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Category : Nepal

The Beginning

Between the floating mist of evening, I came upon a village that carved itself out of a Himalayan mountainside. It was tucked so far away that the cries of civilization fell from only the mouths of adolescent birds and the occasional moan of a tree bent in the wind. Traces of human life were hard to decipher from the jagged landscape; yet they were there, existing in a hushed whisper, as if not to disturb something much larger and much more fragile.

The air itself was ancient; its scent wafted from the folds of the cloth strewn across the villagers’ thin frames. The once-bright fabrics hung from their broad shoulders and fell perfectly down their backs, mirroring the body of the white river that slid along the valley which housed them. And they always returned to the river, for she carried with her everything they needed and everything they no longer wanted. Her waters bore them life and also took their lives with it – tiny particles of memories and moments, flung into her unknowable depths. Like grains of sand, I knew that there had been thousands of them – thousands of lives come and gone, leaving no trace, like the clouds that gather at mountain tops in late afternoon only to evaporate come dawn. I wanted to hold them all – to read each grain, and every breath stored within it. I wanted to learn from them, from what they had seen and heard, and what they hadn’t seen and what they had never heard. I wanted to know what their silence sounded like, and what images they carved into the skies of the darkest nights. I wanted to feel the heartbeats of lives framed in an existence so far from my own.

I guess you could say that I never really knew those villages, and the valleys that housed them. You could say that I was a stranger to those night skies, and that the splinter of space that ran between my world and their’s was too big to bridge. You could say that we would never be able to find the same words to express the same meaning to occupy the same space of our hearts, and that in our shared silence our ideas would become lost, like the sound of wind in rain. I guess you could say that the green of my eyes and the brown of their’s meant that we saw the world in different shades, and that we would therefore never be able to agree upon the same color and shape of things – like the color red, or the shape of clouds, or the colors of dying leaves. You could say that there was too much distance, too many diversifying circumstances wedged between the centers of our worlds, for us to ever find a common ground, a common feeling, a common word, a common thought. You could say I never knew them, and that they never knew me …

But the hardened skin of her cold hand upon my burning cheek, and the sound of his incessant laughter, and the whine of her fire in the early dawn – they are all I can hear and feel now. Years later, it is the smell of the rice she used to cook in the late afternoon, it is the sound of water filling copper pots, it is quiet stillness of those mornings, which keep a piece of me, however small and tucked away, in that village, in that valley, where I felt less alone and more free then I ever had in the crowded cities from which I came. You could say that I never knew them, but I can still see their writing on the walls of my heart, and I can still see the colors of their eyes, and I can still laugh with them about stories we told years ago. You could say they never knew me, but it is the picture I took that hangs on their wall, and it is the shawl I carried that warms her in the dimming winter light.

It has been exactly five years since I walked into the village of Chaukati. I’ve held the precious memories of my time there in my heart, continually sourcing from them wisdom, perspective, healing and longing. An astrologer recently told me that all things in this life happen in circles, and as I pack my bags and ready myself to travel back to Nepal, back to Chaukati, back to the village that changed me so many years ago, I can’t help but feel that statement’s truth. I’ve come back again, it seems, to a new but familiar beginning – wide-eyed and inspired, curious and hopeful, spiritually hungry and ready to walk the grassy Himalayan path that leads back to Chaukati. It is that grassy pathway, that timeless simplicity, those mountain peaks, those wrinkled smiles, that beckon me at each waking hour, that carve the stories of my dreams, that remind me what it means to be alive and full of wonder …

The journey continues …

-Emory Hall

Los Angeles, California