SUNDAY, APRIL 29, 2012
Magicians and Memories...
By Xochitl Rodriguez
It has been over a year since i last wrote...about Bhutan. today, as i sit in kansas city, missouri, the rain falls and the thunder rumbles. there is a skylight above me, and as the rain falls on it, i cannot help but remember and RETURN to my attic in Bhutan. when the rain would approach us from ridges away, we could feel the pressure in the air change. the sounds in the himalayas would sharpen and i always smiled at the clear and distant sound of a bell ringing...or children playing...a cow mooing. (i always loved those cows) i could feel what was coming in my bones. the clouds would lower and crawl over the mountains that surrounded Thimphu, and slowly, the skylight in the little attic would tick. tock. awkwardly as the rain found its rhythm. i would imagine the monks who lived up in the temples in hills being consumed by the mist and clouds and, looking out of my windows, i would watch as the clouds slowly covered everything tall. and i would wait, in silence...for the rain to reach its volume on that sky light.
i have a sky light over my bed at my mother's house. when i was much younger, my mother, in her infinite wisdom, knew that i needed the window. perhaps, even then, before all the world whirled me in these circles, she foresaw precisely how the skylight would always and forever be a reminder... a storyteller.
when i was younger, i would lay under my sky light in the desert, watching the moon, or the clouds moving over the tiny hole. i would listen to the rain and the sound of the wind. when i found my attic in bhutan...i would sit beneath the skylight there, assembling my shields, waiting patiently, for the secrets of the world to find me in the morse code of the rain. i would dream of home, with eyes wide open. often times, i would allow myself a few tears for the distance between what i loved and where i was. now, i feel i am much older than before. and i sit, again, under a new skylight. feeling the distance between what i love and where i am.
my insides swirl, for something i find intrinsically and ultimately difficult to swallow. i now feel the strings on the ends of my eye lashes stretched thin through the air...toward two homes. one in the desert and another in the Himalayas. the rain whispers quietly. it does not whisper secrets anymore, it whispers memories (perhaps those memories are indeed MY secrets), that i now allow myself (perhaps only today) to treasure in the half light of this day.
you see, it's difficult to remember sometimes. a memory exists because of the absence of something.
in the past, i had to force myself to forget a great many things-bad things...and i force giggles now at the fact that i am, every single day, trying to carefully control the memory of a great many things-beautiful things. (the universe and it's ultimate jokes on us.)
it is a long distance to travel...
the himalayas are very far...their truth and secrets are so specifically dedicated to the soul of a place that lives in a world that could never exist here. the undertaking of carrying that world in my tiny shell is far too overwhelming and often times i feel myself sinking into my attempts to do so.
a few days ago, amidst a week of complete disasters, i received word of a second friend who has passed on in those mighty Himalayas. i wrote, discreetly, that i was sure "the cloud you floated off on...would surely rain down on us often...sharing light and all the tiny pieces of the world that are infinitely connected. safe journey, dear friend..."
it takes the wind from my lungs, to see it has rained everyday since i got the news of his passing. my friend was a guide. he led people through the Himalayas. there was no ridge he had not walked and climbed...and if you were a visitor to Bhutan, it was unlikely that you would not be honored with the joy and wisdom of his friendship (not acquaintence-but friendship). he knew people from every corner of the world...he brought those people together over paths in the himalayas...difficult paths...long paths. he guided people through difficult and painful journeys...journeys that were wrapped in beautiful sights and discovery. he was a revealer of secrets and a gatherer of fuel. i was not the only "chillip" he taught to climb the himalayas. ...the power of a person who can teach others to climb the himalayas flies into my mouth now-a fleet of one million butterflies arching up and then down like a rainbow.
in my final months in Bhutan, with the incredible help of several amazing friends, we came together to help 200 children in Changjiji. Journeys through the Himalayas, toward monasteries and historic sites where deities lived were an integral piece of our plan to educate these children about their history and their place in that history. Those journeys required a guide...an all knowing guardian and compass. Those journeys also required kindness from others to provide the children with that guide and shelter when we reached our destination in the mountain tops. My friend, who i am now certain is one of the world's chosen guides, called me two days after i mentioned our need for such kindness and simply said "everything is taken care of...will you all be ready to go this weekend?" you see, he cancelled the plans he had for other paid treks and trips...and along with "Ata"--another of the world's chosen guides...had found that kindness in his friends to provide the children with horses to carry their food, tents to sleep in and two guides to lead them up the mountains. Robin made it possible for the children to meet the challenge of the journey...and overcome the challenge-to the point of erasing the idea that it was ever a challenge at all...turning it into a beautiful dream instead. those children needed beautiful dreams...they needed to learn how to discover their beautiful dreams. Robin helped teach them how. he was that kind of magician.
there are so many people in the world who have had the honor of Robin's kindness. in my particular case, Robin made the most important journey of my life possible. Robin made my purpose in life...possible.
before leaving on our first trip with the children, Robin and i stood outside Benez' with several of our friends, discussing the importance of these journeys the children would take. I remember Robin said "I've always wanted to help more." the children climbed hard and fast for five hours to reach the camp ground where we laid plastic down between them and the cow dung (i still feel so bad about that) and woke up above the clouds. we sang and danced together on the mountains top and upon our return....we were greeted by magic...and welcomed into a world that we had all only imagined, until then.
We had just returned from the palace, and, truth be told, most of us were still breath taken by the unbelievable magic of our three day adventure, and an ending that was from a dream. We all gathered at Benez again and Robin leaned against the railing outside of Benez', one foot crossed over the other as usual, smiling, holding his beer. We all hugged one another and Robin looked at me smiling in bewilderment, "This was so amazing, Sochi. This could not have been more amazing. I understand now." Robin told me later that he felt fulfilled... in return, all i could do was thank him, even though he didn't seem to need my infinite thanks at all.
he never needed thanks...not even when he brought me two pounds of avocados from the south, as a simple gesture of kindness and to reassure me subtly that i could still taste home from far away.
i spoke with my mother yesterday, after not speaking with her for a week... i explained the madness that had ensued on this side of the world...and then, with hesitation, told her of Robin's passing on the other side of the world. she did, as she always does, what she could to reassure me and offer me some comfort...finally saying "you have photos of the children. you should print them and make an alter in your studio." she understood, as she always does, the importance of sharing the piece of Robin's story I had the honor to be a part of.
it is a difficult thing to live in two worlds. it is a powerful thing to have the ability to transport yourself from one world to another...to truly feel yourself in another place...the speak with another place...to hug your family in another place. i often wonder if they can hear me as i whisper to them in the wind. i often wonder if the moonlight delivers my embrace to them from this side of the world. i did everything i could to prepare myself for this challenge... but now realize, i could never be completely prepared for the daily task of balancing this system of knowing and memories, unknowingness and forgetting- that exists in my soul.
i tremble now, feeling an incredible anxiety and uncontrollable need to return to Himalayas. i fear i have lingered too long away from that home.
i have hungered for this search for so long. my search, most definitely led me to Kansas City and i understand why it did. all the world is full of reminders and i have the power to choose which reminders i heed.
i cannot predict the course of my life...i am reminded, again, that no one can.
i understand the fear and trouble that is born out of unknowingness and still...i choose not to predict my course and continue on searching for beauty and truth.
i accept the lessons i have learned and know that they alone are my compass through the unknown that i humbly embrace...
i have had the honor of learning how to use my compass from one of the the world's chosen guides...
i know i must honor that lesson which is the single most important lesson i have learned and lived...
"slow and steady, one foot then the next...you have to keep moving, Sochi"
i'll hold Robin's words close now...as reminders speak so clearly and loudly that i cannot avoid them anymore.
as always...i smile
...because i am still able to send my greetings...from the Kingdom of Bhutan.