Wow. I’ve been doing these daily art-haiku for three weeks. So much fun! I’d love to hear yours!
The Fading Mountain
The new moon is a mist behind clouds but I turn to the mountains in the near distance, on the other side of the very narrow river.
There’s a small rickety bridge that crosses it and last year they were building a second bridge not far away. Now it’s done. It’s not rickety yet, like the others, but it’s flimsy so there’s a lot of promise.
Now the sky is thick like you can touch it and it’s a dress from the Victorian Age made of endless folds of velvet. I want to watch the mountains go dark the way you want to watch water boil without ever taking your eyes away from the pot.
They say a watched pot never boils, but of course that’s not true. It’ll boil as sure as the sun rises everyday (so far that’s a sure thing, until one day the sun will just run out of energy and die). I’m not sure what that expression is trying to tell us, maybe not to be impatient but just to go on with life and let the proverbial water boil on its own?
Personally, I just think we don’t have the patience to watch water boil and are afraid to see this. The mind goes elsewhere and the body follows because we’re not as in control of ourselves as we’d like to think we are. If you’ve ever tried meditating, you’ll see how difficult it is to watch your breath go in and out, in and out, with full concentration. This is mind-training, and the mind is stubborn. It wants to be anywhere else so you start thinking about the past and future, all sorts of happy and bad things, and before you know it you’re anxious and miserable and the breath has been forgotten.
How I love the mountains of Laos, their curves and shapes and strength, and I want to watch them change in the night, all night. I want to watch this water boil. There’s a large mountain covered with trees, and next to it is a series of smaller mountains, with one darker one dominating that’s also covered in trees. Above these the sky is now several intoxicating shades of blue. I look and immediately I’m back to when I was here years ago, and how I felt so protected under these nurturing mountains, and how lonely I was then.
The mountains were everything. I see again: the sky is darker, but you can still discern the varying blues of the sky. The mountains behind the darkest one have faded into the background. The large mountain next to it has become a silhouette. I missed this in the space it took for nostalgia to grow.
I hear someone start to cry. I try to find her but I can’t. I think of loneliness again and now my attention has moved away once again from the mountains, which are almost gone now. But I remember these mountains, and I’ll keep on remembering them. You can feel them even as they disappear.
The Little Would-Be Doctor in Ooty
It was frigid in Ooty, all night and well into mid-morning. We arrived to this mountainous hill station on a toy train train, a five hour ride in one of four cars that stopped periodically at chai and snack stands nestled in lush green, rolling hills. I watched a little girl whose parents were lovingly trying to feed her chapatti and chutney. She refused, relented, refused again. Her father was so patient, but at the next pit stop he inexplicably switched to another car and we never saw him again.
Shortly after we arrived, stunned at the clarity of the cool air, we found a room with two heavy blankets, hot water from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. and cable TV. TV! We watched NatGeo Adventure most of the time while recovering from the latest stomach ailment – we were often in some state of needing recovery, and there were no pressing engagements that needed our attention. The very idea of the mountains all around us was enough travel for me at this point.
While watching a show about a guy walking the Carmino del Santiago, I had this strange sensation knowing that at this very moment, there were people all over the world, at the exact same time, finding their way among the lands of others, motivated by any number of passions. It felt so warm (the cozy blankets didn’t hurt either) to finally feel a sense of community in this strange and gargantuan universal space we’ve been inhabiting, with almost no awareness of the outside world.
I didn’t realize how cut off I’d been feeling, though a sense of removal was palpable. Somehow, I needed to watch other people delight in the world’s offerings to remember how lucky I am to be nestled in a hill station under blankets, drinking tea and wondering what India will end up like for us this third time around.
One day we went on what the local tourist map said was a 10 km rural walk around Ooty. It was gorgeous. Tiny hilltop churches and Hindu shrines commingled and everywhere there were vast, endless expanses of mountain, sky and sun. It was a small, leisurely walk and it was also as momentous as anything I could remember. We ate cheese spread sandwiches under a tree down from an abandoned construction project, and drank chai in a tiny shop served to us by a shy local girl.
We were trying to figure out which of two ways would take us to the next village when a little boy saw us and asked us where we were going. We told him, Kammandu, and he nodded his head and said, this way. We followed him straight up a mountain of small, sun-kissed tea leaves until we reached a small road and a pretty, large pink house. That way, he pointed. Then he ran inside.
Soon, his mother emerged. Come for chai, she said. We smiled and entered. The house was airy but grounded, like a transparent cocoon suspended on the very top of a tree. The chai was delicious, and we reveled in this nurturing mother’s warm embrace.
The son did the translating, and told us his father was a military doctor while his mother proudly showed us photos of the family taken at the Botanical Gardens in Ooty. We never found out how this wealthy family came to live in a house on a hill in the middle of a tea plantation. The little boy wants to be a doctor like his dad, and with his huge, soulful eyes and quiet, kind demeanor, I’m sure – and I told him so – that he would grow up to be the best.
Yesterday evening, I stepped out onto the balcony to bring in the laundry, busy and barely registering that the hours of daylight were coming to a close.
Right from home, from my balcony, was this view of the setting sun. It’s hard not to stop during moments like these, which are so fleeting (I had only a moment to grab the camera and take the shot), and rest in amazement at reminders of how beautiful our world is.