Jul 12

Dae Jang Geum – All-time Great TV Mini-Series

Dae Jang Geum DVD vol. 1
Dae Jang Geum DVD vol. 1
When do you ever like a DVD set of a TV mini-series so much that you can unequivocally say that it is the best drama you have ever seen – despite me being only a third of the way through watching it and despite it being an English subtitle experience of a Korean program, a culture I must admit I know next to nothing about?

Such is the case with Dae Jang Geum/Jewel in the Palace, a historical drama depicting Korean court life in the early 1500′s. It originally aired as 54 one hour episodes on television in South Korea in 2003-2004. Telling the story of a young orphan girl who becomes an apprentice cook in the King’s palace, she eventually becomes the first recorded female royal physician to a King.

The drama is in part based on actual history. The Annals of Joseon Dynasty, a history of the kings who ruled in Korea for 400 years, tells of a female royal doctor. The drama extrapolated from this historical truth is a remarkable combination of palace intrigue and corruption, extraordinary scenes of remarkable cooking/cuisine, heroism, morality and love.

This YouTube video (one of the few YouTube selections using shots of the English subtitled version) features the protagonist, Jae Geum with her mentor Lady Han, one of the Court Ladies for the Royal Kitchen.

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Although the above YouTube video sets the vignettes to a Celine Dion song, the actual soundtrack to the show is also haunting. I find myself hearing the music inside my head long after watching an episode. Here is the original soundtrack being performed by an orchestra.

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I borrowed the first volume of the three volume set (18 one hour episodes) through inter-library loan because not many libraries in the U.S. own it. Since the lending period was short and my pals and I are totally hooked on it, vol. 2 is already on its way as a purchase from Amazon.

I highly recommend Dae Jang Geum. Already exported to 60 countries and taking country after country by storm after its airing, you truly must find out for yourself just how captivating this epic story is.

Dae Jang Geum Themepark in South Korea.

Korea Times article about the international popularity of this drama.

Internet Movie Database comments about worldwide cultural impact of the drama.

Plot Summary of the 54 episodes in English.

May 25

New England May Forecast – Cygnets, Ducklings, Goslings with 50 Percent Chance of Rainbows

Baby Ducks in Buttonwood Park - Photo by Sharani
Baby Ducks in Buttonwood Park - Photo by Sharani
Wouldn’t it be great if instead of the latest tragedies, the local news headlines focused on the local sightings of baby swans, ducks and geese during the month of May? And when passing showers proliferate, the weather could offer the chance of rainbows during Spring in New England? The cuteness quotient could not be higher at this time of year. Every May around Memorial Day I can usually find cygnets, ducklings and goslings in area ponds and rivers in Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts.
Canada Geese Family at Buttonwood Park - Photo by Sharani
Canada Geese Family at Buttonwood Park - Photo by Sharani
This year I explored the Buttonwood Park pond in New Bedford, MA. where there is also a zoo. In two visits to the park, I have seen two families of Canada Geese – one has older goslings than the other. There is a family of swans with two cygnets. One Mallard duck family has six babies and another has one baby. It’s all happening at the pond.

Yesterday at the park, dark rain clouds dotted the canvas of blue skies with white clouds. A passing shower found me taking shelter under the canopy of a tree’s branches and I was on high alert for a rainbow but I did not see one. Nature’s beauty was hardly tarnished by its absence. The abundance of water fowl parading their children across the pond served up a heady dose of cuteness and charm all by themselves. Families with children reaching out to give bits of bread to the ducks was equally adorable. I flashed back to my own childhood trips to a park in Michigan to feed the ducks.

Cygnet at Buttonwood Park - Photo by Sharani
Cygnet at Buttonwood Park - Photo by Sharani

As May fades into summer, I bid it a fond adieu. It is definitely one of the best months in New England.

“Daughter of heaven and earth, coy Spring,
With sudden passion languishing,
Teaching barren moors to smile,
Painting pictures mile on mile,
Holds a cup of cowslip wreaths
Whence a smokeless incense breathes…

Where shall we keep the holiday,
And duly greet the entering May?
Too strait and low our cottage doors,
And all unmeet our carpet floors;
Nor spacious court, nor monarch’s hall,
Suffice to hold the festival.
Up and away! where haughty woods
Front the liberated floods:
We will climb the broad-backed hills,
Hear the uproar of their joy…”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, May Day

May 04

Flower Power Pt. 3 – The Perseverance of Tulips

Everything that slows us down and forces patience,
everything that sets
us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help.
Gardening is an instrument of grace.
- May Sarton

Center of Tulip Closeup - Photo by Sharani
Center of Tulip Closeup - Photo by Sharani

Shortly after I bought my first home, flush with newness and enthusiasm, I planted an abundance of flower bulbs – tulip, crocus, daffodils. I added bone meal to deter squirrels from eating the bulbs and waited for the wonder of spring color the following year. To my dismay, the only flowers that bloomed from that massive planting were the daffodils. This novice gardener asked around and learned that the squirrels don’t like daffodil bulbs but that they surely ate the tulips and crocus. I was pretty dejected and my future gardening projects mostly were annuals or perennials added as an already existing plant rather than a bulb.

For at least the next seven years, I never tried to plant additional bulbs. Last Fall, I decided to research if there might not be some little-known remedy to deter squirrels from eating flower bulbs and again nearly gave up when most of what I read on the Internet declared it a truly lost cause.

With a tenacity to somehow persevere and make it happen, I finally found a site that said if you wait and plant the flower bulbs in December just before the ground freezes that the squirrels have finished their major foraging period and are not actively seeking out food.

Tulip Ringed with Raindrops - Photo by Sharani
Tulip Ringed with Raindrops - Photo by Sharani

Mother Nature and my own gardening laziness conspired together in this regard. Decembers have been relatively mild in New England the last couple of years and I’m so busy that I do not automatically think to complete gardening chores in a timely fashion. So in mid-December, I easily dug up dirt and planted tulip and crocus bulbs.

Tulip in my Yard - Photo by Sharani
Tulip in my Yard - Photo by Sharani

Eureka! It worked. This spring I have tulips and crocus pretty much everywhere I planted them. I am giddy with tulip mania – maybe some of it rubbed off on me when I went to Turkey last year. Tulips are the national flower of Turkey and they were revered there long before they came to Holland.

Or maybe I am harkening back to growing up in Michigan with its own renowned tulip festivals in Holland, Michigan.

Regardless of the influence, I am so delighted that I did not give up in my quest to have tulips and crocus bloom in my yard. I am camera happy to take their portraits. This post is scattered with the results of said shutterbugging.

So if you are trying to keep squirrels from ravaging your flower bulbs, take my success story to heart. Plant them late, never give up and you too will find the perseverance of tulips is possible.

Quotes from Sri Chinmoy on this theme:

Inside each one of us is a beautiful flower garden.
This is the garden of the soul. With each lesson
we learn, the garden grows. As we learn together,
our individual gardens form a tranquil paradise.
- Sri Chinmoy

God’s favourite season is spring, when new hope, new life and new creation dawn. What God always wants from Himself is transcendence. This He can do only when He exercises new hope, new life and new creation constantly.
- Sri Chinmoy

May 04

Flower Power Pt. 2 – Daffodil Field in Dartmouth

Daffodil Field in Dartmouth - Photo by Sharani
Daffodil Field in Dartmouth - Photo by Sharani

The bridge over the Padanaram Harbor in Dartmouth, Massachusetts was closed and the bridgekeeper was motioning cars to go around rather than wait. I was on a dinner break from work and in the spirit of seizing the moment decided to visit the Daffodil Reserve owned by the town’s Department of Natural Resources Trust. I was bound and determined to still take this field trip and get back to work in one hour flat. So I dashed off down the road through the scenic and quaint environs of New England coastal charm.

Flowering trees serenaded my eyes. Tulips and daffodils were blooming in yards. Leaves were almost budding on trees. I was treated to Spring in all its glory as I drove to Parson’s Reserve on the edge of the Russells Mills national historic district in Dartmouth. I lost some precious time not taking the bridge over the harbor but still managed to make a short pilgrimage to the daffodil field at the top of a hill and at the end of a path through the woods.

Daffodil Field in Dartmouth Photo by Sharani
Daffodil Field in Dartmouth Photo by Sharani

Last year I visited the daffodils for the first time and was sorely lamenting that this year’s blooming coincided with me being sick and not up to making field trips through the woods. I knew that the daffodils would be finished soon and as quickly as my health permitted, I made a beeline to this vista.

Daffodil Field in Dartmouth - Photo by Sharani
Daffodil Field in Dartmouth - Photo by Sharani

A field of flowers as far as the eye can see is a heady bouquet for the heart to savor. Even a short visit enchanted me and I marvel at the enduring quality of cheerfulness and sunshine embodied in this flower family.

William Wordsworth wrote a famous poem about daffodils in 1804. It expresses perfectly the sentiment found in feasting upon Dartmouth’s daffodil field in full blossom.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling leaves in glee;
A poet could not be but gay,
In such a jocund company!
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
-William Wordsworth

May 04

Flower Power Pt. 1 – Lavender Dreams

While I waited for an April 1st election to determine the continued existence of my public library job for the last 14 years, I employed every possible way known to me to help minimize my undeniable stress and anxiety about my job. I spent more time than ever in meditative practise and keenly felt my meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy helping me inwardly. I tried to remain detached yet proactive if I needed to spring into gear for a new job and possibly even a new career.

Flowers at Aspiration Ground - Photo by Sharani
Flowers at Aspiration Ground - Photo by Sharani

Somewhat prone to worry in spite of my best intentions, one night I fitfully fell asleep only to then dream of powerful soothing guidance as I was surrounded by flowers – especially white hydrangea- which I later learned could be found in abundance lately at the Sri Chinmoy Centre meditation grounds I frequent in New York.

The big surprise in this dream, however, was that I heard I should drink lavender tea to calm my nerves. I woke up slightly puzzled. I certainly had heard of lavender’s properties for reducing stress and anxiety, but I had never heard of drinking lavender flowers. Was there really such a thing as lavender tea? Quick Internet research showed me it certainly is also drunk as tea. Gail Kavanagh explains that “Drunk as a tea, lavender is a natural treatment for anxiety and headaches” in her article The Healing Powers of Lavender at DoItYourself.com. Lavender contains many healing properties and was widely used in the Middle Ages for medicinal purposes. Lavender has antiseptic properties, aids in healing of scar tissue, soothes bites and burns, repels insects (used to ward off the plague in the 1600′s), aids sleep and is anti-depressive.

Lavender blooms in my yard Photo by Sharani
Lavender blooms in my yard Photo by Sharani

Excited to take this prescription for calm that I received in a dream to heart, now I just had to find lavender tea. I succeeded in buying two teas that included lavender in them at a local supermarket that includes a large natural foods and specialty item selection.

One organic spearmint lavender tea that lived up to its name “Charm” from Treleela contained a very clever tea bag that opens up and rests on the cup in such a manner that it is as if the tea is infused as loose leaves instead of in a traditional tea bag. The company is based in Chicago but the tea is grown in the Himalayas in India. Here is a picture of the tea bag inside a Jharna-Kala mug inspired by Sri Chinmoy’s artwork.

Treleela Spearmint Lavender Tea in Jharna-Kala Mug Photo by Sharani
Treleela Spearmint Lavender Tea in Jharna-Kala Mug Photo by Sharani

I am indeed a newfound fan of lavender tea and everything lavender scented. When the lavender growing in my yard blooms this summer, I will view it with a renewed sense of appreciation and respect. Lavender’s healing properties have been used for centuries and I salute the power of this tiny flower. And I am humbly grateful that the powers of spirit intervened in my life in such a detailed and loving way – like a kindly Grandmother – telling me to drink a hot cup of herbal tea to infuse my life with greater happiness.