An Ode to the Sky PART III

It’s not like there was much more to talk about, so here I decided to take out all the stops and go for it. Here is the result of having very little to actually go with, although the pictures are still beautiful. And with a new donor of photos to boot!!
Here is the launch of Mach 3, as the sky continues to be the holy, shining limit.

“Flowers

Worshipping the sun
Blowing in the wind,
They enjoy themselves.
Ah, the air’s so clean!”

Photo credits: Himala de Silva
Poetry: Vasika Udurawane

“Pink”

The color of love was rampant that day
The sweet blush of your tender cheeks
As forever I gazed into the heavens
Heaven on Earth in my own homeland
For the mother is true,
Beauteous grace,
That lives in the skies above me”

Photo credits: Vijini Mallawaarachchi
Poetry: Vasika Udurawane

“A Riot of Blues

Azure, cyan and tiffany blue,
Cornflower blue, turquoise and electric blue too,
Not forgetting powder blue, Carolina blue and of course, sky blue,
A billion shades of blue.
All distinct,
yet each one so glorious and uplifting,
as they dance across this sky.
And so I thought,
when we are sad,
why do we say that we are “feeling blue”?”

Photo credits: Name withheld

 — at Royal Botanical Gardens, Peradeniya

Dedicated to all friends who are as inseparable as the sky and the ocean; to all friends who don’t let differences in race or religion to create rifts in their friendship…
Photo credits and poem: Shailee Wick
“Shades of wonder
Of beauty
Love and unity
Of the vast oceans
That connect us
Of the high skies
That look over us
Blue; the true color of friendship”
 — with Shailee Wick in Thailand

“Icarus”

Sweet holy Muse, from divine lips as yours was spilled the tale
A tale of youth, the tale of death.
Of the naming of a sea, of intoxication, and
Of flame-hot ambitions as deep as the depths of the world beyond!

They jumped!
A leap of faith, truly, for death, the boy never knew,
Would come easy here. Freedom! Liberalia, thou trickster goddess,
Why had you worked on the mind of blooming sweet youth?
On the spawn of the architect, the rebel, the master, the great?
For as he hammered and his soul worked till dim,
Youth did linger, waiting, waiting, waiting,…..
Gazing out of the tower….when would freedom come?

But the morning came.

A symphony of metal feathers raked across the air
As they took off, as Daedalus did soar! And soar so high, so far above,
But the inebriation was too much for the youngster. The power, the manhood, the shining light,
His eyes with fires glowed as the wind whipped him, the power of the wind in every kiss and
Caress he felt. Why was he not a bird?
The Liberalian elixir still coursed through him as he dived down….further up, higher up, to the deep skies
He rose! As the gods looked upon this mortal folly, this intoxication,
As rays of Phoebus cast down their golden forms,
Those swords sliced into the wings….

And…

Down did he go…”

Photo credits: Rochelle Silva
Poetry: Vasika Udurawane

Excuse my lack of material on this poem, I may be having writer’s block.

So there isn’t much material anywhere here, it pales in comparison to its predecessor, but hey! I ain’t complaining, and the sky will forever be the limit.

VESAK

All those months after the wave of terror and flames had struck and then withdrawn, we were allowed back to go about and search the wreckage for any belongings. The whole enemy force had been taken down and the threat was finally over. I took a little detour, a harmless trip down to the beach. “Well, the whole bombing raid is over, isn’t it?” I told myself as I trudged heavily up the dunes and finally skirted round a palmyrah grove as I headed towards the surf.
It was such an old, well-used path, but the pain in my gut told me that everything had changed for the worst.

The waves were rolling around calmly as I kept looking out there.

Small boats had been put out again, the storm that had been here, the ceaseless tsunami of thunder and fire, had claimed hundreds. This was not the tsunami of the Mahavamsa, for men could be worse than hallowed deities when it came to enraged killings. Ah, how the memories keep coming back! I could almost see the fishermen returning triumphantly on that very important day in the middle of the year. It was like their physical clocks were set on cue for it. The celebration during which they brought no catch, but still bounded happily onto the beach to embrace their wives and children, worship their elders, visit the temple with their meager amounts of flowers and lamps. I well remember Sita, my little sister, as she would run every day up the beach and the forest. Here, she and her friends would go about the important business of picking all the flowers that they could possibly hold. The old frangipani offered enough shade for us all, and we gathered under it after school, just to listen to the songs of the sea.

I sat down heavily as I wondered about the festival of Vesak.

We had always been celebrating the triple miracle, the Birth, Enlightenment and Parinibbana of the Buddha, my over-religious grandmother with far more zeal than I. She had always acted like a woman a third of her age, running to the temple on her walking stick, always trying to make a bigger offering to the priests, it was, admittedly strange. Until that one day.
The dull thunder of gunfire and the screams of the dying had torn through the air that day, and the fires had risen sky-high as my world collapsed that fateful Vesak day. My grandmother had gone to temple. And well, you can probably guess the rest…my relatives, my father, all there, but at least some of had managed to leave our flowers, our white clothes, everything behind. But why did this happen? We had prayed, we had done good, we had done everything that the Buddha taught us, but why on a Vesak of all days did the people whom I love so much, have to leave me?

Quickly I held my head.

A spur of energy that felt almost like the cold touch of a drifting ghost, fluttered by me, and I walked quickly to the forest path, to get away from that nightmare. When the enemy boats launched themselves out and attacked, firing at everyone, taking no prisoners, killing before asking questions. Those men were demons! Well, I’m not stupid.
We’d all heard about the war in the north, but could it ever reach as far down as where we lived? This was some cruel quirk of fate, no more, no less. And today. “It’s Vesak.” The voice that came out of me sounded lifeless and dull as I looked back. An old, stooped man was making lanterns, in my favorite “atapattam” or octagonal shape. Maybe this was not what we should be doing, lighting up lamps and dressing in white and crowding up in a bana hall on just one night.

Perhaps we remember the Buddha’s Triple Milestone by actually following his teachings.

I couldn’t smile though, at this revelation. I couldn’t, and I never ever would.

Vesak


Vesak marks the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha. It shows us that Buddha was no ordinary person, and yet, he was a mere human. Magical tales surround the story of his birth, seven lotuses bloomed, and trees were heavy with flowers and fruit. And then this prince, husband, father, leaves all luxuries behind to seek this truth. When he does, the world shudders and the gods smile. Then after a lifetime of preaching the Dhamma and spreading this truth, he dies. An ordinary death. Food poisoning, some say.
Centuries have passed since the Buddha’s time. We still celebrate Vesak, the full moon day that marks the three main milestones of the Buddha’s life.
Now Vesak has been sadly turned into Halloween. The scary masks which have nothing to do with Vesak seems worse than the commercializing of Valentine’s Day! Dansal which are meant to be about giving are visited for fun, and are organized for fun. People rarely think about why exactly they are having a Dansala! And Dansal hunting has become a fun thing to do on Vesak.
Vesak At home, 2011 and 2013
Then there are the colorful Vesak lanterns. This is the Dhanaya or giving of light. It is believed that the Buddha once said, one lit oil lamp could be used to light many more, without the flame of the first in any way dying. If I’m right, the Buddha was talking about merit and the act of “Pin Dheema” or the conferring of merit. Yet, light has been used as a metaphor for the many issues and topics the Buddha discussed. It is also with light that the Buddha’s enlightenment is marked. The rays of light or “Budhu Ras” mark a sense of purity, of understanding, of having found that one truth that will get you out of this never ending cycle of Sansara. So Vesak lanterns have a story behind them. They aren’t mere decorations. They mark enlightenment. Sadly, not many know this and has lost its meaning. People decorate their houses for Vesak the same way they do for Christmas, not knowing why they do so.
Vesak is obviously a Buddhist holiday. Wearing white, people go to the temple. Most observe Sil. They refrain from eating meat. Vesak is more special than the other Poya days. Yet, it isn’t only Buddhists who visit the Dansal, light up their gardens or go out to see the decorations, Pandols and listen to Bakthi Gee. It isn’t only Buddhists who enjoy a holiday on Vesak and the day following Vesak. Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, Hindus and those with no religious beliefs, they all enjoy the colors, the sound of tissue paper rustling in the wind. Vesak shows that religion, caste, race; they can separate us. But as the Buddha taught us all; tolerance is the key to happiness.

A FUNERAL

                                                     A FUNERAL

(The death of King Dutugemunu is a poignant and well-written scene in the Mahavamsa, with everybody’s favorite hero king, who probably half-bankrupted the country thanks to his extensive building projects, being told as ascending into Tusita, one of six Buddhist heavens. But what did everyone else feel? Not everyone cries at funerals, after all….)

The skies were filled once again with ever-drifting clouds that obscured all light from the world once more. The metal-gray was like the bitter taste in the mouths of the people assembled by the now-invisible shadow of the Great Stupa as its domed form stood there in the middle of its construction. But where was the genius who had financed this building spree? Where was the man who would forever worship and respect his foe, the foe who battled him and the House of Magama since his great father’s days? Where was the hero now?

His eyes were clouded.

His ears were now blocked up as they strained to take in the sonorous chanting in the background.

The heroic, broad chest heaved heavily up and down, as if grasping the sweetness of the air around him for the final time before passing into final oblivion.

The chariots of Tusita were fast approaching.

The dull aura hung above the world as he lay on his bed. The linen sheets, the silken pillowcase, the gem-inlaid necklaces and bracelets from South India, the ebony frame of the bed, carved with its makaras and gajasinghas; no richness, no softness, could heal him. Five hundred figures stood, or sat, chanting old Buddhist verses, the same verses they’d learned in the halls of the monasteries he’s made for them. He had asked them to follow him on his wild crusade across rugged terrain. The Sangha of Rohana, the Sangha of Rajarata, the whole Sangha of Lanka, had broken their rules when they took part in this escapade. If only he could hear them! The unwise silently cursed. The wise hung their heads and chanted. What more could they do? It was their job, the job of all five hundred of them.

But there were things that they would never understand.
He had promised them freedom from the alien and his powerful grip. The hero had told them that his life’s mission would be to be the benefactor of the Brotherhood. But words, words they had been! Had he just built those monuments for them, the mighty Maricchavattiya among all other works just to look good in their eyes?
But then he had used them, hadn’t he…?

A few young, treacherous bhikkus wondered and pondered upon this through their chants, their piercing, scrutinizing hawkish eyes on the passing hero. Still, the clouds drew further in. It was like the great man’s reign should be eclipsed forever.A mighty, fleecy giant passed overhead as its formless bulk tried to shut out the last fragments of light that might touch the king’s glassy eyes. And this giant would roar, thunder booming from west to east, and the gods would shed tears as they reflected upon his rule. But could the gods look into his mind, powerful as they were? He could be born among them one day, a young, critical monk mused; they would know the truth. The Sangha would never be the same again with his passing.

We can choose to love. Or hate

No two people have identical thumbprints, I’ve heard. Or maybe I read it somewhere. It doesn’t matter though. All that matters is that no two people are identical. We are different in our own ways. Our personalities are never completely alike. Yet, such differences rarely tear people apart. What really brings out the hate, anger and dislike in the hearts of humans is race, religious, caste and culture.

 

Take two people. One believes in a god. The other doesn’t. One wears a burqa. The other doesn’t. One speaks Tamil, the other doesn’t. These two people can look beyond these differences that they were most probably born into. This is what the wise and intelligent would do. Or they could laugh and insult the other’s beliefs, customs and attire. They can quote or rather, misquote, religious texts, they can burn down houses, just to show that their religious, race or ethnic group is better.

 

Friendship cannot grow between two such people. Love would not find a place in their hearts.




Who is Victory Day for?

Victory Day is celebrated in Sri Lanka to remind her people about the war that once haunted the nation. We can only talk about the Civil War in the past tense thanks the soldiers and leaders who bravely fought against that land greedy terrorist group. While curfews are now part of the past, one can go about without wondering if the person next to you is a suicide bomber. There was a time when students had to make sure schools were actually open before leaving home. Buses, shops or companies, no one knew who or what could be hit next. Today though, the skies are clearer, and the roads are safer. People go to Jaffna almost as if it wasn’t once where thousands of lives were ended.
And yet, people are still skeptical about this state of peace. Sure, the conflict isn’t over, it went from being political to racial. We may have to spend years to bring the country to a perfectly peaceful state. Yet, no matter what, the war is over. At least for now. And all those who sacrificed their lives for this war deserve a day dedicated for them. We have Independence Day to remind us of the struggles fought to pull the country away from the claws of the British. It only makes sense then, to have a day to remind us of Sri Lanka’s latest war victory.
One of the criticisms of the day was the money spent on the celebrations. Did we need the air crafts booming over us? How much money was spent on training the soldiers for their various performances? With the recent price hike, people didn’t understand why the government would spend the taxpayer’s hard earned money on a celebration that didn’t seem necessary.
Here’s the thing though. We all need reminding. Of the bloodshed, hatred, anger and tears that once seemed to define Sri Lanka. We need to be reminded that just a few years ago, we walked down roads in fear. Public transport was a nightmare. Breaking News took over our cartoons and movies. Have we forgotten the checkpoints that we all cursed? Have we also forgotten the silent prayer of thanks when explosions were uncovered before it was all too late? Victory Day is a reminder, yet, it isn’t only that.
It shouldn’t only remind us of the state the country is in now, or our various achievements. Battles were lost, but the final war was won. And thanks to whom? The ones who didn’t leave the comforts of their homes? Who didn’t want their hands stained in blood? No, the innocent soldiers who killed and were killed. Those who survived are also heroes. We are in debt to them for all they sacrificed. We can worship them, thank them, donate money. We can also write book after book about the war we survived. The forces of evil that are no more. 
Or we can celebrate Victory Day along with those who are to be thanked for such a day. No complaining, no questioning its uselessness. Just be proud to have survived the war, to have not fled like so many people. Be proud to be Sri Lankan! 

An Ode to the Sky PART II

Yes, well we couldn’t really help ourselves, least of all myself, because I saw perhaps the most heavenly skies I’ve ever seen. They took my breath away, to be truthful and, well, unlike all other sky photographs we put up here, I have written anything  about them, simply because I felt such a poetic urge coming onto me. Firstly, they are too beautiful for words, thus proving to us unworthy little hairless-bodied mammals that Mother Nature truly is the greatest artist. The hands of Goya, of da Vinci, Raphael, Van Gogh and every artist ever can never compete with her magical palette and her paintbrush of marvels.
Here are the photographs of Hunter Archer-http://novatheepic.deviantart.com/gallery/41405722-, with whose kind permission these pictures are used.

Psalm 8: 3-4
“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?”


This is a tribute to an artist, to Nature, to God Himself, for giving us all a roof above our heads, and something to look into, when we pray with all our hearts.


“Luminosity”
The light shone forth,
Brightest gold.
God! Shed thy holy glow
Upon me and all my brothers.
For I stayed my eyes upon the image
And lo! Did my soul burn!
Burn with love, as upon my heart you did look
Filling us all 
All with love, all with thy luminosity!
“A Beauty Presence”
A perfect light,
Streaked across the pale, azure skies,
As I looked upon thy image
Burning brightly in my eyes.
For never had I yet beheld,
In all my years of life,
For never had I yet beheld,
A beauty presence as thine.
A beauty that filled me, 
A beauty that could kill me,
A beauty I could feel was now,
Slipping away slowly.
A beauty presence as thine,
A beauty presence as thine.
“Armageddon’s Fire”
Dante, did you not once dream?
Dream one night of Hell?
Dream of fiery blood, 
Rampant across your mind?
Did you never tell us what He told you, 
That forever he would be the Light?
That Armageddon’s Fire,
Would slowly, slowly die?
For Dante when you saw the Roman
And took his ancient hand,
Did you never see the Light
Beyond all Satan’s land?
Why never did you fail the see His visage,
Smiling past?
Life, love, laughter, did He command upon this world,
As Armageddon’s Fire
Above you gently burned.
That the fires would never be forever,
That the light would still appear,
Through the trees,
Torched right through
By Armageddon’s Fire
“Simplicity”
At a being beside did I gaze,
As I felt divine flames cross my face,
The roof above us calling out, 
A show for every man.
Calling to me as I gazed, on
Somebody who was tangled, 
Somebody strange to others,
A soul so young and unreadable,
But in the skies all I saw was the purest simplicity,
Simplicity.
A fairness, a glow, held steady in our eyes,
A pale, fading lavender,
With neon pinks across the skies.
A soul so strange, 
A soul so young,
A soul full of secrets.
But all I saw was simplicity, 
Purest beauty, and pure
Simplicity.
Showed thou thy visage,
Across that brightened sky,
Showed me the simplicity,
That lay within those eyes,
For mortal though I am, I will forever know
That simplicity,
The everlasting beauty,
That pure, sweet innocence,
The lovely simplicity.
“The Angel’s Light”
Suffered long have I,
Suffered so long alone.
Suffered in anguish have I,
My sins begging to be atoned.
But saw a sinful man,
As he sweated in his sleep,
The holiness of the angel’s light,
As shadows around would creep.
The shadows shied away,
My sinful soul was swayed,
As His heavenly breath I breathed in,
As the angel prayed for me.
Gently, slowly, my life slipped from my sight
As I was encased,
My memories erased,
Within the angel’s light.
(If you want to see more of Hunter’s photographs, visit his page on deviantART, and trust me, you will love what you see. Until then, the heavenly skies be with you!)
(All photographs are the property of Hunter Archer and will not be used without his direct permission)