Friday, April 13, 2018

In the Land of the Divine Madman II

May 14, 2003

Awoke to the sound of dogs barking at 5 am.  Slept a bit more, then showered and headed down to breakfast 20 minutes late, or so I thought.  Turned out I hadn't turned my watch back one hour from Thai time.  Met Susan who was up early, and our hostess Karma Wangmo, who was checking email.  We sat on Susan's balcony and drank coffee, watching the river brighten with the rising sun. 

After breakfast we hit the road, crossing a new bridge below the imposing Wangdue Dzong.  the road would up a long valley that overlooked a fast and ferocious river.  Lots of Indian workmen were repairing the road. We wound up through the mountains, coming across a group of monkeys playing on the road.  After another bend, we came under the watchful eyes of the Himalayas, which stayed with us for awhile.  Finally we came to Pele La pass, atop which was a chorten and dozens of prayer flags.  A group of yaks stood on the road, and a few more were grazing on spiky bamboo which grew along the slopes.  I crept quietly, slowly toward the yaks, but suddenly lost my balance, causing me to inadvertently pinwheel my arms which scared them down a series of narrow trails where they entered the brush and disappeared completely.

The road led down another long valley, coming eventually to a huge chorten standing at the confluence of two rivers.  An ancient man walked in perpetual motion around it, carrying his beads as he moved along a well-worn path in the grass.  A long low wall extended from the chorten, covered in Buddhas and written prayers.  We had tea nearby, under the curious gaze of a boy of three or so, who couldn't quite get up the courage to come closer, yet stood near me the entire time.  Dogs and mohawked crows competed for our crackers.

A long monotonous drive followed.  I was happy to sit up front and see how skillfully our driver, also called Karma, negotiated the potholes and extreme drops, skillfully, artfully. Finally we came to an overlook across from Trongsa Dzong, a hue fortress of white with yellow roofs.  It was just below the village, but seemed to hover above the wide river far below.  I talked to a couple of Japanese men, one who had been working for the national newspaper, and the other was some sort of business man.

We entered the town of Trongsa and had lunch in a small hotel that overlooked the valley. At a nearby table sat Yongdzin Rimpoche, a famous lama currently living in the US.  As we hadn't had enough food for lunch, we chased his group off (who hadn't pre-ordered lunch), and felt a bit sorry.

Afterward we toured the dzong, guided by the painter of the temple's mandalas, a quiet guy with bright expressive eyes, quick smile, and right hand perpetually folded within his left.  We entered a room still under construction, the painters working on the mandalas that covered all the walls.  Every inch of space seemed covered with icons.  We entered a few other rooms, past the kitchen area and into the section where the monks sleep.  Finally, we entered the courtyard proper, and I was treated to a long sought after Himalayan scene of long white walls, ornately framed windows, and high overhanging roofs under woven with reeds.  Above all was a bright blue sky.  Steps led to multi-leveled courtyards, white floors occasionally streaked by the maroon robes of young monklets.  I've waited years to see this sort of thing, long drawn by the snow-capped peaks hiding amidst the clouds out in the distance.

We next drove up to a small temple currently being built on the mountain above. Penor Rimpoche's picture was on the main chair in front of a group of windows with a nice view of the valley, beams of light stretching down the river.  The painting of the thankas was just getting started, with one wall having nothing more than the blue and green background being painted between the icons and deities.  Small bowls of paint lay on the floor nearby.  The opposite wall had nothing more than the traced outlines of the figures.  The gods on the altars were draped with white cloth, which once blessed by Penor Rimpoche would be shut up in the adjoining treasure room for one year.

We drove off into the growing darkness, Just at dusk we entered a long valley, flat all the way into  Jakar.  These were the valleys of Bumthang.  They resembled places in Colorado or New Mexico, with fenced in ranches, wild streams, and long patches of grass running up to the pine trees that extended up the hills. 

In Jakar, we went to our guest house, had dinner while telling Buddhist stories and jokes. X told a long long drawn out story which went on until 10 pm.  Like a backwards bedtime story that prevented us from going to bed.  

My room was a small cabin on the hill, very rustic, with a couple of beds with beautiful bedspreads, and a cast iron stove.  I got a fire going, which heat the room quickly.  I read and wrote awhile, the flames in the stove making a flickering animation on the walls., the soundtrack the occasional pops of exploding wood.

On the turntable:  Fishbone, "Chim Chim's Badass Review"

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