Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Answer, On Little Goat Feet


McLeod Ganj

Sunday, April 23, 2006


I’m a very lucky boy. It’s Sunday morning, and I’m on a rooftop restaurant in the little town on the edge of the Himalayas where the Tibetan government hangs out. There are big black birds soaring in the sky above and below me, and town monkeys climbing around on the railing.

McCleod Ganj is a perfect place for me to finish up the novel, (which is now on the gantry for final assembly). The sushi’s not that great, but a shave is fifty cents and a massage is seven fifty. My room at the Om Hotel (really that’s the name) is about seven dollars, so if I don’t go on a run at the billiards hall too often, I can live on twenty bucks a day.

The air is clean and cool and the view from my room, past pine trees and straight out into the valley south, would cost you a couple million if this were California. There are always monks and nuns out and about in their red robes and sensible shoes, plus the usual cast of cows and donkeys, smiling beggars and fingerless lepers, craggy peaks and pine trees; it's a nice mix of Tibet and India.

The Om is down a quiet street without traffic. In the mornings I walk past the “Non-Veg” (an exception) soup guy scraping the hair off a dozen goat feet for that evening’s soup. I guess I’m saying it’s easy to be vegetarian here, but I digress. There are five streets, and perhaps even fewer bars. The town is as quiet at 10:30 at night as it is at 5:00 in the morning.

There is yoga, meditation classes, volunteer opportunities, classes in Buddhism, or just another cup of chai. The café lifestyle goes well with the dry weather which could be nice all day or change from brilliant sun to rain a couple of times a day. The atmosphere is especially good for me, because I need places where I can work, and possibly even plug in my laptop – and when I’m finished writing, I need people to hang out and talk with. In the past week I’ve had nice conversations on topics ranging from Australian immigration policy to the Sino-Tibetan railway, with people from Argentina, the Netherlands, Japan, Germany, Northern England, the US, Switzerland, and Tibet, of course.

Incidentally, my Mac Titanium PowerBook G4 is performing like a warrior. I’ve dragged it on and off buses, trains, planes, tuk tuks, swangthaews, bicycles, tricycles, rickshaws and trucks for four months, taking it out almost every day and recharging it on local power grids every damn night, and it’s still connecting me to WiFi networks wherever it finds them, updating my NPR Podcasts, bringing me more news than I need and connecting me with my peeps. Props to the Mac. I’m very impressed. Caveat: The Super DVD drive has gone out. Disclaimer: I dropped the whole thing edge-down from a chair onto a tile floor in Little Poland last summer.

Of course I need a little pop culture now and then. Luckily, they have four cinemas in town. Each is about the size of a greyhound bus, (one of them appears to have the actual seats from a greyhound bus), and they screen bootleg DVD versions of currently running flix on a dim widescreen. In the past week I’ve seen Walk the Line, Ice Age II, Water, Karmapa, and Capote. (Ice Age II was actually better than Karmapa.)

So suffice it to say, I’m doing fine.

Until lately, this blog had been mostly quick snapshots from my journeys with a bit of commentary. I never want to read about other people’s day-to-day routines, so I had a natural aversion to writing about my own. Why I’m doing it here, I don’t know. I suspect it’s an inevitable symptom of blogging.

If this is a blog, then I think it’s about time I indulged in more public display of personal “insight”. But I’ll make it brief; (if you want the details, we can talk).

I and this mountain I’ve be trying to conquer for quite some time seem to have come to an understanding. It’s not like I’ve scaled it, but I’ve come to realize that I’ve pretty much covered it. And guess what, there was no peak. It might have been about climbing, but it wasn’t about summiting.

As I said already, India has been a much more powerful experience than I expected. At first I thought that I should have come here first, straight from New York, all full of energy and good cheer. Now I think that having a few months to find my own ground in Asia was a good preparation. I arrived here already opened up like an oyster, calibrated to a different energy level, more receptive than ever to new input. Not necessarily the way you might want to come here for the first time, but for me, maybe just right.

I pay attention to my dreams, when I can, and my dreams since coming to India have been categorically different. They aren’t really coherent, but they’re not even incoherent in the way they used to be incoherent. Of course, I’m delighted to see my old creaky consciousness being taught new tricks. I haven’t been able to digest them fully yet.

Speaking of digesting, I had another bout of the usual, which this time cost me two semi-delirious nights, one full day in bed and two more days recuperating in my room at the Om. (I look like the ghost of a skeleton with a seven-day beard.) This is germane, by the way, because waking up this morning free of pain probably gave this series of dreams the luster it needed to make me really pay attention.

It’s not a particularly fascinating set of dreams, or anything I can explain very well, but they are helping me to see how to pull together all of these nice pieces of my recent questing and be a happier journeyman in this life.

The long version of the whole process involves Shiva, Kali, several caves, an immense spider, the Mekong, a twisty village path, lots of soft curtains, more goat feet and a dark-skinned woman.

The short version is that there’s nothing I need to find right now, no lesson I need to be taught right now, I have what I need at this point. I’m good.

Great news. Just in time for summer.

So, I feel ready to head homeward. The cloud of anxiety that had been fogging the landing strip has suddenly cleared. I don’t think I’ll be working in any big offices soon, but I might be back in the states before long.

In the meantime, I’m still writing. It feels very good.

3 comments:

Meredith said...

just letting you know that i'm still reading... and wondering who this dark-skinned woman is. :)

hope to see you in america soon.

doodles said...

You said some wonderful things here. The gem I'm taking with me is: "It might have been about climbing, but it wasn't about summiting." Hope to see you and hear more sometime after you return.

Luis said...

Still lives are not your most common choice of subject, but this one here is superb. It looks like a classical painting in the way its lit, but its also on your face, visceral, powerful.