Basant Kite-Flying Festival
I’ve had the pleasure and privilege to work at Stony Brook University since last March (2020) and I love everything about this college and its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. The one thing missing, for me and everyone, of course, has been the normal vibrancy of a college campus overflowing with students, faculty, staff; people gathering for lectures, celebrations, events and concerts; fans filling the rafters of the sports stadiums.
Virtual events and some small safe gatherings notwithstanding, it’s been decidedly QUIET on campus during these pandemic times.
One year in – with spring weather coming on and COVID counts coming down – you can probably imagine my excitement to see even the smallest signs of activity. Skateboards rolling and jumping curbs; a few frisbees flying; some students soaking in the sun, running or training for their respective sports. Even a live sporting event or tiny musical concert.
Last Friday, though, really heralded the start of spring for me with an event I was elated to see unfolding all day right outside my office – the Pakistan Students’ Association’s (SBU PSA) annual “Basant” celebration. As I learned, Basant is a nationwide festival in Pakistan that welcomes spring. The most noteworthy aspect is kite flying, with whole neighborhoods coming together to fly them and celebrate unity. There was DJ’ed music, food, games and “lots of good vibes” out on the grassy field and steps outside the Staller Center for the Arts on campus. And it was the first live event in the last year or so for the group.
PSA says its club emphasizes “bringing Pakistani culture to people of all backgrounds so that we can all share in the beauty of it.” Thanks, SBU PSA, for enlightening me, delighting me, and capturing the sprit and hope of spring!
The saying goes that April showers bring May flowers, but I’ve been SO happy to see plenty of April flowers – all around SBU campus, but also right in my own backyard, at local parks and in my piano teacher’s front yard, where I get to view her gorgeous Magnolia tree (shown here) from a picture window during my weekly evening lessons, now that it’s staying lighter longer. From daffodils, to bursts of yellow forsythia everywhere, I will gladly suffer an occasional slight congestion and itchy eyes for the joy of seeing and smelling early spring blooms all around.
My Dad’s Legacy
I can hardly believe it’s been a year since my dad’s passing. Wednesday, April 7, in fact, was the one-year anniversary. It hit me really hard for a day or two but then such beautiful things happened as I opened up to both grieving and healing, with help from people around me.
I, coincidentally, got my second COVID vaccine that day, which I thought was a nice sign of health and hope for the future. I also took a beautiful walk around campus with two of my new friends at Stony Brook. It was a crystal clear, blue, sunny, cloudless day. When we got to one of the small nature preserve areas, I asked them for a moment so I could go on the trail to think about dad and his own love of nature. They actually came with me, which I thought was pretty amazing and as we were venturing out of the woods, one called out, “We’re thinking about you, Mr. Cooke.” I corrected her … that it was “Mr. Epstein” … so she called out again, lol.
People throughout the day – friends, family and coworkers – were all so comforting and compassionate to me and my tears soon turned to gratitude … for both the appreciation my dad has given me for nature, music and so much more, but also for the pure kindness people all around you will show if you ‘let them in.’
Here is a video clip of the Symphonic Pops of Long Island’s live virtual concert this year (with dad there in spirit, after playing with them until near the end of his life). And here’s a video of the virtual concert mom and I watched just the other night of the Emerson Spring Quartet, Stony Brook University’s musicians-in-residence. (Can’t help but think dad was listening too or at least would appreciate our continued dedication to classical music and the arts.)
Also this year, we got dad’s violin down to Dan in Austin, TX (courtesy of a road trip Jamie took to visit him), where it will be appreciated and played, as dad would have wanted.
Happy Spring everyone.