In our blog, you’ll find information about metaphysics and spirituality from Lazaris and Jach, excerpts from Lazaris recordings and interviews, and travelogues from Jach’s adventures around the world.
We had planned to go back to California for the March events of course, and when they were postponed until December, we thought we’d go back anyway.
Yes, we’ll go; no we’ll stay. No we’re going to go anyway; no definitely we are staying here. A doctor friend had told us of that soon no one
would be allowed in or out of Colombia and that lockdowns were coming for the States and for Colombia. With that news our final decision was
All this happened on the eve of a long holiday weekend here. The Governor of our state, Valle de Cauca, called for a curfew during the long weekend
as a way to keep people home and away from large celebratory gatherings. A few other Governors and the Mayor of Bogotá did the same. However
the Colombian President, perhaps angry that they went ahead without letting him make a national decree, cancelled the curfews say that “social
distancing was absurd.” Sadly a familiar cry by some others who claim to be leaders. However, the Governors and Mayors countermanded the President
with an outcry of support from the people.
Curfew in place, it was followed by a nationwide lockdown. We had prepared for the four day curfew, but then we had to scramble to prepare for
three week lockdown. Thousands of Colombians had to scramble too. However, a country that seems to thrive on chaos, handled the situation well.
We loaded up one car with the dogs, their supplies, and with Enrique’s dialysis machine with its many supplies. Another car was overloaded
with our stuff. Then we were off to the country.
We were worried though. There was a deadline time for leaving the city and we were late. Of course. [s] We might be stopped and turned back or
fined or both. We worked a bit of magic and we headed out. The otherwise gridlocked road was almost free of cars, trucks, and people. We moved
quickly coming to and then driving past two potential military check points. We reached the final curve in the main road and our turnoff was
just ahead. As we turned from the paved road to the open road (narrow dirt road with its share of ruts and boulders) we looked ahead. The military
check point was about 100 yards beyond our turn off. Magic was afoot. We will be here until Easter at least. There is talk of extending the
quarantine for those over 70 or even for everyone.
These are painful times and tragic times and the days are rife with fear, and people are dying and people are loosing everything and people are
getting lost. The dark and darkening chaos exacerbates the situation threatening the unspeakable of the unknown or of an abyss. In the mire
of darkness, of pain, tragedy and fear, I think of what Lazaris said in South Africa: He said that we stood on a pinnacle and that things were
about to get worse. Where and how we stepped from that pinnacle were crucial. He added what I thought was an aside: Things are about to get
much worse. I also think about what Lazaris said as the Vermont days were concluding: It’s time to be the Sentinel, the Champion, and the Guardian
that we always have planned to be and that we are destined to be.
So I am being conscious of where I step and how I step. Where? Into the chaos. How? With resolve.
I am stepping into the dark and then into the darkest parts of that chaos and in that depth, I am looking for the light. It’s there. Simply said,
I found that light in the beauty and in the love. The dark chaos is neither beautiful or loving; this novel virus is not beautiful and it’s
not loving. But in the darkest chaos, and I think it has to be the chaos beyond the dark and darker, the chaos that is the darkest, there is
hope. Not the hope of desperation or last resort, and not my hope. In that darkest chaos, there is the shimmering hope that is a reflection
of the soul and spirit of humankind. It’s not the hope that any of us can muster. It’s beyond what we can create. Luminous hope? Divine hope?
And this hope is beauty, and is love. Not beautiful and loving, it’s beauty and it’s love. And I know without the need for certainty, that this
shimmering hope is there in the darkest recesses of the chaos of this virus. It is waiting to be found.
So we will wash the vegetables from our garden. We will stay healthy and safe, and we will work our magic.
I continue to learn Spanish, and I am getting better at saying what I want to say. Though it goes slowly, I can communicate one to one fairly well. But it’s still amazingly difficult to actively participate in a lively conversation with a group of Colombians. They talk so fast and with great vitality. The emotional intensity is both beautiful and frightening. What sounds like an alarming conversation could well be about how to properly prepare empanadas or how to make the sauce to accompany them. Adding to the mystery, they speak with their own traditional and personal idioms. Well, I could go on, but suffice it say, it’s difficult and I’m learning.
When Enrique and I go to one of the frequent gatherings of family or friends, I begin by welcoming and being welcomed and by following through with basic, somewhat elementary, conversations, and then I slip into watching mode. I surprise myself with how much I learn from gestures and tones and facial expressions.
I am interacting more and more; I am part of the gatherings now rather than just an outside observer. Even so, I still spend a lot of time listening and watching. I spend a lot of time only being, being in the moment.
At these events, I have discovered something else. I have become enchanted with trees. Now trees are everywhere, but here in Colombia, in the countryside and in the mountains and in the flatlands, they are not only abundant, they are gracious. There are trees that I’ve never seen anywhere else in the world. I marvel at the stately beauty of Carbonero trees. They lift to the sky and open there delicate branches to create an expansive canopy as if offering to embrace the heavens. The gracious Ceiba trees have a more substantial trunk and sturdier branches but they offer a no less massive and expansive canopy. I stop. I scare. I marvel at their beauty and the sense of tranquility and peace that they inspire.
At a party, once I’ve exhausted my range of conversation, and once others have returned to their natural rhythm of talking, I watch, I listen, and then I turn to listen and to talk to the trees.
Here are a few of the trees I’ve known.
There is such an elegance to this beauty. She is wild and wonderful and yet so willing to just be. Out of balance, twisted in a chaotic way, and yet at peace as she stands in a peculiarly perfect balance of self-acceptance and grace. She asked me to pause and to be still.
We had just returned from a 4 hour horse ride called a Cabalgata. This was the traditional Christmas Cabalgata organized by two of Enrique’s cousins. Part of the tradition: drink plenty of Aguardente and share plenty of it with others. Part of the tradition: celebrate the joy of life, joke with each other, laugh and shout a lot. Part of the tradition: after the ride gather at the finca (farm) for a hearty meal and more talk. I was sitting among the chatter of maybe 80 people, young and old, mostly young. Excited. Laughing. Not at all exhausted, stories were flying: While riding in the river, Julian’s saddle had come loose and it and he had fallen into water. His horse, spooked, had run off. That’s one of the stories I heard.
New mothers among the group were dealing with their tired first borns, and the new grandmothers were busy overseeing and trying not to interfere.
I turned to this tree and got lost in the sunset and the reverie of the moment. I am living a life so different from anything I might have imagined. I’ve held it that all this is a result of a huge change in my life with Peny’s and Michaell’s deaths and with my decision to love again, and there is merit there. But as I sat with this tree I realized that those big events opened the door and created the space, but all this is a result of a whole bunch of little choices and decisions that began before those pivotal changes and continued long after them. Twists and turns. Out of balance and in chaos and reaching in this direct and that, I kept coming back to accepting myself in the moments. In the moment, such a simple phrase, almost a cliche, but oh so mystical and powerful. As I sat and listened, life is plump and juicy, and it’s plump and rich in Colombia.
I stood with humility and respect before this grand Ancient One. I didn’t speak; I didn’t dare.There is such majesty, something almost regal that feels like wisdom and that demands respect without demanding it. This is a silent sentinel of remembering. It calls you to remember who you are. I heard its call. I listened. Remembering is a powerful, often forgotten, way of encountering and embracing the future. Remembering is not about recalling the past, it’s not about reminiscing about things that were. Though these may be steps that get you there. Remembering is about uncovering truths tucked in the creases of the past, and honoring them. It’s about awakening the secrets of your traditions and your myths that lie dormant in the recesses of your past. Remembering unlocks resonance that is fodder and fuel of Resonance Magic, the fulcrum of all magics. As we branch out and reach for what will be, remembering who we are can lift us and guide us. It’s magic. Remember that.
I just wanted to be in the presence of this amazing consciousness. I didn’t want to sit. I just wanted to stand there and listen to its voice that spoke to me without words.
Behold: There are energies and forces in this Universe that are mightier than I can comprehend. I was learning to embrace that as I stood with this master.
This is the first of the trees that I’ve known. I sat with it, mesmerized, for a little more than an hour. I couldn’t look away. It held me. It wouldn’t let go. I didn’t want it to let go.
I was at a family gathering on December 7. It was the annual celebration of Velitas (little candles). It is the celebration honoring the day of conception — the day Mary conceived the Son of God. Maybe it’s a religious celebration to some, but to most, it’s a time to light hundreds of little candles and to have a party, large or small. This one was large. There were 70 people ranging in age from 4 months to 80 years. Around 2:00 that afternoon, the preparations began to create a huge Paella. Big enough to feed 70 people. A huge Paella pan, an open fire, and the preparation dance — a dance of love — began with various types of rice. At the appropriate times the initial preparations of chicken and beef and then of shrimp and clams and muscles would become a part of the dance. Vegetables would be prepared and set aside for later. Lobster and octopus and squid would join the dance. The precision was impeccable. The artisans were part of the dance, as important as the ingredients. Finally the Paella would be covered and the final steps to this dance happened beyond conscious view. Mystery. Magic.
People began arriving just after dark. It was nearly 10:00 when the Paella was served. The waiting was also part of the dance and a part of the magic. During that interim, conversations flourished and the volume continually rose, crescendoed, and fell back only to rise again. After my range of conversation was complete, I closed my eyes and just listened to the cacophony that became symphony. Timeless. Vibrant. Beautiful.
After the Paella the party and the conversations gained volume and intensity, and I slipped away to revel in the joy and love of family. The beauty of their love and enthusiasm touched my soul, and my soul called me to be still. Watch. Listen. I stepped away. The toddlers were herded by their young mothers and cradled by their grandmothers. The oldest among the group sat together in rockers watching and creating their own music. Worlds flowed together and found a harmony and everyone danced into the evening. The dance of love.
I looked at this Ancient One and goose bumps rippled across my entire body. The small hairs stood. This photograph doesn’t capture its elegance and grace. It doesn’t capture the massive expand of its branches. There is a bounty here that defies description. There really aren’t words. For me it was a transcendent moment. That’s all I can say and that’s all that I care to say about it.
A Decade is Ending . . .
A decade is ending. That’s not too exciting; it happens every ten years. But as this decade ends I am caught up in I don’t know what. Nostalgia, curiosity, wonderment, mystery, I don’t know, but whatever it is, it’s a nagging feeling that demands my attention.
Lazaris has often called the first two decades of the new millennium, “the two most exciting decades in the history of humankind on Earth.” The 1990s was the most monumental but these two are the most exciting.
I have found that Lazaris says some of the most significant things in what seems the simplest ways. For example, I often think back to one among the many culminating weekends called Earth Changes. It was from a dozen years ago. Lazaris talked of how we were standing on a pinnacle; he spoke again of our pinnacle in the last few months of this year. During that weekend Lazaris spoke about a future of so many things that seemed farfetched and unbelievable, and yet we are experiencing and living them now: increased threats of terrorism, “terrorism blackmail,” national and global economic fragility — an economic “house of cards,” genuine threats of climate change, and a war of civility in the United States. It’s chilling.
Against that backdrop, I think of the simple phrase: The most exciting decades in the history ... What does that mean?
I don’t think the coming years will be without excitement; they certainly won’t be dull. I don’t think there will be less chaos or less turbulence. Probably more. In the future there may be decades that will replace these two as the most exciting, but I think something or many things have happened in the last 20 years that are beyond our capacity to evaluate and beyond our capacity to understand. It feels to me that there are small things, things that to us seem insignificant or even silly, that in time, will have profound impact on us and on the worlds we create. Profound impact, impact that ripples to the edges of space-time. I feel it; I feel it in my bones.
I think about smart phones and the internet and economic development in Asia and 3-D printing and the virtual middle class and expanding scientific revelations and growing social media and shifting global power and autocracy and climate change and cultural memes and baby boomers and millennials and somewhere in the mix, somewhere in the chaos, something magical is happening that I don’t understand — that I can’t possibly understand — and that I don’t and can’t understand doesn’t matter. It’s happening. And it’s happening big.
I think that something that is still hiding in all the chaos and turbulence and violent and injustice is why these are the two most exciting decades in the history of humankind on Earth. We just don’t know it yet.
I am willing to have that be that way, and I am going to create it that way. As I leave this year and this decade behind, I look to 2020, but more importantly, I look to the coming new decade. What we are creating is more than a year can hold; it’s more than a decade can hold. But I look to the decade until I can look farther.
And of this third decade of the millennium? I am not waiting for its name or its fate. Rather than waiting, instead, I’m choosing and I’m deciding. For me, this new year is going to be the beginning of a decade of satisfaction. Not of complacency or of settling, but a decade of fulfillment. Undaunted by the chaos, 2020 is the first year of a decade of creating and fulfilling my wishes, desires, and dreams. It’s the initiating year that inspires and sparks clearer visions — 2020 visions — of my newer new world.
And there was something that happened during these first two decades of the new millennium, maybe in the last few years, that makes them the most exciting in our history. I just know it.
Now to me, that’s thrilling and exhilarating. Beautiful.
March 7, 2019. A river of color flowing down the street. Hot sun. Gentle breeze. The smells of chorizo grilling. Drums beating, and people everywhere clapping, singing, dancing, and cheering. I sat so still in the chaos and cacophony caught up and lifted by the symphony of mystery and wonder and compassion and beauty. I sat there amazed and knowing I was in the right place and it was the right time. It was one enchanting moment among many such moments during the Carnaval of Barranquilla.
Enrique and I had arrived late Friday evening, March 1, for the four day festival that is akin to the Carnaval of Rio and to Mardi Gras of New Orleans. Each culminates on Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. However, this Carnaval is different than the others. It is a people’s Carnaval. Yes, there are corporate floats and groups of participants from companies and stores and banks and investment firms, but mostly there are neighborhood groups that get together to create their costumes and to make their own simple floats, and to coordinate a small group of neighborhood musicians: mostly drummers, a trumpet, a clarinet, maybe a flute. They create their own banners and they come to march in the parades. To march in the heat, under the sun, and to march for four to five hours singing and dancing and laughing and playing all the while. Miles of walking and dancing and being alive.
It’s not the Rose Bowl or the Macy’s Christmas Parade. There are no brass bands. There are people, everyday people, some very young (3 and 4 years old all dressed up in costumes and made up. Adorable) and some very old (ageless old men and women bent by the gravity of age and by the rigors and pains of a hard life) and there are all those in between. They march. Celebrating life. Proud. The very young move haltingly, the very old slowly, not always sure of their step or balance, and the rest move with zeal. They all move with celebratory grace.
We sat in our bleacher section along with family and friends and a whole bunch of strangers. The parade was supposed to begin at 1:00 but in true Colombia style, at 2:00 we were craning our necks looking for the first signs of an actual parade. But it really didn’t matter, we were all engaged in our rituals: drinking Rum disguised as soft drinks, eating grilled chorizo or chicken or pork with a certain type of yucca that looked and tasted like potato, and of course talking and laughing. Suddenly from somewhere behind the bleachers among the charcoal and wood burning grills, music would pound its way out of gigantic speakers and just as suddenly people were on their feet dancing, swaying arms, gyrating hips. The bleachers rocked.
When the parade final began passing by all our attentions turned to the street. With each neighborhood group we’d stand, applaud, and shout. When a group of old women passed by dancing wildly, the crowd went wild. When a group of children with Downs Syndrome marched by sort of dancing yet not quite remembering all the steps and moves, everyone leapt to their feet and the crowd roared. Tears flowed.
We spent three days at the parades. Each day was a gift of beauty, a gift reflecting the undaunted human spirit, and a gift expressing the richness, the compassion, and the love of soul. I came away in gratitude and in humility. I came away with a new and a renewed sense of enchantment and what it means to seek an enchanted life. I was touched in ways I cannot yet describe and in ways that I suspect I won’t want to describe. Ineffable. I thought I was going to a colorful carnival. It was so much more.
October 5, 2018. Three incredible days. No internet. No television. No telephone. Only raw Nature and unabashed beauty that lifts from the valleys of lush shades of green to the majesty of rugged snow capped Himalaya Mountains. Stunning. Unbelievable. Beyond my imagination and beyond anything I could capture in photographs. Yet there I stood surrounded by it all.
I can’t find the right words yet. I stepped far outside my safe places of habits and routines and beyond the safe places of my beliefs about myself. Nepal held great mystery for me and it has become surprisingly revealing as well. I had life changing experiences during these three days that were somewhere in the Between in the folds of Nepal’s mystery, and I am not ready to say how or why. So for now, this is what I can say.
Sunday morning, October 1:
Up at 6:00 a.m., we flew from Rishikesh to Delhi and then on to Kathmandu. Applying and paying for our Nepal Visas and getting through immigration was time consuming but easy enough. We arrived at the Yak & Yeti Hotel around 5:00 p.m.
Kathmandu is the capital and the largest city and the first tourist location in Nepal. In 1972 the population was approximately 350,000 and now, 46 years later, the population is over 6 million people. Traffic is more than crazy, it’s insane. This city is the hub of economic activity in Nepal. It is also a center of sprawling poverty. The paradox is painful as well as shocking and yet the city is vibrant and alive. It’s confusing. It’s intriguing.
Monday morning, October 2:
Another early morning to the airport for a 30 minute flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara, the second major tourist city of Nepal. Immediately I felt a different kind of aliveness in Pokhara. There was an eagerness and a rush of excitement along with a rush of young people from all over the world, each ladened with over sized and over weight duffle bags and back packs. This is a jump off point for trekking in Nepal, the home of the Himalaya Mountains and Mount Everest. Seven of the fifteen highest peaks in the world are in Nepal. We picked our way through the maze of trekkers and made our way the trekking company where we would begin our three day adventure.
After the obligatory ritual of safety instructions, with a hat, backpack and duffle bag provided by the company, we hopped on a bus with all our luggage, two guides, and five porters who would carry all that luggage for the next three days. We bumped and bounced for two hours switchbacking our way up the open road. “Open Road” means a dirt road with countless potholes and deep crusted mud tire ruts that are impervious to rain. The journey was complicated by all the construction work to widen the road. Finally we arrived at a dusty curve. Amid piles of stone, heavy equipment, and workmen with bandanas covering their mouths and noses, our bus stopped, the door opened, and the 10 of us along with the guides and porters were dropped off. Our luggage was piled into five large straw baskets and loaded on the backs of those porters. Do we call them Sherpas? No, they are porters. Men, some older, mostly younger, from the local villages who know the mountains.
The first mile and a half was all uphill. Oh my god, a mile and a half. I measured it on my iWatch. At first we followed the steep dirt open road and then we left the road for an even steeper narrow dirt path that climbed its way between the lush green undergrowth. I stopped often to drink in the view and to find my breath again. Still up. Around each bend I looked in hopes of seeing a flat stretch but the path kept climbing and I kept climbing with it.
Breathe. Inhale through my nose, exhale through my mouth. Breathe. One of the porters stayed behind me, stopping when I stopped. Even when I motioned for him to go ahead, he wouldn’t. Dripping sweat, the sun was brutal. 90+ degrees, sunny, and clear, I was determined to keep walking. Besides, it was too late to turn back. There was no were to go but forward.
Finally we reached a picturesque village. Flat. Stone houses, slate roofs, running mountain streams. We came upon an old woman with sun baked skin and wrinkle crevices, and bright laughing eyes. Her husband sat -- squatted -- watching as she and her daughter plucked beans from a pile of soy plants. There were two goats in one small shed, a cow in another, and a third small shed where they were distilling the local liquor.
We move along. The second mile and a half was all downhill on stone steps. I usually count steps. Don’t know why I do that, but I do. There were too many steps to count. Down, shallow steps and formidable steep steps down. For a mile and a half, step by step, down. Along the way, we crossed a bridge constructed of two long bamboo logs, and then there were more stone steps down. I thought the down would be easier but there were hundreds of steps. Not sure it was easier.
The final mile was sort of flat but it was also a mile of torrential rain. At first I noticed a few drops and then the mountain sky opened up. The porters moved quickly to unpack plastic and ponchos. Plastic to cover their baskets of luggage and ponchos for us. Already soaked in sweat, did I really need a poncho? The dirt path became slippery. Our lodge wasn’t far. Only another mile. We pressed on. One by one, we crossed a suspension bridge over a raging mountain stream and another half mile along a muddy road.
Finally we reached Sanctuary Lodge. As if on cue, the rain stopped. Nestled in the valley, the rustic lodge waited to give us a safe haven, lively conversations spiced with laughter, a great meal, and a wonderful night’s sleep.
Tuesday, October 3:
Up at sunrise to see the mountain peaks before the clouds covered them. Breakfast at 8:00 and ready for our second trek at 9:00. I was scared about this one. The trek was all uphill. All up stone steps. We would climb about 1400 feet in elevation. No flat. No down. All up. At dinner the guide had said this trek was “Up, steep up. Vertical up.”
Sizzling sun early in the morning. Clouds clinging to the mountain peaks but the rest of the sky. Brilliant blue. The steps came quickly and continued endlessly. Breathing loud. Inhaled through my nose, exhale through my mouth. Climb. Climb. Climb. I never asked how much further. I was afraid to hear the answer. I just kept going. After two hours of climbing, I created a pattern. I would climb 25 steps and stop, rest for 20 to 30 seconds. Check my heart rate, and when it dropped 5 points, I would take another 25 steps. We finally reached our second lodge. It was beautiful with phenomenal views.
However, it was the silence that spoke to me. I have never experienced such deep and sensuous silence.
Wednesday, October 4:
I had expected to have a lot of leg pain and body aches, but nothing. I felt great. I felt alive in ways that I’ve never known. It was exhilaration of a different nature. Our third trek was a mix of up, down, and flat. Of the treks, it was the easiest, but no less beautiful. We returned to Pokhara, stayed the night, and then flew back to Kathmandu.
This was an amazing experience. During the September workshops, Lazaris suggested that to truly accept ourself we needed to step beyond our safe place and we needed to step outside our center. To awaken the Magic of Acceptance, we need to step beyond our habits and routines. The Quest in India and Trekking in Nepal have done that and so much more. I have done things I didn’t think I could do. I have discovered things physically, but even more profound, I’ve discovered things emotional and mentally about myself that I never knew and that I suspect I might never have uncovered. My dreams are changing; my visions are shifting.
Nepal and the trekking have changed my life; they have changed me. I can’t say how yet. I can’t find the right words yet. I have to sit with these experiences that have reached far beyond my expectation and my imagination. I have to be still for now.
From the Taj Mahal in Agra, we bused our way to Delhi. It’s the capital of India. Eighteen million people. I expected to experience a big city that could be any big city in the world. I was wrong. Delhi, the old Indian city, and New Delhi, the city that the British created, weave together to create an intricate complexity that has a surprising high resonance. I felt an excitement in Delhi; there seemed to be a buoyant pride and an imposing confidence in the potential of India and in the Indian future. And besides, we met a faerie in Delhi. More on that at another time.
We visited a huge mosque -- the largest in India -- but it was the Gandhi Memorial that spoke to my soul. After India’s independence, Ghandi, almost 80 years old, was staying at the residence of a powerful Indian family, the Birla Family. From his bedroom, Ghandhi walked the pathway to the garden to participate in evening prayers. Along the way he was assassinated. We didn’t walk the path, but we walked beside until the steps stopped. I stood there for a very long time. Silent. Still. Blurry eyed and reverent. It was a quiet highlight of this journey.
We traveled by train from Delphi to Haridwar and then by car to Richikesh. People in India drive exactly like they drive in Colombia. Wild and crazy. Insane. I rode in the front seat of the car we were in and I had a grand time. I love driving in Colombia and I love riding in a car in India.
Rishikesh is a city along the Ganges River best noted for the Ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and the home of TM, where the Beatles spent time in 1968 -- 50 years ago. We visited the ashram. It was abandoned in 1971 when the Maharishi left for the Netherlands. It was eery and wonderful.
I could feel the laughter: George and Paul and maybe John. Mia Farrow along with her sister were there. Donovan was there. I could feel the color and the light. The light and the enthusiasm were vibrant. Innocence and eagerness blossomed then. Yet now the loss and the emptiness were almost overwhelming. Abandonment. Forgotten. After there time in the ashram, the Beatles broke up, and each one of them went their own way.. They came to India and the ashram to find themselves. Maybe they did. We didn’t like it, but maybe they did find themselves. Could be.
Once a world famous ashram, now it is Rajiji, a tiger reserve. The buildings are decaying with black algae slowing covering the walls. Broken glass and rotting wood window frames. Weeds growing through the broken concrete. The kitchen, the post office, the printing room, the meditation rooms, the Beatles bungalow, the Maharishi’s bungalow, and the roof top where they all gathered. The memories are all there and the vestiges of that time are also still there. Decaying. Rotting. Yet still clinging to life. It was eery. Depressing and exhilarating.
Rishikesh was our last stop in India. We arrived on September 15. We are leaving on September 30. Only 15 days? No. A lifetime. We are currently in Kathmandu and we are going trekking for the next three days. In the Himalayas, in the quiet villages, and there I will sit with my experiences of India.
It wasn’t what I expected and I suspect it was more.
The Taj Mahal at dawn. I had images in my head: A magical moment, a solitary moment with that majestic structure and its grand gardens. I imagined that a full moon would set just as the sun would rise and it would be a memorable moment, maybe even a defining one. In my imagination, I stood alone, just the Taj Mahal and me.
Once again on the bus at 5:30 for a 10 minute drive to the bus parking lot and then a golf cart type bus ride to the entrance. The moon was amber and, yes, it was full. However there were hundreds of people already there and bus loads of people were arriving by the minute. Scrap the solitary moment.
We got in the men’s queue and waited for the gate to open. We moved quickly and orderly through security and then through the gate. I stood there alone among hundreds of people who, in that moment, all disappeared. I stood alone suspended in silence being held by beauty. The right side of the dome shown bright. Dazzling, while the left side remained in soft shadow. I thought of the quotation: “Beauty is a demanding lover.” I had understood that at the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. I understood it again this morning. Majestic is too small a word.
Everyone I had talked to had said that the Taj Mahal was so much more than could be captured in photographs. I took photos, and they were right. Even so, I wanted to record a moment. I wanted to create an iconic symbol of a moment that is eternal.
Finally I moved. I walked slowly forward, then down the steps and along the pathway. A long fountain and then a reflective pool to my left and two of the four gardens to my right. Aware of my surroundings, I kept my eye, my focus, on that shimmering white marble sculpture called the Taj Mahal -- that shimmering light that stood there unobstructed against a clear blue sky. There was a reverence there. Serenity. Peace. Sure, there were kids running about and laughing or talking loud, but even they would fall quiet.
Beauty demands respect. It can also awaken respect, and it did.
We were there for only two hours, but when time stops, that is enough.
We were up early Saturday morning. We put our luggage in the hall at 5:30 and went for breakfast. We were scheduled to leave the hotel at 6:15 and to depart for the airport at 6:30. We did surprisingly well. We left for the airport at 6:35. I checked. The check in at the airport went fast. There were every few people there at that early hour and it was a small airport We arrived in Jaipur at 9:36 and by 10:00 we were on the way to the hotel, Taj Jai Mahal Palace Hotel. Another Taj hotel.
It had been a drizzly morning out of Udaipur and the rain continued in Jaipur. I skipped the afternoon excursion to the palace choosing to rest in the hotel instead. I regret that decision because I missed an opportunity to experience the old city market place. I have found that whenever I visit a city, I enjoy being in the old city -- being among the ordinary people living their regular ordinary lives. I am coming to realize and to own that I can feel the spirit or maybe it’s the soul of the people. Perhaps it’s both the spirit and the soul. Not sure.
In Jaipur, I missed the juicy flow of human passion; I missed the heartbeat of the people. I love people watching or people experiencing. It’s as if I can hear their souls speaking to me. I don’t mean that I want to sit and talk to this specific person or that one, however I do come alive with I can observe and feel and connect with the people in general from a distance and then with a particular person also from a distance. I observe and I listen not to words but to their voice. It is as if their voice and their soul speak to me and they tell me their story. It’s somewhat akin to when I work with crystals, but yet it’s different. I can’t explain it; I can only experience it. Now I am coming to own it and I realize that that’s what I want to write about. I don’t know how to do that yet, but I can feel it: I want to write about the soul of a people through writing about the soul and the voice of a person. I want to write about the soul of the land.
I am finding that voice and that soul so present, so alive, here in India and also so absent or beyond my touch here in India. It’s a paradox and it’s fascinating.
Jaipur, like Mumbai, didn’t speak to me. On Sunday we went to the Amber Fort situated atop hills of the foothills leading to mountains beyond. We rode elephants up the switchback roads to the actual fort/palace. That was fun, but it was tainted by the rush of tourists and by the not so subtle demand for tips. Maybe the drizzly weather also dampened my experience, but I was eager to leave Jaipur. We did that on Monday.
We drove eight hours to Agra. Along the way we stopped for to visit Fatehpur Sikri, a World Heritage Site and now an abandoned palace-fort city. Once there were more than 1500 people living in Fatehpr Sikri. This was a mystical place. Abandoned, empty, yet it was so rich and so alive. Again, I can’t find words but as I walked across the vast sandstone courtyards to the Treasury and to the King’s Chamber and the tiny Queen’s Chamber, I could feel the lost passions of a people whose lives changed because of the lack of water. There were very few visitors on Monday, yet as I stepped away for the others members of our group and as I walked alone, I felt I was not alone. I felt the joy that was once there. I felt the peace. As I looked around at the stillness, I also felt the beauty that once thrived here. I also felt the pain of loss. We moved on to Agra arriving after dark.
The small white building between the two tall buildings is a Hilton Hotel in Abu Dhabi. In 1960 it was the tallest building in that city. Amazing.
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