Almonds are sweet,
but walnut-bitterness is sweeter.

Men are sweet
but his anger is sweeter.

All in a circle
called love,
my heart
beats for one
at the center.

Β© 8 Mar 2009, Heather Quinn, all rights reserved

Harb, my Nani was Finnish. Some who lived in the south-east of Finland migrated from the subcontinent centuries ago. Many place-names in that region of Finland look roughly like transliterated Sanskrit words. My Nani’s skin was dark. She insisted we call her Nana, though at the time it was an unusual word to use for a maternal grandmother in the USA. As a girl, I was teased by my family for loving, in ways that amounted to passion: walnuts, apples, stone fruits, dried fruits, bare feet, the fragrance of sandalwood, roses, irises, pomegranates, brinjals (eggplants in the US, aubergines in the UK and Europe), sweet spices, dark wooden floors, Indian carpets, anything containing turmeric, windows and doors open to the weather, long walks in rain with nothing to shield me. I’ve always felt I could live on fruit, milk, curd and a few vegetables, and wheat, and if meat had to be eaten, lamb. Of the cuisines cooked in my extended family, the one I love best is Syrian. I’ve dreamt with extraordinary vividness of riding over high steppes within a bowl of mountains, similar to those found in Tajikistan. I think I’ve told some of this before.

Kate, until I met the man I call the man I love, I had been in love a few times. This is different. It’s almost tangible, it’s always inescapable, there’s no dreaming to wake up from. I knew it was different after about six weeks, but it took me half a year to understand what it really was. The word love is a conventional label for a connection that seems fixed in me, and perhaps was always there, though its object was only recently found. If I had a more accurate word for this, I’d use it. We need more words for love, like Eskimos have dozens of words for snow. If my life were like a long sentence that told a story, other loves were commas — important and bridging. This love is my full stop.

About love in general, east and west… I have a theory, which fits into a personal understanding of paleoanthropology. Here’s how it goes:

Those who left cradles of civilization were edgy people, people who weren’t making a go of it in their cradle environments. They’d suffered as a result of natural disasters, human violence, or innate disharmonies. When they left and settled elsewhere, they carried their trauma experiences with them, and their hyper-reactivity became part of the new cultures that grew where they settled. Peoples who’ve lived in the same regions for a thousand or more years have developed social and cultural constructs, and selected for individual adaptations, that make for strong social harmony. Those who migrated, who live on the fluctuating edges of cultures, or outside them, are less harmonic, socially. They are less likely to trust their emotions, and more likely to act aggressively as a proto-defensive mechanism. Much of this behavior is, I believe, culturally transmitted, not innate. My reasoning on this point is this: if a family were traumatized, and it fled from the place where the trauma were experienced, those who experienced the bad situation would have been marked, emotionally and biologically, for their lifetime. So would the offspring for the first generation, because of in-utero exposure to higher levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, and exposure to the older generations’ hyper-reactivity. But each succeeding generation would be less and less marked by trauma. Innate harmony would lie dormant and undamaged in many individuals. However, with little conscious cultural support for harmony, collective harmony would be subdued in its expression, running like a bass drone playing under the music of that culture. Only when harmony is recognized and lauded consciously, does it become a culture’s main beat. I believe western cultures are beginning to develop conscious recognition for and appreciation of social harmony, to a much greater degree than before.

A few years ago, my encounter with the open expression of love, and strong and long-running cultural support for harmony, in India’s entertainment arts, was like finding a home. Whether my Nani’s blood came from the subcontinent or not, my natural humanity and love of love was strong enough to be essentially undamaged by whatever I experienced in my life. What I was missing — and the rest of my family is still missing, except for my son, who’s found some of what was missing in his wife’s emotional ethos — was a place in a culture that supported harmony in a way that paralleled how I felt about it. The lack of cultural support was missing to such an extreme extent that the first time I saw a Hindi film, I was literally shocked to the core at the open expression of non-romantic love.

I think we all have yin and yang in us — a place in an undifferentiated all-of-us, and an individual identity. However, I believe that due to singular events in paleo- and more recent history, pools of humans ran off and later collected together in ways that supported one or the other side of social connection — collective or individual — rather than both, as a reaction to the singular events they experienced. With fast digital communications and air travel, the pools’ boundaries are breaking and their waters are merging back into something like our original humanity. I can feel a universal pressure, which is new and growing, an expectation by everyone of everyone else, to live more humanely and lovingly.

One reason I love Indian films and popular music is they are transmitters of socio-harmonic values. I try to share my enthusiasm for these art forms whenever I can. India’s arts, entertainment and other, are high on my list of the subcontinental things I love with a passion. They are part of my walnut-love.

love, h


23 thoughts on “Walnut-love

  1. ed says:

    Sweet are the dates
    Nuts am I
    And over the Moon

    Love’s hey diddle diddle’s
    Made a dish run away with my spoon.

  2. mieke says:

    “I think we all have yin and yang in us β€” a place in an undifferentiated all-of-us, and an individual identity” and the rest of this paragraph:

    After watching that first DVD about India and its rich history am beginning to believe in this too more and more.

    They have discovered that our great great ancestors travelled from Africa to India and there are still a few villages in India with people who carry that specific original gene within themselves.

    I remember having seen a documentary on tv about how this original gene has spread itself from Russia to Canada, and from India even to China and even to Europe.

    Have been to a museum in Brussels and saw there with my own eyes how Islam was spread from North India towards the west into the whole region up to the middle of France and just read in a popular science magazine that scientists have discovered that the three religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam emerged from a Paradise-like environment in the neighbourhood of the city Bahrein in Saudi Arabia.

    Amazing how it all slowly but surely fits together!

  3. heath says:

    Dear Mieke

    I’ve been very interested in how archeogenetics — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archaeogenetics — is helping us understand previously-hidden migrations and settlement patterns. If you want to see me get excited, mention something about mitochondrial DNA patterns in the Caucasus Mountains, or the genetics of the occasional fair-haired blue-eyed individuals of the plateaus north and west of the Himalayas, or the Jews down on the east-central African coast.

    love, h

    Dear Ed

    Ever cropping teasel, eh?

    love, h

  4. Kate... says:


    When I was young, just hearing
    “and the dish ran away with the spoon”
    would bring laughter
    and I would swing, swing, swing
    and sing it …
    til the dawn’s early morn’

    I love Indian food.
    It’s my absolute favorite, and
    cilantro as spice/flavoring
    how exquisite to the palate

  5. Kate... says:

    I love this topic, this conversation
    love is
    always intriquing

    it’s expressions are myriad
    like colorful fish
    too numerous to name …
    it comes in various forms and disquises
    at an early age
    it will take you
    to the ocean’s depths
    plunged and soaked
    you emerge
    seeking the warmth of the sun

    all the while it’s magic is working
    and the discovery of
    alchemy that transforms
    your beingness

    Harb, can you tell us more about love and the forces

    wouldn’t it be amazing if ….
    you & I could travel together to India,
    what a fanciful journey
    the two of us could make

  6. Ed says:

    Yindia and yanglia….if you please πŸ˜‰ ?

  7. mieke says:

    “How on earth am I going to supplement my pension?”

    Dear Ed,

    Yeah, my husband lives with that same question.

    There is a Dutch saying my mother always used to say to us (my sister, brother and me):

    “Komt tijd, komt raad”

    One could translate this into English something like:

    “When time is there, advice is at hand”

    It means the same as do not worry until the time has come to worry because then the solution is at hand too.

    Well, this saying kept my family going just after world war II and we only came out for the better:

    Life is priceless πŸ™‚

  8. authorharb says:

    WOW, I just read the thread today! Heath, I have understood your love for the background harmony and that it seems to be apparent in Indian situations. Yes, it is there, though according to me it is an east west thing. Yes Yin Yang is in all of us but what further matters is which is more in one or in east and west in general.

    Anyways, the way you have described is too convincing.

    Kate, love or Mosc is nothing but what Heath has said “an undifferentiated place in all os us. Normally we are not there but are attached either to Yin or Yang which ever is dominant in us…and accordingly search the other out there and when we have a glimpse of that in an other and in the process realise or reconfirm our own place of undifferentiatedness within we enjoy the fact as love becauue actually that place is nothing but love itself.

    So Heath, do you now live with that full stop?


    PS: Forgot to add, it should not remain a dream to visit India. And indeed as Mieke has said at due time the answer to the question of money too will appear. As of now all I can say is that boarding and lodging especially in Punjab, Chnadigarh and Delhi will be minimum. And then my car too will be available though gas will have to be shared by you and this too because I have suffered heavily in the present market crash. Yet with me ehre let visiting India not remain a dream. And you all here are invited. I guarantee you will feel India your home.


  9. mieke says:

    Dearest Harb,

    Thank you so much for your wonderful invitation and with you as a guide we certainly would be blessed. Who knows the dream to visit your country will come true within a not too distant future.

    Oh, how I would love to meet you and your family. And Jasjit, Anusheh, Chaitali and Aachi too. Still have such great memories of our chatting together on Jasjit’s blog.

    Just finished watching the 3DVD collection about your beautiful country. What a variety of Nature and what a diversity of people who have already become so united since 1947.

    Watching and understanding how many different Kings and Emperors ruled India during the ages, she can surely be seen as the cradle of human evolution. As Jasjit did already mention in the past, we all have our roots in India πŸ™‚

    Well here’s to our gathering in the future: Cheers!

  10. mieke says:

    Happy holi to you and family Harb and to all here.

    I already have understood it has a lot of resemblance with Carnival which we only recently have celebrated in the south of my country too.

    And I live in the south and in my youth did celebrate this every year and later also with my children. Nowadays the children and grandchildren celebrate it and I watch the parades on television.

  11. authorharb says:

    Yes, Mieke, we too do the same though sometimes children rub colours on our faces as well.

    By the way today I enjoyed your site thoroughly. I liked your nature, winter and other labyrinths very much. I wanted to put one of your winter labyrinths – which looks like a man’s face – on my blog so wanted to copy and save it but could not.

    Do I have your permission for the same and if yes can you send the same to me dirctly in some way so that I can save and then put it on my blog?


  12. mieke says:

    Yes of course Harb, use whatever you need from my website.

    I will send the picture to your authorharb at gmail address if that is alright with you because after having had that virus on my other laptop I lost your other email address and in fact all the email addresses I had on that one.

    And it is great to read that you enjoyed my site, thanks πŸ™‚

  13. authorharb says:

    Dear Mieke, my authorharb@gmail.com email is working alright but in the meantime Navpreet has helped me to save the said picture to my computer.So there is no need for you to send it to me. Thanks for allowing me the post at my blog. There are in fact many mesmerising pictures at your site. I may take a couple of more for my blog later especially since labyrinth and spiral structure of which I talk are basically so similar.

    Here is my other email:


    Love, Harb

  14. mieke says:

    By all means Harb, be my guest πŸ™‚

    Thanks for the other email address.

    Love, Mieke

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