Transformation!

imageA pretty serious storm rolled through last night, preceded by a day full of lowering, heavy clouds. My heart went out to a group of valley women dressed in colorful sari-tops and flowered bloomers I passed mid-morning, headed on the trail to Guna temple where “we’ll have a picnic!” says an Irish woman. Brrr, I think, but say nothing except “have fun.” By 5 p.m. it is raining, then sleeting, the clouds descending to take control. Electricity goes off and on, the tv conks out entirely, and upon getting my feet warmed up I head to bed at 8:30, listening to a blustery wind that kicks up and blows over anything not secured (picnic tables, plastic chairs, trash bins go flying).

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But at 6:30 a.m., the world is quiet and veiled in white. At least five inches of heavy wet snow blanket everything, with hardly any wind. The upper peaks stand clear and concisely detailed, their rock faces now snowfields that accentuate the upper sky. I can’t take my eyes away from them, and so a cloud bank gives me a break and lets me meditate, get breakfast, and then have a chat with Miko via Skype, who gets jazzed about the view from the terrace-lobby windows.

And then the power goes off, so I return to my cottage, run hot water while its still hot, and warm up icy feet before a slushy morning walk. I first visit Victoriyan Palace and tell them I am coming tomorrow, then trek through the concrete skeleton of an abandoned luxury hotel. So rough and jagged to the eye from the road, once up the steps and into its rooms, it becomes a playground and obstacle course. The darkness of rooms leads to verandas or picture windows, that huge view always beckoning. Obscene to have permitted such an enormous building in this limited space; maybe an earthquake will set things right?

I see rain or sleet approaching, and so hustle up to the top of the heap, jump a wall, and head across some terraced fields to the high trail through Naddi village. I’m getting pelted with sleet, and duck into a Shiva temple with a substantial roof. Its altar shocks me, however, because on the white tile above the statues of Shiva and wife Parvati are two bloody palm-prints. I imagine a goat slaughtered as an offering to the deities, the person’s bloody hands pressed against the altar wall as a transfer of merit and the life of the goat.. I’ll leave it to Stephen King to come up with another

(Actually, this is a wedding custom where the bride and groom dip their hands in a red powder mix and make an imprint on the wall of their local temple or, more commonly, their home.  It’s called Thapa lagana.)

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imageI meet a 32-year old man experiencing snow for the first time. “I grew up in the desert in south India, and heard about snow from my sister who moved to Canada.” He’s now working in Dubai and wearing expensive leather boots that are soaked. “It took me a long time to see snow…and wow, it is cold!” They are nervous about being snowed in and then missing a flight, and are considering leaving today since the clouds are heavy. I encourage them to wait till later afternoon when the ridge might make a reappearance, and show photos from my walk to Guna temple as proof. “I had no idea there were more mountains behind these!” they guy says.

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I come back to Udechee Huts with wet, freezing cold feet, and a better sense of the village itself. Some of those dwellings remind me of Nepal and the 18th century. Cows and goats on the ground floor, humans up above, the courtyards face south to catch the winter sun–just as they have for centuries.

That I can return to a room w/ an electric heater is enough bliss for one day. A nap ensues, then presto! at 3 p.m., the upper ridge makes its appearance and I’m in the terrace-lobby before the plate glass window to soak it all in.

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