Reflections on a Himalayan Journey by Jen Truran
I knew I’d buy a thangka on this trip. I still can’t think about Turkey without a twinge of regret that I didn’t return home with a carpet and a story involving a brash, lash batting boy and bad apple tea.
I’d envisaged a blue medicine Buddha, or maybe a green Tara of compassion, but it turns out to be Yama, Lord of Death who seduces me. He clutches the wheel of life to his torso and leans back, like some big old black boyfriend ready to light up a cigar after a root. ‘Perfect’ I laugh when I find out his story. But not for long. The wheel has turned slightly off kilter and our relationship begins with a wobble; a not so subtle reminder of the point.
Back at our Nepalese mountain hotel, I tear through thickly rolled layers of plastic and a three month old cover of The Himalayan Times to finally release the compact cardboard cylinder within. Eager fingers slide inside to ease out the painting and admire the gold lushness that is now mine, all mine.
Or is it?
There’s nothing inside!
This realisation of emptiness is not the one I had in my mind. High on the hill in Dhulikhel I’m suspended. The stab of hatred that fuels wars and the need to laugh loudly have erupted at the same time; I can only drop onto my bed and blink uselessly.
The middle path emerges and I wait for our guide, Bikram’s news. I tell myself I’m grateful for another little opportunity to practice patience and loving trust in humanity, but I’m not sure that I am. The wheel’s always turning, and maybe I’ll be zooming home to Sydney with only the tale of the thangka to be told, and a large space on my wall with the matching Turkey piece on the floor.
(Postscript: the missing Thangka was located and delivered. An innocent mix up in the busy, not-for-profit Thangka shop.)
Sadhu’s are scary to me.
Lurking, waiting for the unsuspecting
Filthy nails lurid
Watching with unglittering
Charles Sobraj eyes
Tsedang to Shigatse
A gold winged horse rears on a rainbow
We speed towards Mandrax
Wading through sludge
Pain sends me underground for a day
Breathless I emerge into lush brocade
Teenage girl in a fringed denim vest prostrates
On a centuries old stone floor
Empty robes and a shady monk
Slowly we climb upwards on rocky white ladders
Step by step, one by one
To a glacier
Teeming with pink glass crystals
It’s intense work to die. A singular selfish labour of watching objects crumble, unhitching your story and casting away from your people.
Ali was lucky. There was a dusting of grace about as she announced she was ready, bid farewell to her boys, closed her eyes and surrendered. She just faded away while Sam sat on the old floorboards in her doorway playing guitar. “It was like she just drowned in her own homeopathy” Chrissy said later, raising her eyebrow just slightly.
Mum’s death seemed horrific to me, despite her professed faith and carefully planned exit. One night (or was it morning?) as my hands traced the irritated spike of her spine I suddenly got it. She was shit scared. All those years of Jehovah and living her days within the pseudo safety of black and white judgements was bringing her no comfort. She had no experience of melting, merging, opening to any seduction let alone the warm mystery that beckoned now. She closed her heart and hardened instead. I wish that I hadn’t retreated like the hurt child I was, and could’ve just climbed into her bed and curled up around her.
©Jen Truran 2017
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Jen Truran loves to travel and write. She has spent the last four years living in Ubud, Bali, and is currently back in Australia teaching. Jen was a participant in Writer’s Journey’s Taste of Tibet in June 2017.
Next Writer’s Journey trips heading out:
Backstage Bali, Oct 14–21, seven days, mountains and ricefields retreat.
Moroccan Caravan, Mar 4–17, 2018. A camel riding/writing adventure into the Sahara. Add on a five day residency at the end.
Haiku Writing in Japan, Mar 27- April 3, 2018. Walk the Nakasendo Way in cherry blossom time.