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Time Capsule 2021: Vishal Katariya

When more depressed than usual, I sometimes find myself sowing seeds on

a whim. I think it's a useful and important thing to do----when it feels

like things are hopeless and there's nothing to look forward to, the act

of sowing a seed is a way of injecting optimism. It gives you a reason

to get out of bed each morning--seeing the first signs of germinating

seeds always makes me sing gleefully to myself.


The happiest I've felt all year is when I witnessed this monarch

butterfly being born in my garden. I'd planted milkweed for the

caterpillars to snack on, and kept close track of them as they formed

their chrysalises. This picture was taken minutes before the butterfly

was ready to emerge, with the flash on. The chrysalis is transparent and

you can see the gorgeous markings of the wings. The butterfly itself

emerged fully formed, but it had to "inflate" and then sun-dry itself

before it could take off. I hope you're having a good life wherever you

are, buddy.


When I started gardening, I only grew vegetables as I thought that only

they were "useful". This year, though, I planted a lot of flowers too

and I'm glad for that. It's been a real pleasure to see them grow, bloom

and provide a burst of color and joy. I started making bouquets to give

to my friends and to myself too. I picked these zinnias to make myself a

large birthday bouquet.


The only thing better than bringing a bouquet of flowers home is to

leave them for the cute little critters of the world to find. It's oddly

satisfying that seeing butterflies hang out in the garden makes me feel

less lonely in the world.


Edward Lear loved limericks, struggled with depression throughout his

life, and painted marvelous things. He quickly became someone I both

admired and related with.

I read a biography of him which had color inserts of some of his art. My

favorite painting was of the eagle owl---majestic, life-like and

slightly humorous or whimsical.

Lo and behold, I found a print of the same painting at a thrift store

later that day. I finally put the poster up this year, and it's

marvelous. The facts that it's by Lear, that I love it, and that it came

to me by a series of affirming coincidences all make it dear to me.


I took this picture as I was walking to the farmers market early on a

Saturday morning. There's nothing special about it, except that it made

me think that the whole sky was curdling up into ricotta. It also

inspired me to make tofu that evening.


Angel is a cat who lives where I do. She's not one for cozy contact, but

we do appreciate each other's presence sometimes (or at least I like to

believe so). She's also taught me a lot about life, being content, the

meaning of consent, and how to say no. She's very pretty and naturally I

take lots of pictures of her. Here she's relaxing in the treehouse-like

structure that she uses as a vantage point and looking regal while at

it. It's possibly my favorite picture of her ever.


I'm really not sure how it happened, but I've become the kind of person

who never has empty glass jars anymore because there's always something

fermenting in all of them. I live by myself, and sometimes I feel like

I'm in good company since my kitchen counter is home to numerous

colonies of enterprising microbes. As they say, this is one way to

become a man of culture.


All my hobbies seem to have a honeymoon period lasting for about six

months, after which I either assimilate them into my life or let them

drop away. I started baking bread a few years ago, and now I don't

experiment anymore. I just bake it every weekend. Sometimes I bake

multiple loaves, one for me and the rest for friends. There was a time

in the early pandemic when the most reliable way to keep track of time

was to mark it by the succession of 25-pound bags of wheat I buy for



This year, I discovered that I like taking pictures of myself, which

later led to trying out new quirky things. I picked this Ancho pepper

from my garden and tried to do a low-effort recreation of Magritte's

painting *The Son of Man*.

Vishal Katariya just finished a PhD in quantum information theory from Louisiana State University. He enjoys science, books, tea, music, cooking, gardening, fermenting things, baking bread and learning new things. He also runs an exceptional newsletter Kat's Kable, where he sends ten great things to your inbox every weekend.


Time Capsule 2021 is a series where I invite artists, poets, photographers and people who have inspired me through the year to give our readers a glimpse of their year that was.


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