Sunday, June 20, 2004

Sani-bar = Saturday

excerpt of email message from Shermakaye Bass (Austin, TX):

"Hey girl. I'm so glad to get your message. It's all so familiar, it brings a mist of nostalgia over me. I knew you would fit in perfectly. As I said, it's the land of small, kind, dreamer people. Keep me posted. And did you ever hook up with the Himalayan Light Foundation people, or Jeevan or Adam or Sapana at Lotus Energy?

Love and best wishes,
PS: Kiss the top step of the Swayambu for me, would ya?"

Shermakaye was another one of those friends who had been to Nepal and whose hand i gently felt on my shoulder, mystically guiding me to make the right decisions on this trip. I'll never forget how tears welled from her eyes as she imagined me in the places where she had earlier done her holy visit. It made me happy to be sent off, as an ambassador, delivering letters, messages, gifts on behalf of Nepal-lovers now anchored back in the U.S. Shermakaye said to kiss the top step. So off I went.

There was a brisk monsoon afternoon rain here near Swamb-Swayambanath, otherwise known as the "Monkey Temple." I climbed up the steps, meditatively counting them (Shermakaye said there’d be about 130), walked around the stupa, making prayers w/ the spinning prayer wheels (every turn a completed prayer), and hearing the monkeys squeal at each other and engage in impromptu skirmishes that sent the lackadaisical pigeons flying in a torpor of flapping wings. I was careful to keep my skirt and pack straps from swinging around, lest the monkeys become attracted to the movement and charge at me in hopes of finding me edible. You really have to watch yourself up there, cuz if you have to hastily back away from scurrying monkeys, you might topple back onto some sculptural icon or pot of burning incense. In other words, Swayambu is kind of an edgy place, where the locals go to do puja, or prayer, and relax with family. Edgy but tranquil at the same time. Nepal is big on paradox, which was confounding but instructive for me.

I hung out for about an hour, sitting equi-distant from some young laughing girls and an older praying man (and his assistant who patiently held an umbrella over his head and ritual bowls). He--the praying man--sat near the entrance to a small temple shrine that just about everybody was intent on entering if they weren't a tourist. I was fascinated by the shoe removing everyone did here. You're not supposed to enter a Hindu temple with shoes on, even if it's rainy and your socks get muddied in the meantime. I studied my reaction, trying to undo decades of being told to have clean feet and never to walk around in my stocking feet, especially on dirty floor surfaces. In Kathmandu, shoes are regularly spotted with mud-, cow dung-, and general street crap-splashes.

My own feet were locked in a thick pair of socks and hiking boots.

Another favorite moment was checking out the little families of monkeys positioned among the solid gold statues up here in the temple. Little do these animals seem to care about where they sit to scratch their bellies and crap their crap.

Oh, yeah, Shermakaye, I did kiss that top step, my lips creating a new layer of historical touch on the stone. A new scent for the monkeys to sniff...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Tammy,
I just read about your time at Swyambunath. After all these years... We talked about it after you got back, but it's so nice 'hearing 'your voice on these pages while you were on those 130 steps.
I hope you are well these days.