Red Pine Cones

We had driven in from Delhi on 17th March 2020 for a week to check in on our apple orchard plantation not far from Shimla when it happened – the lockdown! Though for me personally, it was the biggest un-lockdown in more ways than one. In the last 34 years after marriage, I had made numerous “quick” trips to the orchard, squeezed between cramped agendas. It was the same always – the beautiful country roads in the loving embrace of the hills, the symphony of sparkling streams and singing birds, the ever-generous bounty of trees, and the warmth of a welcoming home. And yet, this time around nothing was the same.

As I drew the curtains of my room on a spring April morning, I stood mesmerised by the sight of the white apple blossoms with their pink blush canopies amidst the snow-kissed crowns of the majestic Himalayas. My cup of masala tea in hand, I walked over to the swing and sat down, idly looking at what was printed onto the mug. It said ‘BREATHE’ and I caught myself actually breathing – long and deep. And I liked it. Suddenly, I had a flashback of my daughter telling me on a holiday once, “Mom, you do not know the spelling of relaxation?” Didn’t I?

Life, as I had made it, had been a ‘To-do’ list so far, where all the boxes needed to be ticked. Here, I was in paradise where despite the lockdown, nature had unlocked all of its magnificence for me, and yet I was struggling to spell relaxation. My default setting was holding me captive and I knew if I did not change the wallpaper, it might be too late.

The epiphany came a few days later as I was walking in the forest with the conifers towering above me in a constant tete a tete with the heavens. A tiny voice on the ground said, “Pick me up” and as I did, a flood of memories engulfed me. I remembered my childhood holidays in Kashmir where we spent hours collecting and smuggling pine cones into our bags. My reverie was interrupted by a sudden drizzle, so I hurriedly wrapped some in my muffler and rushed home with a childlike gleam in my eyes. I felt like I’d won a game of Treasure Hunt and got the prize of my dreams. I dipped my pine cones in fresh red paint as a thank you for reminding me of the things that I had long forgotten. 

Everyone I knew was learning something new during this time. What I learnt was to un-learn. I un-learnt to-do lists, perfection, certainty, black and white, guilt, pleasing others, masking my feelings, pretense, being hard on myself, validation, and ‘getting there.’ 

Then came the other un-learnings. Un-doing of habits that no longer served me; un-tying the ribbons that stunted my growth; un-earthing of truths that were awaiting excavation; un-covering my forgotten stories; un-raveling the mysteries within; un-masking relationships for what they truly are; un-packing of excess baggage; un-locking the rusted locks and finally un-leashing and un-veiling a new me. 

How apt that pine cones are said to signify enlightenment and rebirth, because that’s exactly what they did for me, they made me shift from “doing” to just “being.” 

Red Pine Cones
Sonia Mehta
Sonia Mehta

Sonia, a lawyer, driven by her passion to help people unleash their potential, followed her heart and became a Leadership Coach and Facilitator. After 34 years of serving hundreds of clients globally, today she is her own brand www.soniathecoach.com A woman who wears many hats and each with equal elan – she sings; writes poetry; has acted in a German film, done web series and several plays. An ardent coffee drinker and avid traveller, she’s based in Gurgaon.

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64 thoughts on “Red Pine Cones”

  1. Absolutely awesome. All of us are experiencing this unlearning and subsequent rejuvenation. Loved it Sonia.

  2. Beautifully written article…..there truely is magic in the simplicity of life and being, but we so easily forget it along our journey of life. To be able to reset our buttons takes a lot of in-depth awareness and grit. Kudos to you my dear friend!

    1. Simi you redefine grit and inspire me in ways you cannot fathom. I am rediscovering myself in a simple and authentic way. Thank you for your gracious words.

  3. Sonia this lockdown has made many rediscover themselves and life . Your have been fortunate to experience all this .To be with nature is a blessing and no better teacher .
    Enjoyed the pine cones mention ,as children I too remember collecting them ,did not know they are associated with enlightenment and rebirth .

    Great read .. yes we all need to unlock our minds and heart .

    1. Thank you Divvya for resonating with my thoughts. I draw inspiration from true Nature lovers like you. I am just about starting my rendezvous with Nature.

  4. Totally in sync. Meaningful as always. Decompress time and time spent doing “nothing” is such a precious ingredient in the “time management matrix” of life. Moving on from the two dimensions of urgent/important and the third dimension of “significance” (heard a fab TedX on this, not my brain wave, but we all instinctively know) is where this write of yours fit snugly. You found “significance loaded” stuff to “do”. Happy collecting! 🙂

    1. Thank you Aditya. You being the ultimate Nature lover can appreciate it’s magnificence and offerings. I believe sometimes it is in “our complete emptiness that we discover our whole fullness.” Thank you for sharing.

  5. Very well written Sonia, made me stop to think, ‘what am i doing?’ Really need to unlearn some old stuff so that i can absorb the new, take care

    1. It is a time to press the “Pause” button and reflect. We all struggle to un-learn and somehow we need to “weed out some weeds” for fresh plants to bloom. Thank you for sharing Ranjit.

  6. What a lovely way to ‘remind’ us that we already are enough. Thanks Sonia for this beautiful story of self discovery!

  7. Sonia, a well written and touching article. Nature has its own ways of teaching us. This lockdown has made all of us experience new challenges, new feelings and most importantly to be with ones own self. “ME time” got much needed attention. People realised that each one had amassed plenty and now was the time to feel grateful and thankful to the Almighty. Unlearning and relaxation in true sense was experienced.

    1. Beautifully captured Rajneesh. What a wonderful reminder to count our blessings. Thank you Rajneesh.

  8. Nature is the best therapy, even if you don’t need it, being in its company always is enlightening and rewarding. And everything in life happens for a reason, including the lock down. It’s here to teach us to recharge, revisit, rekindle and recreate our own hidden passions and facets. Such a beautifully expressed article on your reconnection with your childhood and nature, something that was engulfed with the city life pressures. Wasting time, is not always a waste of time. There is always a lesson to learn and to be grateful for.

    1. Each word of yours soaked in truth and beauty Priya. Nature indeed is like a mother’s lap. Nothing else can be more soothing and relaxing. Thank you for sharing.

  9. Dearest Sonia,
    The colour red always reminds me of you. The picture of red pine cones was so beautiful that I had to open and read what was written. Yes these times have made us all pause and look at ourselves and our lives with fresh eyes and like you I have experienced a lot of un-doing and un-veiling … May your red pine cones always remind you and us of our rebirth and to breathe. May you keep peeling your layers till you get to the bud of possibilities. God bless.

    1. Thank you Natasha for your best wishes. Am so happy for you that you too are experiencing un-veiling and un-doing. It’s so liberating. Yes ofcourse you know my pine cones had to be RED! Thank you for your deep insights.

  10. For me, the take away from your eloquently written life experience is the necessity of mastering the art of “unlearning”. If learning is hard enough, unlearning is no walk in the park. As you get on in age, the burden of carrying on in your mind, body and soul, the fixed notions of how a life is to be led, motivated more or less by how others will percieve you as an individual, need to be unlearned. Achieve that and the acorns strewn in the grass, are yours for the picking. Ricky.

    1. Wow! Talk of eloquence and relevance dipped in profundity. Absolutely Ricky Uncle. Unlearning is not easy and yet if we can let go of what no longer serves us or grows us can be so liberating. Meanwhile I will keep collecting the pine cones and acorns and continue unpacking. Thank you for sharing your valuable thoughts.

  11. Enjoyed your choice of words flow of thoughts,progression of values and the discovery of BEING like Nandi waiting patiently for Shivji.
    2020 represents Reset, rethink, re invent and re discover.
    You’ve done exactly that.
    Wishing you many such breakthroughs and gratitude for sharing , so we learn from each other.

    1. Thank you so much Vatsala for taking the time to provide such meaningful and apt examples and analogies that I so resonate with. Yes we learn from each other as I just did from you.

  12. Hi Sonu
    What a multitalented personality you have ..
    The experience so beautifully described in your writing, loved and enjoyed reading. Stay blessed. Love you . 💕
    Mama

    1. As always you are too generous and gracious Mama. Simple thoughts, simply expressed by me. Yes this period has been transformational for me because of my ‘un-learning’ so much that needed to be unpacked. No point carrying excess baggage. It can prove too costly. Thank you Mama. Loads of love.

  13. Truly an enlightening article Sonia, expressed in your charismatic style. Could visualize every scene you spoke about. Yes, its not always about becoming and learning, its important to un-become and un-learn to embrace and absorb all the goodness around us. Brilliant, loved it. Thanks so much for sharing.

    1. Thank you Shilpa. I draw inspiration from you to find beauty and happiness around me. Nature ofcourse offers it’s bounty and makes us reflect on what we need to become and un-become. Thank you for your appreciation and inspiration.

  14. Sonia, beautifully articulated your unlearning. You almost expressed some of my thoughts. My unlearning had started in Aug. last year and then Covid just fecilitated it. For the first time I started saying ‘No’ to offers that took away my time from what I value most as of now . Nature at home has been another friend who talks to me. For each one of us it has been a great learning time and a time of making deepest connections with our own core.

    1. So artistically expressed Bua. What I love most in your comment is the power in the last statement, “time for making deepest connections with our own core.” Yes, that is it! Without this authentic connection can we really build any other meaningful connection? Thank you so much Bua. Loads of love.

  15. What a thought provoking article so deep in meaning as if a reflection of all of us going thru the same rut of life in turn loosing on on the meaning of real life itself 🙏needed to re read it again to ponder on and hopefully make a change before it’s too late as they say Opportunity doesn’t keep on knocking at our door ❤️ Aparna

    1. Thank you Aparna for finding it thought provoking. Yes, we need to define the meaning and purpose of our lives. Time for us to reflect and make the right choices. Thank you.

  16. Beautifully written Sonia
    Lockdown has indeed given each one
    time to go slow and reconnect with our true self

    1. Thank you Deepa. Yes in many ways this Pandemic and Lockdown is proving to be a wake up call for us in many ways.

  17. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Sonia. I’m glad to read that you found a silver lining in the dark cloud of lockdown. And especially glad to read how at peace you are. I will never be able to ignore a pine cone in the future! Love

    1. The signs and signals were always there and ironically it took a Pandemic and Lockdown for me to truly unlearn and un-become what was no longer serving my life purpose. Thank you for sharing your thoughts Kapil. And yes remember pine cones always.

  18. Lockdown has completely changed the way we have started living & thinking. We were so attached to our way of working that it was difficult to pause & give a thought how we can live & behave differently. We have seen so much change in nature. It has become more pleasing. It gave us ample time to do things that we always wanted to do. Its a great learing of youe expirence.

    1. Thank you Vijay. Indeed this Pause button was much needed in order for us to appreciate all that we took for granted. Perhaps we are on the road to becoming better versions of ourselves. Thanks again for your wonderful share.

  19. Truly inspirational jiji .. I believe nature is the best teacher .. it’s purity makes one reflect on one’s inner self .. but one forgets to implement it in daily life … need to get back .. beautifully put jiji .. thanks!

    1. Thank you Ekta for the beautiful reminder that Nature is the best Teacher. It is there to give all it’s bounty and yet we fail to appreciate it enough. Yes many lessons learnt and hoping this time we will truly live them.

      1. Enjoyed reading the article Sonia so many of us have gone thru the unlearning process… you put it beautifully into words! And thanks for reminders of Kashmir n for me utter kashi..

  20. So well written! The one good thing from the pandemic has been to make us stop and smell the roses (or pine cones indeed)

    1. Aah for me truly the smell of pine cones takes me back to Kashmir and my grandparents home there. This Pandemic indeed with all its ugliness definitely has made us pause to see beauty and appreciate the “real ” stuff. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Dhruv.

  21. Well written Masi.
    I feel like going for a holiday now. Some soul searching needed.
    Lots of love
    Arush !

    1. Thank you Arush. Your mother knows my motto Carpe Diem. So take that holiday and do your soul searching with your beautiful soul mate. God bless.

  22. Nature has a strange way to make you look inwards and one does … you find the bountiful beauty in life ! So glad to hear your experience, I can actually picturise you picking the pine cones .
    The current world situation holds us in a place of transition.waiting … not knowing how to respond.. you have found it . You are blessed !

  23. Beautiful Sonia. You write so well. Unleash the creativity to discover what lies deep within is a beautiful process you have described! Love it 😍

    1. Thank you Akash. These are times we are gaining fresh perspectives and we can all do with some motivation from each other. Loads of love.

  24. Beautifully written Sonia, evokes many memories and thoughts, what we were ,what we’ve become , what are we doing and where are we going ??

    1. Thank you Lalit. Somehow the “Pause” Button has made us introspect as you rightly pointed out. Perhaps our life purpose may become clearer. Thank you for sharing your valuable thoughts.

  25. A beautiful piece , Sonia. So well written. How wonderful that this period of time brought so many positive realizations. Looking forward to your next piece of writing.

  26. Loved this piece for it’s simplicity, yet its complex and deepfelt message. Unlearning as I’m learning is more difficult than learning. To let go of habits, lifestyle, people and things that no longer serve us or the greater good is so important for everyone. And as you’ve described, nature is the best teacher, bringing us back to “being” as we experience it.

  27. During everyone’s lifetime, there are pine cones reminces to be picked up and an opportune time comes to do the same, unfortunately ignored by most due to their mundane and regulated scheduled life. Sonia, with your writings a lot of minds and eyes would be opened to pause and think and grab the opportunity to pick up the loose threads. Meaningfully written as expected from you always

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