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A Poet's Journal: February 26th, 2015

  February 26th, 2015 How rare to have body and mind on the same page!  It is not easy to do the things we want when we want to; the auspicious moment always seems to grow from inability and our inability from a desire for something more.  Imagination drags us through this lonely field, giving us our tasks, our worries, making the distance around us insufferable.  And so whenever I have something to do, it is very difficult not to get caught up in the imagination of doing it before it is actually done, working through it a hundred times.  I am not speaking of preparation or details here, but the simple idea of a future to come, and what that future might bring, and how we might handle that--this is the imagination, this is the gateless gate, firmly shut and too defiantly high to look over; this is the gate that never was nor ever has been a gate.  Yet it is richly adorned and so much a part of our inability that it seems better to look at and keep closed rather than pass right through

Nepalese Notebook: September 19th, 2014

September 19th, 2014 Samdo 3875m. Yesterday was a rest day.  We took a short side-trip to Birendra Tal, a glacial lake on the trail up to Manaslu Base Camp.  On our way there we passed a Gumpa where  an old lady was drying yak meat on a blanket near the door.  Inside was a statue of Guru Rinpoche, the man who brought Buddhism to Tibet in the 8th century, perhaps along the same trails we are on now.  There was also another young woman who had a child that was crying hysterically--only later did we find out it was because of our presence.  Near the lake we had a marvelous view of the glacier higher up and could hear the cracking and grinding movements of the ice.  All around us were mountains of up to 8000 meters and the silence was so profound that between the few words we exchanged with our companion, the sound of avalanches echoed throughout the valley. Short walk today; the altitude tires one quickly.  Samdo is perched on an eminence above Larkya Bazar, a place where a sea

Nepalese Notebook: September 17th, 2014

September 17th, 2014 Samagaun 3550m. Clear morning; Lho was as a spring day in the sunshine of the early hours, and everything that seemed untouchable yesterday was for a moment understandable, creating once more another aspect to our journey.  There was a strange feeling of confidence all around, and it seemed that wherever we were going that day, was indeed the one and only thing that mattered to anyone who crossed our path, and most importantly, to us.  Manaslu Himal (8165m.) and Manaslu North (7157m.), covered in the whitest snow, were visible for the first time, along with many other unknown peaks, showing us what our trail had yet to encounter, and proving still that we had much more to climb. We visited the Ribung Gompa on the way out of Lho, a Buddhist Monastery, and were greeted with hellos from the monks who were busy making repairs far away in another building up the hillside.  A young attendant monk waited on us and showed what buildings we could look into and

Nepalese Notebook: September 16th, 2014

September 16th, 2014 Lho 3180m.  Arrived in the buffer zone of Tibet.  The landscape has gone from jungle to high plateau in the matter of a week.  Aside from all this though, there is something more pervasive, it is as if we have crossed an invisible barrier and now the opposites that seemed so far apart--good and bad, rich and poor, beautiful and ugly, all those things perhaps which define our lives--have been gathered into one original intention, the place where all things start.  Maybe it was that the first breath, the first thought, or the first idea, came down from such high mountains.  It is difficult not to fall in to the feeling that something sacred is at work, but the contradictory nature of all things at this level of altitude, perhaps even at this level of moral judgment, is of far greater importance and exceeds any majority. Temples have appeared out of the clouds; people come back from the higher altitudes looking dazed and enter in and out of the tea-house

Nepalese Notebook: September 15th, 2014

September 15th, 2014 Namrung 2680m. We awoke with a view of the Syarang covered in snow, mountains that reach up to 6000m with Tibet just behind them.  Seeing these heights for the first time, our vision seems stunted, not yet ready to take in their massive presence, such that when we think to have found the summit of one of them, we must lift our eyes still further to see the actual spot. We crossed over to the other side of the river this morning, and on our way down we found a pepper-tree that we ate berries from, having a lemony flavor but rather overbearing taste; they are supposedly a remedy against the altitude.  After our ascent on the other side, and passing through a couple Buddhist chortans with impressive rock carvings and paintings, our trail wound along the edges of dangerous cliffs.  Arriving at the end of those, we found a group of merchants with a tarp laid down on the ground and a mound of rice in the middle, each gathering what he needed to mix with his dha

Nepalese Notebook: September 14, 2014

September 14th, 2014 Dyang 1860m. The mountains grow and the scenery has taken on a massive aspect; rocks, trees, or the sky, no longer have that habitual feeling but seem to turn the absolute most normal thing into a sacred and almost surreal picture.  We are always repeating: 'This is different...  This is bigger...  This is strange...' but there is really no time to savour any of it, not because we are moving so fast or cannot take our time on the trail, but because we do not realize all of these sights are interior, and before we have tried to cope with them, they have already become a part of our imagination and ideal.  Lunch this afternoon was one of the best we have had so far. Our tea-house tonight is quaint and we are the only visitors.  Here they cook by wood-fire, and smoke from the kitchen fills the whole dining area.  From our table we can see that we are surrounded by high mountains now, but cannot yet see the tops, and to pass the time to evening we l