i made my satellite landing back in the desert lands about seven weeks ago. it was smooth, secret and safe.
i sit now, cross legged on the floor of my father's old house. i must admit, this house is somewhat unfamiliar to me and somehow that offers some ease in trying to write all this to share.
the hugeness of this open city carries sounds from all around up to the hilltop where this house is. trains heeooooo heeoooooo in the distance...the hum of the high way softly stirs...and a gentle humming reminds me of the not so gentle circumstances of this border town.
i've been tracking the path of a tiny insect who has now made it's way up to the top edge of my tiny monitor. 16 months ago...this bug would have been squashed or flicked away...now i just watch him and smile as he goes back and forth back and forth...16 months ago i would have been more comfortable on a bed or couch...or at a desk...now i enjoy the cold wooden floor of my studio...ash tray and coffee beside me...all is on the same level...
a giant piece of mattboard rests on a (crazy possibly way too fancy) easel...i've started covering it with words...i thought i could try to make a map of my brain...sort some of what has grown within me...DEFEND>MIGHTY>DEPART>FALL>RISE>HELP>WEAK>TIME>GROW>GOOD>BAD>DECIDE>ACCEPT>SIMULTANEITY>BIG(NESS)>SILENCE>SUFFER>CHANGE>LOVE>DISAPPEAR>PERCEPTION
tonight is the first night i feel ready.
finally. i allow myself to "commence to begin..."
my last days in Bhutan were perfection. spent them in paro, which was-from the moment i saw it-and will forever remain my favorite town in all of bhutan. (of course i still have more to see in bhutan, but some things ARE SIMPLY CERTAIN) the silence in paro is delciously overwhelming. it swallows you and chews you gently...the way a baby teethes at something. it massages you and calms you and gently comforts you to open yourself..."as spring opens its first flower." (DELICIOUS cummings!) the openness of the valleys always let me breathe there. i felt safe in paro...never afraid of tremendous beauty or blinding oblivion or awkward strangeness and displacement in foreign land. paro felt like home.
the days i spent there were absolute beauty. they were also among the most difficult i experienced. i found myself secretly grasping for the intangible...desperately trying to absorb everything. i did all i could to keep it together. i looked so carefully, listened so keenly, and spoke slowly. i didn't want to forget anything. i wanted desperately to take everything and wrap it up in a blanket made of vast sky...i wanted to hold it the way my mother held me when i was mini, all crazy like from fever. but the voice that grew in me during my pilgrimage in the mountains kept whispering...reminding me i would have to let go.
on the morning of my 2?th birthday, i woke up and lay there quietly...gently forcing my sadness away. welcoming the memories of my family who i would soon see...and reliving with all my love, the moments i shared with all the new family i made.
on the morning of my 2?th birthday i boarded a plane and flew through the sky on satellite X away from the Kingdom of Bhutan.
once i walked through the airport doors i could feel my satellite approaching. i knew i would have to let it pick me up and take me. after my soul forced itself to find a way to say goodbye...i looked back once with tears the size of hot air balloons begging me to burst. i closed my eyes...turned quickly and walked around the corner to sit and wait for the plane to pull up. (you get to walk out to your airplane in bhutan...it's such a celebrity experience)
as i walked out to board the plane, a gentle japanese man smiled at me and said "may i show you". i looked at him confused, but smiled and said "certainly...what is it?" he scrambled through a tiny sketch book and held a drawing of me up proudly. he pointed at it and pointed at me and said "i saw you from across...this is you". he proceeded to smile very big and show me his giant portfolio he had surely lugged along with him on his tour of Bhutan. i smiled very big in return as he encouraged me to take a photo of him holding his drawing of me. i hugged him and thanked him and looked once more toward the mountains...giggled and thought to myself "even in my final moments here, this place is just magic."
i must admit, once i boarded the plane i let go a bit and proceeded to cover my face with my norwegian sister's scarf as i cried and cried. the image of it now is amusing and ABSOLUTELY otherworldly: completely out of control emotional desert woman-sitting in a window seat on a tiny Druk Air plane-ready to fly clear across the planet-wrapped in a Norwegian woman's scarf-flying over the himalayas-wishing she had listened to the pilot more carefully to know whether that was mount everest in sight-weeping at the end a great big fat journey!
after i released an allowable amount of liquid from my eyeballs i looked toward the isle and the steward said "aren't you xochi?" i giggled at the hilarity of the encounter. my friends would often make jokes about how Druk Air flights are like reunions that would normally occur in public places. any Bhutanese flying on any given day likely knows most of, if not all the other Bhutanese on the flight. in the airport itself i had already run into a handful of Bhutanese folks i knew and sure enough, the steward was a dear friend's brother and the folks behind me were relatives of other friends. as i responded to one of their questions with the ever infamous Bhutanese question "what to do" i giggled and thought "i guess i really did make home here..." they, as is the custom in Bhutan, began to poke fun at me for "looking so sad", offered me or encouraged me to consume sufficient amounts of whiskey and managed to cheer me up by the time i landed in bangkok. as i got my things together to deboard it occurred to me that it was my birthday. i mentioned it and cell numbers were immediately offered to go paint the town red later that night. if there is any reliable characteristic among most Bhutanese it is that they most definitely love and know how to have a jolly good time.
had a funny landing in bangkok, observing scantilly clad young thai girls latched onto the arms of what i would consider kinda gross looking American G.I.'s in the airport as they exchanged their thai baht for dollars and vice versa. i was to be picked up by lovely ugyen in bangkok. a part of me enterained the thought of painting the town not only red, but i soon opted to stay out of trouble. (i'm a magnet for trouble) i happily avoided the madness of bangkok's crowded zone and excitedly hugged ugyen before we caught a cab out to the boonies of the city. after about a forty five minute cab ride i found myself in peace and quiet and soon thereafter eating delicious fish, sipping on a crisp cool bottle of water in the humidity and HOTNESS of thailand. the time was lovely but, of course, difficult. i could feel the crash landing back into the big world. i could feel my physical location pulling away from bhutan and pushing toward the other side of the world. i could feel that immense lack of control oozing all over my skin and insides. my goodbye in bangkok was somehow more raw than the goodbye in Bhutan. i suppose i knew i was really leaving by then...all was still like a dream, but my departure from bangkok offered my tongue a taste of the reality that was unfolding all around me the way confetti falls from disco balls...(this party wasn't of the "fun confetti" nature, however)
bangkok layover was short and i was off to catch my connection to japan. i was carrying a huge scroll painting with me and the always rule abiding japanese customs folks gave me the BIG FAT "NO DICE" as i tried to lug the scroll of life through security to my gate. cumbersome but CRUCIAL scroll. i had a bit of a verbal scuffle with a very sweet girl at a mysterious counter (felt really bad on account of the always lovely manners offered by Japanese folks)...but was finally allowed to carry on the scroll of life.
by that point i completely numbed myself...i'd be flying over the PACIFIC soon (simultaneously toward and away from) and the BIG SADNESS was doing everything it could to creep its way into me. i knew it wouldn't be fair to be completely devastated and sad. so instead, i sat and people watched...(caught a glimpse of a narco from sinaloa alllllll the way in japan...horrific disgusting "drug situation")
after a very long flight...i landed in Los Angeles and allowed myself THE SMILE. (((((almost home))))) ....i switched on my rickety old field mouse of a phone and immediatly dialed my mother and younger brother. the feeling of their voices on the other side of a domestic phone was heavenly...any description beyond that i'll keep secret and safe.
after three very long and brutally inevitable days...my satellite completed its orbit around planet earth (quite literally...from start to end of my big fat journey i actually did fly around the world!) satellite X made its landing in the desert. greeted by mother, younger brother and father at the airport i immediately felt a swoosh of comfort and warmth wrap me up safely and soundly in the lovely presence of my (((family)))) ...
tricky business these arrivals and departures can be. "natural phenomena" many of my students quoted on several different occassions.
my first nights home were confusing. i spent moments in the evenings watching the sky streak with red as the sun made its descent. every night i would rise (and still do some nights) at 3:00 am. i took to walking to the edge of the arroyo i often remembered fondly while i was in the mountainland. i would sit until the sun came up staring out at the vastness off the sky and land. i would watch the sky do it's mighty melting from one spectrum to another. the flat horizon i had only dreampt of for many months prior laid there like a flattened soul. now i read through old writings and find one piece of something:
"in the middle of the world aflame the sun is carefully gently lowering behind infinity's tricks"
while making home in Bhutan, my (((home))) echoed in me always. i was often told to mind "the now" and let go of then and later. for the most part i did what i could and tried to understand (disregarding the clicheNESS that philosophy lives within) the crucial survival that is born of those words...but stood secretly and firmly behind my belief: to remember and live within a thing that is far from immediacy honors that thing. (i had arguments for every cliched philosophy anyone could throw at me...oh the xoch stubbornness. i smile.)
i lived among clouds and thinness of air. i lived alongside beautiful souls, smiling hearts and living, growing hope. (Bhutan breathes hope like no other in the world: ANOTHER CERTAIN THING) i met truth and abandoned fears. i embraced loneliness and found courage. i discovered my will, accepted shame and scorned falsity.
now i find myself dancing swooshing swaying among and within echoes of Bhutan. i honor that home the way i honored this one. i remember it. i carry Bhutan deep within me...i carry it on my face and in my words. i honor it for the smiles that bloomed and continue to bloom because of it. i see it everywhere and dance among It's memory.
that BIG BALLOON sure loves flopping you on your back and everywhere in between.
many people ask me the same quesiton when i encounter them for the first time since having returned (i stayed hidden for some time so first encounters still occur often)
"what did you make of your time?"
in the first month i would scratch my head and elbows nervously and try to explain i didn't have words yet. now i smile and say "i was lost and found simultaneously. i was many things simultaneously...i tried to make beauty and wound up finding it! (or letting it find me)" scratch my elbow nervously again and contiue "my time was beautiful. it continues to be..."
i left my home on a 'WILD HUNT'...reserved in my predictions...never expecting to find what i found. findings were beyond smiles and progress. findings were beyond things one can touch and see. findings were more than mighty mountains and memories...more than words and ideas. they were larger than kabooms and battles...easier than land...harder than it is to be a cliff. i am different...all the world is different now...all that lives under these eyelids gathers more fuel everyday...as i continue to simultaneously arrive and depart.
the land was more than its mountains...more than its peace and silence...more than its secrets, both ugly and kind...the land was living truth and singing revelation. i know i will be there again...
Bhutan was quite simply....beautiful.
how does one embrace the steps that turn to leaps?
how do i reconcile the echoes?
as always...there is more to come. i send my warmest greetings from the ever lovely desert lands..."this side of the world"...wherever that may actually be!