Inordinate love of trees and weather. This is the stuff that gets me out of bed.
1. The banner reads “Aaji tika din” — “Immunize your child today”
My father spent almost more time on public health initiative events like this parade—followed by educational workshops/training and vaccinations—than he did in the hospital. The third man from right (white shirt, black slacks) is him. This banner says 1990, so I was 2 or 3, which meant I could only sit in his lap during lectures and panels, but a couple years down the line when I was tall enough, I was often helping hold the banner.
2. Dad giving me my shots while mom held me.
Just took my infectious diseases exam this morning, all about vaccinations, TB, cholera, malaria…all the things I grew up thinking of as medicine as a child in Bangladesh. The beginning of the roads that brought me here?
My mother running around her grade school. I think it’s interesting that everything looks more profound in sepia, but I’ve been feeling the long hallways ahead that you never really left. That maybe the light is not at the end but all along to the side, once you learn to notice.
The vastness of the universe comforts me.
One of the most formative philosophies learned in my childhood was my mother repeating that knowledge was infinite.
There is no end to learning; you never have to stop.
When I travel, I find myself being pulled out to the curvature of the earth. The fact that the world is at once repetitive, yet diverse. There is enough knowledge in a grain of sand to keep an avid learner occupied for a lifetime.
In the face of such innumerability, the concerns of my life become smaller, less overwhelming.
All things come to an end. Are only one thing among many. Have potential hopes and solutions and explanations yet undiscovered. There is always more to the world, more than pain or love or feelings that consume us. More even than war or hunger or causes that seem all-important.
Stars and planets are important. Hurricanes and earthquakes are important. So are electrons and quarks and sorrow. Importances don’t diminish from proximity to each other, but rather coexist at all times, whether or not we are able to focus our attention on them.
We can try to build beauty and harmony as we imagine it to be, but the universe is infinite all on its own, with or without our help. Ugliness that does not appeal to us may loom too large to us when alone but perhaps not so in the overall tapestry.
We are not in charge of the whole, merely in weaving the best we can in what we reach, and our sorrows are blinks in a vast unknowable terrain of existence, and they cannot overwhelm us when we remember that we are more than moments: we are awareness.
When we first immigrated to America, my mother worked at Taco Bell and my father at Kroger. Every year, when the Scholastic Book Catalogs came out at school and other children bought books, I looked on silently; I loved books, and read voraciously from the library, but I would never have asked my parents for the money.
One day my mother saw me with the catalog at home and I was looking at a book that was smaller and less expensive than the rest—an illustrated children’s book, about volcanoes. I knew nothing about them, and thus they were utterly captivating. She bought it for me, and I have always kept it around since.
This year, I finally saw some real volcanoes, and even climbed one—Concepcion at Ometepe (first photo)—on Mother’s Day.
The loneliness of traveling alone isn’t always as poetic as it sounds, but it does make for good stories.