Category Archives: Journal

My Fall Garden

The colors in my fall garden surprise me each year. Brilliant reds of my roses, the four different hues of just that one color, red all amaze me. The way I plant them, I have the million petite blooms of Sweet alyssum at the baseand the red color pops up. But then the pink and purple snapdragons appear in unplanned spots and add vibrant contrast to the whit alyssums and the roses. I turn around and my orange-yellow marigolds and the pure orange zinnias boldly wave to tell me they are there too. None of these can be ignored. And, add to all this, my red hibiscus in the pot, the violet and pink clematis and the long stalks of the purple sage; and that will complete the picture in my front yard garden.

Pink Rose
Pink Rose

Oh, then there is my arch of climbing Autumn Clematis that forms a breathtaking backdrop to my lady in the garden. This statue is Anne, and she has her hands on two children climbing up on to her legs. Raj and I got that statue in 1972, when we moved into our first home in this country. In 1973 I had sweet white alyssums planted in front of her. Those days I had dozens of roses on both sides of her. I have a picture from that fall garden too. Memories……

I did not plant, feed, water, talk and sing to them to ignore them in all their glory. I do wish to enjoy, savor and dream upon them.


Autumn garden color
Autumn garden color

Autumn in my garden
Autumn in my garden

Alyssum in the garden
Alyssum in the garden


It is true they will all be gone in a few days. The only truth we know for sure in life is death. I know the colors of the different seasons add to the variety of life. Yet, fall brings a feeling of tightness in my chest that lingers just beneath the joy that the glorious colors of my garden give to me. I don’t really know why. Just like death and goodbyes I have learned to accept, manage, and live beyond the loss of my fall garden which is imminent and is under the mercy of that first frost, and the ones after that…..

A poem I wrote a long time ago still reflects my thoughts of this season.

Melancholy of Fall

Melancholy of fall weighs heavily in my heart
the beauty of auburn Maple, yellow golden Ash leaves
and rose hips turning red and brown
signal goodbye to blue herons, robins and the geese

falling leaves wave farewell to summer
and force me to remember of times I had to
bid somber farewell to loved ones in far away places
and those long gone with the setting suns

sunbeams push weakly through fog hovering over still waters
even fat frogs croak sleepy and slow
lazy golden sunsets change to orange autumn specters
and a pallor fills my eyes with sadness unexplained

when winter winds bring chilly nights
frigid and still though they may seem, they seethe
with the energy of sleeping dreams readying
to unfold the hopes of Spring not far behind

but, it is the slow of fall I really dread
as I face long swarthy, submissive evenings
and the restrained sorrow that fills my heart
owed to nagging pains of remembered goodbyes

Shakuntala Rajagopal

Autumn flowers
Autumn flowers


Alyssum flowers
Alyssum flowers


My Summer Garden

Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Working in my Summer garden I took note of the changes happening there.
The transformation of my landscape as the season changes and the warmth of the Sun in Summer affects the way each plant grows fails to amaze me. They resurrect from the deep freeze of Winter, grow and bloom and spread their seeds, all in a short span of the Summer season.
It got me thinking. And, it stopped me on my tracks and made me take stock.
My rose called Double Delight is in full bloom, the unusual deep reddish pink combined with a string cream color petals. The vision makes me want to ditch my dentist’s appointment and go get my easel and colors to record the pretty picture. Especially the way the Sweet Alyssums underfoot frame the rose in bloom. Inspiration indeed.
Then there are the masses of daylilies in four different corners. The bright yellow ones reflect the spirit of the Sun, while the bronze ones and the mauve (almost purple) ones pop up amidst the yellow lilies, beckoning my attention.
I turn the corner and two full rows, and few other groupings of Hostas greet my eyes. There are hostas with dark emerald green leaves, others with pale green color and white borders. Two groupings show even lighter green hue. Right now all of them tout hundreds of blue and white tubular flowers on tall green stalks waving welcome in the sun.
The dark red and brown stalks of Penstimmon’s carry brown seed-pods. Their floral glory is over for this summer season, however, the seeds promise a great return next year. Right next to the Penstimmons and behind the daylilies a tall clump of Monardas, or Bee Balm as they are called are showing off their pale violet feathery heads of flowers. Bees buzz around warning me not disturb them…or else…
My clump of Mint is waiting to see if I am making lemonade yet. A twig of mint in freshly made lemonade is the ultimate in summer drinks.
The Viburnums had vibrant white flowers in bunches just four weeks ago. Now the blooms are replaced by green berries. But watch out. Soon the berries will ripen to a deep dark purple. One fine day a whole army of sparrows will descend on the Viburnum bushes and feast on the berries, leaving clusters of bare stalks which held the blooms, and then the berries. It is a sight I try not to miss later in the summer.
The entire process makes me realize how our life-stages reflect the comings and goings of all the various plants and flowers. Knowing well they only bloom for a short while, they still put forth their best show each summer. I take a page from their lessons and decide to put out my best work out this Summer. For my next book.

My Summer Garden
My Summer Garden

My Summer Garden
My Summer Garden

More Double delight roses
More Double delight roses

Double delight roses
Double delight roses

my Double delight rose
my Double delight rose

Hostas, daylilies and monarda
Hostas, daylilies and monarda


My Bench
My Bench

Book signing at Port Edwards Restaurant

mudslides cutting up the face of the mountain



Shaku doing Ganga Aarti
Shaku doing Ganga Aarti

Rudraprayag. Confluence of Alaknanda and Mandakini tributaries of Ganges
Rudraprayag. Confluence of Alaknanda and Mandakini tributaries of Ganges

Shaku descending from Kedarnath







SONG OF THE MOUNTAINS – My Pilgrimage to Maa Ganga
Shakuntala Rajagopal, MD
If you like to read about adventure…
If you want to be inspired to move beyond heartbreak, read on…
Unable to contain the grief from the loss of her husband of forty years, Raj—her soul- mate and best friend, the author ‘Shaku’ (to her friends) decided to go on a pilgrimage to the holy river Ganga carrying the ashes of Raj. As she points out, “New beginnings need empowerment from within. I decided to seek help from above to attain this. I felt a pilgrimage to The Holy River Ganges—Maa Ganga—would be a chance for a rebirth, and a new beginning.”
“In her second book, Shaku takes us on an unforgettable journey, albeit a perilous one at that, to the ‘Char Dham’ (the four sacred sites revered by Hindus) nestled in the majestic Himalayas. As we travel along with her, we get to see the many splendors of nature like glowing glaciers and alpine meadows, listen to the songs of the mountains, worship at the holiest of Hindu shrines and get the blessings of the Gods. I have never felt so close to heaven in my life.” M. P.Ravindra Nathan, MD, FACCEditor in Chief, AAPI Journal

Packed with emotion, Shaku allows you to experience with her the range of sensation and emotion as she travels through the Char Dham, from the blissful sensation of dipping in the cold rushing waters of the Bhagirathi Ganga at Gangotri, 10,000 feet above sea level to the scorching dip in the hot springs of Alaknanda Ganga at Badrinath at 10,500 feet. Entwined within this beautiful travelogue is Shaku’s own love story, an enduring monument to the only man in her life, her husband Raj, which is at once moving and inspiring.

Find out what in the pilgrimage gives her a sense of rebirth and how she is able to finally find peace without her beloved Raj.

For as Shaku says, “As my life and psyche evolved into survival mode, the reader sharing my journey will also be changed in the way he or she approaches major changes in life. My story will definitely empower the reader to take action and go forward in their own life, whatever the circumstance they are facing.” Written in beautiful prose that reads often like poetry, this is a love story and a spiritual tome. A must read for everybody.


Book signing

“Song of the Mountains, My pilgrimage to Maa Ganga.”
By Shakuntala Rajagopal, local author and artist

Port Edwards Restaurant, 20 W. Algonquin Rd, Algonquin, 60102.
July 9th, 2015, 5 -9 PM

Cloudy Summer Day

June 14, 2015

A cloudy summer day today. The rains in the last two days have beat up my peonies. The flowers have shed their million petals and the resulting  tricolor tapestry of pink, magenta and crimson design decorate the green grass below the plants. I know the next wind will erase the design that Mother Nature created. Replacing the colorful peonies, yellow primrose, white and pink penstimmon and purple and pink columbines have raised their stalks with glorious flowers.  On and on the flower show continues.

Every year when the weeding gets to me, or the rabbits eat all my petunias, I wow to stop planting any more petunias or eggplants. But summer comes and the colors in my garden make me forget the labor that goes into maintaining it.

The flip side is that the labor in my gardens keeps my body and my mind healthy. In my younger days I had many more roses because that is the only flower bush that blooms all summer long.

I will include my Vegetable garden philosophy here. Food for thought!

                                                                  My Vegetable Garden Philosophy

My vegetable garden symbolizes my philosophy in life.

Life need not be ordinary.

Hard work and ordinary chores are the necessary backbone of survival.

Yet, to limit ourselves into shaggy vegetable gardens is not needed.


The ordinary activities of life, even as the naturally unruly vegetable growth

can and should be glorified

by the beauty of paths that take you to nowhere—

but into our own selves.


Need a fountain or two keep our eyes upwards to

divert us from any tired and dead plants at end of autumn.

Need some rising colors of sunflowers and zinnias

to contrast with the browns of the aging spinach or the graying cucumber vines.


All this we need to help uplift the rising spirit of our souls

even as our aging bodies claim rest from our labors.


The beauty created by me in my vegetable garden

echos the beauty that I create in my life.

Amongst the mundane in our lives and amongst pain we cannot avoid,

we still cherish the smiling face of a sunflower or of a special smiling boy,


Enjoy a bear hug from a girl child

like hugs of a morning glory vine around a wooden post.

Cascading marigolds suggest the loud laughter of a tickled child

Red tomatoes on vines warm me the same as chubby red baby cheeks


Purple eggplants bring royalty to my stone throne

the beauty of life reflected, elevate me out of painful chores

Albeit, the chores are the backbone of survival

And oh so necessary for living!


Shakuntala Rajagopal

June 2015

Me as a Memoirist

Me as a Memoirist.

How I keep memories alive. 

I am fortunate in that I often dream of people from my past.  I dream of the life I shared with them, and I dream I am doing the things I wish I had done with them.

In my last dream Daddy was here in Chicago, walking with me and my grandson in Millennium Park.  In my dream we laughed and talked, and he and his long white beard were the same as when I left him and India 48 years ago.  I could only see wisps of my own hair, and my 12 year old grandson was vivid in the picture, skipping along beside me, talking to Sivaraam Appoo, that is what he would have called his great grandfather, my dad, if he was here now.

My Dad has been gone for forty years.  My dream evoked memories of the time he and I walked the Botanical Gardens and Zoo in Trivandrum, South India, where I lived until I was twenty three.  I close my eyes, and I can hear his rich, vibrant voice telling me I could be, and could do anything I wished in life, if I believed in myself.  More so, he instilled in me the belief that the divine power of God is within each of us.

This dream not only triggered memories of Dad, but made me look up other stories from my past I had already written.

I plan to share them, soon.

Night-blooming Cereus

Night-blooming Cereus, May 22, 2015

Tonight around 9:00 P.M. two blooms appeared on my Night blooming Cereus. Perfect white petals arranged in three layers started opening about 8:00 P.M., and the bold –faced flowers, eight inches in diameter swung gracefully from ten inch long stalks which arose from the very edge of one leaf each. They look like they would drop to the floor any minute. However, each flower stayed attached while spreading an unique fragrance which filled the room.

This took me back to when I was ten years old, when the Cereus in my home in Trivandrum, India bloomed, maybe two or three times a year. There, in the subtropics it bloomed at around 11:00 P.M. All the children stayed up late to see the rare sight. In my home here, the farther North I am, and with the daylight saving time changes, the opening time of these flowers also vary. On the occasions they open in the fall, it happens later, like at 10:00 P.M. onwards.

Shaku flower 3 Shaku Flower 2 Shaku Flower 1

Just as we who moved North adjusted to the movements of the Sun, the Cereus, or (the “Night-blooming Lily” as we used to call it,) also varied its habits of blooming.

Tomorrow the flowers will dangle listless and damp-looking, all the wild white energy spent. The fragrance will linger for another twenty-four hours. That is it. Until more buds appear next month or next spring, whenever that happens.

Shaku Rajagopal

May 22nd, 2015

Welcome Spring

March 19th 2015, last day of Winter.….according to the calender.

I woke to a beautiful, early spring morning today. The air is still chilly, but last week’s warm spell has melted all the snow in Chicagoland. Tulips and daffodils are already peeking out from the still cold ground.

Just five weeks ago when I returned from Thiruananthapuram, my hometown in South India, after a short three week visit, I felt like a hot iron rod dropped into icy waters. It was 89°F when I left India and -12°F in Chicagoland. And, ten inches of snow on the ground. Even a short three week visit in the tropical sunshine had changed the way all my senses reacted to the cold. One would think that after fifty-one years of surviving Chicago winters I would get used to it. Still, a drop of one hundred degrees did shock my body.

It is a miracle that human endurance allows us to survive such extremes. But it is an even greater blessing when we thrive and grow wherever we land in life.

It is good to know that spring will follow each winter. Let us get out and welcome spring.