Author Archives: Pavithra K. Mehta

Sometimes Resourced, Sometimes…

“Where is it?” She wondered aloud. “Where is what?” He asked. “My wherewithal,” she said, “I can’t seem to find it. Instead all I’ve got, is wherewithnaught.”

Yesterday our garage door stopped working properly. Everytime we clicked the button to close it, it would swing down — slower than usual, and once it had closed, it would immediately– as if startled by contact with the ground– swing up and slowly open again. I called a Garage Door Repair company, “Pain-Free Garage Door Repairs.” A promising name. And they sent over — let’s call him, Dostoevsky– to assess the situation. Dostoevsky is possessed of a clearcut profile, a Russian accent and an air of disdain. “Your door, it’s too heavy,” he told me, “Not good. Must replace it.” And he sent us a proposal for a several thousand dollar replacement. At which point I began to think his company was poorly named. So I turned to our local neighborhood social media platform, that offers a panoramic view into the marvelously mixed bag of humanity that resides in one’s own neck of the woods, and that also offers tried and tested recommendations on everything from where to find the best gingerbread, to whom to call if your water heater goes bust. There I discovered an array of rave reviews for, let’s call him, Terrence of Paradise Garage Door Repair — and something about the spirit of the recommendations made me trust this man, sight unseen. And so I called him, and we set up an appointment for 8AM this morning. He pulled into our driveway right on schedule, and when he climbed out of his truck, I couldn’t help but sigh a little. He looked fresh out of college, still wet behind the ears. I’d been hoping for someone reliably weathered. 

Terrence made his way into the garage and began fiddling with the motor, the switch, the sensors. I began to run through a list of possible backup options. And that’s when my husband stuck his head out the window and asked me to ask Terrence if he wanted some chai. So I did and he did.  I went upstairs, leaving Terrence to potter about. My husband in the midst of making chai, says to me, “I think Terrence is going to fix it.” His optimism wasn’t founded on much — just a general sense of confidence in the man so many neighbors had vouched for [he hadn’t even read the reviews, he was going off of the little I’d told him.] I refrained (admirably) from saying anything dismissive. And when the chai, steaming and cardamom-and-saffron scented, was ready, I carried it down, and found Terrence had indeed fixed our problem, with no more than a Phillips screwdriver and the adjustment of a loose piece on the overhead track. 

The garage door, like a well-behaved and docile house pet, now stayed down when it was supposed to stay down. Terrence began to explain why the problem had occurred, and what he had done to remedy it. He was so clear, so eloquent and engaging that I found myself growing unexpectedly interested in the inner workings of garage doors, and newly grateful for their wordless diligence, their heavy lifting. Terrence sipped his chai, and flashed an appreciative grin — “This is really good!” And it really was. My husband has a way with caffeinated beverages. Terrence then proceeded to educate me briefly on the mismatched springs that were holding up our very heavy garage door.  “You might want to switch them out at some point, if the slowness of the opening and closing is ever an issue. Not urgent, not necessary, but a possible enhancement.” He could send us a proposal if we ever wanted to do that. Yes, that would be great, do send that over– we may consider that down the line, and then I ask — And for your troubles this morning? Oh –I didn’t do anything . But we’d like to offer you something! The chai is great, he says. Holding up his cup like he’s proposing a toast. “I don’t like to charge for doing nothing.” It wasn’t nothing. And there are plenty of people who will charge just for setting foot on your driveway. But he’s already back in his truck. “Call if you ever need anything.” And then he’s off and on his way. Leaving me with a little unidentified melody playing in my heart. 

It has been a full week — another transfusion for my husband, with the usual flurry of attendant uncertainties. New details to be coordinated with his hematologist, the Ayurvedic specialist and a specialized health coach we have just engaged. Rainstorms barreling through the Bay Area — felling trees, flooding roads, closing highways. Dance classes every evening. A gas furnace that is being replaced with a heat pump, work trucks in and out of the driveway each day. Enormous camellias impossibly red and frilly bursting into bloom in the backyard. The maple trees are leafing. Wildflowers are preparing to take over the garden stairs. Interviews and workshops being planned for and run, alongside a series of circle-dialogs — the latest one focused on a lighthouse of a couple. Navigating a complex form of cancer with breathtaking grace and an astonishing willingness to investigate life for what truly matters. For how to make good on the moments, regardless of however many there are of them left. The days have been so full and so heightened, I didn’t realize I was teetering on a brink until that garage door refused to close. A mechanical failure that in an alternate universe would have been just that. In this universe it felt more personal somehow — yet another unnecessary and ill-timed reminder– that things fall apart. 

Most days I can live with the inevitable truth of that, even smile at it peaceably. At other times it feels utterly untenable. A wretched arrangement– a contract that should have been shredded on sight, instead of signed and notarized by whoever was in charge of Reality when this whole parade began. At such times the tiniest crack can turn into an abyss, wide enough to swallow me whole. And the wonder of it is, in such times the slenderest thread of human goodness can turn into a cable, resilient enough to pull me out, and set my feet gently back on the plank. That’s what Rose Wilder called it. “Life is,” she wrote, “a thin narrowness of taken-for-granted, a plank over a canyon in a fog.” 

Somedays I discover, even a plank, is wide enough to dance on. 


Journal entry, 2014

Reclaim. The word materializes in my mind (is that an oxymoron?) I sit here looking at a sky that is cloudless and blamelessly blue. Down the hill from us, I see lemons on a tree beneath the window. How is it, that I have never, in seven years of living here, noticed that tree and its lemons before? It is such a young-looking day that it makes me feel old. No. I must not shift the blame. I have been sitting here in front of a computer screen for too much of the morning. Feeding myself with other people’s thoughts and images and words. And now I have the distinctly uncomfortable feeling of someone who has devoured an entire bag of potato chips without intending to. Hence the word. Reclaim. It blooms in my head like an imperious flower. I have lost something that belongs to me: Me. And now I must go retrieve it. Bring myself home. And in doing so, return to a place that feels less ragged and empty than this moment. A place where my mind is like a polished pebble at the bottom of a cool lake. Smooth, quiet, at ease in the depths. Not tired and frayed, like the end of a rope someone has been trailing in the dirt. 

The Vanishing Point

The disconcerting phenomenon of learning something new, and feeling you somehow know less than you did before. Bonafide knowledge is always a subtraction of certainty. If this is confusing, it’s because you are used to equating not knowing, with ignorance. But to know that you do not know, is the truest form of knowledge there is. The one all other forms of knowing rely on.

Your deepest knowing must be sweet and soluble.

What sits on your tongue like a pebble is not a sugar cube. Knowledge you can grasp is a fistful of coins. Please don’t strike a bad bargain. Too many have traded their days for small change.

The Games People Play (or) How It Is Sometimes

In another lifetime they might have been good, perhaps even great friends. Their natures each pitched to unusual keys, offset just enough to harmonize in inspired ways. But they didn’t. Not this time around. What emerged between them instead, was the relationship equivalent of elevator music. A vast politeness, a blameless bond neither strong nor interesting. It held them temporarily in the same orbit, no more, no less. Like passengers seated next to each other on a plane, who exchange brief pleasantries then fall into their separate worlds. Or acquaintances at a mutual friend’s party, who listen to one another’s stories with that air of formal attentiveness that betrays a lack of natural sympathies. From their forgettable interactions was absent the trouble or reward of real conversation. They traveled a shared highway, a little more than distant and much less than close. You know how it is with some people. And so it was with them. Though it might have been otherwise.


The kind of falling out that sinks beneath the surface after the initial confrontation. Unsettled ghosts woken by the disturbance now refuse to fall back asleep. They cast a gray pall over these relationships. Joy like a migratory bird leaves for warmer climes. Pleasantries continue to be exchanged, small kindnesses done. But there is wanness to them. Like winter sun. A futility. Like seed cast on stone. Everything feels smaller than. Diminished. Emptied like a shelled pea-pod. A once container. Contentless yet true to form. The ghosts stir the hollowed out husks with their sighs. ‘Do you remember?’ they whisper, ‘Do you remember those days when life was unbroken, the illusion whole? Do you remember when this friendship made anything possible?’


A variety of veiled distrust between them that self-righteously tilts away from full-blown disagreement, and nurtures instead, many minor refusals to correspond in perspective. The bigger battlefields have been wisely abandoned. The smaller ones foolishly overrun. Each bends over backwards  to avoid seeing eye-to-eye on minutiae. For to concur on trivialities admits common ground. And the thought of shared turf even in its most innocuous forms, is still repellant. A passive contrariness becomes the weapon of choice. Difference of opinion wielded as, not sword, but toothpick. Capable of wounding nothing, save vanity. Horns will not be locked like battering rams. No. Nothing so honest or conspicuous. Instead balloons will be pricked, and sails quietly de-winded by turns. Subtle deflation the new strategy.

Perhaps Poetry

Perhaps poetry is just the capacity to have strange thoughts about familiar things.  Perhaps it is what the gods are muttering in your ear right now, and you are only half paying attention. Perhaps poetry is what you stub your soul on in the dark, or stumble upon, like a lucky penny. Perhaps it’s an archer stalking you through the wilderness, with sleek arrows aimed at your heart.

Perhaps  poetry is a collection of half truths that add up to a wordless realization. Perhaps it is what happens while the milk is boiling over and the train is running late. Perhaps poetry is what the wind throws to you when you throw caution to the wind. Perhaps it is a lighthouse keeper on an uninhabited island, a dozing shepherd, a tracker in the desert. Perhaps…

Perhaps poetry is a precise way of admitting ignorance. Perhaps it is what lies exactly halfway between talking and singing. Perhaps poetry is how the dreamworld exhales. Perhaps it is what the sun rises for, and what the moon expects from the night. Perhaps it is a heralding of the buried, the forgotten and ignored.

Perhaps poetry is words to all the songs sung just out of earshot, the color for which there is no crayon, the medicine for ills that will never find a cure. Perhaps poetry is a trickster, a temptress, a changeling, and charlatan. A snake charmer luring us out of our baskets. See how we lift off our coils, and sway with transfixed eyes?

Perhaps poetry is a stowaway on an embattled ship. Or an exiled prince, a prodigal daughter. Perhaps poetry is a jester, a jouster, a juggler. A latecomer, a lie-a-bed, a stuntman, a secret agent, a stranger at the door. Perhaps poetry is a fallen angel, a fabulous crone, a fettered slave whose song just burst out the door.

Wildflower Alchemy

Writing, a way of mining one’s experience, she thought, and then shook her head. Experience was not a physical resource, and writing neither extraction or exploitation. Writing, she decided, was more — a way of ripening one’s experience. A way of bringing forth its shifting forms, its colors, fragrance, depth, its generative qualities. Without writing her life would be a clutch of wildflower seeds slumbering in a closed fist, like so much trapped potential. Writing loosened her fingers, let slip those seeds, sprinkling them on waiting earth. Letting darkness and light, forgetfulness and attention, inklings and intimations, work their alchemy. Allowing the invisible a chance, to bloom.


It happened the way things always happen, when no one was expecting anything to happen, while everyone was looking the other way. Everyone except Bachelador that is. Bachelador never looked the other way. And he always expected something to happen. So when the little green Labrador bounded into view Bachelador saw him immediately. And being a courteous fellow, Bachelador stood up, brushed the crumbs off his lap (for he had been eating a pear and apricot scone,) and offered this greeting, “Greetings My Green and Furry Friend, welcome to my kingdom!” Bachelador, it must be noted, had no kingdom. But this did not stop him from welcoming people and Labradors to it.

The little green Labrador was very pleased by this welcoming party of one, and he expressed his pleasure by wagging his tail very vigorously while jumping up to place his two front paws on Bachelador’s two front shoulders. For a brief moment they gazed into each other’s eyes and in that brief moment both saw this was not the first time they were meeting– no— they knew each other from a bodiless time. A time before these eyes, these paws, these shoulders.

For the moment Bachelador was struck speechless. On only one prior occasion in his short life had speechlessness struck him before. That was when he had tasted a mango for the first time. The unfamiliar sunburst of sweetness on his tongue pulled him into the depths of a complex state of wordless wonder. Then that moment, like all moments, passed. As this one did too.

“Why have you come here?” Bachelador asked, and his voice was not challenging, only very soft and full of amazement. It was the kind of voice one might use to address a visiting unicorn or an ancestor several centuries dead. By way of answer, the little green Labrador licked his nose. Bachelador sneezed, and three members of his family who had, until then, been looking the other way, simultaneously looked in his direction, and simultaneously uttered the words, “Bless you.” None of them, Bachelador soon realized, could see the little green Labrador, for almost immediately, all three of them turned to look the other way again.

Bachelador felt an old loneliness settle on his brow like a crown of dried thistles. The loneliness of one who never looks the other way. But then he realized he was no longer alone. The little green Labrador was with him.


Credentials. A sturdy tree in the thickly forested landscape of words, its roots tangled in the understory, with those of credence, credit, credible, credulous, and creed. Revealing inextricable relationships (as roots are wont to do.) In this case illustrating dependencies between our willingness to extend benefit– and what and how and whom we believe.

Credentials. Mine are not impressive, but that does not stop me from looking for them in others. Where did this habit come from I wonder? I am fairly certain I did not have it as an infant. Gazing at adoring faces above my cradle, I did not demand to see resumes or even IDs.  What happened along the way?

I do like the word. Credentials. It registers as hardwood dependable. A word that echoes with the weight of its syllables, the quality of trustworthiness it means to communicate. A solid word. A word one can lean on, like a marble pillar, or a brick wall. A bolstering force when one’s spirit or confidence is flagging. 

Do you aspire to enter the business of demanding to see credentials? Then it is highly recommended you begin developing an edge. Sans edge, demanding credentials is a risky proposition. This is why no one in their right minds demands credentials from customs officers, grizzly bears, or grandmothers. Once you have cultivated an edge and are invested with sufficient power, the need to produce credentials falls away. Like the need for modesty past a certain age. With sufficient power, your authority becomes self-evident. Like the sun. Then you can safely bestride the narrow world, like a Colossus. Or Julius Caesar. And if bestriding is not your thing, you can simply sit down quietly instead, and no one will disturb you with demands for productivity– or credentials. 

It must be noted that there are cases where an edge is not necessary. Sometimes it is possible to rewrite the equation and subvert the order of things. Sometimes it is sufficient to tap into your own heartwood, and discover there, unshakeable worth. Sometimes this discovery causes confidence to bloom overnight. Like wildflowers in the desert. A windblown confidence in yourself and the world that extends into a rapturous willingness. To give credit without reck, to all who demand it, and all who do not.

Credentials? You say then laughing– 

This breath. And inshallah, the next. 


You who set these snares,

Release me, flower-shaken

Heart drowning in light.

Stargazer pollen of 1 lily + kajal shard & 1 bedazzled brush

Visions of Fall

Fall is here again. Season of spare and paring things down, of cutting ties, and letting loose. Season of discards, castaways, parachutes. Of trees performing mass exorcisms. Fall is here again. Lean stray dog, stripping things down to the bone. No furnished rooms for let. Its offices austere, its intentions monastic. Fall does not wish on stars or live in hope. This is what it looks like to divest dramatically. Let the chips fall where they may. 

Thoughts take on a patina in this time of verdigris and vine. Nothing is as it once was. Everything is susceptible to tarnish. Even you. Who can feign innocence in fall? In Spring we are wide-eyed children learning our mother tongue. By fall the world is crowded with words, and we’ve all tasted forbidden fruit. Unforgettable knowledge blooms in the body. The flavor of freewill. All lanes are memory lanes in fall. All beauty is bittersweet. Desolation and delight hold each other’s pinky finger, swear they will never be separated.

There is a clamoring glamour to these days.  Honking geese cause a small traffic jam in your heart. The wind shakes the trees and your confidence. The new moon feels like an abandonment. One must practice self-reliance in spring and summer — in fall one falls upon inner resources. It is too late to build reserves. If there aren’t any then, then there aren’t any. The stringency of this is grounding. All laws of nature are.

Lamp light is poetic in every season, in fall it is also phantasmic. Walk down an unfamiliar sidewalk in that deep blue triangle of life between dinner and dreamtime. In that surreal soundscape of slow cars, brisk dog walkers, and the struggling notes of a valiant middle-school musician, look for curtainless windows. Ones through which you might catch a glimpse of a staircase curving out of view, or the polished corner of a dining table. Maybe an oil painting on the wall, or a fiddle leaf fig by a desk. You do not need to try to fit yourself inside these bright tableaux. You are already implicated. Everyone leads imaginary lives in other people’s homes. There you are. Invisible and standing at the casement window, trailing fingers in the sink, or curled up in an armchair. Lost in a book so old and worn, the lettering on its red spine is indecipherable. 

Fall nights lift the anchor, make it easy to drift under the stars into the sea of someone, somewhere else, to belong to other worlds without purpose or premeditation. For brief moments, on such nights I walk without name, or personal history. I walk without thought of tomorrow, without thought of past grievances or blessings. Moving as woodsmoke moves, lifting out of a narrow chimney and discovering its belonging everywhere.

In this season of not-yet-winter, I slip my hand into your warm one. Am suctioned sweetly back, into the outline of my skin. I feel my feet on the ground, and stretch inside, like a cat. Ready to lie down at the glowing hearth of my heart. Ready to enter its dream.

In fall, perhaps more than any other season– I remember.

How good it is to be home.