grown into a young woman and is seen as one.

Her mother, perhaps more than anyone else so far, has experienced this little girl in the orchards of her growing up and therefore even when broken by solitude the poetry of memory and imagination that will console, will delight and give her peace.

Coincidentally, I was anticipating the words of Louise Erdrich a few days ago when I saw a photograph posted on Facebook by Kasun De Silva, indefatigable traveler and capturer of innumerable delights in our much celebrated and equally vilified island.

Tharindu Amunugama, another traveler with an eye for frame, color, line and texture,  would say ‘a slow road.’ A road that bends. ‘Dedugala?’ Tharindu recognised the place. ‘Yep. Pelampitiya to be precise,’ Kasun acknowledged.

Kasun captured a bend in the road, a man and a woman both carrying the visible burdens of living, glazed by the dampness of the impending invasion of mist and perhaps rain. And the flowers.

පාර දෙපැත්තේ
චූටි චූටි ලස්සන කැලෑ මල්

There are tiny, tiny wild flowers blooming on either side of the road. On either side of all the roads of all our lives. There are flowers that come in the form of a smile and a memory, like a lullaby and an eminently forgivable and forgiven childish misdemeanor. Lots and lots of flowers. They are by the roadsides of our thoughts and feelings, sometimes unseen because we are overwhelmed by destinations and our eyes are fixed on the road.

There are flowers and apples, fruit of all kinds, flavors and fragrances that have left their traces on our lives. Sweetness that will not go waste. Unless we let is happen, unless we refuse to see the flowers, unless we are unaware of the orchards and gardens we inhabit simply because we let the breaks and the breaking blind us to it all.

There’s a little girl who is a young woman. A mother who was once as young as she is. They have embraced and therefore will always keep each other warm. They will heal each other with words and silences. And flowers that will not be passed without glance as they walk the slow roads to destinations yet unknown. And there's a quote, which when read, will give peace to one and all. 

['The Morning Inspection' is the title of a column I wrote for the Daily News from 2009 to 2011, one article a day, Monday through Saturday. This is a new series. Links to previous articles in this new series are given below] 

Other articles in this series: 

Gifts, gifting and their rubbishing

History is new(s)

Journalism inadvertently learned

Reflections on the young poetic heart

Wordaholic, trynasty and other portmanteaus

The 'Loku Aiya' of all 'Paththara Mallis'

Subverting the indecency of the mind

Character theft and the perennial question 'who am I?'


A degree in people

Faces dripping with time

Saji Coomaraswamy and rewards that matter

Revolutionary unburdening

Seeing, unseeing and seeing again

Alex Carey and the (small) matter of legacy

The Edelweiss of Mirissa 

The insomnial dreams of Kapila Kumara Kalinga 

The clothes we wear and the clothes that wear us (down) 

Every mountain, every rock, is sacred 

Manufacturing passivity and obedience 

Precept and practice 

Sanjeew Lonliyes: rawness unplugged, unlimited 

In praise of courage, determination and insanity 

The relative values of life and death 

Feet that walk 

Sarinda's eyes 

Poetry and poets will not be buried 

Sunny Dayananda 

Reunion Peradeniya (1980-1990) 

What makes Oxygen breathable?  

Sorrowing and delighting the world 

The greatest fallacy  

Encounters with Liyanage Amarakeerthi 

Beyond praise and blame 

Letters that cut and heal the heart 

Vanished and vanishing trails 


A forgotten dawn song from Embilipitiya 

The soft rain of neighbourliness  

The Gold Medals of being 

Jaya Sri Ratna Sri 

All those we've loved before 

Reflections on waves and markings 

A chorus of National Anthems 

Saying what and how 

'Say when' 

Respond to insults in line with the Akkosa Sutra 

The loves of our lives 

The right time, the right person 

The silent equivalent of a thousand words 

Crazy cousins are besties for life 

Unities, free and endearing 

Free verse and the return key

"Sorry, Earth!" 

The lost lyrics of Premakeerthi de Alwis 

The revolution is the song 

Consolation prizes in competitions no one ever wins 

The day I won a Pulitzer 


Ella Deloria's silences 

Blackness, whiteness and black-whiteness 

Inscriptions: stubborn and erasable  


Deveni: a priceless one-word koan 

Enlightening geometries 

Let's meet at 'The Commons' 

It all begins with a dot 

Recovering run-on lines and lost punctuation 

'Wetness' is not the preserve of the Dry Zone 

On sweeping close to one's feet 

Kumkum Fernando installs Sri Lanka in Coachella, California

To be an island like the Roberts... 

Debts that can never be repaid in full

An island which no flood can overwhelm 

Who really wrote 'Mother'? 

A melody faint and yet not beyond hearing 

Heart dances that cannot be choreographed 

Remembering to forget and forgetting to remember 

On loving, always 

Authors are assassinated, readers are immortal 

When you turn 80... 

It is good to be conscious of nudities  

Saturday slides in after Monday and Sunday somersaults into Friday  

There's a one in a million and a one in ten 

Gunadasa Kapuge is calling 

Kumkum Fernando installs Sri Lanka in Coachella, California 

Hemantha Gunawardena's signature 

Pathways missed 

Architectures of the demolished 

The exotic lunacy of parting gifts 

Who the heck do you think I am? 

Those fascinating 'Chitra Katha' 

The Mangala Sabhava 

So how are things in Sri Lanka? 

The most beautiful father 

Palmam qui meruit ferat 

The sweetest three-letter poem 

Buddhangala Kamatahan 

An Irish and Sri Lankan Hello 

Teams, team-thinking, team-spirit and leadership 

The songs we could sing in lifeboats when we are shipwrecked 

Pure-Rathna, a class act 

Jekhan Aruliah set a ball rolling in Jaffna 

Awaiting arrivals unlike any other 

Teachers and students sometimes reverse roles 

Matters of honor and dignity 

Yet another Mother's Day 

A cockroach named 'Don't' 

Colombo, Colombo, Colombo and so forth 

The slowest road to Kumarigama, Ampara 

Sweeping the clutter away 

Some play music, others listen 

Completing unfinished texts 

Mind and hearts, loquacious and taciturn 

I am at Jaga Food, where are you? 

On separating the missing from the disappeared 

Moments without tenses 

And intangible republics will save the day (as they always have) 

The world is made of waves 


The circuitous logic of Tony Muller 

Rohana Kalyanaratne, an unforgettable 'Loku Aiya' 

Mowgli, the Greatest Archaeologist 

Figures and disfigurement, rocks and roses 

Sujith Rathnayake and incarcerations imposed and embraced 

Some stories are written on the covers themselves 

A poetic enclave in the Republic of Literature 

Landcapes of gone-time and going-time  

The best insurance against the loud and repeated lie 

So what if the best flutes will not go to the best flautists? 

There's dust and words awaiting us at crossroads and crosswords 

The books of disquiet 

A song of terraced paddy fields 

Of ants, bridges and possibilities 

From A through Aardvark to Zyzzyva  

World's End 

Words, their potency, appropriation and abuse 

Street corner stories 

Who did not listen, who's not listening still? 

The book of layering 

If you remember Kobe, visit GOAT Mountain 

The world is made for re-colouring 

The gift and yoke of bastardy 

The 'English Smile' 

No 27, Dickman's Road, Colombo 5 

Visual cartographers and cartography 

Ithaca from a long ago and right now 

Lessons written in invisible ink 

The amazing quality of 'equal-kindness' 

A tea-maker story seldom told 

On academic activism 

The interchangeability of light and darkness 

Back to TRADITIONAL rice 

Sisterhood: moments, just moments 

Chess is my life and perhaps your too

Reflections on ownership and belonging 

The integrity of Nadeesha Rajapaksha 

Signatures in the seasons of love

To Maceo Martinet as he flies over rainbows 

Sirith, like pirith, persist 

Fragrances that will not be bottled  

Colours and textures of living heritage 

Countries of the past, present and future 

A degree in creative excuses

Books launched and not-yet-launched 

The sunrise as viewed from sacred mountains 

The ways of the lotus 

Isaiah 58: 12-16 and the true meaning of grace 

The age of Frederick Algernon Trotteville 

Live and tell the tale as you will 

Between struggle and cooperation 

Of love and other intangibles 

Neruda, Sekara and literary dimensions 

The universe of smallness 

Paul Christopher's heart of many chambers 

Calmness gracefully cascades in the Dumbara Hills 

Serendipitous amber rules the world 

Continents of the heart
The allegory of the slow road