Dak Thok Monastery Festival

On the long flight back home from India, I kept searching for a pivot point—that spot that could bring coherence and comprehension to so many disparate experiences. I’ve never had an adventure quite like this one, one where so many extremes were in play. We came upon oppressive heat as well as intense cold, explosive color set against backdrops of barrenness, timeless traditions and technological adaptability (even the man sweeping the street has a cell phone), a national driving style that requires both aggression and cooperation, the full range of human functions carried out on the street while the womenfolk elegantly preserve their modest draping, never giving public exposure to a shoulder or a knee. This is a country where the sensory and psychological overload is of a completely different order. Everything catches the eye and/or the imagination, which is why I returned home with 2500 digital images.

Trekking in Ladakh

I felt that timelessness in the hand of nature as well as the hand of man. The mountains of Ladakh are empty and vast, encircled in every direction by successive arcs of snow capped peaks. The air is crystalline and rare at the high mountain passes. And the monasteries clinging precariously to the crags of cliffs harbor yet another form of landscape—the endless expanse of our own interiority. The mystery of that inner landscape comes to the surface in those richly textured rooms regardless of spiritual orientation. The sound of monks chanting early in the morning is a clarion call for everyone, not just Tibetan Buddhists.

Spituk Monastery

David at Spituk Monastery

Hemis Monastery

There are several places I would like to write about in more detail. The 11th century monastery at Alchi. The 6th and 7th century carved caves and paintings at Ellora and Ajanta. The museum at the Hemis monastery. The hermitage at Gotsang. Maybe later. Right now I’m in limbo, neither here nor there, with a mind that is neither sharp nor dull. Perhaps it is my own micro version of the extremes and paradoxes that seem to define the entire nation of India—a sprawling, larger than life, outrageous, in your face, exquisite country.

Painting at Ajanta

Note: The poetry I had queued up for posting while I was gone did not appear. Sorry for that glitch. Those poems will appear over the next few weeks along with more content that is India-centric.

Shey Monastery