The Gift of That Comes of Letting Go

by Jennifer Curry (Netherlands)

Making a local connection China

Each footstep stole the breath from my lungs. My eyes focused on the dizzying, moonscape of North Base Camp, Everest and the fluttering red, white, blue, green and yellow prayer flags. I had caught mountain fever that swept through Lhasa. At 4,980 metres, the worlds largest peak lay illusively behind cloud cover. I followed haunting voices to the Rongbul Monastery, my presence accepted by every chanting monk. The distinct faces of fifteen shaven-headed boys slowly emerged as my eyes adjusted to the dim light. One oval faced boy emerging into manhood motioned me to a flattened pillow. The boy of eleven to my right eagerly pointed to the text; he sounded each inked word gently instructing me. His generous offer allowed a break from the chant and his face settled into a drifting memory. I watched whispers swirl together, mixing with the dance of the incense that dance. Individually they sang a communal song. A pair of monks prepared tea. A chubby child sang more joyously as the tea came nearer, his eyes were focused on the biscuits. Assuming invisibility of the young, he grabbed extra squares, stuffing them into the folds of his robes. I smiled at his hunger, aware of the comfort food offers when far from one’s family. Later, I shared Yak Butter tea with a Tibetan guide, who reminded me the image of the Dalai Lama could land the possessor in jail. The slightly sour taste glided down my throat. I awoke from under the weight of blankets with my stomach churning. Slipping on my jacket I snuck outs scrambling over the rocks before vomiting violently. I felt the empty, refreshed feeling that comes from releasing the traveler’s stomach bug. I raised my eyes to see the moonlit peak, magnificence dwarfing me; the sky was mine alone. I kept the midnight screening to myself, descending the hill. The truck grumbled to a halt at a refueling station. I entered the dim lit tent, my eyes adjusting to a Tibetan shepherd. He wore the oversized traditional coral and turquoise ring braided into his long, black hair. He asked to see my guidebook and touched each picture lovingly. Without any thought of worry, I slipped a picture of the Dalai Lama into the pages. He sensed my compassion and with one invisible movement swept the photo into his robe next to his lungs. He bowed with a deliberate, delicate smile exiting the tent. I finished my meal and withdrew into the openness. Looking up at the rocky mountainside, I saw the man retreating into the expansive universe.