Tuesday, March 9, 2010


i 've been away for a while. i'm not necessarily referring to a physical location. i've simply been away.
several times in the last few weeks, i've tried to sit down in front of my mini screen and pound out some words to share with you all...the words wouldn't come.
it seems it finally happened. i expected it would happen. one of my reasons for deciding to travel to the exact opposite side of the world was to see if this would happen. i've been waiting for it to happen.


i must admit, i still find it difficult to reflect on the last few weeks. but in honor of some of what has happened, i know i must write. i wish i could share everything...but for now...i share a few tiny pieces...

VAST, with all hope, will be relocating!! it will shift from the attic where its current home is to a beautiful new location by the riverside. it's a very exciting time! something like this is just what VAST needs to get some momentum back.

my dear rebecca has departed to continue her roaming over the world. i am so thankful i was able to share a piece of this chapter with her. another dear friend of mine has also departed...he, however, i will likely not see again. he was a beautiful person to me from the moment he met me. he was the kind of person who shows kindness without meaning to...without thinking about it. he was kindness and joy embodied...i'm certain he was these things for everyone. and for that, VAST and everyone else as well will always be thankful to have shared their life with him. among these things...many other things have occurred......

the 5th King's birthday was on the 21st of February. i went to the festival grounds with a friend of mine. the celebration was the most colorful and lively celebration i've seen in Bhutan. children marched and performed for His Majesty. they sang and danced and smiled. it was absolutely lovely. the very mini children (i'm referring to the 5, 6 and 7 year olds) were by far my favorite performers...very unique and therefore flawless rhythm, fearless delivery and the most genuine sense of pride and enjoyment i've seen in a very long time. to put it simply, watching a mini dance is the most beautiful way one can learn how to live.

after spending the morning at the celebration, i decided it would be nice to give shooting off in to forever another try. the original plan consisted of having some lunch and setting out for Paro. i was excited (Paro has, after all, become so familiar to me and is home to some of my most beautiful memories in this magic land). of course, as things usually go around these parts and in the life of xoch, the plan completely changed in a matter of minutes. the next thing i knew, i was off to Pobjekah...to the misty silent valley of the black neck cranes.

now, though i write about it presently and made my decision then as though this adventure was a walk in the park, going off to Pobjekah is not as easy as it sounds. in fact, this particular adventure proved to be much more adventurous than i could have expected. to get to Pobjekah one must travel through Wangdi...lots of up and downs and lots of honoring every cardinal direction and every single direction in between. so from Thimphu we climbed up up and away to Dochula (the pass). these Bhutanese mountains always seem to do the trick when journeys are taken. as we drove over the pass, the snowy mountains that live in never never always land were doing there powerful dance on the horizon. we started our dissent down toward Punakha and that was when i saw them. the first rhododendrons of this year. highland blossoms giggling in light on the ends of branches. i thought "they must be giggling at me and this face i'm making right now...but let them giggle! i had no idea flowers could live in this cold high place" before i could even absorb the idea of rhododendrons, i looked right and their they were. dangling on stark leafless branches, their glow humming softly against a giant blue background. magnolias. i told myself not to faint...and didn't. it always helps to remember: any moment with eyes closed equals a moment of missing out. we drove down down down the Punakha/Wangdi snake's belly...listening to the usual bob dylan goodness.

i sang and laughed and contained the millions of questions i had. you see, we were traveling with a monk who hitched a lift from us on our way up to Dochula. i was given a wonderful compliment that i may never forget. he didn't speak english, but it was translated for me "she's not like a normal chillip...there's no division between us and her...i couldn't tell." i shared my two packages of unidentifiable gummy candy, bottle of water, potato chips and chewing gum (when on the road, i indulge like an out of control five year old) with our traveling friend and he never failed to smile and thank me. i think i amused him...xoch and her silliness. and so, bob dylan sang his tunes through the himalayas, xoch laughed and smiled with her head out the window, our monk companion in the back seat giggled and my friend translated, sang and cracked endless jokes...and we flew toward forever. after some time, we landed in Punakha. we dropped the monk off in town and as we pulled into a parking lot the car chukachukach ch ch ch c uk...broke down. of course i giggled...and then pronounced happily...hoooray!! adventures!!
(many a time in Bhutan, this lady has seen the push start method be utilized...fortunately, this is a method of starting a vehicle i probably have entirely too much personal experience with--any mexican probably does...and every rodriguez certainly does).

the car guj guj vrrrroooom vroom started again. to the workshop it went. of course, it was His Majesty's birthday so all of Bhutan was on holiday. the adventure's momentum would have to slow until morning. after searching desperately for lodging we landed up having an entire floor of a building to stay in. i spent the majority of the evening as a sniper might...on a hidden balcony snapping photos away one after another. i was caught by an elder man on a neighboring balcony and decided the photo shoot was over. morning came and off to the workshop we went. after some time, all of which i spent on the river side sitting watching and listening (the Punakha river is turquoise as can be...its belly is huge, its currents paint clouds within its course). once the car was good to go we were off again...to Pobjekah we went!

to get to Pobjekah we drove through the Black Mountains. this drive was only a small preview of what was to come. trees cracked black silhouettes against the blue blue sky. mysterious smoke rose from a distant ridge (i could not begin to imagine any evidence of its fuel...or the spark that started it) and i sat back in silence. where am i going? what am i going to see? normally, once i enter the mountains i find myself overwhelmed by hugeness and some invisible movement, but this time was different. my insides stirred and eventually laid there quietly breathing. i saw yaks and snow and men and women walking the roadside in the middle of this forever. i did not question where they were coming from...

the flight finally landed on top of Pobjekah and i opened my eyes wider. there it was. the eery valley sunk into and slept in the earth. light poured in streams over the ridges...cutting the air with silver and magic. we had picked up another passenger on the way and he began to point out the specks of white in the distance. they were the black neck cranes.

mist takes over the valley in Pobjekah. there is no electricity, there is no running water...except for the homes, monasteries and other buildings that are there...evidence of "us" does not exist in that place. the cranes dance and sing and scream in the marsh land...and in the cold mist of the evening, you shiver. in a different voice from any i've used...i asked myself where i was. on account of the remoteness of the valley, lights were out at 9 (they use solar panels), water was available at intervals in the day...i smiled and knew...

finally. i've reached forever and away.

i spent the next day trying to get as close as i could to the cranes, watching them take off and land...watching them flirt and show off. in the afternoon adventure continued. the plan was originally to head back to Thimphu, but of course...who on earth listens to a plan!? off to Trongsa we flew!

every hour i felt myself gliding into the heart of Bhutan. silence, peace, invisible and ever present fullness and slow slow emptiness grew inside of me.

finally. i had reached forever and away.

we inched our way over the wings of that healthy snake toward Trongsa and like a child...i seemed to suddenly fill up with that WHOA situation in my belly. i grabbed my camera and clicked away. those photos are now very funny to go back and look at--many many blurry situations. my friend compared me to dennis hoffman in "Rainman". we reached the Trongsa Dzong view point and i felt like a warrior. flexed my muscles and stood on the edge of the world looking at that powerful structure on the ridge opposite my minuscule location. the dzong moves with the mountain...unlike many of the other dzongs i've seen, this one feels immense. it's weight sinks it into the earth and like the most powerful snail ever to exist it rests there safely.

after spending some time there, we started our journey back to Thimphu. the journey was long and though i was tired, i felt so very awake. on the way back i bid farewell to the yak friends i had made (bob, dwight, morgan...and a few more), the waterfalls that filled me with hope, the trees that reminded me of something (i couldn't say what)...and i told forever "i'll see you again...soon..."

and so...though i don't feel forever over my skin now, i remember it. though i may not feel myself existing in it...i did for an instant. i suppose forever is like the clouds...i should be happy i had the fortune of that moment.

i should be thankful because i finally feel silent.

as always...there is more to come.
i send you all my warmest greetings from the Kingdom of Bhutan.

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