A new year … sort of

It’s been a long while between blogs. Mainly because I blog about home and I’ve been a long way away from home, for the first time in many years. My son and I travelled to Nepal for all of November and a bit of December. We took three weeks to walk the Annapurna Circuit, through the amazing Manang and Mustang provinces of the Himalaya.

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Travelling so far away can do strange things to your relationship with home. I fell utterly in love with the Himalayas, which surprised me. I’m not a great one for heights, and I was frequently in cold sweats of terror when crossing the many suspension bridges or traversing slippery, scree-laden goat trails beside cliffs and across landslides, sometimes in howling, freezing winds or approaching darkness. But on reflection I think it was partly the demands of the landscape that led to the deep falling in love. And maybe simply being so IN a landscape, as you are when you are walking 10 km or more everyday, in a very intimately connected way, is what led to this love. But it was not just the powerful landscape, it was the richness and diversity and beauty and depth of the cultures and peoples of Nepal that completely bewitched me. The ever-presence of ritual and festival, often deeply connecting people with place, was like a dream come true to this soul in perpetual hunger for such things.

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So returning home was strange. I felt all out of place. It was so quiet here, so peaceful, so … dull. Even beloved familiar birdsong wasn’t touching me the way I knew it should. I missed the crazy chaos of the streets of Kathmandu, the crowds, the noise, the shrines and temples, the thousands of tiny, fascinating shops, the friendly faces and spontaneous meetings and greetings, even the annoying guys who constantly wanted to sell you something. I missed the vast stillness of the mountains, their mighty, towering, humbling presence. I missed the Buddhist gompas and prayer-flags and stupas, the mule-trains, the porters, all the folks we met along the trail – locals and travellers, the mix and meeting of cultures, the monks, the nuns, the puja. Returning to my beautiful home I was overcome by the dullness and deadness of white ‘culture’ … the lack of culture in a society so fixated on consumption and materialism and accumulation. It has taken me weeks to make my peace with that, and it’s still a work in progress.

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Travelling is not something I take lightly. Aside from the obvious huge cost of carbon emissions involved in air-travel, and the monetary cost to a single mum on a ‘low income’ (for an Australian) who maybe could have spent her tax return more sensibly, what travel does or can do in terms of relationship with place, with spirit, with everything … is often underestimated. I met many people while in Nepal who were on their second or third overseas trip that year. The world was their playground. I found this kind of ill-making, especially considering the kind of poverty we witnessed occasionally in Nepal, although most folks we met did not live in poverty, they lived in enough-ness … but nowhere near the extravagant kind of wealth we in the West take for granted. I wonder how a place can truly touch you and get inside you and move you if you are constantly being a tourist. But then again … when a place does get inside you the way Nepal got inside me … it jostling and shifting my relationship with my own place … testing my loyalties, paling my appreciation for the subtler beauties of home … the experience was magnificent, opening, expanding, teaching in so many ways. I have been saying to folks that it was one of, if not the, best things I have ever ‘done’. But wonderful things can also be terrible things, or at least, intense and deeply changing things. Maybe the most wonderful things always are.

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Anyhow … so that is why I haven’t been blogging. I’m still landing, still finding my way home. In the meantime, I’ve experienced a couple of different New Year’s celebrations, seeing as we accidently arrived in Nepal for their New Year festivities at the start of November. A part of this almost week-long festival of Tihar is the night of Lakshmi Puja – when offerings are made to the goddess of light and wealth, Lakshmi, and her presence is welcomed into the home. It was one of the most beautiful collective human creations I’ve ever experienced. So, in honour of that, we embraced Lakshmi Puja  in our homes here in Whian Whian on New Year’s Eve. We didn’t have the colourful pigment powders they have in Kathmandu, so we used curry, turmeric and chilli powders instead, which felt and smelt perfectly potent. Blessings on your 2014, friends. May all your adventures change you in magnificent, surprising ways that deepen your integrity and capacity for love and awareness. And don’t forget, there’s still a few New Years to come – with Chinese New Year and in the Southern Hemisphere the solar new year isn’t until Winter Solstice … and I’m sure there are plenty of others! Blessings on all the diversity of human celebrations of the turning of the earth and the seasons and heavens. May they all help us find our way home.

Kathmandu Lakshmi Puja

Kathmandu Lakshmi Puja

 

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Whian Whian Lakshmi Puja

Whian Whian Lakshmi Puja

 

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