Regardless who the world now believes him to be – In my personal experience, Derick was once a beautiful person who greatly inspired me. Believing that person is still in there, I think there are much more graceful ways to interpret his words. Realizing none of us can really imagine what his experience was as he posted that statement – what happens if we choose a more compassionate lens? What if we allow for his own shock and uncertainty in that moment – how might we read his words then?
That's a pretty big question for a gal with a decidedly big epithet.
ZIP•PO•RAH – three, whole syllables forming a combination of sounds not often strung together.
Add my first to middle and last, and you get the bounciest pattern that might've been penned by Dr. Seuss himself. I joke that my parents wanted your mouth to make every shape when you say it – I imagine one of those 'follow along' bouncing balls dancing over the letters – a little visual indicator of its rhythmic character.
That's just the sound of it, never-mind the meaning and origin. It's a lot of name to live up to – a lot of information to repeat – each and every time I meet someone new.
As a child, and well into my teens, I was known simply as ZIP. Kids had a field day with it – how could you not? In classrooms full of names they'd all heard a dozen times before, mine was ripe for the pickin'. Weary of the teasing, at age 11, I tried on a different 'self', using my middle name instead. I thought it'd be safer, somehow, but it didn't last more than a year as I discovered that kids were just as creative with that one. So – ZIP LOMAX it was – for another few years, at least.
At about 16, I began to understand and appreciate the gift of my name's individuality. At that age, as I grappled with youthful self-discovery, claiming my uniqueness felt important – and brave.
ZIPPORAH sounded so mature. It felt significant and intriguing and full of promise – as though it belonged on a marquee – while ZIP had a strange finality. It sounded diminutive and flat and oddly empty – zip, zilch, zero. For a kid with her whole, unimaginable life ahead of her, the latter seemed an ill-choice of moniker, so I began insisting people call me by my full name.
Somehow, I imagined 'growing up' would mean becoming a woman whose countenance and persona embodied the mystique of my given name – someone befitting such a unique mouthful of letters. I believed I had to 'grow into' it – to make myself so big in my accomplishments that I would feel worthy of the weight of it – that I had to be truly extraordinary to rightfully dress myself in the charming sound of it.
Such a grandiose, adolescent idea, that – such an impossible standard to live up to. Not to say that I've failed, by any means, only that I recognize how hard I've been on myself – how unfairly I've admonished myself for not quite living up to my own inflated sense of who I might've become.
The truth is – no one calls me ZIPPORAH. No matter how many times I introduce myself, people always seem to shorten it anyway. Ignoring that obvious fact, I've continued presenting myself as that person, hoping fake-it-til-you-make-it would find me eventually believing I was her. I've been traipsing around with this over-sized name, expecting myself to embody its remarkable fullness, wondering why I'm always tripping over myself, instead.
Now – 5 days shy of 41, I finally get it – 'growing up' means letting go of all those outdated notions of who I'm supposed to be – softening into who I am – relaxing into what IS by daring to acknowledge that my most youthful, light-hearted self is, in fact, my most authentic.
All those years ago, when I was ZIP, the only one who called me ZIPPY was my big brother, Zed. It was an endearing exchange between us. We were the two z's – zippy and zeddy – or, zippyzoo and zeddyzoo, respectively. I'm not sure when everyone else began to call me that, too. I only know that, at some point, that sound became the one most commonly associated with me.
It took me a while to see it, as often happens when you set your sights too high – you miss the thing that is right under your nose. I'm quite amused by my lengthy oversight – it's been there the whole time, cozily nestled halfway between ZIP and ZIPPORAH – just waiting for me to stop looking so far afield – knowing I'd eventually remember who I am.
ZIPPY – sounds so whimsically alive – so playful and light – so alert and present.
Feels appropriate and effortless...an absolute perfect fit.
Not so unlike Goldilocks and her third-time-charms – after a few ill-fitting tries – I've finally found my 'just right'.
postscript – I didn't intend to write such a revealing, personal essay – only to give a brief overview of why I've made the switch from zipporahlomax.com to the new, much more fitting zippylomax.com. Such is the way with writing – it often simply spills out, surprising me with its cadence and content. I suppose I had need of expressing these things. In fact, it is through the writing of these words that I truly came to understand my own journey with the subject matter.
Thank you for reading.
Hello, friends... It's been a while since I updated this space. My life, it seems, is one continuous thread of busy.ness...a complex weave between my various offerings. My typical reasons for such preoccupation have shifted, however. I've been removing things from my roster in favor of focusing almost entirely on this new project. For the past few weeks, since the official agreement with Burning Man landed in my inbox, my life has been completely consumed by the process of creating a crowd-funding campaign.
Now, after many months of quiet negotiations, behind the scenes planning and a solid month of Kickstarter prep, I am ready to share it with the world.
Yep. For those of you who've been bugging my about it for years...I am finally making a book of photos.
Set to publish in Winter of 2016, Dusty PlayGround will feature candid portraits of the children of Burning Man, as well as their families, giving voice to a softer side of this now infamous event.
I'm pretty excited! This is one of the most significant projects I've yet undertaken in my photographic career. It feels big and awesome...and more than a little bit terrifying, as all the best things in life usually are...
Please check out my Campaign Page and support in any way you are able. Sharing with your networks helps tremendously!
With Profound Gratitude... xo~Zippy~
It is perhaps a lesser known fact that I am a singer/songwriter. People recognize me as the one with the camera rather than the one with the voice. The truth is that music was and will always be my first love...specifically, music that comes from my own body...the sound of ME.
I'm fairly certain I was singing before I could talk...climbing trees and jungle gyms and letting my little girl stories spill out. It was my solace...a thing that was always accessible and, as the 5th of 6 children, also something that was uniquely my own. This piece of me was mine alone...not a hand-me-down (as sweet as those things were!) I suspect my siblings grew weary of my voice...and I know I exercised my tiny lungs in ways that were not so beautiful...but this lifelong relationship with my vocal chords has produced a voice that is relaxed, comfortable and familiar with itself.
It has picked up so many textures along the way...through classical training and the dynamic projection of performing arts and drama in my early teens...to several amateur band attempts in my late teens...to picking up guitar at 20 and fumbling my way through countless, nerve-wracking open mics while studying with renowned vocal coach, Raz Kennedy through my early 20s...this substantial piece of myself was a central focus for most of my life.
Then, caught up in life's unexpected turns, my voice fell silent for many years. I recall painfully realizing that most of those whom I then called close friends didn't even know that I had a voice, much less that I had once written songs...albeit overly profound and so very green.
I can't explain the why nor even really understand how it could be so, but nearly 9 years passed without a song coming through me. I quietly played other people's compositions, mostly just for myself, hidden away behind closed doors. That was my lifeline...and, I believe, in some very real ways, kept my spirit alive through the darkest part of my life thus far.
I began writing again just after Burning Man 2008, in response to the gentle coaxing of several dusty friends. Amazingly, I discovered that, all those years of relative silence had changed my voice for the better...as though it had been marinating, quietly gathering its strength, preparing to emerge again with a previously unknown vibrancy...more alive than ever...rich with authentic, human experience.
During my year in India and Nepal, the songs continued to spill forth, growing ever more light-hearted and lullaby-ish, picking up color and subtleties of movement learned through the study of classical Hindustani music.
Since my return in late 2010, only a handful of songs have birthed themselves through me and only a few of those remember themselves! I cannot simply decide to write a song...I can only show up, get out of the way and let them reveal themselves through the filter of my personal experience. They come on their own terms and, I am discovering, truly have their own personalities. I am realizing that they want to be heard, just as surely as the rest of us do.
They are not solely for me anymore, no longer simply the expression of my heart's truths, as they have been for most of my life. On the contrary, I am beginning to believe they are meant to be shared...to speak to those parts of others in empathetic ways that make them feel less alone. I have been selfish with them...releasing rough bits into the ethers at turns...playing hushed lullaby sessions for a trusted few....but hoarding them, really...keeping them safely hidden just beneath the surface...like tiny treasures I feared losing.
I have lent my voice as an instrument in support of other's beautiful music (Noelle Hampton, Ayla Nereo & Wildlight) and have occasionally collaborated with electronic producers (ill-esha: 'Wanderlust'), but generally, the music in me has remained a bit of a not-so-closely-guarded secret. Even those who have heard me sing harmonies don't always know that I write my own songs.
I think I'm ready for that to change.
Of late, I am feeling compelled to bring my music into clearer focus. I have this subtle feeling that it's time...my photography has held center stage for long enough now. Though it feels a little scary...my heart fluttering ever so slightly in its vulnerability...the time has come for me to share this significant part of myself more generously.
To that end, I made a (not so) small commitment to myself last night...to share my songs whenever the opportunity presents itself...to trust that, if I am feeing inspired or invited, it must mean there is someone nearby who has need of the sentiments these lullabies give voice to.
And that is what I believe my songs are...
...lullabies for waking...
Here then, humbly offered, is my newest 'baby'...recorded by me in my sweet basement room in Portland:
In gratitude, Zipporah
It's 6am…and, as every morning here in Ubud, I am wide awake in my open-air room, listening to the orchestral masterpiece that surrounds me. The soundscape is complex…the gentle whir of a ceiling fan layered with falling rain and chattering roosters…chirping crickets and buzzing cicadas…gentle mutterings of birds and frogs and geckos…distant, beautiful chanting and gamelan mingled with the hum of far off motorbikes. And, for the last few days, a new sound…far less pleasing, like an insistent drumbeat…or…water, dripping from a desperately leaky faucet onto the bottom of a plastic bowl…starting slowly, then rapidly increasing to a paradiddle that lasts a while before slowing again to silence. This sound needled its way into my perception a couple days ago…making itself more and more apparent as the hours passed. As I sat, sketching on our back patio, my mind reached to place the sound. Amidst all others, whose sources I could easily identify, this one eluded me. At first, I thought it might be the metered swing of hammers against wood, but the beat was too sustained for that to be true. Then, I assumed it must be water, dripping off the roof of the house nearest ours, onto…what was that…a tin pot? But dripping water would never fall in such erratic, unpredictable patterns. Finding no explanation that made any sense, I ventured towards the sound, quickly finding the culprit.
Instigated by wind, driven by a propeller that, once spinning, triggers a little paddle that beats against a rusted tin can, these contraptions are used in rice fields during harvest to frighten off birds. I discovered two of them, catching wind from different directions, each at a slightly different pitch, subtly dissonant with one another...just enough to unsettle the nerves. They are bound to the end of bamboo poles and fastened to nearby trees right above a neighboring guest-house…a reactionary 'offering' installed by the disgruntled father of a local girl who was denied employment by them.
I am fascinated by the truth of this scenario. As annoying as it may be when it wakes me at all hours of the night driven by the whimsical wind, I can't help but admit that the logic behind it is rather clever and even a bit hilarious! The point was to so irritate the guests that they'd pack up and set out to find alternative accommodations. Unfortunately, the disturbance has reached beyond its intended aim, but…none-the-less, it worked. Every room is now unoccupied.
What I find most intriguing is the fact that these devices were set in place and LEFT there. Those working at the guesthouse in question were incredibly apologetic when I went to investigate, but they made no motion to remove the nuisance. Everyone, it seems, is waiting for someone with more respected authority to take care of it. As was explained to me by their staff (non-locals), it becomes a question of respect between villages…no one wants to upset the locals.
And so…the sound continues. And I…do my best to find some meaning in it so that its presence in my perception does not drive me absolutely insane. I exercise my ability to transform it...into a metronome, measuring some haphazard swing of an offset pendulum. I defer to my Vipassana training...practicing equanimity…allowing the sound to simply 'be'…to 'just observe' without reacting to it. And…I try to receive the sound as a gift…reminding me to be grateful for my capacity to hear it…for the fact that I am HERE…NOW…experiencing the beautiful strangeness of this.
Slowly…slowly…I am learning to accept it as simply another voice in the chorus, weaving itself between those sweeter sounds it accompanies, offering value contrast, making this Bali canvas that much more vibrant and rich.
Who knows…perhaps I'll even grow to enjoy the odd time it keeps. Perhaps you'll find me dancing across our kitchen, pulled by its awkward rhythm, finding grace in its temperamental beat...
Sippin' freshly brewed ginger-lemon tea...my mama's magic elixir that kept my siblings and I healthy as wee ones and beyond. *YUM* (thank you, mum!) The taste sets the perfect tone for retrospective contemplation as I look back over the last year...as I measure my internal and external evolution...as I observe my own growth with a newfound sense of awe and genuine wonder. I have arrived in a place I never thought I'd know...a place where days pass fluidly...though incredibly full and busier than ever, there is an effortlessness now to their passage...something gentle and unforced woven through...a graceful center in this whirlwind of surreality my life has become.
The last year feels so full and magical that I simply haven't been able to wrap it in words, nor have I really had time! Suffice it to say that...I truly feel that I am finally walking the path I was meant to traverse this lifetime...with strength, rather than fragility...each step firmly planted...less and less tentative as I settle into a place of deep trust...as I honor the fears of my past for the lessons they offered and bravely set them aside. This life...feels like a dream...far more enchanting and beautiful than anything I ever could've imagined it might someday be. Are there challenges still? Absolutely...but the way I now face and embrace them has evolved into something far more grounded and wise than past selves have been capable of.
I have so much gratitude simply for what is...with a recognition of my own will and awareness of my choice to be here, in this place of strength, now.
So...how did I get here?
As succinctly as possible, I'll recount my soul's journey...
In late February, I flew to Costa Rica to perform with my dear friend, Elysha, at a sweet festival called Envision. My purpose for joining her was to sing on a collaborative track we'd created the previous December (for inclusion on a compilation called Spirit of La Selva)...but, once there, I simply could not put my camera down. I was so inspired, not only by the festival itself, but I found myself enamored with colors...taken by faces and expressions in a way I hadn't been for quite some time. As I meandered through the festival grounds, a strong, nameless, intuitive impulse began to unearth itself within me. I made a silent decision to follow it...not knowing, really, what it meant...only that it had something to do with why I'm here on this planet. And that, clearly...had something to do with my camera.
So...I sharpened my focus...blurring out all would be distractions...giving my own life the kind of clarity so prevalent in my photos...with a singularly crisp focal point that stands out against its surroundings...softly graceful. I made my work my lover then...offering all of the attention I've so often misdirected towards men to my work instead. I set my sights clearly...and, with the help of my awesome friends, Geneva and Brendan (one of the organizers of Envision)...I earned a spot as a house photographer for Symbiosis 2012.
The summer that followed became a blur of festivals...of setting up and disassembling tents...miles and miles and miles of driving...meeting and falling in love with whole tribes of people who collectively create this beautiful culture of transformative, temporary communities. And, while my place among them was immediately established as that of welcome witness and archivist, the form of my witnessing naturally shifted from photography to videography when I joined an amazing team of documentarians in July. I entered their ranks first to offer my gift of isolating moments...not knowing how quickly and easily I would transition into a new way of seeing and relating to light.
The documentary, called The Bloom, explores the unfolding culture of transformational festivals that is blossoming all over the world, with a strong foothold in the Pacific Northwest. Here is a preview of what's to come:
Stepping into that role felt fated, somehow...and, in line with my earlier intuition. Traveling with them...creating a little family of sorts...learning from and guiding one another...we have, each of us, so committed ourselves to our task over these last 5 months that I've honestly had little time for anything else! And yet...my inclusion in this ongoing project has opened so many other doors for me.
In August, I had the honor of attending an intimate festival in Oregon called Beloved to both shoot stills for the festival itself, as well as film for The Bloom. It was there that I first truly stepped into this new way of seeing...conversing...dancing...with light. I felt so seen myself...so recognized for the gifts I carry...so supported ...bolstered from what felt like every side...so much so that I began to believe in myself a little more. I was so moved by this festival, so enamored with the community I'd found there, that I decided it was time to move to Portland.
I live in a home full of amazingly creative souls, all of whom nourish me daily. I've been here now since mid-September and I absolutely love it, despite the grey skies and rain! I'd have been perfectly content to remain all winter, but I've had adventures that pulled me from this place. In November, I flew to Costa Rica to spend a couple beautiful weeks filming two of my gorgeous friends, Blakely and Sofiah, doing what they do so deliciously.
Somehow, since my return from Dominical (just in time to surprise my beautiful family for Thanksgiving) I also managed to film and edit a kickstarter for a local artist named Jonathan Brinkley with the invaluable assistance of an awesome, budding photographer/videographer named Ryan (THANK YOU!!)...all while helping The Bloom Squad prepare and launch our series preview!
*please consider backing this heartfelt musician who deserves all the support he can get!
To top it all off, I just finished editing shots from a NYE event here in Portland called Inspire Truth, and I'm currently working on a video for my dear friend and roommate, Flora Bowley, that follows her through the process of creating a painting, start to finish, filmed over the course of one day (what a beautiful marathon that was!) I can't wait to unveil the vibrant story we wove together that day...so eager to share the candid glimpse she's given me into her radiantly colorful, creative mind!
So...what's next? If you can believe it, things are not even close to slowing down. I depart this fair city once again in just ONE WEEK! I'm off to Bali to create yet another dance of light (which I am also incredibly excited about) with a beautiful artist named Margot, of Leom Designs. I'll remain there for a month, co-creating magic with her...annnnnd...just because I can...I will also be having some clothes made. For all of you who have coveted the jacket I designed while in India, stay tuned...it's finally happening! And, hopefully, I'll be making a few other designs as well...why not bring those ideas out of my heart and give them life? I have a couple other playful ideas that may or may not manifest while I'm there. We shall see...I am open to trying pretty much anything at this point!
From Bali, I'll head back to San Francisco for a painfully brief 6 hours before catching a redeye back to Costa Rica to shoot stills and film Envision 2013. I'm coming full circle, quite serendipitously! Then, if all goes well, I'll be staying for a bit to film another Danyasa Yoga Teacher Training in Dominical during the month of March.
Following that.....well.....wow. I've got a few ideas. One that involves flying to yet another South American country and hiding out for a while...hopefully without touching a camera for at least a month.
I am beyond grateful for the blessings of 2012. I honestly never could've predicted my life would unfold as it has...did not imagine I'd be traveling so far and wide...could not have guessed how completely video would charm me into falling so in love with it...
And so...the adventure continues. My life, is so incredibly charmed...
Seeing with heart...listening with eyes... ~zipporah~
*To see shots from all the festivals I mentioned here, please visit my Facebook Page!
This entry has literally taken me two years to finish. I had indicated in an earlier post that I was willing to share this, in its entirety, with those who expressed interest. I was surprised to hear from so many, and intended to then post it in early July of 2010. What can I say...some places in India drew me so far in that time sitting at a computer felt wasted. Once I returned to the West, my head and heart became so completely involved in (not so) simply trying to be HERE. This draft just sat quietly waiting for me to come back around to it. I can't say why it wants to be shared now...but it does. So...though it is painfully overdue...here ya go. It's really lengthy (15 days is a lot to cover and I've left nothing out!)...soooo ya may want to grab a cup of tea or a glass of wine and hunker down for a bit. Don't say I didn't warn ya...
*hint: the curious, click-happy among you may find this a more gratifying experience. ;)
In May of 2010, I set off into the Annapurna Himalayan Range with two lovely souls ...Xavi, from Spain, and Mathias, from Sweden... all three of us entering into unknown territory, learning from and challenging each other all the way...becoming friends in the most unlikely of places and unexpected ways. I love them both...
My journal saw much action as I looked back over kilometers crossed...as I marveled at each day's unfolding and watched the geology change around me...as I felt a similar shifting within. I managed to sling my camera awkwardly as I trekked, which certainly made it more challenging (but how could I NOT have it always at the ready?!) I also took a few moments here and there to sketch what I beheld and to allow the beauty around me to swirl itself into colorful mandalas. I've done my best to represent those various facets here to really give you the broadest sense of my experience.
26 May: The view that unfolds before me is so beautiful I scarcely believe it is real. The sound of the river below...winding gently...terraced hillsides...lush, vibrant green...the mountains looming quietly behind. We began our trek yesterday, though the real challenge began today as we walked from Bhulbhule to Bahundanda...only 9 km...but parts of that were difficult...steep...tough for me for myriad reasons. I know this trek will push me to my limits and beyond...on just about every level. Still...I am determined. One step at a time...one day at a time...just keep moving...in gratitude...with faith. Only day one and I am already learning so much...seeing clearly how this reflects my choices in general. How present can I be? How burdensome are the things I choose to carry? When will I be willing to put down all the heavy baggage and step lightly? Tomorrow, I begin anew...
27 May: Day 2...14 km...feeling spent and unsure. Sore feet...back complaining...sore everything, really. This is no walk in the park...no leisurely stroll along some shanti stream. No...this is strenuous hiking. We began the day with a 200 metre descent from Bahundanda to Ghermu...5 km...followed by an ascent of another 200 metres to Jagat...3 tough km...and another 4 km, another 85 metres up to Chamche, where we decided to push on to a modest guesthouse a bit further on. After another rather challenging climb of what we think was about 2 km, we arrived at this quiet, remote little place, the Thorang Peak Hotel. Cold buckets to cleanse a sweat so malodorous I'm scaring myself revived me somewhat. But I was a grumpy sourpuss when we first arrived. Dhal Bhat is on its way, after which I'll be wrapping myself in layers, curling up without a blanket and doing my best to sleep in a room with open, shutterless windows. I am so unbelievably exhausted...but tomorrow will be no less grueling. We will climb another 400 metres, approximately. We're not sure how many metres we ascended after Chamche, but it felt like quite a few. Though it hasn't been easy, it has felt like walking through some idyllic painting or meandering through scenes from Lord of The Rings. So pristine...magical...raging river and waterfalls...rice and corn fields...quaint villages and quiet, tiny people...and everywhere...EVERYWHERE...marijuana growing wild. The last push from Chamche was amazing...fields upon fields of cannabis...happy horses grazing upon it. Yes, this is difficult, but also the experience of a lifetime...and, I suspect, life changing...
28 May: Day 3, or 4, rather...if I count that first day and those less than lovely bus rides between Pokhara and Bhulbhule...3 times the haggling over prices...certainly tired us out before we'd even begun. Still...the toll on my body reminds me that it's only the 3rd day. Another 9 or 10 km, up and down...my body complaining more and more...yet, somehow, I'm falling into a sort of familiar rhythm. I'm slow, often lagging behind, but I'm making my way...observing my own process as the geology around me slowly changes...as the bamboo and fern become pine tree and shrub...as the raging river that we are hiking alongside tumbles over boulders, shaping stone as it falls...watching in awe as fog rolls over hills below us...sipping chia (the Nepali word for tea, like India's 'chai') and looking back over the terrain we've already covered...surprised that I've come this far...amazed that I will continue, trusting that my body and mind will grow accustomed to this movement between villages...over rocky steps and trickling streams...over mule dung and marijuana leaves...following in the footsteps of unknowable multitudes who've gone before me...watching the speck that is Mathias far, far ahead as he appears and disappears round bends and over hills...as Xavi pulls away and I, increasingly, fall behind, my short legs taking 2 or 3 steps for every one of their lanky strides. I don't mind...it often feels as though I'm trekking alone...keeping momentary company with the mules that come and go in both directions carrying loads far heavier than mine...stepping aside to let them pass, along with the many Nepalese who move so effortlessly along these paths wearing simple, rubber sandals...and little, strong men laden with sheets of corrugated metal and steel beams who slowly make their way to, I assume, villages further ahead. Seeing them fills my lungs, somehow...makes the burden of my pack seem less. Physically, I feel considerably strained and have considered hiring a porter. I'm stubborn, however, and want to give it another day or two. I'm getting the hang of it...doing my best to transform each step into a mantra so my walking becomes a steady meditation...'Thank You...Thank You...Thank You'...naming, from the heart, each thing I am grateful for. My lungs...feet...back...legs...neck...heart. My shoes...my shoulders ...my clothes. The Earth and stone beneath me...the air that sustains me. With each step...with every mile crossed...my exhaustion increases and so does my gratitude. All day I've found myself pondering the sweetness of Nepal, thinking over and over that it is, without question, the most beautiful place on Earth. I feel so incredibly blessed. Truly...deeply...
29 May: Day 5...16 km...810 metres up. From our lovely guesthouse in Dharapani we climbed over some of the steepest terrain yet, passing through 5 quiet villages before arriving finally, aching & thoroughly spent, in Chame, 2710 metres...or, about 8,800 feet. Somehow, though we covered more ground than previous days, I really feel like I'm getting better at this...like my body is slowly beginning to understand that it is absolutely capable...that I am far healthier than I think I am. Sure, every muscle aches....I can barely walk...but I feel like I've accomplished so much. I'm proud of us...our odd, little trio. We really are learning. And my confidence is growing stronger...my belief that I CAN do this after all. I had many moments today when I realized that I am actually enjoying this...that it's not just hours of positive self-talk to make it to the next village and, hopefully, a rejuvenating, hot shower. I simply cannot even begin to describe the beauty that I am stepping through. As we reached the top of one of our most difficult ascents yet, I looked back over the village of Danaqyu and my breath caught mid-inhale.The mountains that had previously lured me from afar with their snow-covered sweetness loomed large and crisp just behind the valley through which we'd just passed. It made the pain in my legs instantly vanish as my heart swelled nearly out of my chest. Shortly thereafter, Xavi and I stopped for chia, where we met four English trekkers with porters and...I fell instantly in love with a tiny, brown, baby cow...the most gentle creature. She kissed my nose! A bit further along, after crossing another suspension bridge and climbing yet another hill to the village of Koto, we encountered the English group again. One of them remarked that he thought Xavi and I were doing amazingly well, obviously impressed that we were carrying our own packs. It felt really good to hear that. Tired? Yes. Happy? Absolutely. *Ready for another day...
31 May: Day 7...Howling wind and the sound of hundreds of prayer flags remind me how far we've come. Yesterday we rested, choosing to spend the day rejuvenating in Chame at our comfortable guesthouse, The New Tibet. It put us a day behind, but I think we were wise to do so. Today we climbed another 600 metres, trekking 15 km in about 7 hours...with a lovely stop for breakfast at the Buddha Cafe & Bakery in Dhukur Pokkari. We're staying overnight in Upper Pisang, under the awe-inspiringly massive Annapurna II before climbing towards Ghyaru tomorrow morning. We've chosen to take the more arduous, high route to Manang as the promise of the most beautiful views of the trek lure us skyward. This morning we awoke to the most spectacular sight as the moon, bright and glowing, nearly rested atop Lamjung Himal and rapidly disappeared behind as the rising sun painted the snow beautiful, subtle shades of pink. All day, I've lost my words, so completely taken by this piece of Earth...so utterly in love with Nepal. And, though I increased my personal challenge today by unburdening Xavi and carrying my guitar myself, I feel amazing. Somehow, the mental reward of that decision far outweighs the added physical strain. There's just something indescribably gratifying about literally 'carrying my own weight'. I felt really good with it strapped to my pack. Yes...it pulled awkwardly on my shoulders and neck...but having her so close inspired me...lyrics traveling along with me...effortlessly revealing themselves as I walked. Now, as this goddess of a mountain looks down upon us, I feel closer to heaven than I've ever been. So alive...so strong and only growing stronger. This isn't just about this trek...it's about my life. I CAN do this alone, but I am so incredibly grateful that I don't have to. So...so...so very blessed.
1 June: Day 8...6th day of walking, excluding our one day of rest...by far, our most difficult day yet. From Upper Pisang we climbed a very steep 420 metres, hiking 4.5 km in 2 hours, leaving at 5:45am, our earliest departure thus far. We arrived in Ghyaru completely exhausted, physically, but feeling so accomplished and happy as we enjoyed breakfast, looking out over the most breathtaking backdrop...Annapurna II, Annapurna III, Annapurna IV, Lamjung Himal and Pisang Peak behind us. From Ghyaru, we trekked another 7 km to Ngawal, where we stopped for a much needed break. Xavi and I had stopped previously on the crest of a hill, building our own cairns of stones to join the many others. I was really struggling before that point, dragging myself forever upwards, it seemed, my pack pulling awkwardly on my neck and shoulders, causing incredible discomfort. I managed to carry my guitar as far as Ngawal, but I was beginning to break down by then...close to tears, feeling terribly over-exerted and overwhelmed as we entered the village and Xavi disappeared ahead of me, into the soft labyrinth of stone walkways. After our pit stop there, Xavi...my savior...once again strapped my guitar to his pack before we continued onward, down a steep descent...through the intense midday sun...towards Manang. At 2 pm, we finally entered the village of Braga, feeling barely human...sunburned and aching...hardly able to move another inch. Here we found Mathias, whom we'd last seen just past Ghyaru. He'd found us this lovely spot to stay for the night, himself feeling similarly spent and beyond tired. No surprise...after covering 17.5 km, with such an arduous beginning, it's a wonder we're functioning at all! After a meal that felt forced and a heavenly, hot shower, we all retired, sleeping a solid two hours. I awoke with a body that is complaining in every part, cramping and protesting with each movement. I'm walking like an elderly woman...wincing as I lift myself gingerly up and down steps! Wow...so I had a rough day. I felt a bit disappointed in myself for a while, but I realized that it's okay for me to have hard days. Of course I'll have tricky moments...I'm walking through the Himalayas carrying my own pack. I've never done anything like this and it is hard. We've already hiked 73 km and ascended 2,610 metres. I'd be superhuman if I didn't struggle at turns. Overall, I feel really good, physical exhaustion notwithstanding. My body is changing as I walk...muscles strengthening...any minute traces of fat dropping away. On some levels, I feel healthier than ever. I've had my difficulties, of course...sweating out some nasty smelling toxins and becoming a feast for hungry mosquitoes and spiders and who knows what other forms of bitey critters, resulting in no less than 30 welts all over my body. Other than these minor complaints, and, of course, my usual, back-related issues, I've been amazed by how well my body has tolerated this trek. Apparently, I'm far stronger than I've ever believed...in much better shape than I previously thought. This realization alone makes every discomfort tolerable. Still, I'm bracing myself for the crossing of the Thorung La Pass, 5416 metres. We're hoping to make a side trip to Tilicho Lake (said to be the highest lake in the world) before heading for the pass. Tomorrow, we'll have an easy day, rising when our bodies decide to rather than the ungodly predawn alarms we've awoken to every day since we began. At our leisure, we'll walk an easy 2 km to Manang where we'll remain for a day to help acclimate. Now...though it's early yet, I may just return to that semi-comfortable bed for the night. Though I'd like to draw...to play my guitar...to offer massages to my lovely companions...I have less than zero energy. We've many more kilometers to cover...many days to go...many meters yet to climb...smilingly.
3 June: Day 10...Manang...quaint village, situated beneath Annapurna III...so close I can see the drifts of snow blowing off its peak. The massive Gangapurna glacier feeds a small lake just below the village, flanked by plots of land, separated by stones...yoked cattle turning soil in a way that I'm sure looked quite the same a century ago. Peaceful place. Unfortunately, the quietude of this village does not match my inner space. We made our way here yesterday morning. And, for me, the half hour walk was not so fun as I was wearing far too many layers, simply due to laziness, and the sun at this altitude is rather unforgiving. The environment feels harsh...dry...cold in the shade but quite hot in the sun. I was in a bad space as we entered the village....pack uncomfortable and body overheating. Finding affordable rooms wasn't easy, which only made me more grumpy...and then things broke down between Xavi and I. It's difficult to understand, let alone recount and explain, but the remainder of the day was quite awful. Traveling side by side is a tricky thing...our humanity revealing itself as we grow ever more exhausted. Mathias is often far ahead of us, but Xavi and I see quite a lot of each other each day. Today, it seems obvious to me that the altitude played a considerable role in our mutual sensitivities, but such factors were difficult to see as it was happening. Neither of us drank enough water...which can't be discounted. It's easy to forget, but we have to be wiser from here on out. This trek is no joke....we're about to cross over one of the highest passes in the world. We have to take care of ourselves. And, we realized yesterday that we didn't have enough money to get us to Jomsom, the only village with an ATM. We had erroneously believed there would be one here. So, though we had wanted to make the side trip to Tilicho Lake, we simply cannot afford to. Mathias, lured by phrases like 'Highest Lake in the World' left us this morning to brave it alone. He very sweetly loaned us 3000 rupees to help ensure that we make it to Jomsom. I feel a bit sad to have lost his company, but this must be how it was meant to unfold. I was so out of sorts and tired yesterday that I was considering backtracking to Humde and flying back to Pokhara. But...today...I feel anxious to continue...restless...impatient. I want to finish this thing. Though quitting sounds so much easier, we have to see it through. So...today I'll pay some ludicrous amount to transfer a couple memory cards to DVD and Xavi and I will make a day trip to visit the glacier up close. And tomorrow, we'll continue onward and upward towards the Thorung La. I think I'm ready...
4 June: Day 11...15km...910 meters. We had an easy morning, eating breakfast before setting off...a first for us. We left Manag at 8:15am, covering the fairly difficult ascent to Gunsang in about an hour and a half. There we stopped for tea before continuing on to Yak Kharka and beyond to Letdar, where we intended to rest for the night. Unfortunately, Letdar was a 'let down' as we arrived to discover all doors locked...no where to stay. We paused for more chia and I snapped some amazing shots of charmingly dirty, sweet children, but then our only option was to keep going...another 5km...to Thorung Phedi. I was concerned that we might be ascending too fast, but Xavi and I both seem to be handling the altitude fairly well. The terrain has dramatically changed and the temperature has dropped quite uncomfortably. All day we walked beneath clouds so close I felt I could reach right up and touch them...light drizzle followed us most of the way, turning into a substantial downpour shortly after we arrived in Thorung Phedi. Here, there is little vegetation and the view from our window is truly otherworldly...like, I imagine, lunar landscapes... craggy cliffs and shale...landslides everywhere...glacial runoff becoming the river below. The silence here is thick...enchanting...magical. I'm wrapped in two, heavy blankets and layered as much as possible...3 pairs of socks, long underwear, jeans, long shirt, t-shirt, hoodie, thick fleece jacket, fleece arm warmers and hat. I'm cozy enough, but my nose is still running from the cold and my fingers are cramping a bit. Soon, I'll curl up under these lovely blankets and take a well-deserved nap. *Once again, I find myself marvelling at our accomplishments. We have come so far...and, though the first part of today was tricky for me, I fell back into my rhythm, realizing during bizarre moments that my pack felt lighter, somehow...almost weightless. So strange! And I managed to carry my guitar again...all the way...without too much difficulty. I don't have words for how good that feels...for what it is doing to my confidence...'Ram rosa' (Nepali for...'Very good') *Tomorrow, we'll set out early. We've found two people to cross over with...thankfully, as it is apparently dangerous to do so with only 2 people. Five is ideal, but I think four will be fine. We're at 4450 meters now and the pass is 5416, so the risk of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) is real. My feeling is that we'll be fine, but we have to remain aware as AMS is no laughing matter. If all goes well, we should reach Muktinath by 3pm...leaving Thorung Phedi at 5:30am. I'm hoping for better weather...but we'll cross tomorrow, regardless. Tired now...sore and achey, but in good spirits...
5 June: Day 12...16 difficult kilometers...just under 100 meters up, followed by a knee-breaking descent of 1,616 meters...bringing us to Muktinath at 1pm. Arriving here I felt incredibly strange and trying to find words to describe this day is beyond difficult...by far the hardest of our trek. The intial climb from Thorung Phedi to High Camp was really steep and rather quickly I was struggling...moving far too slow and finding it hard to breathe. Hari, the Nepali guide who was accompanying a kind brit named Andy, insisted on taking my pack...'Just for the steeps'...he said. Accepting his help was surprisingly difficult for me, but I didn't have much choice. Without my pack and guitar I bounded up that rocky path rather easily, realizing what a vastly different experience this would've been had I hired a porter! Though I'm glad that I have carried my own weight...for the most part...I was beyond grateful for the break. At High Camp I reclaimed my pack, feeling quite good and happy...relieved that my body seemed to be handling the altitude so well. On we went, continuously up, through snow and rock. I was falling behind, as usual, slowly making my way, finding it hard to breathe and being aware of the headache I was increasingly feeling. But I wasn't too concerned, suspecting my difficulties were primarily related to the heaviness and awkward fit of my pack. But about an hour and a half past High Camp, Hari came running back down and took my pack again. He didn't really ask...he just took it, obviously recognizing something from his 15 years of experience as a guide. I would've thought that no longer having the strain of my pack would make me feel light and strong...but my breathing didn't improve...nor did my pace. By this point, we were quite high up and the wind ripping over the pass was bitterly cold. I trudged on, doing my best to maintain awareness of my breath...to breathe deeply and only through my freezing, dripping nose. That last hour and a half to the top felt like days as I walked on, snow crunching underfoot, Hari following close behind repeating gently and often...'Shant, Shanti'...reminding me to breathe 'long'...or was he saying 'lung'?...encouragingly patting my back as I periodically bent over to try and pull more oxygen into what felt like a far too heavy body. I felt increasingly strange...wanting, at points, to simply lay down in the fluffy, sparkling snow. One foot in front of the other...felt like such an unbelievable chore. I began to feel a bit like I'd had a stiff drink...off balance...slightly nauseous...a touch confused. I was feeling a simple, underlaying joy...fascinated by the landscape beneath and around me. In some ways, I was simply present with each step and subsequent breath...not really aware of 'why' I was walking, nor where. These moments always bled into their precise opposite as I looked ahead to see Xavi and Andy ascending yet another false summit. My heart kept breaking a little bit. But Hari was always right there on my heels, repeating that peaceful mantra. And, somehow, I reached that elusive summit. There is simply no way I could've done so without Hari...my guardian angel. Once at the top, I again reclaimed my pack, still feeling odd but confident, suddenly emboldened by reaching that spot. What followed was hard in other ways, though one might assume the descent would be easier. The wind on that side was insane, continuously grabbing my guitar, like an awkward sail, pushing me backward and sideways. At some point, Hari unstrapped my guitar, resting it upon his shoulder like a soldier's rifle, carrying it for me a little while before he and Andy bid us adieu to make a more rapid descent than I was capable of. I didn't even begin to know how to thank Hari. It felt odd, but I gave him 200 rupees, which seemed both cheap and not enough and, somehow, to devalue what he'd done for me. But I had nothing to offer besides that small amount of cash. After we parted ways, it took us another couple hours to make our way down seemingly endless switchbacks to Charabu, where we briefly saw them again and stopped for chia before walking that last 4 km to Muktinath. *From that highest point , each meter down made a marked difference...the odd feelings up top falling away as gravity pulled me downward. I looked beyond the valley below to the peaks across...disbelieving the perfect beauty before me...pausing at frequent intervals to marvel at the silence. I thought about home...about my family...and was overcome by the strangest, strongest feeling that everything had changed, somehow. Like, the crossing I had just made was over more than just a Himalayan pass...almost as though I'd passed into some new realm...another dimension. Arriving in Muktinath, the strangeness only became more acute. I saw myself in a mirror for the first time in days and didn't recognize my own face. So bizarre. Xavi felt the same, indescribable thing. We both looked back at this morning amazed, feeling as though weeks had passed since then...both knowing something profound occurred on that mountain, though neither of us can explain it. *Laying down for a nap my entire body felt as though it was on fire. I felt feverish, but it was simply the residual effects of our day's arduous journey. I feel no less strange now. Sore everywhere ...so very exhausted...already missing the silence that embraced me up there. Muktinath is loud and busy compared to all the villages we've passed through, signifying a change in our venture. From here, the path moves consistently downward...the hardest part of our trekking is now behind us. Tomorrow, we'll walk an easy 19 km to Jomsom. After today...that's nothing....
7 June: Day 13...Tatopani...no strenuous activities...no more walking than is required to reach the hot springs. SO good for my unbelievably sore calve muscles. We arrived last night after a rather exhausting, bizarre day of travel by jeep and bus, cutting about 60km out of our walking...but stressful and tiring in its own way. We left Muktinath on foot at 7:30am, intending to walk the 19 km to Jomsom, where I had hoped to gain access to my money at the only ATM on the trek. We made it to Jarkhot in no time, but just past the village we encountered diverging paths. We asked a young Nepali Boy...'Khinga?'...gesturing in both directions. 'Khinga.', he indicated with a directional nod and we followed as he made his way down the steeper of the two options. Part of the way down, we found ourselves having difficulty proceeding. We'd lost sight of the boy and weren't sure where the correct path was, but, rather than backtracking at our first sign of confusion, we continued on...making guesses...following paths that felt all wrong until we, once again, could go no further. With no other choice, we turned around, retracing our steps back up that hill...back to the road we should've taken to begin with. This made me a bit grumpy, as our day was going to be long without silly mishaps like taking the wrong path. And rather disappointed, as I have repeatedly found that in both Nepal and India, people say 'yes' or point you in the wrong direction out of false politeness, simply not wanting to say 'no'. Trudging back up that fairly steep hill did nothing for my already sputtering energy level. As we'd set off that morning, I was already tired and feeling the ramifications of our previous day's crossing. Though I had stretched the evening before on advice from another trekker, I'd awoken with severely cramping calves and considerable pain in both knees. Still, I was determined to walk to Jomsom, so I tried to push beyond the discomfort. The rather gentle descent to Jharkot was surprisingly painful, revealing just how overworked my legs were. Yet, still I pressed on, knowing I'd soon fall back into that meditative walking rhythm where the pain becomes less prominent. However, after our unfortunate wrong turn, I wasn't feeling so keen. Every muscle seemed to be begging for relief. Xavi must have been experiencing a similar frustration as he flagged a passing jeep, without much discussion. And, just like that, our journey changed. With no protest from me, we gratefully climbed in for 400 rupees each...bouncing and bumping over the next 18km...covering a distance that would've taken at least 5 hours in about an hour and a half. As I did my best to hold on, giggling as my body bumbled and bobbed along with the jeep, I felt contemplative...reflective...aware that our biggest challenges now lay behind us...that the nature of our trek had shifted as soon as we flagged that jeep. I watched villages appear and disappear, feeling as though we were moving far too fast. I watched beautiful photos vanishing as quickly as they appeared and couldn't shake the sense that I was missing so much. But I also watched the landscape, knowing how difficult it would've been. My body, quite simply, needed a break. *Jomsom was strange...or, perhaps it was us...but we felt no inclination to stay any longer than was necessary. A disappointing visit to the only ATM in town left me empty handed (wouldn't accept my card) but a friend of Xavi's had thankfully wired him some money, so a trip to Western Union solved our financial worries for the time being. After a simple breakfast and the sorting out of money, we caught a local bus to Ghasa...30km...3 hours...no less bumpy and jarring than the jeep, driving over rocks...through rivers...on roads that barely hugged cliffsides...decorative tassels swaying and dancing along to the cheerful Nepali music...'WOW!' escaping my lips at frequent intervals as I sat at the very front filming short clips...as the bus rounded frighteningly tight bends and seemed to drive down stairways of stone cut from hillsides. Arriving in Ghasa we learned that our only option for transport to Tatopani was another jeep, which wouldn't depart until it was full...12 passengers needed. As only 3...myself, Xavi and a Russian girl named Svieta whom we'd met on the bus, our wait was substantial. But, within a couple hours the jeep was sufficiently overstuffed with humans and, at long last, off we went, jostling onwards. Not so far along, we came upon a back up of buses and jeeps, all waiting for a back-hoe that was removing, shifting, stamping down piles of earth and stone that were blocking the road. I still don't know if it was planned construction or a landslide, but we weren't moving until it was done! Eventually, the way was clear and...again...we drove on. Then, like some perfectly orchestrated universal joke, we came upon a fresh landslide just before Dana. We were the first on the scene and it occurred to me that our previous hold-up may very well have saved lives as these displaced boulders fell away from their source, bringing ample soil and big rocks down with them. Now...one might think this scenario would've upset us as we were quite tired of traveling at this point. But, contrary to feeling annoyed...I found myself fascinated by the ensuing events. Never before have I witnessed such a thing. Right away, our driver set to work, joined shortly by every subsequent driver and many able-bodied passengers. With bare hands they shoveled dirt...pooling their strength with little more than muscle and sweat and a feeble looking crowbar...rolling boulders into better positions and packing the soil over and around them...making a safely passable route over the landslide. It was truly amazing to observe! No one pulled out their mobile to call someone else to fix it...no complaining about the inconvenience of it. No...unlike Western cultures, they simply figured it out on their own. And, as our jeep drove over it empty and we all jumped back in, I felt giddy...oddly grateful for the strange gift of such an experience. We could've taken our packs and walked that last 4km, but we were simply too intrigued! We made it to Tatopani during a downpour and ran up the rain-soaked stairs to find a room with hot shower, just for the night. Now, after a lovely soak in the spring and last night's deep sleep, I'm considering strapping the pack on again to walk the final 20km or so to Nayapul, but we shall see how I feel tomorrow. My right knee is causing much discomfort...difficulty bearing weight...not really conducive to making the 2000 metre ascent to Poon Hill. Hopefully more hot spring healing will set me right again, or I'll be spending another day boarding bumpy busses and jeeps. Either way, my return to Pokhara is sure to be adventurous!
8 June: Day 14...more relaxation...feeling lazy...napping...visiting the hot springs...coloring a mandala...sipping chia. Body recovering...aches and pains slowly subsiding...but still quite tired. Planning to leave tomorrow...likely via bus. Though we'd both love to walk the remainder of the way, our uncertain finances seem to demand that we get to Pokhara sooner than later, and walking would take at least two more days...two more expensive villages...several more expensive meals. So...though it saddens me somewhat...it would seem that our trekking is over. We've finished walking. Feels...quite strange. We hiked about 115 kilometers...what an incredible accomplishment!
11 June: Back in Pokhara...processing...marveling. The trek may be over...but the learning continues. *Watching the sun bounce off ripples...showing the last of its face before slipping behind clouds. *Saying goodbye to the lake...to Pokhara...to the Annapurnas...to the myriad memories I've woven here...beside this lake...between those peaks. This place has been so transformative...amazingly difficult and unbelievably beautiful. I find it strangely hard to leave. *Tomorrow...I'm headed back to Kathmandu. It's anyone's guess where I'll go from there.
Onward and upward...in gratitude...
The days have flown...like leaves in autumn...accumulating in piles that amount to months...a year, even. The bird in me hasn't offered much in this direction as the tree in which I travel, branch to beautiful branch, has bared itself and renewed itself and weathered many a storm. Miles have unfolded beneath me...within me...before me. Hearts have grown warm, then cold...coloring my own with brilliant vibrance before casting it into shadowy greys. I've sung from the tips of the highest branches, stretching upward to kiss the clouds...and I've fallen heavy and silent near the roots, momentarily unable to feel the warmth of the sun. I've been searching...curiously seeking some place that might call to me in the familiar language of 'home'...
Now...after nine months of whimsical wandering, I've settled into a sweet new nest in San Francisco. I've got a good feeling...
I write this on the heels of yet another, incredible, gypsy migration. I realize as I type those words just how truly blessed I am to be able to live as freely as I do. But I also know that this is the only way I know how to live...following my heart implicitly, regardless of risk...in spite of fear. To be sure, the barbs of such a lifestyle can be piercing at times, but I'd not trade them for anything. Every stumble reminds me that I am alive and MOVING. I've tried living in the linear world of the mind and I became utterly lost in its stagnant predictability ...in its oppressive projection into the future. My heart knows the wisdom of NOW. I am learning to trust that...
In this moment, I feel light...strong...grounded...calm...ready for anything.
I've spent the last week in Costa Rica, lounging in hot-springs with charming locals...hiking up and into the dormant Cerro Chato volcano through luscious rainforest during a torrential downpour & cleansing myself in the refreshingly chilly, green waters of the beautiful lagoon that awaited us there.
I then found myself surrounded by so many delicious souls, soaking up the unbelievable sweetness of the Envision Festival and those who poured so much of themselves into making it happen. My heart swelled as I drifted between moments, camera in hand, feeling so wonderfully touched by every dance of light upon all those gorgeous, sun-kissed faces...by every graceful turn of each dancer's hand...by the genuine, beaming smiles that stretched themselves endlessly across the glowing faces of every performer...djs and drummers and acrobats and aerialists and clowns and everyone in-between. I silently observed the observers, honoring them as they recorded their surroundings, entertained as much by them as by those in the spotlights. And, at the invitation of my dear friend, Ill-Esha, I even held a microphone to my lips for briefly exhilarating moments, lending my voice to the musical tapestry, trading the periphery for the center before stealing back towards the edge.
Beats and melodies, birds and cicadas...I let the luminous sounds move me as I meandered from stage to stage, from the warmth of the tea-house to the whir of the smoothie blenders, sipping fresh, replenishing coconuts to offset the midday heat. I waded through swamp and jungle to reach the most idyllic beach, giggling like child at the mud's ticklish toe-squish...awestruck by the sky's soft, sandy reflection...drinking in the kiss of a setting sun so golden deep. I walked through darkness, disrupting silk-worm's weaving and delighting in fields full of fireflies, laughing easily with other 'envisionaries' as we revelled in the surreal beauty of it all.
So many friendships were born...so many effortless, heartfelt connections with such amazing beings. I felt strong there...stronger in myself than I've ever felt...firmly rooted within...passionately ignited...beyond inspired.
There, in the dusty, humid heat, I began to experience things from a new place. I...'envisioned'...a more authentic self...with a newly steady perception that allows me to see myself with a deeper level of compassion...perhaps even the first glimmers of a self-love I'd once believed impossible. I see now how imperative it is for me to fully embrace each of my gifts...to allow my creative muse to grow in every direction she chooses, even though such extensions have felt crippling in the past. Like a bird with far too many wings, I've languished too long in these branches.
And so...with a quietly cautious step forward, I'm unfolding each of those wings...testing their strength...extending each feather to catch the light...breathing brave and deep as I learn to fly gracefully, each wing supporting the others like dancer's palm lifting partner's limbs.
It's time to meet the wind.
The world is stirring...history unfolding beneath our feet, before our eyes. Inspired by the OWS movement, I started writing a song. It quickly became more of a poem...a poetic commentary...my take on the issues we face.
So...here it is...my small contribution on this day of solidarity...
everything has gone awry a great divide has grown between the hands that hoard the pie and the measly crumbs we're thrown
they enjoy their privileged lives while our homes are foreclosed their keeping us in line with all the wealth that they withhold
they profit off our ignorance expecting us to play the part of obedient indifference robots, with shopping carts
well-designed to distract and keep us misinformed the media's been hijacked by those who bank offshore
they've poisoned our sea and sky through oil-driven greed they contaminate our food supply with their modified seeds
they've stolen our autonomy and our right to choose they perpetuate inequality through narrow-minded rules
they've made health a business selling pills to those in need they benefit from illness growing rich off our disease
we know it won't be long before they try to buy our souls before our lives have been withdrawn exchanged, for fool's gold
they've kept us on our knees believing change would never come but down on wall street the revolution's just begun
we're waking from our slumber it's time to stand up strong take back what they have plundered we've held our tongues too long
we'll shout until our cause is heard the whole world 'round... they may tie our hands, but our voices cannot be bound... something's gotta give...the wall has gotta come down... ...we all deserve to live on common ground...
The muffled flapping of wings…something caged…bound and held…jailed in fearful waiting. Deep things…they simmer…rippling ever nearer the surface…threatening to break the deceptive placidity. Cold things that shiver and quake…subtle chills that aren’t eased by layers of cloth and feathers. Grim things…they skulk in the shadows…whispering of past blunders…luring me towards their perilous edge…like witch's apple and gingerbread house.
Clumsily navigating the landscape of this soul...lilting…side-winding like sloppy drunkard sway. Clutter edging closer…encroaching upon center like frost on window. Haphazard piles, like garage sale refuse, reveal the inner disarray that slowly undoes me. The questions this heart avoids lay strewn ‘round my room…collecting themselves in corners…draping themselves over chairs and doorknobs…lurking behind curtains…aligning themselves with the wrinkles in my sheets. Unspoken anxiety laughs aloud from the inside of drawers full of crumpled, half-heartedly folded clothing…from beneath the many piles of laundry that flank my laundry bin…from betwixt the boxes and bags of two-year-old discord, closed over, zipped up, ignored in a flurry of pre-travel mayhem.
What unruly imp has taken over? What irresponsible lout oversees the care of such details? At some point, I relinquished control…or lost it. Somewhere between ‘I Do’ and ‘I Don’t’ I unraveled…and, like balls of yarn left unchecked in attic boxes, the strands of me wound themselves into hopelessly tangled masses...hard enough to unwind…trickier still to REwind. The years have acted as spinsters at their looms, adding lengths to each thread that binds…they’ll not stop simply because my ability to weave has yet to match their proliferation.
This jumbled chaos of longing and resignation…calm sorrow…delicate hope ensnared upon the wreckage of yesterday’s dreams. The strands bleed into one another…weaving under and over through heaps of sentiments, becoming so knotted and tightly wrapped that recognizing differences becomes increasingly onerous. Identifying emotions overwhelms…such vague distinctions between…such subtle variance. Hope and despair tug the same lines, squeezing heart space with the same force...rendering it even more difficult to untwine.
All this tangled ‘self’ness…it must be addressed. This heart is edging ever nearer that confrontation. Yet I feel my avoidance like an unwelcome glare, staring me down from behind my computer…from inside its illusory depths…from the underside of my borrowed bed. I have these blissful moments of forgetfulness…brilliant specs of distraction that soften the impact of that piercing, accusatory stare…delicious delays that keep me from sitting with all this mental clutter and finding, once and for all, a definable point from which to begin the tricky business of untangling ‘me'...unwinding the silence...unclothing the emptiness to let it breathe in all its glaring nakedness.
What might it be that frightens me into such unhealthy paralysis? What might I find within all these tangled clusters? Something ancient is woven there…something wicked and dark and unsettling. Something older than me that rode into this life on the currents of my umbilical cord…that stowed itself away in the newly forming cells of my mother…that braided itself into the newborn hairs of my grandmother. This darkness precedes me…surely…for one life is too small to cast shadows so dense and tall. The demons that plague me still…the dreary inside that absorbs light like heat-hungry metal…the unseen cracks that betray, breaking the rungs of ladders and shattering glass…these unspeakable things pull against me with each unfolding of a thread. With each freeing of a knot, the rascals pull tighter the other end of my ropes. So determined are they, it would seem, that each minor victory is summarily surpassed by the tightening of old constraints. Cackles mock me from darkened folds…as though the gloom has won.
Yet……and yet……something lighter…some subtle twinkle, like distant sun shimmer…glows still at my core. Also ancient…piggybacking the shadows, it rode in on the same, ancestral stream. Though it may feel dim and weak, its brilliance persists at the very center of all that is…all that I am. The shadows creep in corners…encircling and bleeding in…but they will never overtake that central glimmer. Its primal light cannot be extinguished. They may threaten like thieves in blackened alleyways…they may intimidate with their constrictive squeeze and snare…but they will only ever occupy my periphery. Persistent though they may be…their victories are shallow and short-lived...their jeers only heard when I allow them to be.
Therein lies my conundrum. For…I know that the rampant, vacuous shadows can only draw me into their depths if I let them. They compromise my hard won levity, only if I permit them to do so. And that is what makes it all the more unnerving. I can no longer point fingers of blame at anyone outside these human walls…knowing, without question, that these ancient knots were tied by some part of me…that the shadows and light fill rooms in a house built by previous ‘selves’…the tenuous foundations laid through lifetimes of victories and mistakes. The hauntings I am plagued by are simply the ghosts of those former selves that cling still to their unsettled affairs…remnants of which dwell in my very bones. I may recognize them as simultaneously ‘me’ and ‘not me’, but still their lamentations echo in my voice. The dust of their disappointment still lingers on my skin.
Right then...time to bring out the broom and scissors. I've got some spring cleaning to do...
Perched – feathers stowed – silently watching. Returning to this reality......how does one even begin to describe this experience? Quite frankly, I've been so 'in it' that attempting to give voice 'to it' seemed futile. However, in this moment, I find myself drenched with words and can hardly believe its been so long since I've written. I'm like a waterlogged sparrow, having just flown through a torrential downpour – sitting upon a fence – quietly observing as I wait for these feathers to dry. As the drops roll slowly downwards, I suppose now is as good a time as any to offer my impressions.
When last I wrote I sat under fluorescent light and whirring ceiling fan – bags packed – heart steady – pre-flight.
Following a lengthy but uneventful journey home, my feet touched ground in Vancouver for the briefest of moments. I teetered, feeling alien and strange, wondering at the silence – at the wide, empty streets – at the overly manicured lawns and faces and lives and the sparkling, shiny brilliance of the city. I shot some photos for clients, both old and new, marveling at the strangeness of 'working' again, suddenly busier than I'd ever been prior to leaving for India. With the exception of a beautiful Thanksgiving meal and a few brief reunions with sorely missed friends, I didn't visit many people while in Van. Still, I made a few new connections, sharing wine and inspiration with a beautiful soul who became the link that would carry me the last 1000 miles home.
I enjoyed some much needed time alone at a close friend's house in Strathcona, receding a touch into retrospection and contemplation. I considered my heart's ventures, measuring my changed self as reflected in the eyes of the one who knows me best – the man I left behind but whom I will always love. I curiously reminisced about all those I'd come across along the way – about the men who intrigued and challenged me and the women who became fast, sisterly companions. I wrote a fateful email to a boy I still held fascination for, knowing I'd hear no reply – a Canadian boy I'd met on a roadside in Nepal – a boy that somehow managed to make it past my ruthless sentries to unwittingly claim a tiny piece of my heart in less than a day. The releasing of those truths became the catalyst for the letting go of much that my heart still clung to, forcing me to leave my trip behind and begin turning my focus forward. I briefly lamented the sending of that email, but transformed that regret into a sweetly melancholy song called 'Heartquakes', reminding myself of the inherent transience of this life.
I was truly in between worlds for those three weeks – unsure how to 'be' – uncertain of my footing – not knowing yet how to reintegrate in the smoothest way possible. The oddly 'out-of-place' feeling didn't abate upon arrival in San Francisco. In fact, I felt even more overwhelmed, but quietly so. I must admit, negotiating my re-entry has been considerably more difficult than I might've imagined. Though I'd been warned to brace myself, the subtle trickiness of my return caught me slightly off-guard.
Of course...how could it not be strange? For a year I lived a blessed existence of complete self-investment that is hard to imagine from this perspective. I spent those months exploring and nurturing every facet of my creative expression – feeling thoroughly inspired – encouraged – supported. Comparatively, this culture feels oppressive – abrasive – difficult to navigate with the same strength I felt while in India. Only adding to my challenge is the hard to believe fact that I have not lived in the Bay Area for nearly 7 years. So I've struggled a bit with this gravitational pull that feels so familiar and could so easily be surrendered to – right back into habitually negative ways of thinking – about myself – about my self-worth – about my creativity and the validity of my contributions to this world. Tricky, indeed.
My first month back in the Bay found me regenerating at my brother's house in Forest Knolls. I was necessarily buried in post-production – suddenly reminded of the part of working for myself that I find the most unsettling. But it also provided an excuse to lay low a while, allowing me the space to process a bit – to incubate and incorporate the learnings of the past year – to better understand how to re-enter this world with the least amount of sway in my step. I showed my face a few times, but spent most hours working on photos, delaying the inevitable – postponing a necessary commitment to creating a healthy space for myself here. The concept brought up anxiety that surprised me. But as I looked back, I realized that nearly two years had passed since last I had a space to really call my own – since last my bags were truly unpacked – clothes unfolded and draped on hangers – walls and shelves adorned with tid-bits of 'me'. Naturally, some part of me feared the stability. Though the better part of me longed for a door to close myself in and the world out, I felt undeniably torn.
The layers are many – too numerous to even begin examining here, but suffice it to say that, finding a room and acquiring the necessary elements with which to fill it, namely; bed, desk, chair, linens...was a disturbingly daunting task. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't tempted to run right back to India – away from all these binding details – back to the easy non-attachment of the gypsy life. But thanks to the generosity of good friends and some deeper determination to push past unfamiliar fears, I found myself in the sweetest of places – in a house in Oakland full of warmth and music and nurturing souls – in a neighborhood that has surpassed the expectations I didn't even know I had. These two weeks in my new room have afforded me the spaciousness within to share these words...
Here are some highlights from my journal for a more intimate glimpse of my return...
22 September: Overhead bins closing...seat belts buckling...babies crying...shifting...shuffling...muffled adjusting...recycled air pumping. Soon we will be airborne...my 2nd flight today after a layover in London. Nearly missed my flight this morning. Unbelievably stressful...but I made it just under the wire...the last to check in. So tired now...already feeling the strange effects of traveling backwards, so to speak, losing hours. I'll arrive on the same day I left, though I will have been traveling for nearly 24 hours. Bizarre...always tricky to relabel hours passed...to reassign them as 'relivable'...to pause and redress moments, however mundane. *Engines revving...the shake, rumble and jostle of takeoff...the whine of machinery...the audible retraction of wheels as pavement gives way to thin air. This mind observes...these ears take note...we're on our way. I....am going 'home'. [*HOME*] A word that evokes an odd mix of curiosity and comfort...confusion and clarity...certitude and uncertainty. *This body is transported...shifted between perceived spaces...but this mind is surprisingly still...looking out over ripples...soft creases where folds once were...stretching ever outwards...expanding in all directions...always and only from this spot. *Reaching altitude...heralded by that familiar 'ding'...unclicking...seats relaxing...bodies easing. Refreshments wheeling past..."Bloody Mary?" Don't mind if I do....been ages since I tasted such a thing...forgetting that, up here, it won't take much to make a still mind wobble. *Soft smile rests gently...reasonless. Old mind whispers...taunting...half-heartedly cohersing...toying...suggesting...as though ancient, worn out patterns have anything to offer me now. Moments...impressions...dull memories...they beckon, as always, but I shall not be swayed. This infinite moment...this creaseless, pristine interval between then and when...this is all there is. Contemplating the last year serves no real purpose. I can assign meaning...but, after all, however much I review and re-live...I'll only ever arrive...here...NOW. *Last name, first name, initials...block lettered declaration of identity and belonging...from whence and where do I come? Value of goods? Pause...answers unsure. Address.....have I one? Quiet decision made......'I'm just a visitor here'...... *A box demands numbers...a mind unaccustomed, too long removed from such formalities, wavers, penning incorrect lines...a numerical palindrome where 'today' should've been (011110)...showing me the ordinary, simple magic that propels my pen. *And so it goes....this steady swaying between minor, minute details and silent wisdom...the pendulum swing...brass in an ancient clock, measuring...lulling...marking moments. Somewhere...in that brief changing of direction...the middle mark...you'll find me there...on hold...neither here nor there...between 'was and 'might be'...perfectly unconcerned...ready for every subsequent 'now'. I am ALIVE....
24 September: Vancouver...squeaky clean...crisp...so very 'shiny'. Everything is sparkling...eerily perfect...orderly. And the smells...decidedly...clear. Aware, suddenly, of a subtle undertone... ...an 'iambeautifulandsuccessfulandeverythingisperfect' smell... ...a silent suggestion of affluence...the scent of a culture...quietly reassuring those who dwell within it...'all is well here'. But...is it? Somehow, recognizing this invisible thread highlights a feeling of 'not belonging'...like I'm sniffing my way home...knowing by nose...'this is not my tribe'.
26 September: ...tip-toe fine-line stepping...pulling a hush over my heart...slow watching...barely moving...touching soft. Tracing life's face...quietly questioning...'do I know you?'...fingers pausing mid-stroke...inhaling recognition. Nothing stirs...like lovers warmth gone cold...we are strangers now...
3 October: Holding...waiting...moving through gently...delicate being...tricky wobble...rippled words flooding truths...letting go...releasing all that haunts me still. Vulnerable as it goes...honestly sent...
5 October: Sweet little song dancing through my fingers with all its delicate newness...the taste of sunshine on my tongue. Spent the day alone, soaking up warmth through windows, watching the world pass with guitar in hand...happy for the relatively easy birth of a new tune. It's been too long. *Feeling good...strong....quiet. Learning to accept choices made...to trust my own reasoning and let go of 'should'nt haves' and regret. What's done is done...can't cry over spilled truth. Just own up and move on...exhale and let go. It was just another little 'heartquake'...the shudders have passed...all is quiet now...
21 October: ...shaky, heavy hand reveals hidden stress...lines unsure...pen wavering...spots, dotting my skin...little eruptions as some part of me stumbles. Only a touch...just...an ever so slight falter as my soul re-enters this 'other' way of being. Holding myself steady...pausing...doing my best to hold ground...to be aware of the backwards tug without giving in to it. Walking these familiar, well worn paths I must step gingerly, lest my soles fall comfortably into old footprints. I'm hiding out a while. I need to incubate...to settle deeper into this newer 'self' before the world can muddy me again....
25 October: A steady rumble...engines humming below...loose panels buzzing overhead...the Bay waves by, lapping the sides of the ferry...reflecting the sun in undulating sparkles...smoothing itself into softer swells as we reach deeper waters. The Golden Gate, pale and faded in the distance...softly gray with mist and atmosphere...linking the ghost-like silhouettes of North Bay and San Francisco...the ordered skyline of the city, its own soft shade of gray...each building bleeding into the next in one, continuous line...a shape these eyes know so well. Some soft flutter echos...a gentle cognizance...a piece of a word...perhaps only a fraction of a letter...small, yet there...a drop of .H.O.M.E.
1 November: ...on this day, I always pose the question...Have I evolved? Have I progressed at all on my path? On this day I wonder...I quietly review...how far have I come? What distance have I traveled between who I was and who I am? Have I changed significantly? At all? Do I know my 'self' any better? do the events of the previous year warrant celebration? On THIS day...THIS year...I smile with a resounding 'YES'. This has been, without question, my most transformative yet. I've covered miles, inside and out. I've uncovered and unfolded the person my soul has always longed for...the 'me' I was too afraid to believe in. Sure...this year was wrought with heartache...I stretched myself beyond the breaking point and explored my darkest shadows. I traced my patterns with observing fingertips, accepting the roughness I found there. I winced as the worst of me boiled at the surface, lashing out in its death throes, thoroughly scaring a few people enough that they'll likely never speak to me again. But I wouldn't trade one moment of it. Everything is perfect. I am right where I should be...perched in silent waiting...readying myself for a solid flight through what will surely be a mind-blowing 36th year...
It's taken me a moment or two, and the air around me felt dark for a spell – the tricky wobble knocking me a bit off center. But I feel I'm gaining ground – gathering strength – slowly remembering why these wings brought me back to this place. The tiny droplets of creativity that began seeping through me while away are beginning to pool themselves into deeper puddles, establishing themselves as wells from which I can drink my fill without fear of them ever running dry. As I steady myself, I'm listening to the gentle wisdom of a brotherly friend who travels a step or two ahead of me in many ways. He offers reminders, softly encouraging me to PLAY. Otherwise, the world I find myself in could so easily darken my heart.
I'm weary of darkness. I covet joy – lightness of heart – and laughter...lots of it. So – little by little – through late nights creating music with a dear friend – through moments of solitary silence in a sun-drenched room that feels increasingly cozy – through the giggles of my smallest roommate and new best friend – I am finding my place...welcoming the light.
It's good to be home. Think I'll stay a while...
A gecko fruitlessly chases a large black ant across the floor...under the chair...up the wall...back to the floor. The gecko is tireless, but the ant moves too fast, eluding the gecko with surprising agility. The fan whirls above me, confusing the persistent mosquitoes and keeping me at a comfortable temperature. Pigeons coo just outside the window, keeping time with the echos of their flapping wings. My bags are packed...each item sorted and stowed...memories folded away...alongside gifts and daydreams and faded clothes. Tucked in all those in between spaces, the smells and sounds of the subcontinent are hiding...waiting to rise up and greet me in unexpected moments.
Nearly one year ago, I sat in this very spot, under this same ceiling fan, hot and jet lagged and so very green. I had landed in India...but could not possibly have known how she would transform me. I was curious...and a bit fearful...unsure of my ability to carry myself through such a venture. But I muscled through...fumbling at turns...feeling thoroughly spent and lonely and exhausted some moments...but inextricably determined to stay the course. Strangely...it was the notion of coming home that eventually scared me the most. The decision to return wasn't easily made. For weeks I checked flights...with the cursor forever hovering over that glaring 'purchase' button...never following through.
Now...as I ready myself for my journey homeward, I know the timing couldn't be more perfect. I feel strong...finally so clear about things I've never understood about myself....so much more compassionate towards the person I truly am. I might even go so far as to say that...I like her. She's not so bad, after all. Now that I'm allowing myself to simply BE...my creativity is exploding...flowing so abundantly and effortlessly that I scarcely believe these things are coming through me. In so many ways, I feel like I've spent most of this life living at about 5% of my potential. India has bumped that percentage up a bit...more than a bit...and it continues to rise.
It's such an amazing, intoxicating feeling...waking up to the brilliance within...learning how to navigate a new, stronger dream without fear...unfolding a life that has been so long waiting to be opened up and LIVED...to be given air and space to breathe rather than pushed into that safe corner of the heart where old dreams are kept...the place where nostalgia weaves its sorrowful stories with words like 'could've' and 'should've' and 'if only'...where memories of youthful fancies elicit regret over all that is left undone... unseen...unfinished and forgotten...traded in for more acceptable story-lines...dreams downsized and pushed aside.
Not for me, that dim shadow of a life. Nope. No more pointless self-deprecation...no more tangling myself up with misguided ideas of worthlessness...no longer shall I stifle my own vibrance, nor control the direction or intensity of its shine. It's time to let myself fly...
My wings are unfolded...I'm ready to come home....
Two months....so full and engaged that updating this space never really occurred to me. I've been in Bhagsu...just a couple kilometers from Mcleod Ganj. The more well known Dharamshala is just down the way. As seems to have been my pattern this trip, I have a tendency to get stuck places. As it turned out, this charming little mountain town is the place in which I've remained for the longest, uninterrupted stint.
I've watched so many people come and go...lived many chapters within this one. And now...finally...I'm the one leaving. With just 3 weeks left before I fly back to North America, I'm heading to Rhajasthan to marvel at Gypsies and buy semi-precious stones. Tonight I'll board a train bound for Ajmer, where I'll then catch a taxi to Pushkar. Excited for a change of pace...
In typical Zippy fashion, I haven't the time nor attention to properly summarize my life here before I set off. But I'll make more of an effort to give it the time it deserves upon arrival in the desert.
For now...I'm off to buy my last tastes of Bhagsu cake and share a cup of chai with my beautiful voice teacher, Anita.
This is really difficult for some reason that I don't come close to understanding. I have sat with keyboard under fingers many times over the last few weeks, trying to write an entry and repeatedly failing to do so. I had typed most of a lengthy one about my experience in the Himalayas... including my journal entries from that time. But I simply couldn't bring myself to finish it.
I can say that, like all my creative facets, this one is prone to the same alternating drought and monsoon that all the others cycle through. I suppose it just must be its turn to hunker down and wait a while...until the rains return and overflow through these now dry fingertips. For now...I just feel rather disconnected from my poetry. Everything I write sounds or feels formulaic and lacking depth, somehow.
Qualifiers aside, I suppose at the very least a quick update is in order.
In about an hour, I'll be nestled in my seat aboard a bus bound for Mcleod Ganj, just north of Dharamsala. I've been back in India since the 27th, hiding out in a comfortable, air-conditioned room on B block in Kalkaji. Delhi...back to the precise spot from which I began this journey 9 months ago. I, once again, stayed with my friend Kaushal, making use of his fast WiFi and feeling so very spoiled to be staying in his well-appointed apartment. It gave me a good opportunity to catch up on every last bit of uploading. :)
Preceding my return, I spent another week in Pokhara, followed by an equivalent turn in Kathmandu, reflecting on the indescribable beauty of the Himalayas I had so recently trekked through. The experience was beyond amazing...life-changing...challenging in unexpected ways and affirming in others. If you're interested in reading my journal entries from those two weeks, let me know and I'll send 'em to ya. Guess I just figured it was too much to post...that such candor was perhaps crossing the line...even for me!
So...in an uncannily similar fashion to my departure from Delhi 9 months ago, I'm headed North...just in time to exchange a hug with Oliver before he heads to Sweden to see his beautiful new wife. From there, I'll continue on...towards Ladak.
I've downsized...cramming all of my heavy essentials into my fake Deuter 40L pack and leaving my surprisingly full 60L pack in Delhi.
Time...illusory and unreliable...barreling or crawling unbearably forward...forever tricking me out of being present. These last weeks have fallen into the former category...days spilling into each other like streams into rivers...becoming a soft blur of moments passed. Observing the rivulets of inspiration that weave themselves through my various creative facets has been sort of entertaining. I'm doing my best to just hold on, as some unexpected momentum propels me...as songs spill forth with the greatest of ease, while my previous impulse to write has calmed to a nearly imperceptible trickle and my pens lay unused, half-finished sketches teasing me. This dance between outlets has caused me much grief historically, but now I watch with bemused curiosity. What next?
I feel like I'm on the grandest ride...rising over breath-taking crests and plunging into and through tunnels and valleys...easing gently back over smooth terrain before lurching skyward again. I imagine those sweet little swallows that so cautiously spread their delicate wings into the crisp Nepal skies for the first time must have felt something like this. My muse is a bit like those thermals...carrying me to unknown heights. I'm letting it take me...learning how to trust it.
• ...droplets... •
30 April: F2, Bed 2...Middle...2.5'x6' of pseudo personal space. Yep...this is going to challenge me. I arrived a couple hours ago, reporting for Dhamma Service one day early to discover that this centre is a bit ill-appointed... incomplete. 3 Female dorm rooms housing 6 beds each...3 to a side...with about 6 inches between them...the only conceivable place to stow belongings is under the bed. I was asked to take one of the middles as the corners are preferable for meditators and also to serve as a bit of a barrier between them. Yes...the learning begins immediately. I'm here for selfless service. My comfort is of little concern. Thankfully, I'm here before anyone else, so I have a little time to adjust to these truths...time to gently accept and embrace so that all the students observe in me is quiet equanimity. *My last few days in Pokhara proved interesting, running the gamut from losing a full memory card and somehow being okay with it to writing a really sweet song in just 6 hours to finally drawing a proper Nepal-inspired mandala...I'd say my time has been well spent. Today, the world looks bright...feels light...and I'm smiling. All day...sitting...riding... walking...the smile has remained...directed at no one...at everyone...out and in...toward myself. I entered room #105 for the last time at 10:30am and by the time I emerged at noon, another song had come into being, just shy of complete. In my sweaty head the lyrics bounced playfully during each of the three local bus rides it took to reach Dhamma Pokhara. They walked with me the remainder of the way, anchoring that smile that so newly adorns these lips. Now 'Traveler', so new itself, has a sweet little sister...'In My Pocket'. *Yes...I'm ready for the challenge that lays before me....ready to put down pen and strings and be present ...ready to dive headfirst back into relative silence. Excited to learn how serving influences my own practice. Quite honestly, I am in a far better space than I was for any of my previous Vipassanas. Entering Happiness...
12 May: Lakeside once again...exhausted on myriad levels...hot. Midday sun escorted me and my heavy house disguised as a backpack on my reverse trip to Pokhara...leaving me sticky and spent...taking the last bit out of me. Dhamma Service proved challenging in ways I could not have anticipated...teaching me much...pushing me finally over my limit this morning, after all the students had gone. As the only female server, I was stretched quite thin. I did my best to spread myself over 10.5 hours of meditation and the need to be present in the Dhamma hall while making it to the dining hall in time to help with meals. Between making the rounds at 4:30am to rouse sleepy ladies without touching or speaking to them to dealing with ant and termite infestations to pulling leeches and stopping blood...mopping excess water into ill-positioned drains no less than 4 times a day to avoid mosquito population explosions...locating maxi pads and tampons for unexpected menses...rushing through torrential, monsoon downpours to close windows and pull laundry from lines...sweeping and mopping the Dhamma hall entry daily...admonishing and policing students found with books and peanuts and cameras...and any number of other little, unexpected tasks.....I had little time or space for myself. For the most part, I found it to be incredibly rewarding...watching the girls settle deeper into their separate, silent spaces...feeling so proud of them as they obviously progressed...as they sat in determined stillness through their sittings of Adhitthana or 'strong determination'...getting to know each of them, somehow...all 14 of them...who takes her tea black, who prefers sugar...what portions to serve...who takes chapati, who prefers rice...who forgoes evening tea but is happy for two slices of lemon...all their little quirks...their human personalities. Yesterday, many of them were calling me 'mama'...so sweet! And the centre itself.....WOW....I can say with confidence that I believe no more beautiful location exists. It rests upon the crest of a hill above Bengas Lake, flanked by lush, green, terraced slopes, looked after and over by the Annapurnas...those mountains that defy description. On day three, I saw them for the first time as the clouds drifted. I was so moved by what my eyes beheld that I dropped to my knees and cried. Just one tear actually fell, but I have never felt something so intense. Even now...I can't even try to explain the majesty of the Himalayas. I'll never forget that moment...the instant I recognized them...so impossibly massive I might've mistaken their snow-covered peaks for clouds...the catching of my breath as we met from afar... and the clear thought that I have to get closer...someway ...somehow. 'Beautiful' does not come even remotely close to encompassing them. There is no word...so seeing them for the first time while in silence was absolutely perfect. :)
Tomorrow, I'm heading for those mountains, going to meet those beautiful peaks up close. I'll be out of touch for about a month. If ya miss me, hop on over to my youtube channel and sing along to one of my new songs.
Still in Pokhara...easing into a rather solitary routine here. It's rather unlike me...but I've realized over the last few days that wandering out and making new friends is really not what interests me right now. Nor am I inclined to make the lengthy trip out to visit the few friends that stay in the next valley over. Though nearly every other foreigner in this sleepy little town is either preparing for or returning from treks...The Annapurna Circuit...Machhapuchhre...ABC...I'm in a bit of a world of my own. Having no suitable shoes (perhaps I'll explain that laughable reality later) venturing out into the Himalayas hasn't been on the top of my list. Instead, I find myself increasingly introspective...trekking inwardly over equally formidable terrain.
I've uploaded every last shot from India, relieving myself of what felt like a considerable weight. And, though I would've expected myself to then stow this laptop and wander out into the nearby hills, something else has sprung forth to keep the screen in front of me and the keyboard beneath my fingertips.
For most of my adult life, I have half-heartedly joked about writing a book. One of my closest friends has joined me in that jest, pestering me from time to time...'so...when can I read that book of yours?' Well ...dear Elizabeth, perhaps sooner than you might think, one day you may actually find yourself turning those long awaited pages.
Simply put...it occurred to me the other day, clear and unmistakable...'Time to start writing.' Something told me to just begin...without context or implied meaning. So I did...and I have been...and it has been amazing. The words have been spilling out of me, bleeding through fingers that type furiously...laden with typos... meandering through subjects and sentiments like water making its way through valleys, over rocks, flowing from some elevated source. It feels good...like some tremendous release of torrents that have been pressurizing behind some self-imposed dam for years.
The name of the file that houses these ramblings is 'Cultivating Loneliness'...a working title, of sorts. Here's an excerpt...a teaser, if you will...the first few paragraphs that emerged with such ferocity in those first moments of vibrant inspiration....
'...sometimes the burden of loneliness weighs so heavily upon you that the way out of it seems impossibly far...like traversing the slippery, algae covered walls of a deep, deep well...scraping at the sides and finding nothing to hold onto...no perceivable way of pulling yourself up and out.....
But then something unexpected happens....some tiny glimmer reaches your eye and you suddenly know to extend your hand in a certain direction...and BHAM!!...just like that...in a universe-altering instant, you realize that the distance between you and your liberation is no wider than the space between two palms as they meet in a spontaneous high-five.
There I was....peddling along the main road in Pokhara, feeling rather shell-shocked...disappointed that this familiar old, worn out loneliness had returned, once again, to drape itself wearily upon my shoulders ...lamenting my habitual return to this place, by my own doing. As a means of dispelling such counterproductive energy, I was just pointlessly cycling until it felt necessary to turn around and cycle back towards....that most inescapable of places...my own bruised heart and the strange humiliation of once again being misinterpreted...misunderstood...misread.
I'd circled round and was headed back, unenthusiastically aiming myself towards the centre of town. I was coasting along at a decent clip...feathers blowing...head cocked slightly to the left...when I took necessary notice of a bus ahead of me, overflowing with smiling school children.
I slightly corrected my aim to veer around the right side and was just rounding the back of the bus when a tiny hand shot out the last window of that side. Without a moment to even consider, my left hand raised itself to meet that tiny palm. As it did, the sound of our joyful clap combined with the jubilant giggles of the children, instantaneously lifting me out of that deeply agitated space.
I passed the bus, smiling wider than I have in weeks...suddenly, inextricably happy. Moments later, the bus passed me again, putting the gleeful, waving children right in front of my own broadening smile. As the bus accelerated, so did I...peddling faster and faster to keep up...causing the children to laugh and wave me on...'Come, Come! You can do it!' they gestured...their bright eyes egging me on like perfect little life coaches.
I matched their speed as the bus slowed, once again rounding the back right side. Out shot that same, expectant little paw....SLAP!! as my own hand happily lifted to meet it once again in the most perfectly executed, thunderous sounding high-five.
I rode on...sweaty and grinning...out of breath...unable and unwilling to stop smiling. It's still there...this deep stretching of my mouth's corners...like a jump-rope held firmly...swung expertly between playful hands.
And just like that...the frown in lonely's middle flipped itself upside down...or finally right side up...the well of 'lonely' filling up with 'lovely'...echoing with the innocent laughter of carefree children...'
Pokhara...perhaps a bit less noisy than Kathmandu, but not necessarily more enjoyable. I've hired a bicycle for the next two weeks...loving the feeling of being self propelled. Peddling through town during the nightly torrential downpours makes me oddly happy...like a child in muddy puddles. I'm also working on a new song...sweet and lighthearted. Sitting at the lake's edge and tinkering with lyrics is a lovely way to pass the time.
Other than that, I can't say that I'm terribly impressed with Pokhara. So many people told me I'd love it...but, in actuality, unless you are preparing for or returning from a trek, it's not the most exciting of places. So...I'm continuing what I started in Kathmandu...slowly catching up on my endless stream of photo uploads. Amazingly, I am just a few days away from being to able upload current images. If I really give it a good push, I might finish even sooner. Hard to imagine! Such a prospect excites me more than I can say and might help to renew my inspiration...re-open my eyes to the magic around me...help me to enjoy the next two weeks a bit more.
The learning continues:
16 April: Here again...though what I feel is hard to name, I've been here before...this quietude is familiar. It returns upon arrival in each new city...a tentative sort of watching...curious observation. How does this place feel? How does it sound? Each place has its own rhythm...subtle patterning. So I watch...as though studying the rise and fall of a skipping rope to better time my jumping in...matching my step to its beat to ensure the smoothest integration...finding the spot where I'll most easily fit. I've never really given it much thought, but I realize now that I've been doing this for most of my life. It most definitely predates this trip...most likely arising out of necessity...a child's need to belong in a world that was forever changing around her. The constant moving between parents...between cities and states...between schools...friends....forever starting anew...forever saying goodbye. It was a survival instinct, really, that made me so good at making friends... learning the subtle art of NOT standing out as the new kid...becoming adept at seamlessly fitting in quickly ...without betraying the inherent vulnerability of such a groundless existence. Along the way, I've accumulated many 'friends', but the vast majority of those don't run so deep. While I may be skilled at charming people into liking me when first we meet, I don't let many people in...not past a certain safety zone of easy acquaintance. Now it's simply habitual, but I'm sure it was just too difficult to continuously leave people behind. Easier to do so if their influence on me was shallow...no more difficult to remove and discard than a garment I'd outgrown. In light of such tendencies...those few amazing souls who have dug themselves deeper into me are clearly incredible blessings. They've battled it out with my relentless sentries and found the softest of places that is 'me'...unguarded...imperfect...human. They keep me company there, regardless of physical location. No distance will ever weaken that...nor the passage of time diminish it. They are never left behind...therefore, I am never alone...
17 April: Candlelight...when all else feels transitory and inconstant, the warm familiarity of candlelight offers a comforting steadiness, making any space livable, even if only for a moment or two. I've taken a room temporarily...an in between space to close me in until a more suitable, slightly less temporary place opens up. I spent the last two nights sharing a room with an Israeli girl whom I did not know, simply because it was all that was available. Each day I've made the rounds, hoping for a change of answer to my repeated inquiry. No rooms...or..yes, expensive rooms...or, the occasional, affordable but dark and damp room. I suppose I'm picky, but securing a room that feels like it could be 'home' for a spell is of utmost importance. Finding such a space is ever more difficult when each guesthouse is already full to the brim. 'Tomorrow' they say...'ask again tomorrow....or, no...day after tomorrow'. Yes...tomorrow will likely find me making the rounds yet again. But, for now...the candles are keeping me company...making me feel ever so slightly 'at home'....
18 April: Yet another new room...christened again in candlelight. Perhaps it isn't perfect, but it'll do for now. The name of the guesthouse...'Be Happy'...and the nest full of baby birds in the entryway seemed like good omens, so I grabbed it while I could. The fruitless search was making me weary. So, it's a bit closer to town than I'd hoped for...a touch noisier than ideal...a hair pricier than it should be...but it's quaint...sort of charming...bright during the day and cozy at night. I've got my own bathroom and a massive, comfy bed with white sheets and good pillows...these things are not so easily come by, making the price semi-reasonable. I'm sure, in retrospect, I'll find such frugality silly and amusing...but, for now, $4 a night is still on the steep side. Despite that, I feel good here. And NOT rising early tomorrow to ask again and again will be its own reward. *Found two friends today. One that I met in India...another from Kathmandu. It was nice to spend time with them, though both are leaving early tomorrow. For one afternoon, at least, it took the edge off the subtle loneliness that hovers forever in the background...
Headed out again...guitar strapped to my back...peddling through Pokhara with poetry on my breath...
Kathmandu...still unsure if I like it here. But I haven't really seen much of the city yet. Not sure why, but I haven't been inclined to explore. I've been staying mostly within the busy Thamel district...getting to know fellow travelers at my guesthouse and beyond...visiting Dohori clubs most nights, an experience entirely unique to Nepal...happily dancing with locals to live Nepali music...and, of course, battling bugs in my gut that seem to show up upon arrival in each new city I visit. Still...I feel generally well. Healthy on all the levels that matter most.
I've been spending so much time simply in the pursuit of catching up on what feels like the endless task of uploading photos. I've set a goal for myself...to feel that I've made significant progress I must be 'out' of Varanasi before I can leave Kathmandu for cleaner air and clearer views. Amazingly, I've nearly reached that goal. I should be finished by tomorrow's end....Nepali New Year. Though I deferred my earlier Vipassana registration for a course that begins on Wednesday, I'm not feeling inclined to sit right now. So, Thursday morning I'll board a bus bound for Pokhara. I'm hoping to serve a course there, beginning on the 1st. Looking forward to the peaceful, relaxed pace I'm told awaits me there.
I'm slowly beginning to contemplate making a plan of departure. New Zealand....perhaps. But some part of me is also feeling a hint of readiness to come home. Not out of desperation or loneliness this time. It's more of a gentle realization that I'm nearly 'complete'...as though I've been gathering pieces to make a whole. Or, perhaps, coming to realize, after all this adventurous accumulating, that nothing was missing to begin with. However interesting or fascinating the experiences of these 6 months have been, they are merely details added to a story I call 'myself'. Anything I've gained is extraneous...decorative...unnecessary. And, on some level, I'm feeling the need to shed the extra weight...to clear all this clutter and find a quiet space to just 'be' for a while.
These sentiments unwrap themselves in moments of solitude...coming into clearer view upon the trusty pages of my journal...
11 April: Strange Day...after feeling rather ill for the last two days, I awoke renewed...impressions from a rather intense dream carrying over into my morning. Another death, again my own...deliberate, somehow...like some ritualistic end that all must face...a thing not so unlike the deepest of wells...fear at approaching its edge...some unknown man offering strength...assuring me we could fall together...holding on to me. Stepping into free fall...fear dissolving into acceptance...relaxing into gravity's pull...no resistance. Calm...ready...exploding upon painless impact...into nothingness. Bliss preceding waking...surprised to find myself smiling as I woke.
Twice now in the space of a month I've dreamt of my death, with differing scenarios, but the same deeply calm embrace. Both involved plummeting fast...the vivid feeling of rapidly approaching Earth below...falling towards water...an ocean...a well. What fascinates me most about these dreams is my total resignation... my ability to be present in the face of my own physical demise...without panic...without regret. A feeling that this life was full and well-lived...no sorrow at its end. What an incredibly beautiful notion. If I can learn to cultivate such strength...the ability to die gracefully each and every moment...then perhaps those moments will spring to life...new and vibrant...unbound by fear...free of desperation...perfectly detached and flawlessly connected...gaining everything by relinquishing all.
*Yes...something internal is teaching me...gently persuading...showing me that all I require is within...no need for outward searching...no need for Vipassanas and Darshans and the shaving of heads. Such things surely do no harm, but I am realizing that, somehow, ceasing the 'pursuit' brings me the closest to 'arrival'... or, more accurately, helps me to simply 'remember'.
All this moving about...this constant shifting from place to place...this continuous filling and emptying of borrowed spaces...it's rather unnecessary. I'm just so prone to forgetting. But I think the gaps between remembering are growing decidedly shorter...and the space that punctuates my forgetfulness...so simultaneously empty and full...feels slightly less fleeting each time...with each recognition. Though I do feel a bit like a spiritual narcoleptic, falling unconscious at the most inopportune moments...it seems that, at least, my awareness of such an affliction will eventually cure it...even if it takes years...or lifetimes. For NOW...in this moment...I feel very much awake...alert...alive.
Free falling into a deeper 'self'....
7 candles...nary a flicker...new room...two sticks of nag champa masking...weakly concealing 2 months worth of chain smoking. This room, like myself, was ripe with potential, regardless of its dim portrayal. Even now...the incense presses perfume smoke against me...encouraging my reluctant fingers to rub my stinging eyes...to press my burning lids against tender eyeballs...believing that such torture is surely preferable to residing in a veritable ashtray. Who am I kidding! It really hurts!! Wow...the strange ways in which we harm ourselves.... *I'm here, but I'm not here...my guitar lays quietly at my side...forever willing...caring little for my fickle whims. My left hand clumsily presses down strings in the shape of A minor, moving into a C, while the fingers of my right hand haphazardly strum a random tune. I know not where these sounds come from...only that they occasionally feel 'right'. I do my best to let them be...to trust the unknown movements that propel my ignorant fingertips. The shapes that manifest often surprise me...flowing from some unknown source...drawing me into and out of my 'self'...tickling the depths of me...toying with my senses. Sometimes I am effortlessly capable of stepping aside and letting such beautiful mysteries unfold in front of and within me...but, more often than not, my tricky mind interferes with needless question and pointless analysis....who?...why?....but...but...why? Endlessly inquisitive, this mind knows no limits...it pushes against impossible boundaries...forever reviewing...revising....remembering...reliving... hellbent on perfecting its ways...terrified of screwing up...wanting so to be 'good'...to be 'right'...to be recognized and acknowledged as such. It wraps itself so cleverly in selfless looking packages, trying so hard to convince me that its aims are true. But I know better...I'm no longer so easily swayed. I know its very nature is illusory...transient...reliably impermanent...or, shall I say, reliably unreliable...unreal....imaginary and fleeting. Moment by hard won moment, I am...ever so slowly but surely learning to harness the brilliance of my mind, rather than stumbling beneath its blindly motivated prowess. Slowly, slowly. This life....this...life...shall not be wasted...
Sirens...a frequent sound here...making me realize how seldom I've heard such broadcasts of emergency over the last 6 months. Wow...SIX MONTHS...no wonder I find myself missing 'home'. I think it's that longing for personal space that fueled my determination to make this room livable. I scrubbed the walls, washing away the surface residue of countless travelers...happily dumping several buckets of black water down the drain. I did my best to cleanse the space before imbuing it with some sense of 'me'...making it familiar and warm...a momentary sanctuary. Kathmandu survives 16 hours a day of power cuts...load shedding. A schedule on the door to the shared shower neatly informs and warns, giving us some sense of structure, at least. I've managed to miss the positive slots for the last two days, depriving myself of hot showers. It's still chilly enough here that bathing in cold water is decidedly unpleasant and best avoided. So, tomorrow's schedule is clearly in my head. I shall not miss out again! Aside from issues with bathing, I'm not bothered by the lack of electricity. I Prefer candlelight to the harsh fluorescence that most rooms seem to have. Feels cozier this way...gentle and calm...quietly reassuring, somehow. *Started uploading photos again...daunting task. But I discovered a comfy spot to lounge and imbibe tasty coffee while enjoying free wi-fi. So...perhaps the food costs more than my room, but it's a lovely place to spend the necessary hours...even if I only make the smallest dent...any reduction in my three month backlog makes the costly cuisine worth every tasty rupee. Every day there is a small allotment of continuous power. I suspect you'll find me passing those precious hours at OR2K...cold coffee in hand...big, fat grin on my happy face...illuminated by the blue glow of my laptop...
Here I sit in a surprisingly clean and comfortable 'Cyber Cafe' in the Thamel district of Kathmandu...watching a billing meter as its numbers run ever upwards, reflecting an overall jump in pricing that has me reeling. I suppose it's a good way to prepare myself for an eventual re-entry into the West. Still...hurts to be paying 100 rupees per hour for internet after the 15 to 20 I'd grown accustomed to. Since my last post, internet access has been spotty and slow, making me far less than inclined to update this space or upload photos. And, after so much time has passed, as so frequently seems to be the case, I find it difficult to convey the breadth of my journey through words that can only grasp at memories. So...once again, the best I can offer is a glimpse into my journal entries. After all...they provide my most candid expressions...
On a Bangalore bound bus...bumpy ride...winding roads... hot air hitting me through an open window...feet still covered in Gokarna dust...heart still warm from friendly, goodbye embraces. A touch sad to be leaving, but happy to be on my way to new adventures. Goodbye sand...goodbye Arabian Sea...goodbye sweet Gokarna...until we meet again...
Bangalore...so loud...so uninviting...so expensive! After the roughest bus ride (slept, or pretended to sleep, in the upper rear bunk...bad idea!) which left my nerves rattled, my body sore and a string on my guitar snapped, I arrived this morning feeling rather like an over-shaken martini. Tired and vulnerable, I was predictably duped by a rickshaw driver who convinced me that the hotel I wanted was 10km away, bringing me instead to a less than inspired 'luxury' hotel and a tiny room for rs500. Too tired to look elsewhere, I took it, dropping my pack and heading out straight away to find a government hospital. (note: while in Gokarna, I read a book called 'Hidden Journey' about one man's experience of an exceptional woman known as Mother Meera who just happened to be giving Darshan near Bangalore, beginning on the very day my visa was to expire. Acquiring an extension on a tourist visa is nearly impossible EXCEPT in cases of medical emergency. So, I played the 'back' card, claiming a difficulty in traveling due to problems carrying my pack. I know, I know...dishonesty is not respectable. What can I say...it seemed strangely warranted. Sorry Mom!) 5 hours later, even more energetically spent from the continuous retelling of half truths and exaggerated pained expressions, I hobbled back to my room...left hip sore from the injection of pain killers...morality bruised from guilt at my act and pretense of injury...only to discover the major infestation of cockroaches in my bathroom. BAM! Instant karma! What to do? Though disgusted and tempted to find another place, I had to rush back into the noisy Bangalore chaos to find the F.R.R.O office & plead my case. Lots of shuffling about...like my experience earlier with Indian medical politics, I was continuously redirected to different windows...counters...people...until I landed upon the right guy. So...perhaps it wasn't the extension I was hoping for...he simply told me it was not possible, but he did provide an answer/solution. He assured me that I can leave after my visa expires without being blacklisted as long as I pay the $30 US penalty and show proof of a confirmed air ticket, leaving India within 15 days of my visa expiry. Well...alright then! It's off to Darshan in Madanapalle I go! I was tempted to leave tonight, but I think a good night's sleep is necessary after such an active day. The bed, at least, is incredibly comfy...so I think I can make some temporary peace with my roommates in the bathroom! I might just sleep for 12 hours!
Graceful, Divine silence...tonight, I will sit my 7th Darshan with Mother Meera. It's been sweet so far...though the effects will surely take time to reveal themselves. At the very least, I am reminded of the universal truths that speak through silence...of the myriad voices that never utter a word...of the stillness that fills the quiet space...of the tranquility to follows 'surrender'...
Once again...bag packed...ready to be on my way...tomorrow I'll board a 5am bus back to Bangalore. My time in Madanapalle has been an interesting juxtaposition of brilliant and boring...beautiful, magic encounters with locals who are not yet jaded by tourism...perfect silence coupled with Mother Meera's gentle touch...personal challenges and growth...sweltering heat...frustrating technological snags...cockroaches the size of my thumb...and HBO...TV...so very odd. Though I'll miss Oliver and Joni and their familiar laughter, I'm looking forward to some deep solitude...
Oh, India! I suppose one must embrace your darkness if your light is also to be enjoyed! Back and forth and around again...this guy sends me to that guy sends me to that office sends me to another office and back round, only to inform me, 7 hours and rs300 worth of rickshaw rides later, that I have to apply the day before I fly...in Varanasi. Nice. *sigh* What to do? Sleep....so...very...tired....
Under the ever-watchful gaze of a ten year-old Indian girl who sits quietly across from me, curiously observing all that I do. Thus far, it's been a rather sweet journey. Traveling in AC 2 Tier this time, sharing a 'cabin' with a lovely family of four...the two young girls smiling at and laughing with me all the way, calling me 'Auntie'...Laxmi and Aditi, 4 & 2, respectively. This young beauty...the one who now studies the movement of my hand, belongs to a family in the next cabin over. Anjali...she speaks no English nor Hindi, but we're communicating in our own way. I've taken some beautiful shots of her. I must admit, though AC 2 costs four times that of Sleeper class, it's refreshing not to be in the cramped dirt and grime and suffocating heat of sleeper...and I seem to have gotten lucky, landing in the newest, cleanest coach on this train...The Bagmati Express...Bangalore to Mughal Sarai...2517km...48 hours. Yes...I've enjoyed this trip. The extra space above my head in my upper berth...temperature control...relatively clean floors and toilets. I like these things, though some part of me has resisted acknowledging as much. It sets me to thinking about how, generally speaking, we...the western world...have romanticized the poverty in India. I've heard so many travelers say they prefer Sleeper class because it feels more like 'real' India...as though those of the upper classes are less significant or substantial somehow...that they have less to offer in the way of meaningful cultural exchange. I, myself, have been guilty of such thinking...but I feel like I'm waking a bit from such narrow-sightedness. It's a gradual change that has been shifting something in me...a deepening of gratitude for my blessings...the subtle beginnings of a willingness to embrace my relative wealth...both inward and external...a clearer perspective...a new understanding of how much I've always had. A slowly unfolding acceptance...it's ok...I don't have to haggle over 5 rupees... I CAN afford to fly to Nepal rather than a day of trains and buses...and I don't have to feel like I'm missing some integral, Indian experience. Gaining much from this trip...
Varanasi...damn hot...smelly...buzzing with mozzies and flies and other winged insects...yet it feels oddly like 'home'. It's been a busy, long two days, but I managed to acquire exit permission, send a heavy parcel home and repay Dada, my tailor, for his generous loan when my bank card was blocked. Nice to see some familiar faces...but excited to meet Nepal tomorrow. Hoping for more agreeable temperatures...42 degrees Celsius here...oppressive and tiring! Goodbye India...thanks for all you've given me....
The automated map before me shows a splash of textured white nearly the size of India, in the shape of a blue whale, looming in the distance. 240km to our destination...Nepal...the Himalayas...sure to be beautiful. Beneath us, India lays hidden. A thick blanket of gray...mist?...haze?...smog?...stretches as far as the eye can see, meeting the blue of the sky with a brush of white that fades upwards. Feels strange to be flying...traveling at such accelerated speeds! How bizarre to lift off and land within the space of one hour! What an incredible luxury... *Warm candlelight...new city...new country...similar sounds...different energy. Feeling a touch unwell... surely the result of moving so rapidly between differing climates. It's raining here...so refreshingly lovely! Such a welcome respite. I'm turning in early...tired....drained...energetically bankrupt after my drawn out visa expiry debacle. I suspect this also played a significant role in the weakening of my immune system. Regardless...Kathmandu is charming at first glance...
Feeling scattered...unsure...lacking clarity. Head and chest still stuffy...mind clouded...heart hazy. It's in these moments that 'home' sounds so heavenly...so welcoming...and so...very...far...away. Sometimes, I just miss my people...and the outward distance feels impossibly wide. I know I carry all of them with me...but I have these days...these little blips in my strength that feel like holes where my friends should be...these empty spaces that lack a certain warmth. They aren't very good conversationalists...they simply swallow up my words and leave me longing to hear a voice other than my own...some familiar, sarcastic quip and subsequent giggle...the casual banter that passes easily among companions. True...my guitar keeps me company...but it falls decidedly short when humor is needed. These fingers naturally strum melancholy tunes...haunting melodies. *Just a momentary weakness...this too shall pass.* Signed up for Vipassana beginning tomorrow. Not sure the timing is right. The silence beckons, drawing me towards its stillness...but I wonder if it's not some cleverly disguised attempt to escape this feeling of loneliness...somehow...as though turning even further inward will mask this vulnerability by giving it a valid reason for welling up in me. I wonder if it's wise to enter into such a challenging endeavor while my body and spirit are so depleted. Still, some other part of me keeps interrupting such lines of thinking by suggesting that ten days of silence and deep, spiritual excavation might be precisely what I need right now. Ugh...perhaps this fog will lift by morning. I can barely hold my head up...thinking in tangled scribbles that make little sense. May this eve's dreams gently unwind my thoughts...
And...that brings us to NOW. I decided against sitting a Vipassana right away...feeling it best to take some time to acclimate and settle in a bit. I've moved to another neighborhood, and after a bit of shuffling about, I've secured a sweet enough room at the Yellow House. I've resigned myself to a week of relaxation...reading and playing guitar, tinkering with the beginnings of a new song. Taking space to rejuvenate and make myself well. I've got 90 days to explore Nepal, so I'm in no hurry.
The path before me is slowly unfolding, though it's direction has yet to reveal itself...surrendering to the whims of the universe...