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, July 28, 2007

July 28, return from Mustang, from Jane

July 28 in Kathmandu. Dear Friends, Jenna and Jason and Sherrie and I are all safely back in Kathmandu, arriving this morning on a flight from Pokhara. What I can not easily tell you is HOW we got to Pokhara. Reba and Tom and Diane flew out of Jomsom, and got to Kathmandu in less than an hour. After our marathons in Upper Mustang, about which time Jenna will write, we spent a full day in Jomsom, which was itself amazing.

In that one day, Tsampa got out one of his hundreds of dark thick planks of wood into which, when he was doing one of his three-year retreats (this one, when he was seventeen), he spent months carving designs and prayers in Tibetan--mind you, carved in all backwards, so that he could then ink these blocks and make prayer flags printed with these designs and prayers. How do you EVER understand all the shapes backwards? I asked him. "Ohh, very easy for me," Tsampa explained. "Always for me it has been very easy to see backwards. I show you." And he proceeded to write sentences from right to left, fluidly, Tibetan in reverse, with meanings so sweet that I didn't know whether I was smiling so much because of WHAT Tsampa had chosen to write (Cy was translating, thank goodness), or because he was so effortlessly writing it completely from the last Tibetan letter backwards to the first--and in impeccable handwriting, as Cy noted. One of the messages was, "Beloved Jane, How happy I am that you and Jenna and your team have come here." Another was, "This gift will last for a thousand years."

So Tsampa got out one of these block prints which he made when he was seventeen, and brought out the Tibetan five-color flags which he had had made for me, Jenna, Jason, and Sherrie, sewn by a tailor across the cobbled street from The Dancing Yak. These flags are vertically stacked, probably twenty feet tall (so I am going to have to find a TALL pole on which to erect my vertical flags!). On each color, Tsampa printed his own carving of powerful blessings, healing to anyone who sees them or even drvies by on Glade Road. It was amazing to think that we had the time and sweet attention of our friend, the Amchi, sitting cross-legged on the floor, with the thang-ka hanging behind him--and from time to time, a villager who had heard about the painting just entering The Dancing Yak, staring up at the painting, and then touching his or her head to the bottom of it, to take its blessing--explaining to us the intensity of power in the prayes he was printing for us.

While he was doing this careful work, all on Jenna's camera, he got a phone call: a villager had just died, and needed Tsampa to come perform phowa immediately. If you have read Sogyal Rinpoche's wonderful book, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying--which I highly recommend as a way to begin to understand Tibetan spirituality and culture--you will remember that phowa is a deeply profound ritual in which a highly trained lama actually directs the consciousness of the releasing energy when a body dies. The lama encourages the energy not to be frightened of its sudden formlessness and fluttering, as it leaves the body and feels untethered and boneless, like an invisible kleenex in a gale. In fact there are types of fears that such a suddenly freed energy can typically fall prey to, and the lama's role is to name the illusions and fears and help remind the energy to take a productive and useful new form, or, as westerners like to call it, a good reincarnation. So Tsmap could not keep printing our flags.

Instead, he taught US how to print, and left us, with a very merry twinkle in his eyes, to work from his old wood block. So we got to print our own Tibetan prayer flags. When he returned, Tsampa felt great, having been able to help a spirit take a smart rebirth, so he sat down cross-legged again, even though by now it was dark and I had to shine my Petzl headlamp on the cloth so that he could see what he was doing. We shared glasses of powerful homemade rakshi (apple brandy) as he turned the block over and offered to print the other carvings for us. They include a gorgeous print of a Snow Leopard Dakini mandala; and an old flower-shaped prayer which one of Tsampa's father's friends had taught to Tsmap'a father in Tibet--a little known design which that old Tibetan lama claimed was the most pwerful design he had ever drawn; and a Tiebtan multi-syllable prayer, which Tsampa said has the power to wipe away a thousand years of sin upon sight, IF you belive in its efficacy. Suzi, I got you some good printings, and Iris, you have a beautiful snow leopard dakini mandala. And Suzi, Tsampa also made a special medicine packet for you, to bring you great power. SuziGablik is all one word, and he speaks of you often, and I am directed to bring many great wonders to you.

So that was part of our last day in Jomsom. So we thought.

In fact, our flight did not go out. Rain, and low clouds. And so the next day, which happened to be my 49th birthday (on the 26th of July), we opted to walk out. Planes had not been flying for days and Tsampa chekced an astrological camedar and said planes and heliocopters would not fly for several more days, which has turned out to be true. Leaving the Dancing Yak made me weep. For one thing, as Reba will understand well, we had to say goodbye to petite little Laxmi, the tiny young girl who is a tureless helper around the house, a bit like Cinderella, but also like a little matchstick girl who did NOT die. One of Tsampa's daughters, Lakpa Dolma, saw this little waif on the streets of Pokhara about half a year ago, and and Tsampa learned that she was the daughter of alcoholic street beggars. Laxmi, who is seven, had no clothes, no food, and slept on a filthy burlap bag. Tsampa wrote a contract and the parents gave Laxmi to him and his wife Karma, to take care of. Now she is going to half-day private school, learning fast as lightning, and serving in every way she can. lighting candles, doing dishes, sweeping, bringing us tea. She wears a shell around her neck from Ella Hoffman, and I think she will never take it off. Laxmi saw us weep and allowed us to hug her goodbye, and she made he gesture of wiping a tear from under her eye, but she was smiling, as if she already knew far more dangerous and fearful things for her than our returning to America.

Saying goodbye to Tsampa's wife Karma and son Tsewang was also incredibly hard. They waved to us from the edge of the village. Leaving Jomsom was quite amazing this time, because now it is the place that our festival was held on Jenna's birthday, and the place where, one day, especially if we can find donors to help Tsampa build this room, the thang-ka will hang in a special wooden museum-room for thousands of trekkers and tourists to visit every year, to learn about Tibetan medicine and this remarkable man who is the pride of Mustang.

But as for our trek. Down, down,down, a million times down, from moonscape to banana trees and iguanas and frangipanis in bloom, and fuchsia bougainevillea, and lime trees and tree tomatoes, and waterfalls defining gods' throats chanting down every hundred feet, from enormous mountains verdant with peridot and lemongreen tangled foliages, and landslides, mudslides, and hunks of mountains falling the way dew falls off of our quiet simple blades of grass at home, leaving gaping new shapes into which I noticed fudge-colored butterflies like to fly, perhaps enjoying the raw and fresh, soil-nectar smells newly exposed earth.

We had a treacherous two days through this sodden and landsliding mess, in one of the worst flooding years on record. We did catch two hair-raising car rides for parts of the way, but they were more deadly than even being on foot on these rain-soaked precipices. We went on slopes and in mud on the edges of cliffs that would kill anyone who loves any of us if you could see the full scenario of what we had to cross...but to ease your nerves, as my friend Lucinda Roy taught me to say many years ago, "Not to worry!" Here we are, safely in Kathmandu. And Lucinda, the Nepalis havea saying which YOU might enjoy, somewhat comparable to your "not to worry": it is "Ke garne?" It means, What to do? Almost dead on a landsliding precipice? Ke garne? Is that a blister on your heel, Jane, raw and beet red and the size of a dollar bill? Ke garne?

We capped our days of walking in wild and swollen mountains with a Jed Clampett-truck-ride, our driver being a kind-faced Nepali emanation of Lucifer himself, who, I think, must have met some ill-behaved Nascar driver somewhere in another world...
So you are hurtling down a Himlayan road at nintely miles an hour on wheels that look like a Mattel toy wouldn't have them? Ke garne? So you don't like driving at night without headlights? Ke garne?

But here we are--not to worry--and Iris, I am THRILLED that New Mexico was GREAT, and Emerson, I can not WAIT to see you at the airport, and to both of my children, your e-mails are spectacular, and oh my GOD so are the presents I have for you! Barbara and Jessica, I love you both dearly. THANK YOU for taking care of my four-legged children. To all of our friends, thanks for being with us. Tom, Beth, Diane, we will join you soon. Love you all. To my sister Mary and brother Charles, tomorrow is twenty years exactly since we lost our Mom. I miss her fiercely. And send my love to my sister and brother. Andrea and all of you who wished me Happy Birthday, your loyalty rocks. Love, Jane and the gang


Jordan said...

Thank you for your terrific posts, Jane. I've vicariously enjoyed your amazing trip. Safe travels as you make your way home,

Anonymous said...

you go, Kal

pedal to the metal

medal to the petal

ashed and ashen,


Garland said...

Jane, I love the way you paint with words. Sometimes you use a "color" I don't know and have to look it up, but I love it! "Lucifer," your truck driver trained by NASCAR, I have seen somewhere! Very glad everyone was well throughout and you survived your visit to the Cave of the Snow Leopard. What an honor, first, and second, what a thing to behold! Have you any idea that cave was once easier to reach? Or any idea how long it took to paint, by one or many? And the friendship made with Luigi Fieni, the Italian artist restoring it! You all wrote some History this time!

reba said...

It sounds like we are going to have to schedule a reunion weekend instead of one evening to hear about EVERYTHING! The only thing I am grateful to miss is the blister.
After those trails and car rides, getting on an airplane to travel back around the world won't seem like a big deal at all. Be safe. Can't wait to see you.
And thanks for the words about Laxmi....that makes me so happy.

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