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Welcome to my newsletter, Abbe’s Ruminations. I mull, contemplate, ponder – old and new experiences, finding what I call the joy and laughter of repetition or the abandonment to not knowing.
I stood inside a large bowl of seven metals hammered together to from an encircling reverse dome of sound. The first strike was a sweet note that vibrated from my toes to head. I felt a wave of energy pass through me and so began my journey.
Nepal is a country like no other I have been to. Steeped in rituals of Hinduism and Buddhism, the harsh and beautiful landscape creates a rhythm of life that runs through the small outlying villages. The daily work includes hour long hikes carrying over seventy pounds of grasses to feed the goats and buffalo. Added to this is the grinding of millet, mud patching of roofs and floors, hand washing clothes, and cooking by wood gathered along the mountainsides.
Understanding comes slowly as explanations of ways and history are visual and engrained in the fiber of the mountains, rivers, tea terraces, and in the sure-footed steps and eyes of the people. I came to know the woman porters who carried our luggage in their baskets up the same hill they carried the grasses. I recognized them in the women run village, where the men leave to work in other countries and send home money. Their body is their instrument, played with a lightness, despite hardships.
The wide-eyed children running along the uneven slated road to catch a glimpse of us as we visited their home, later appeared in the schools dressed in uniforms with pencils in hand. Their faces mirrored surprise, recognition, and awareness. Connected ,we left as the rains muddied the path home.
Love of family and sense of dedication fills in the blanks where what Hinduism and the government fail to provide. Women marry either by matches arranged by others or new love. Either way the woman lives in the man’s home, a place where she must adapt and over time take care of her husbands aging parents. Modern deviations are rare and the practice in based on traditions that ring true for them.
As I hiked up the mountainous hills, I set aside judgement and comparisons to my own life. We met a mother taking care of her down-syndrome son, who I later recognized as one of our porters. To earn money, she had to tie her son to his bed while she delivered us back to our lodge. The gap of help in a world where all hands are occupied saddened the mother. She sacrificed so much to provide for her son. I heard in her voice the ring of despair mixed with pride for what she could do. I had no right to think anything bad of her decision.
Resilience in a world where a leech grasps on to shoes, finds it way to just under my bra, is nothing compared to seeing it reappear, out of the toilet where I had tried to flush it away. I was its source of food. The leech judged correctly and found a new target, as the locals were already salted and less appetizing.
I met a living goddess, part of a little-known Hindu religious practice. The Kumari goddess unites the country’s Hindu and Buddhist population. A Hindu religious leader chooses a Buddhist child, age six to eight, to receive the spirit of the Kumari goddess. She remains alone living with her family until she matures to womanhood. During this time, she is isolated from the world, and gives her silent blessing to seekers. An honor and a burden, this practice repeats every four to six years. Blessed, I sat before the silent serious eyes of an eight-year-old and silently mirrored back my blessings for her.
From the Annapurna hillsides to the raging waters of the Seti River, Nepal vibrates with water’s mighty power. Snow is rare in the towns, but the monsoons create its lush greenery, the muddied roads, and the roaring rivers. Traveling on the Seti River, the rafting classes of rapids changed from II and III to IV and V. The calls of the lead rower, forward, forward, pause, increased in intensity. Until the loud commands roared to hold tight, as the river rolled over us.
My trepidations of falling in ceased as I held tight. I found that the water cleansed me, the rowers soothed my soul with their knowledge and the skirted shorts I wore, gradual slipped down my legs. After a stomach bacteria caused weight loss the river laughed at my modesty. In a world where women always remained covered, I was almost left naked.
Now home, my spirt whispers truths. I remember the hugs of the village women, the gentle hand of CB grabbing my own on the difficult hikes, and the sincere and wonderful care of the trip leader Avash. Avash manifested a deep connection and care with the group. True to his culture he gave his elders respect, commitment, and love.
Caught between two worlds, I dream in rhythms of another culture and hear the rich tones of my singing bowl. I practice daily with a special mallet and circle the edge. The water inside bubbles, and I let the vibrations sing my own song.