Upcoming Shows

We've been named as a official selection in the Southern Circuit of Filmmakers Tour, March 17-24.

Shows are in Hapeville, GA 3/17, Madison, GA 3/20, Orangeburg, SC 3/22, Gainsville, GA 3/23, and Manteo, NC 3/24.
Learn more by going to the SouthArts blog.

View the theatrical trailer for A Gift for the Village

Saturday, June 23, 2007

From Jane and Diane, Thursday and Saturday!

From Jane--- Saturday

Dear Friends Back Home, It is Jane again, this time from the "city" of
Pokhara,in central Nepal, in fact Nepal's ONLY other "city" besides Kathmandu.

Our gorgeous flight on Yeti Airlines brought us here this morning, over land that looks like forest-green cake icing with curry-colored ribbons of rushing swollen river identifying dozens of gorges.

We seated the new-to-Asia people on the right side of the flight, since
from those windows, you get to see Mount Everest arching her back: Chomolungma, she is called locally, Highest Goddess of the Himalayas. I probably looked as strange on that flight as I have ever looked (I know, I know: people can not imagine THAT extreme), but something about flying out of the Kathmandu Valley on our penultimate destination for this huge painting with our amazing Lucky Seven PLUS our dear West Virginia friends Debra and Eric and their curly-haired, barefooted thirteen-month old French-and-Sicilian-blooded American baby Joey made me so grateful that my memory just sharpened and I could recite more Tibetan mantras, more particular incantatory reminders of the aspects in each of our hearts represented by the Tibetan dieties, than I have ever been able to recite; and for me, the forty-five minutes just vanished as I spoke these syllables half-under my breath, looking over at Reba and jenna seated together next to me, both glued to the cloud-piercing precipitousness of Everest out their window.

Pokhara is a village compared to Kathmandu, though let me hasten to add that it is a village sizzling in a frying pan at this season. Not since I spent May through July in the south of India in 1985 have
I felt heat that I know is burnishing my hair from copper-brown to gold. We all have suntanned and travel-rough faces, well, except for MY inexplicably lovely and calm and unlined face: actually, I think I look like I have been living with a raunchy and ugly abominable snow-somebody for about a decade, and I've just come down from the m9ountains to see if the world still makes haribrushes I might remember how to use. Speaking of ugly snow-people, yesterday in the ancient kindom-village of Bhaktapur, while the others bought beautiful fabric and carvings, I found a brass candle-holder made from an admittedly ugly abominable snow-woman with a badly misshapen body and a
low-brow, Neanderthal, dull-faced head. This was my prize, since I know I will paint from her. This piece for me tells the uncivilized truth of what species might be left in the wild places we are going day after tomorrow. My roommates, Jenna and Reba, however, asked if I really paid for the thing, and said the shopkeeper must have laughed that some sun-fried tourist finally bought the ugly thing that no one else has had ever picked up. When my painting of a wild abominable snow-woman is painted one day, and it sells for ten thousand dollars, I will not buy drinks for Reba and Jenna with that particular money. Infidels.

Yesterday in this ancient village of Bhaktapur, I had the pleasure of helping our great friends Debra and Eric shop for a thang-ka, a Tibetan-style painting. My "Amchi" painting is referred to as a thang=ka as well, which means that it passes as a Tibetan painting with a sacred subject--in this case, a teacher. Otehr thang=kas may be about places such as holy mountains or temples, syllables whose chanting calms and simultaneously awakens a particular organ in your body (your heart, your lungs, your spleen), or other great teachers, like
Jenna or Andrea or Carol or our own Miss Reba Loving-Life-in-Nepal Hoffman. There are dozens of thang-ka shops here, since Tibetans paint as a form of

Debra and Eric thought they might like to buy a mandala painting. A mandals is a geometric thang-ka subject. What many westerners don't know is that a painted mandals is an aeriel view of a palace. Think oflooking down on a Chinese lantern from above, and then picking up the lantern and unfolding its accordian shape, and then going to ground level and entering this palace. Mandalas have five directions, the four we also allude to in teh West--North, East, South, and West--but a fifth direction as well: the Center. Som, a mandala is a little like a gerometric labyrinth, and also not unlike a cathedral, with stations of the cross being ten-fold the ususal number, and each "place" in this imagined "palce" a reminder of a certain quality you need to inculcate before you go on to the next stage or spot. Eventually, if you
know every detail of the mandala, you complete your complex tour of this imagined palace, and you have done a kind of exploration of one quality of an enlightened mind and heart. So think of the mandala as a visual aide and as directions for recalling what it takes not to forget what life can be in its sweetest and least agitated and wasteful moments.

We were in our second shop when Jenna had already explained to the Tibetan painters there that one of us was, strange to say, and American thang-ka painter. We showed the chief two artists a color photograph of the "Amchi" painting, and let's just say that the people in the shop suddenly knew that they were not with ordinary tourists. The shopkeepers explained that they wer a not-for-profit painting collective, and that they were honored to show us their best pieces, even one ancinet original piece the likes of which I have
only seen in my books on Newari (Kathmandu Valley) style thang-kas. There are not but a few dozen paintings as old and as intact as the one we saw yesterday, and it was brought out for us with care, since the people keeping it were reluctant even to let any daylight hit its surface, the thing was so old and so fragile.

The shopkeepers brought out such amazing pieces, and I told them the dieties I love to paint best: Vajra Yoghini, Dorje Phagmo, Vajrabhairavayamantaka, Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri, Green Tara, Ekajati, and, well, you get the point.
They were surprised.

Eventually Debra and Eric settled on a magnificent and sizeable mandala with much gold paint gilded onto the palace design. The palace is the residence of the diety Kalachakra, who operated The Wheel of Time, and whose presence calms and tranquilizes a place, and clears it of fear and anger. Our current Dalai Lama has performed the Kalachakra Initiation (like an incantatory theatrical dance and beseeching) to this diety more times than any other previous Dalai Lams, since He believes the world is now in such need of pacifying.

Anyway, Debra and Eric made an offer on the painting, and I wish you all could have seen the magnificent response. Though I am shy to say so, the painter himself was called into the room, and far from any question of any bargaining
or haggling, the painter through a translator said that he and his fellow brother-sister painters were proud to send this great mandala to America with these people, in part to honor our project and my art as a Tibetan thang-ka painter of such high skill. Much bowing, much holding of our hands in namaste to bless one anotehr, and much good fortune for Debra and Eric, who have a mandals worth a fortune for a fraction of what I believe anyone else in the world could have had it for, borrowing anyone connected to His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Enough for now. We are well and missing all of you. Tashi deleg, as the Tibetans say. Blessings to each of you. And Barbara and Jessica, Great Keepers of My Million Cats, sorry that Rare, Rare, the Cat With Grey Hair looked you straight in the eyes and peed on the living room floor. This was a comment on the kind of mother who goes to the other side of the world to deliver a gift, and nothing about either of you. Forgive me. With love, Jane

Thrusday from Diane

The other night each of us decided to write to"agiftforthevillage.blogspot.com" about something that has been profound for us thus far on our journey.

At this point, we could probably each pen a book and have yet more to say, much of which may remain unsaid. as it continues to reside within the in the mind of our hearts forever.

Here the formless takes form before our eyes at every turning... as Tom is wont to say, "everything is a picture."

There was a moment for me on the way to the Monkey Palace when I had just stepped away from saying "namaste " to an ancient man busily working away at a sewing machine in a tiny hut along the crowded roadside.

It had been a long walk and I'd not eaten breakfast beyond the delightful cup of french-pressed coffee with steaming milk that's been the first thing in my hands each morning on the beautiful outside patio at Kathmandu Guest House.

I had looked up from the lens of the still camera I'd asked permission to capture this timeless man's image, when I saw her.She wasn't a samll girl. She was scant. Like a moth, hovering before me, with eyes as large as her face.Matted hair, dusty-covered clothes in tatters, dark, dark skin.

I felt her hunger. She's asked for nothing.
My hands in " namste," I mouthed the typical greeting that we often share in church at Unity.

For the first time in my life, "the divine presence in me greets the divine presence in you," of " Namaste," was utterly real.
She walked lightly by me. She asked nothing.

I'd been so overwhelmed, as we all have, with the neediness of those all around us asking for 'anything, something (just help) please, namaste, can you give me something, anything, ruppees, dollars, care for me, won't you? namste madam...'
Her silence was absolutely magnetic.

I slid off my backpack and, reaching in, grabbed the "Bible Bar" that one of my girlfriends, Leigh, had given me at the airport in Roanoke, Virginia, as we were checking in for our first flight on the 44 hour journey to Nepal.

Made of seven basic and precious ingredients spoken of in the book of Deuteronomy, a Bible Bar could be thought to represent the sustenance God is constantly providing each of us in our multiverse. For me, it was a sign of the abundance in this little girl's life and in mine, beyond any seeming conditions.

I turned and ran back to find her with a sense of urgency, as if my finding her was absolutely the only thing that mattered in my life. Because, at that moment, it was, truly.

I found her sitting on top of a pile of roadside trash, picking at a fruit that she'd gleaned.I think I startled her with my immediacy, but she calmly lifted her eyes to meet mine as if to say, I knew you would come. I offered the Bible Bar to her and bowed in namaste.

She gently pressed her hand in mine as we passed the food bar between us. I'll bring what she gave me wherever I go...

Beloved, thank you for being a part of our journey.
You are one of the gifts we carry and you are one of the village we are gifting.

Loving Light, Diane

Thursday FROM Jane

Hello Amazing Friends, I think that Jenna is giving assignments and I am the only one who can't remember what hers is for me. But let me TRY to tell you about the latest expansion and iteration of our theme, a gift for the village, which manifested last night. We ate as guests at Jenna's and my old friend Sunil Shahi's house, down alleys and bizarre turns in the medieval, intestinal warren of Kathmandu, beyond any tourists' imagination, with his shy and beautiful wife Sarita and his new daughter-in-law Arundhati helping to cook this extravagant vegetarian dinner for all may-as-well-be-hundred of us. (Meanwhile, as the stars came out, as they do in the clear evenings here, the
holy hill-top temple of Swayambhunath glowed, and seemed to float, lit by spotlights, apparition-like, hovering not far in the distance, across the Vishnumati River and across lantana thickets and monkeys sleeping in neem trees, all visible from Sunil's balcony.)

Sunil and his wife Sarita, not from any Hindu caste which could ever have expected access to America, have a son, Manoj, who is now graduating from the University of Kentucky. He graduated this July. Manoj has known me and Iris and Emerson since Emerson was too young to hold playing cards, and after, when Emerson was barely old enough to consider dexterity and sleight-of-hand (or, as
Sunil rememebers, "Emerson cheating!". In other words, we are old friends from 14 years before, Sunil's family and Jenna and I. Manoj Shahi has come to America because Sunil, a driver in Kathmandu, came to value education so highly that his entire extended family gave everything they all had to help Manoj--Sunil's son--come to America. I helped, and Jenna helped, and Jenna's parents' amazing church community helped, and Manoj himself, having the perseverance of a determined student (not unlike my Iris, working three jobs and taking 21 hours at Tulane)all got this boy TO America and into university.
Then Manoj helped himself, learned better and better English, polished his work skills and his writing, and improved until he had an admirable 3.5 or 3.6 GPA--having come to America with only fair English and much homesickness.

Our team mate Diane learned that Sunil and Sarita, our hosts last night, and the parents of Manoj, had had the great fortune of winning visas in the random lottery for which Nepali applicants might gain possible access to America. Sunil, the Dad, was delighted to have an American visa, but still daunted to think how in the world he could EVER get enough money to buy not just one, but the second ticket so that he AND his wife Sarita could fly to America to see their son Manoj--our friend--and the first person in his immediate family ever to graduate college--accept his diploma from the University of Kentucky next month.

Diane listened to how Sunil had managed to save the terible amount to gain ability to buy even ONE ticket to America. These people, everyone in Sunil's family, have never, any of them, been on an airplane to anywhere.

And then, without fanfare, Dine told us that SHE would be grateful to cover the second ticket's fare. Without hesitation. Without question.

Sunil and his family got his news last night. I drew an airplane, and told the story of Diane's idea--to give BOTH of Manoj's parents the abilty to be together in Kentucky for their son's gradation from an Ameican university.
Diane, in other words, moved in this world like lightning, or like a flower blooming: naturally, and with amazing power.

It was an awesome sight to see Sunil's humble family realize the magnitude of this freely-given gift. What a dinner, as a result. What an amazing gift to Sunil's village, thought Daine kept demuring, insisting that this opportunity to help was HER gift. What a team we are here in Kathmandu, working together to build bridges and hope where nothing but impossiblilty


Anonymous said...

Jane, you are a phenominal writer. I felt that I was in the airplane with you! I can't wait to see the abonimal snow-woman. Tell Reba and Jenna that Goddesses come in all shapes and sizes-ha! Thank you (all) for sharing with us. I check the site multiple times daily, hungry to read more. Love, Gretchen

Garland said...

Jane, you paint with words too. I'm still laughing at your "painting" of the purchase of the ugly thing from the ugly, Neanderthal snow-woman. Maybe for the Infidels you should buy a special belt and tell them that if they press the button, they'll have a blast?

But it reads like you all are having a blast without the belt and button. Thanks for bringing us along for the trek with your blogs.

Garland said...

Diane, WOW! My eyes welled up with tears of appreciation and understanding of how important that gift is. You're very much appreciated!!!

Anonymous said...

Great post. At some point we all run out of ways to express how much joy we get out of reading about the adventure. Whoever had the idea of this blog gets an A+++.

And just for the record, if you, the other six, allow Reba to adopt or otherwise bring home any orphans, I am going to insist that he, she or at least one of them, be named Vajrabhairavayamantaka. I just love the way that sounds!

Kellie said...

Oh my Diane! I cannot imagine how much your gift must have meant to that family! In America we take for granted the fact that family will be with us when we experience milestones such as graduation and it is so amazing that you could make that come true for this man and his parents! You are all an inspiration to me in your exploration and generosity! Much love from MD!

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