CLOUDS COME FLOATING INTO MY LIFE…

…AND I WATCH, RAPT, FROM MY BALCONY

P1050001

P1050004 P1050007 P1050008 P1050011 P1050012 P1050013

And they greet me from the back porch as well….

P1050006

P1050009

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

THE FLOWERS THAT BLOOM IN THE SPRING TRA LA….

BRING NOTHING BUT GLADNESS TO ME…Tra La. Gilbert and Sullivan, can you top that? I cannot think of one word of complaint over these past few weeks since spring ushered in an abundance of flowering trees, rhododendron in rainbow colors and fresh produce spilling over the fertile lands where volunteers and avid gardeners fill our plates with glorious abundance. Oooh, that’s pretty flowery, as it should be! The smell of freshly mown grass–the color of green that only comes from delicate intermittent showers–the wind from the Sound, the hummingbirds whirring around my prayer flags (I don’t feed them so maybe they’re Buddhist), the moon that starts hovering around seven o’clock even before the sun finally descends at 9:30, fill my day, which culminates in a walk along the shore at sunset watching the tide go out. Whidbey Islanders have taken to the roads and byways, on bicycle and foot, many ending up at Ebey’s Landing, an Historical National Reserve that gives a vivid record of Pacific Northwest history, clearly visible in the landscape. My friend, Lee Compton and I hiked up the cliff in April. It was a beautiful, solitary walk, now taken over by dozens of avid hikers preparing for the summer season.

P1210432

Lee and I heading for the cliff….

P1210422

You may remember that Lee is the friend who saved my life in India three years ago when I fell headfirst, after hanging from my right knee on a strap on the third tier of an Indian train on the way from Ft. Cochin to Udupi. He caught me just as my head was preparing to go through the floor of the compartment. Needless to say, I owe him big time!

May Day was ushered in, joyously, at the Good Cheer Garden in Langley, organized by Camille Green, the garden manager. This was my first time around the maypole and it was hilarious as we wove in and out until the ribbons were so short that we had to stop. There was good food, good music, face painting, and an array of flowers and branches so we could make colorful headdresses. Larry Dobson wowed us all with his expertise on stilts. We had a blast! Brava, Camille.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I just returned from an exciting afternoon at WICA (Whidbey Island Center for the Arts), attending the 17th annual Hedgebrook Women Playwrights Festival. Four playwrights and their dramaturges presented scenes from the plays they had been working on at Hedgebrook, the writer’s retreat near Langley. They had just finished an intensive two-week residency. The actors were incredible and the material powerful. At times I thought I was back on Broadway!

This was one of many programs I’ve attended at WICA over the past months. Luckily I’ve been able to volunteer for the shows, musical or dramatic, that appeal to me…and there are many. Being an usher means that you don’t have to pay! I like that. I’ve also enjoyed four operas that have been streamed live from the Metropolitan Opera in New York City on various Saturday mornings. Many of you have probably done the same. The programs are broadcast internationally. What a great service to us opera lovers. Because of the time change we had to be in our seats by 10 AM for the matinee. But it was worth it, even though it meant catching an early ferry. I’ve been attending with two friends, Jon Pollack and Christy Korrow.

An outstanding concert, the final one of the Saratoga Orchestra, featured Sara Davis Buechner playing Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. I have never heard it played with such power and finesse! She also gave a short program of the history of jazz and ragtime in the early 1920’s, illustrating her talk with excerpts. If you ever get a chance to hear this artist, grab it (http://saradavisbuechner.com). She’s sensational!

Next up, my birthday. Let’s see how the zip line goes this year!

 

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

“My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold A Rainbow in the Sky….”

“That best portion of a good man’s life, his little, nameless unremembered acts of kindness and love.”

These words of William Wordsworth give me comfort as I mourn the sudden death of my dear friend and colleague, Dr. Peter Beach, on April 18. He was a priest at  St. John’s Episcopal Church in Olney, Md. at the time of his death, work which he had returned to after his retirement from government service. It was as if he had come full circle, back to his roots, having begun his professional life as a missionary in Egypt and India in 1950. Peter was a firebrand during the early days of the Great Society, at the inception of Headstart and the Peace Corps, where he was Deputy Director in Tunisia for four years. When I met Peter he was head of Veterans Affairs in Washington where he was instrumental in advocating for our veterans during the Agent Orange travesty after the Vietnam War and the horrendous medical problems after the Gulf War. His fluency in both French and Arabic made him valuable not only in government service, but as a teacher and, shortly after he immigrated to the United States in 1961, the principal of the Barrie School in Tacoma Park, MD. Just hearing his adventures as he moved from England and settled his family in Maryland made me realize what an innovative, multi-faceted person he was–not afraid to take risks and walk into the unknown.

I met Peter right after co-founding Music Education for the Handicapped in 1979. He was working at the time with the President’s Committee on the Employment of the Handicapped. His enthusiastic advocacy of our work make him an invaluable member of the board for the ten years that I was the executive director. His qualifications were stellar, but above all he was a caring human being who brought light into the lives of all who crossed his path.

Yes, Peter was an idealist as well as an optimist. But he didn’t just talk, he acted. He saw the best in everybody and in so doing, we became just a little bit better.

P1020468

Peter loved nature. He loved to watch the sun set over the Atlantic from the breakwater at his summer home in Rehoboth Beach; he loved to walk on the beach and chat with the children playing in the sand at the end of a day; and he loved to hear the soft sound of the rain on the roof or anticipate the drama and excitement of a gathering thunderstorm. I often think of him when I read the beginning of this Robert Frost poem.

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

Or the beginning of this recent poem by Ging Alburo

As I listen to the sound of the falling rain,
On the thin roof of our house they tumble in Rhythm.
Just like a mighty songs from heaven,
Sung by the angels or cherubim.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

FOR PETE’S SAKE…A CELEBRATION OF PETE SEEGER’S LIFE AND WORK

And what a gala affair it was, organized and hosted by the inimitable Pushkara (Sally Ashford) and her daughter, Wendy Ashford. You can imagine the musicians it drew from Seattle, Port Townsend, and over the mountains far away. They brought their instruments and played the folk music that Pete, who died last January at the age of 94,  promoted, along with his original songs that have become part of America’s folk legacy…from Turn, Turn, Turn, to  Where Have All The Flowers Gone to If I Had A Hammer.

P1040956

The inimitable Pushkara

P1040905 - Version 2

P1040899

Pushkara and her family were active in the peace movement in the Northwest from the time of Woody Guthrie (Goin’ down the Road Feelin’ Bad and This Land Is Your Land, to name a few of his hit songs), when Pete was just a young man. She recorded numerous interviews in her charming Gypsy Wagon, from people who played a part in Pete’s long life. The colorful wagon was built as a symbol of peace and harmony, and resides next to her lovely home overlooking the cliffs above Puget Sound. I was one of those lucky people who got to hear Pushkar’s tales and added a few of my own from knowing Pete.

You can imagine my surprise when I walked into my husband’s office one day in 1971 to see a tall, lanky man sitting there, gesticulating adamantly. It was Pete Seeger, trying to convince us to manufacture steel drums, which were becoming all the rage in the schools as well as at pop concerts. We were the makers of Oscar Schmidt Autoharps and had often consulted with Pete’s half brother, Mike Seeger. We were heavily into folk music, rock (i.e. John Sebastian and The Lovin’ Spoonful) and music education. My husband shuddered at the thought of tuning those very  loud Caribbean instruments and said it would be impossible to add this to his already overflowing compliment of folk instruments, including dulcimers, and a full range of Orff percussion. Pete was charming, but determined. He didn’t want to give up. The next time I saw him I was on 8th Avenue just coming out of a phone booth (anybody remember phone booths?) and he grabbed my arm and said, “Oh, Meg, I’ve just returned from Russia and do you know that those people love the steel drum. I even saw some musicians playing them in the snow.” Now I ask you…what are  your chances of bumping into  Pete Seeger on 8th Avenue on a cold winter day? His enthusiasm was, as always, infectious, and left me smiling and shaking my head at the sheer energy of the man.

Another story I related was my chance meeting with Pete’s mother at an AAUW meeting in Miami in 1959. I had just had my fourth child and was eager to speak to adults after tending four children 24/7. I sat down next to a lovely white-haired lady and somehow we started talking about camping and hiking, something we both enjoyed. She said that she and her husband had wanted to show their children the country and live a simple life while researching the music of various parts of America. He was a Harvard-educated musicologist. She a concert violinist. I listened with awe as she described this experiment in bare bones living. They were precursors of the people who live in RV’s and move from place to place. Each child had a fork, spoon, knife, cup, and plate, and was responsible for caring for them and their few possessions. They communed with the outdoors and loved nature and music. “We wanted our children to live close to nature and appreciate its beauty,” she said. “You may know of one of my sons. He’s a folk singer. Pete Seeger.” It was such a modest, offhand remark. If only she had lived to see the impact this son had had on the America she so loved. What surprised me after we had been talking for an hour is that she thanked me profusely for listening to her. “Most young people would not be interested in the stories of an old lady,” she said. I told her that I was fascinated and only hoped my life would be as eventful and useful as hers as I grew older.

Here is a smattering of the many musicians who came to the Deer Lagoon Grange in Langley on March 30th to honor Pete.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

28 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

STARBUCKS…LIGHTEN UP

Or put some more half and half in your cup and add a little honey. You’re big. You’re rich. You’re powerful.  Come on, fellas, you can afford to leave the little guys alone.

Last December I came upon one of the pettiest acts in my long experience watching the legal shenanigans of super powerful corporations. In fact, it was almost laughable in its absurdity. Daughter Cary and I were staying in Suja, in Himachal PradeshIndia, where the TCV (Tibetan Children’s Village) is located, and had occasion to visit Bir, a small Tibetan refugee community located across the field, where a friend runs a clinic. The town consisted of one main street and a few outlying farms. It was also known as one of the premier sites in the world for paragliding. Being a lover of espresso, I remembered a small coffee shop humorously named BUCKSTARS. I looked up and down the street and finally found it. But the sign only read COFFEE SHOP.

P1040286

It was a hole in the wall with an espresso maker, but nobody to make it. I went next door to ask for help. The vendor there went to another store and then across the street, where a clean-cut young man came running and offered to help. He told me he was a former monk from Sikkim and here to help the family that owned the shop. He also was a well-known sand mandala artist. We ended up talking for the rest of the afternoon and, after visiting his studio, I bought one of the lovely mandalas.

P1040450

P1040457 P1040456 P1040452

“Where is Buckstars?” I asked “It’s been here for years.” He looked embarrassed, shrugged his shoulders, and wobbled his head from side to side as people so often do in India. “Starbucks came to Mumbai in 2012. They sent us a letter this year from a lawyer and asked us to change the name. Then a lawyer called me and asked how many stores we had in the area. I asked if he had ever been to Bir. No answer. I told him we were a very small town. He asked, again, how many stores we had in the area. He wasn’t listening to me at all and did not understand that we were no threat to Starbucks.”

“If we get twenty customers a day during paragliding, we are lucky. Usually we get two or three. I spend most of my day creating my mandalas.”

Jhangchup then motioned me to sit down and made an espresso that put STARBUCKS to shame.

“Why did you change the name? That must have been a pain,” I said.

“Not really. I found it quite humorous that such a huge company with millions of customers worldwide would take the time to write a long legal letter as well as call me. ” He showed me the letter and a couple of points stood out. I quote:

It appears that you are aware of our client STARBUCKS and that you have infact derived the trademark BUCKSTARS for your cafe by reversing the order of the words STAR and BUCKS and are using the same alongside with ‘S’ in a green concentric circle. Such adoption and use dilutes our client’s common law and statutory rights in their well known name and registered trademarks.

Our client would appreciate if you would amend/change the name of your cafe by not using the word BUCKS either alone or with STAR as part of your name/trademark. Our client is willing to offer a reasonable transition period and pay reasonable costs, etc., etc. and trust that the matter can be resolved amicably.

“What a lot of trouble they went to….If only STARBUCKS had a sense of humor!”

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

2 Comments

Filed under India

HEY GUYS, I’M BACK! IT’S SPRING IN THE NORTHWEST AND WE DIDN’T EVEN HAVE WINTER….

…at least not from the point of view of this transplanted Yankee, unless you call fog winter. I have to admit, however, that I envied all you happy skiers and shovelers your winter wonderland. But not my theater buddy, Paul Sharar, who wasn’t even shoveling when he fell on the black ice and broke his hip. He was just leaning over to pick up the New York Times. That’s what happens when you’re an intellectual elitist! Strong guy, though. He’s already back in action. But, then, he’s from Iowa and has those strong corn-bones (sorry about that, Paul). Perhaps next year, when I’m more settled, I’ll become better acquainted with this part of the world and can head for the hills of Snoqualmie or Stevens Pass, or do some cross-country skiing close by, at Granite Falls. I’ll get the beauty without the heavy lifting!

I have a lot of catching up to do since my return from Asia in January. I stopped by New Jersey to see family and friends, and catch a few New York shows. Was hard to say goodbye to my symphony of 55 years and some of my opera and theater pals.

photo

Terri, Bev, Phyllis, and M.P: the quadruple threat!

There’s a lot of adjusting to do when you pull up your roots after 56 years and immerse yourself in a whole new environment. For someone who gets lost going around the corner, this has been quite a challenge. But, as the old saying goes, “Change keeps you young.” It’s also the only thing you can really count on…right? Every time I take the Mukilteo ferry to the “other side” (sounds dire, doesn’t it?) I find that going 60 mph after winding around these country roads is traumatic and requires a total change of gears, figuratively speaking. There’s where all the big “box” stores are, but since I’m not a shopper, I mostly go to Seattle for cultural events, like opera and symphony. Theater you can get here on Whidbey in abundance, as well as superb music and more activities than one human being can absorb in a lifetime.

Many evenings at sunset I walk on the beach, reached by a series of stairs leading to the Sound below First Street, and watch the tide come in. I’ve never been an ocean person, so I’m loving the newness of it all.

Every day about ten emails arrive from Drew’s List, published by Drew Kampion, a beloved character around town. It’s exclusively for Whidbey Island folks. Drew sends out daily email blasts with everything from housing to entertainment,  art shows to health, music of all kinds to classes promoting every form of exercise imaginable, and lost pets to help wanted. There are gardens and farms in abundance and a population that really cares for its fellow humans. My daughter, Cary, is launching a program in all the schools so the students can grow, harvest, and eat their fresh vegetables in the cafeteria. She is volunteering until funding can be found, so if you’re interested in supporting her good work, you know where to reach me!  And there’s a movie theater where you get the best art films for $5.00 (if you’re old like me), and popcorn for a dollar a large bag regardless of age. Who could ask for anything more? I’ve never seen so much talent per square mile in my life, nor so many energetic, “Go-to” people. Hedgebrook Writer’s Colony for women writers is close by, but that, in itself, is too long a tale for today.

As you know from past blogs, I’m not a stranger to these parts. For years I’ve climbed every summer in the Olympic and Cascade mountains close by, and reveled in the fresh air, beauty, and peacefulness of the great Northwest. And now I’m surrounded by nature every day—a dream come true.  Below are some photos I took in early February…. P1040830 P1040828

P1040829

Puget Sound and the Cascade Range from Langley

…and here are a couple of shots I took today from my front deck. Flowering cherry and plum trees line the streets and paths where I walk down the hill to the post office for the mail. Yes, indeed, spring is finally here. P1040895

P1040898

There’s very little Lyme disease here on Whidbey Island, but I never pet the deer!

One of the many celebrations here on the island over the past two months has been Losar, the Tibetan New Year. There is a sizable sangha of practicing Buddhists in the community and here are a few photos from this recent celebration organized by the Kilung Foundation.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As I said in my last blog eons ago, I will bring you up to date on my trip to India, Bhutan, and Nepal during the year. Here I’ve started with Nepal, with a slightly different twist. No big tourist spots, just a relaxed visit to the Buddhist holy site, Boudhanath, in a non-polluted part of Kathmandu. It’s a favorite of mine. I really need a video to do justice to the traffic in Nepal, but I had enough trouble limiting my photos and placing them in order without trying to upload video files. I was verging on computer-rage before it was over!

I really fell in love with the Shechen Guest House and its staff, and was glad I could stay there for two weeks to recuperate from my nasty fall in Bhutan. In the meantime  Cary went off to explore Himalayan caves in the Yolmo. Maybe I’ll get to do a trek in Mustang next year. Hope springs eternal!

I met all kinds of people in my three weeks in Nepal, and, while at the Ti-Se Guest House before going to Bhutan, spent quite a bit of time with two members of the Duggar family from Tontitown, Arkansas. I had  not heard of them or seen their reality show on the TLC learning channel  (don’t get me started on reality shows!). They gained fame as religious evangelists with 19 children, all of whom have been home-schooled and play a musical instrument. As a musician I really dig that! The father, Jim Bob, was here with his daughter, Jill, and a camera crew, sussing out a pen pal who turned out to be a possible suitor. The young man had been in Nepal for several year and was deep into missionary work. I asked, when I left, if they, too, were going to try to convert the Buddhists, and Jim Bob retorted, wryly, “First we have to convert you, Meg.”

I’m afraid I was rather difficult for them to figure out…a liberal minister’s daughter with a gay son and the belief that everyone is entitled to his or her beliefs, be they pantheism, agnosticism, Buddhism, or any other ism you can mention.  These were nice people, but we disagreed drastically. I didn’t push my points. I never do where religion is concerned. I did shock them a bit after they talked about the “choice” of homosexuality, and the need to reverse it. That’s a rallying cry for homophobes. I simply said, “Jim Bob, I wonder if Jesus would have said ‘suffer the little children to come unto me, except for the faggots.'” Shocking, to be sure, and he took it graciously, but it did take him aback. I always thought of Jesus as inclusive. Thus endeth the lesson for today.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

4 Comments

Filed under Nepal

A UNIQUE MAN: A UNIQUE NGO

There’s a great deal of talk these days about the overbearing, albeit well-meaning, NGO that sweeps into a country, defines its needs, and prescribes a solution–usually what’s best for the country from the point of view of the West. A solution from the top down. In contrast, I’ve just discovered one that works from the bottom up…a real grass roots endeavor with plans and programs initiated by three Nepalese villages and administered by a Nepalese staff. I hardly dare interject the work done by its founder, Dr. Richard Keidan, an oncologist from Detroit, MI, who has not one, but two NGO’s to his credit. He was adamant that I understand that the initial ideas and planning come directly from the Nepalese people. I’ll let you fill in the blanks by going to his website:  www.Detroit2Nepal.org

I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Keidan this week and he gave me an overview of  the public health needs in the vast majority of small towns and villages in Nepal, and the woeful lack of hospitals and qualified doctors to treat anything but minor ailments. But this hasn’t dampened his enthusiasm; it has only heightened his desire to help.

Richard’s love affair with Nepal began in the ’80’s as a trekker, and really flourished after he met Namgyal Sherpa, the sirdar (lead guide) on the Kangchenjunga trip he took in 2009. The following summer Namgyal took him to his home area of Khotang and he observed the compromised state of public health, health care, and education in the villages. This is when D2N was born! Namgyal, himself, had been instrumental in starting educational projects and working with underprivileged children in his village.  He introduced D2N to the traditions in the area and was on the ground floor of its organization. Tragically, Namgyal was killed on one of his many descents from the summit of Mt. Everest last May, a tremendous loss to the people of Khotang and to the NGO he helped to inspire.

Richard spends a total of three months a year in Khotang, which he reaches by a one-hour plane ride, followed by three days of hiking to reach the first of three villages. He spoke glowingly of standing on a hillside on his last visit, looking down at the houses, each with a new cement outhouse (a sustainable toilet with septic system),  its metal roof sparkling in the sun. “Can you imagine how great that makes you feel” he said, “to see what these people have done for themselves in such a short time?” This was the Dipsung toilet project, planned and executed by the Nepalese, themselves. They realized that until they had a safe sanitation system they would never have clean water, and most of their diseases stemmed from this pervasive problem. You can read on the website about the many other  health and educational initiatives planned and carried out by the villagers and supported and funded by the dedicated work of this unique, caring man, Richard Keidan. Here is a case where there is no overhead and every dollar given by individuals or organizations goes directly to the projects that improve the health and well-being of Nepalese families. And an added advantage of this kind of community endeavor is the jobs it creates for the many people involved in the planning and executing of each project.

5 Comments

Filed under Nepal

BUILDING BRIDGES WITH PHOTOGRAPHY: EXPLORING AND PROMOTING CULTURAL DIVERSITY IN BHUTAN

“The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are no failed attempts at being you; they are unique manifestations of the human spirit.” These words were written by one of my favorite cultural anthropologists, Wade Davis, whom I often quote in my presentations.

As I saw on my visit to Bhutan, it’s a small country, but comprises a mosaic of distinct communities as well as 19 active languages. I’ve been fortunate to converse over the last few days with one of the guests here in Shechen, Markus Wild (www.markuswild.ch), who is a Swiss photographer and teacher of visual arts, and, since 2005 has planned and conducted Participatory Photo Documentation under the Leveraging Cultural Diversity (LCD) Project, in Bhutan, implemented by Hevetas Swiss intercooperation and a grant from the European Union.

This amazing program has been documented in a splendid book about the life and culture in four remote communities of Bhutan: The Kengpas of Nganglatrong; The Sharchops of Kengkhar; The Rais of Lumbay; and The Lhops of Lotokuchu. Marcus has introduced digital photography to his students, ranging in age from those in elementary school, ages 9-12, to adults who take advantage of his teaching by going to school early in the morning before they head for the fields, or after work in the evening. This is made possible by a program called NFE, non-formal education. All of this work is done in conjunction with the Bhutanese government’s Department of Culture and Local Governance.

One of the techniques that thrilled me was an assignment for each youngster to go home and photograph items and activities that have been going on in their family for years…then to photograph the changes and what is being done differently today. There are pictures of grandmothers weaving, beautiful handmade baskets, and men farming or plowing the fields with wooden tools and oxen. There are men cutting bamboo and preparing large banana leaves for repairing or making new roofs on their simple, but very serviceable homes. There are young people playing traditional games with darts (kuru), butter being churned in ancient urns, handcrafts explored, native plants examined, and wild creatures photographed in their native habitat. And there are changes in the dress and activities of young people, their music, their love of singing, and their art. Traditions are respected and lauded, even as changes are coming to the country, and family rituals become works of art to be accepted and treasured .

Markus said that the students, once quiet and shy, blossomed as they experimented with this new technology and saw the artistic fruits of their labors. This and much more were the results of an imaginative and  innovative program. I urge you to go online and read more about it.

Another point that Markus makes is that because modern media is now reaching remote places in Bhutan through mobile phones, the internet, computers, DVD’s, and TV, it is important to help the young generation learn how to deal with these media in a constructive way. Being trained to work with digital photography actively, the students not only learn how to see and observe in a more careful and sensible way, but also how to express their own views and ideas. They become active, creative participants, instead of being only naive consumers.

Most of the photographs in the beautiful book I referred to, BHUTAN’S CULTURAL DIVERSITY by Kunzang Dorji and Markus Wild, were done by students and have been on display not only in their home villages, but also in the capital, Thimpu, and at venues in Sweden and Switzerland.

I received a call from Cary, today, high in the mountains by the Melamchi River, next to a deep river gorge. Isn’t modern technology wonderful? The telephone, I mean. She climbed up the eastern side after spending two days meditating near Neyding, and is now going up the western side to upper Melamchi. She’s cold, but happy!

5 Comments

Filed under Bhutan

TRUE LIFE ADVENTURE–HORRIFIC, ENTHRALLING, UNBELIEVABLE….

This is the antidote to sitting around, waiting for a knee to heal. I’m sorely challenged by prolonged inactivity, as many of you may know, but have found excitement and inspiration in several amazing stories I’ve been carrying around waiting to read. Now’s the time and let me share two of the books with you.  The Unsung Hero; Tom Crean, Antarctic Survivor by Michael Smith. I saw a one-man show at the Irish Repertory Theater in New York City a few years ago about this intrepid Irishman, who was a key figure in both Scott and Shackelton’s polar expeditions in the early 20th century. I was held captive throughout this story of immense strength, dedication, and uncanny endurance.

Now I’m involved in another daring adventure by Ian Baker, The Heart of the World, A Journey To Tibet’s Lost Paradise. It’s an exploration into the heart of Tibetan Buddhism as well as a journey to find what James Hilton wrote in Lost Horizon…the Shangri La hidden deep within the Himalayas. But this is not a fantasy. This is a search for the much-rumored waterfall in the Tsangpo Gorge in Tibet, which has mystified and eluded explorers for hundreds of years. This story dovetails with several other books I’m reading about Tibetan Buddhism as it relates to other philosophies and great religions of the world. It is also especially relevant since the author began his odyssey in the caves of the Yolmo,  where daughter Cary is trekking. I’ve been in touch with her, and she finds this area rugged and beautiful, but won’t be able to go to her highest destination in Guru Rinpoche’s cave because of the extreme weather. I can’t wait to hear more about it!

I walked to the Boudhanath Stupa today and was not run down by a motorcycle. I bargained for fruit, immersed myself in Saturday crowds (this is the only day of the week that school is out), burned incense, and lit butter lamps for loved ones. I’m looking at this time alone as my special retreat, away from the phone, TV, family, work, and computer, except for those times when the power allows me half-an-hour on the internet. I’m paying $10/night for my room and another ten for marvelous vegetarian meals served in a charming garden full of exotic trees and flowers. Wonderful as it is, I would  not have chosen this over a trek, but I shall make the most of it. I’m even catching up on The New Yorker magazine!

2 Comments

Filed under Nepal

THE BEST LAID PLANS….

In telling of my exciting trip to Bhutan, I decided not to spoil the trip by relating an unfortunate episode at the Punakha Dzong two days before I left. All the challenging obstacles of the week had been surmounted and I was gleefully walking down a dark corridor with a groups of monks familiar with the lay of the land. Suddenly, they moved over to avoid a tall stone threshold, but I was not quick enough and took a dive head first onto the stones, injuring my right knee–that same poor knee that had suffered from the train accident near Udipi, India, two years ago. I did a dramatic flip, but this time my Guardian Angel was napping and I suffered a soft tissue injury, which made it impossible to go trekking. Yes, it could have been much worse…I could have knocked myself out or torn a meniscus or broken my patella. So maybe my Angel was just giving me a severe warning. I’m thankful for small blessings.

Needless to say, we tried to find a hospital, but nothing was available, except for a small clinic in the country, with no orthopedic doctor and a broken X-ray machine. But I did get a freezer pack to help me out until we returned to  Thimpu the next day and went to the emergency room.

Nothing was broken, but I did consult an orthopedic surgeon at the well-known CIWEC clinic in Kathmandu when I returned, and was told to wear a leg brace, do a minimum of walking, and for God’s sake, don’t go trekking. You can imagine my disappointment!

Daughter Cary arrived last Thursday and we mulled over alternatives. The upshot is that she left alone, yesterday (with a guide and porters, of course), for a two-week trek  in the Yolmo region of the Helambu-Gosinkunde area of Langtang, starting at Melamchi and climbing to Dhukpa, the site of Guru Rinpoche’s cave. She can decide as she goes along just how many places to visit and how long to stay in each one. She will have a ball, for this is a very sacred area for Buddhists, with meditation caves used by such revered monks as the legendary Milarepa. She will also do some reconnoitering around the area for a possible return for the two of us next year. We never give up!

In the meantime, I’m enjoying the varied clientele here at the Shechen Guest House in Boudha…a melange of world travelers, trekkers, and NGO workers. It is NOT dull and I’ll keep you posted. Oh, yes, tomorrow is Thanksgiving back home. A happy day to you all. I shall think of you devouring your turkey as I sit and eat my vegetarian meal laced with a warm ginger lemon honey tea here at the Rabsel Garden Cafe.

7 Comments

Filed under Bhutan, Nepal