- It takes a village to raise a child - African saying
- Nature is our best teacher
- we are the world, we are the ones to make a brighter day!..

- Natural farming, food forest

- We dig our grave with our teeth

- Freedom of expression is my birth right

- Freedom of speech comes with great responsibility

- I become what I see in myself. All that thought suggests to me, I can do; All that thought reveals to me, I can become. This should be man’s unshakeable faith in himself, because God dwells in him.

- The Mother said - it is not this OR that, it is this AND that
- Life is for living not to understand
‎"Sometimes you can't see the forest through the trees."

Monday, June 29, 2009

Welcome, chics!

Raja sweetly created a home for the hens, and they quickly took advantage of it. Two hens laid six eggs. Now, tucked into the corner of the newly cleaned storeroom, a hen sits warming eggs in a blue bucket full of sand.

But today there was more than a hen, eggs and sand in the bucket. Today I heard chirping.

"Monica, come quick! And bring the camera!"

Thus we are pleased to welcome Thelma and Louise into the world. (We're naming them after girls in hopes that they don't join the incessant crowing... It's better for Monica's sanity this way.)

*We're working on taking better pictures... but you try touching a mother hen! They bite!

Saturday, June 27, 2009


I spent the night on the hammock; sometimes it’s just too damn hot in the house. As light slowly took over the land, my senses began to stir. My heart stopped. There was someone snoring beside me.

I froze and my limbs went cold as only the chill of fear makes them do. Who was sharing the deck? How did they get up here? What did they want? Was I in danger?

I listened to the rhythmic breathing and tried to take comfort in the fact that the breaths were small, meaning the breather couldn’t be too large either. Maybe one of the millions of locals got lost picking cashews yesterday, wandered all night, and ended up here. ‘It’s probably some poor little woman, or even a child!’

So I worked up the courage to turn around… slowly… carefully. I wished for something heavy or sharp with which I could defend myself if necessary. ‘I’ll have to rely on my charm… and dirty fingernails.’

With my face towards the breathing I opened my eyes. Nothing. The floor was completely empty. The dark corners were people-less. I was alone.

But the snoring continued.

So I looked up.

There, still as a statue, was perched a large owl. Its feathers lifted and left to the rhythm of the breaths. The great bird was snoring.

I laughed at myself and rolled back to sleep, content to share my space with such a magnificent creature. ‘We both can snore together for a few more hours…’

When I woke up in full light later, the bird was gone. A lizard had taken its spot—a lizard like I’ve never seen before. Pink head, green body, black neck and legs, beady eyes staring at me with curiosity. I swear its colors shifted as it slowly crept along the keet roof. Are there chamelians in these parts?

I laughed. I like that the house is so full, and we all make such splendid roommates.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Come play!

I like that the Land suddenly isn’t so far. People stop by uninvited. They come for tea or lunch or dinner or for no reason at all. Sometimes they spend the night, sometimes they don’t. But the point is: they come, and it’s always nice to have guests.

Now, if only I had a fridge to serve them cold drinks…

Donate to our solar fridge fund! 0:-)

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Once upon a time (Dec. 25, 2008) fourteen students visited the Land.

They were Americans and unfamiliar with working with their hands. But they picked up mumpties...

...and clumps of compost...

...and together they planted four trees.

Six months later...

One of the students triumphantly (or foolishly?) returned to the land. Glowing with pride, she checked on their four trees.

And I'm proud to report, all four are growing well, happily, and safely at Lumière.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

country cowgirls we

The lady takes a mothering tone when she teases me for being a country girl because my nails are always dirty. “It’s because I’m constantly cleaning and planting!” I cry in defense.

The trendy gay man teases me for being defeminate because I don’t wear sparkly things. “But I only wear dresses!” I cry. “Plus, everything gets ruined when you spend so much time with red earth.”

The friend tells me I’m a cowgirl because I’ve all but given up on make-up. “It’s too hot,” I explain, tired of the teasing.

But today, as we returned to the Land from an afternoon out, I called the bike to a screeching halt and hopped off the back. There was a family of cows grazing, eating the flowers like they were exquisite desserts plated just for them. I grabbed a stick, started screaming in Tamil, and chased the beasts to the hole in the fence—while Vasantha and the Old Man looked on in laughter.

And it dawned on me that my friends may be right, and I deserve the teasing.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Of Mirrors & Washing Machines

In the spring, we hung mirrors along the path. Driving along—especially at night—the little hanging spinning squares would capture light and reflect the way.

I received great feedback on the mirrors. They were beautiful, clever, helpful in finding the way. I was so proud.

But today they’re gone.

There are so many people wandering in the woods by the house these days that it was only a matter of time. Someone stole the mirrors, and I was crushed.

On the up-side I fixed the solar-powered washing machine, which required tools (that first had to be found then cleaned... too much bee honey on them to use!), disassembly, fiddling, and reassembly. I’m not really a fix-it-myself kind of gal, so I’m (once again) feeling pretty proud.

Things come and go, my friends.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Story of the Old Man

The Old Man is the source of awe, superstition, rumors, and truths. Most assume he's a crazy drunk, but few can deny a certain...presence...he commands. Everyone who spends time on the land sees him, wonders, and guesses. He moves slowly amongst the trees, black skin shining under the Indian sun. He sits in silence outside his hut, the whites of his eyes watching you even in the darkest of nights. He wears a loin cloth and turban and nothing more. 

Sometimes he shaves; sometimes his silver stubble grows a bit too long. Sometimes he sings; sometimes he converses with no one in particular. 

Tonight I asked Raja for the Old Man's story.

"You know," Raja began, "he talks to himself sometimes. At first it scared me, so I asked him why..."
'The asuras,' the Old Man responded. 'They walk this land constantly, and if you cross their paths, they'll take your mind.' The devils will steal your sanity. 'I talk to nature, to the gods, to them. I sing about my life and release my sorrows; I do it to keep them away.'

Raja was intrigued and asked a great guru if there was any truth to the Old Man's tale. 

'Yes,' the guru answered. 'There are no asuras in that land; what he's afraid of is no longer possible. However, the asuras--and any bad spirits--will only bother those who are afraid, who think negative thoughts. If you are strong, if you are a friend to all the energies, to all the souls lingering in the air, you will be safe no matter what.'
And that, I found, was sound advice.

"But what's his story?" I pressed.

He came from a town whose name means 'Two Dams.' "So," Raja said, "he grew up by the river." But, despite being a good person and a hard worker, the Old Man had no job. "So he came to the land with the first family that owned it. He came to make little works, to do the gardening, to tend the land." Years later, he still does... with great pride.

"He's also a bit of a translator, a communicator with the gods," Raja explained. Sometimes people will take him to the temple where he will begin to work as if intercepting instructions from the Divine. He'll do his piece and advise the locals on what they must do differently, and of what they're doing right.

I smiled. "So the man who protects Lumière speaks to the gods, to the spirits, and to nature. He sings his soul out to ensure he's strong enough to fight asuras. And he's so tremendously grateful and entrenched in this land that he's a part of it and it's a part of him. Right?"

Raja considered the question for a moment. "Right."

What better watchman could you ask for?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Day at Lumiere

This morning I awoke with a jolt; something huge had landed on the thatch roof above my hammock bed. I followed with curiosity its heavy footsteps as it traversed the ceiling. Then, to my great delight, I watched a peacock descend and linger in the garden before trotting into the wilderness. What a way to start the day.

This afternoon Raja climbed a tree while Monica and I relaxed, read, and hollered orders or encouragement to him from our swaying hammocks. Who ever said It's a man's world?

In the night we had delicious sambar cooked by Vasentha, who was in a particularly pleasant mood all day. We were serenaded by an unusually happy Old Man. And now, with the breeze bringing some cool fresh air to the land, we'll fall asleep with smiles sealed on our lips.

This is life at Lumiere.

Not bad, right?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Listening to the Land

I learned two important signs tonight:
  1. When the gecko croaks, the words being spoken are certainly Truth. For example, if you're speaking of rain when it cries, it will surely rain.

  2. When the owls cry, good spirits are present. Every night they wake me from my sleep, and now I can take comfort in their bittersweet song.

Light angels being on the land

Wow, i wanted to thank Raja for accepting to be there in my absence..not to mention Catherine 'n' Monica too! Great energy you all have..
Am grateful that you all are managing to live together...won't ask how..but i know there is lots of space.
All the way here from Canada, i miss so much working on the land; even just being present means so much..i miss talking to the cows, listening to the animals, breathing the tropical breeze, i feel you lumiere!
Did you work out the washing machine? oh, am i gettin worried? i trust you all doing a great job and being present angels of light :)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A New Old Friend

Raja wandered the land alone.

It was early--the best time to see the trees. It's still relatively cool at that hour; humidity hangs in the air like a thin silver veil instead of an oppressive iron weight. The rabbits linger longer in the morning, the birds sing sweeter, the bugs don't bother you as much.

But he wasn't alone.

From behind one of the pruned cashew trees a woman emerged, slowly, gracefully, silently. Raja greeted her with caution. "Are you lost?"

"No," she muttered mysteriously. "I came here."

Ok. "Do you need some water? Something?"

"Who are you?" she asked.

"Who are you?" he answered.

"Why do you need to know who I am?"

"Because," Raja replied, trying to keep his patience with the elder lady, "I am taking care of the land."

"Oh? And who are you?" Her voice wasn't harsh nor kind.

Our Warrior of the Woods sighed. Why play this game? "I am Raja. Martanda asked me to watch the land while he is in Canada."

"Ah, Martanda," she responded. "I want a jackfruit."

"Who are you?"

She too became tired of these silly questions. "I planted that jackfruit tree, and I want to sample its fruits." She is the mother of the first Lord of the Land.

Raja smiled, filled with joy. There's something special about Lumière that draws people in, lures people back. You reap the land with your hands and heart, and you want to see what magic your seedlings produce. "I am sorry, Madame," he said softly, sending her all the warmth of his heart. "The jackfruits are not yet ready. Please, please come back soon and we will share many with you."

She smiled. "Don't worry, I will."

We all come back some day.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Monica vs. The Chickens

The chickens here live in trees. The trees receive them happily.
Monica does not.

There is one rooster who lives in the tree behind the bedroom who seems particularly confused.
Monica wants to eat him.

Every morning, around 1am... and 3am... and 6am... this rooster cries and cries and cries.
And so does Monica.

I laugh, smile, sleep.

"Catherine," she said this morning as she drove to work, "I need earplugs." Just then a chicken darted from the bushes and threw its feathery self in front of the wheel, forcing her to swerve and curse. "Goddam chickens are haunting me!"

tee hee. It will be a fun fight to watch.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Raja, Monica & Me

Raja is taking good care of the land and of us.

The evening we arrived, he gave us a perfect welcome to the country: two weddings and a "coming of age" party--all in Tamil. "We like family now!" he shouted over and over, his voice thick with sweet enthusiasm.

Two days later, we were family... dining with his brothers and parents in a tiny hut in the local village.

We spend our evenings driving around Auroville and Pondy, walking the beaches and building dreams for what we'll do this summer on the land. A better water filter. More mirrors along the path. A new bedroom. A new garden. Or two. More flowers, more fruit, more animals. Whatever. A land of love and life and light--Lumière.

Raja is also our teacher. We are learning salsa, tango, and self-defense. He sits behind me with grave patience as I try try try to master the motorcycle. But my favorite lessons happen almost every evening as we collect our notebooks and sit cross-legged in a circle outside the front door. There, he teaches us Tamil.

"Soon," I tell Vasentha even though she doesn't understand me. "Soon we will be able to chat."

Tonight, Raja bravely led the caravan to the windmill, which we diligently climbed to catch a glimpse of the full moon...despite fears of another collapse.

And, of course, I already have a rash. So Raja, our teacher and caretaker, roamed the land and gathered all the right herbs for a perfect healing bath.

It may be India. It may be in the middle of the woods. But don't worry Ma, I'm in good hands.

Friday, June 5, 2009

cashew nuts

We returned to find Vasentha removing cashew nuts from sickly sweet over-ripe cashew fruits. I had to see how it was done.

Vasentha laughed as I brushed ants and worms off a mushy green sample and pulled the nut off, squealing with delight. "Monica," I giggled, "you gotta try this!" Especially since I had to go. Business calls.

"What are you going to do while I'm at the meeting?" I asked Monica through the red walls of the house. I was concerned I was trapping this fair-skinned lady in a land she didn't know. "Will you read? Nap?"

"Nah. I'm going to help her with the cashews."


Later that night, she gave me her feedback: "It was great," she said. "We sat together until the whole pile was gone. We talked... I guess. I mean I talked to her in English and she talked to me in Tamil, and we just pretended we knew what hte other was saying. Or maybe we pretended the other was responding with whatever response we were hoping for."

I noticed then I was smiling so widely my cheeks ached. "Tonight we'll petition Raja for Tamil lessons."

"Right," she responded. "As soon as I cut off my nails. I don't think I'll ever lose the smell of the dirt and ants and worms and rotten fruit!"

And just then, Raja entered with gorgeous smelling flowers for our hair...

Thursday, June 4, 2009


I am not as much of a stranger to this life as my previous post infers. In fact, I come from a land that absorbed me like this land absorbed its steward; in Camarat, the soft scratching of sanglier startles me from my deepest sleeps, the maze of forest paths are clear as highways, the local herbs and spices and flowers and fruits were put to good household use. So in some ways I am used to life in the wilderness.

Plus, this isn't my first time in Auroville or at the Forêt de Lumière, which is why--to my great pleasure--Vasentha and the Old Man greeted us so warmly upon arrival.

They laughed at our obnoxious amount of luggage and gasped at Monica's fair skin. We were carefully guided into the home and allowed to rest. I curled up in the hammock with my favorite sheep-pillow-cased pillow and slept like I'd never slept before. But not for long.

A slight breeze broke the heavy heat and carried tamil to my ears; I recognized my name through the harsh grunts and strange words. Walking down the windy staircase, I smiled. Vasentha had made us a plate of jackfruits (which I'd never had before) and a variety of mango (which I'd never seen before), and two cups of perfect Indian tea. God, I forgot how I missed chai.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Things in the forest are changing. For a little while, at least.

This is the Lord of the Land:

A real-life moglie, he is so in-tuned with the land that a mongoose trespassing in the middle of the night will awake him so violently he will leap to the porch and hollar wildly to save his chickens, who are sleeping soundly in the trees (for lack of a coop). He all sorts of useful tips for tending to and leveraging the awesome power of nature, he instinctively knows his way through the 20-acre maze of forest paths, and he can protect even the most unsuspecting visitors from the dangers of wilderness. He feels this place, craves it, loves it.

But he's in Canada now.

Enter Monica and me.

I am in Auroville to launch an NGO that will introduce a complimentary cuurency into the bioregion. Monica, who is a graduate development policy student pursuing are urban creatures more acclimated to navigating metro systems than forest paths. We seek out the best happy hour specials, not the ripest fruit or veggies from outside our window. We linger at street-front cafés for best middle-of-the-night study sessions and afternoon wine breaks. We know very little of nature. And for the next three months, we're watching the land.

Wish us luck.