When I was young I longed for the Himalaya, and read National Geographic after National Geographic, longing especially for landscapes like this. I had a catalogue and ordered the postcard below about 20 years ago, from Snow Lion Publications in Ithaca NY. It bumped around. I put it on the refrigerator for a year or two, then stuck it in my bedroom mirror for awhile, and finally put it into a photo album of photos of my children when they were young, hoping maybe that someday someone would understand, for whatever it was worth, what landscape I always longed for, and how I lived it out, that the Tibetan Plateau and all the areas surrounding it, were where I felt I belonged. I wasn't really sure where exactly this place was, never paid much attention to the fine print on the back of the card, but assumed it was in Tibet.
I have no idea why it is I've always longed for solitude in remote regions, I would certainly imagine though, based on what I've learned in this lifetime, that there's a reason for that longing, and that it need not be questioned. Why did I dream of monks in the Himalaya, and wish I could be a calm attendant on them, by lamplight, rather than dreaming of being, say, Jacqueline Kennedy or Meryl Streep or Madame Curie? I honestly don't know. N'importe.
And then last week, a few of my children found that photo album and produced this old postcard for me to see, the one that was stuck on the refrigerator years ago.
When I went to India, I decided to stay in Leh only and to be grateful for that, at my age and at that altitude. I wanted to go to Tibet, but Leh was close enough, within a hundred miles of places I had dreamed about, I figured. But by an effortless chain of events, I ended up traveling more extensively with my daughter and the NGO LEHO into more remote areas of Ladakh. I discovered recently that the postcard I bought twenty years ago, was a photo of Lamayuru Monastery, in Ladakh, India!. My daughter and I visited Lamayuru in June 08, (our driver made an unplanned detour) and witnessed the rare visit of a high-ranking monk, who arrived in a caravan of vehicles amidst all the ancient fanfare and horn-blowing of monks with precious ancient instruments, and the gathering of aged Tibetan refugees who had walked for miles and who sat curbside spinning prayer-wheels for hours....
So much happened when we were there, hours sacred and remote from earthly concerns....That day is a mystery unto itself. I could never explain it in a million years, and so it is. I was there. And not only that. It happened without me struggling for it. It happened because I just put myself in God's hand and went alone to India with no script. And then, blessing upon blessing, with my daughter, bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh, by my side. Put the picture of what you want in front of your eyes, and it may come to you!
Enough mystery for many lifetimes.