Let the canvas of your mind be green, the verdant green grown in rain-soaked soil. Black and rich and scented by fresh alpine air. Etch out of this picture the following details.
Towering brown trunks with muscular branches. Moss-covered with braids of lichen that fall from tree fingers. Veined patterns on long leaves. Cascading light beams which break through the canopy, and shower the forest in light and shadow. They reveal spider webs. Display dewdrops. Prisms of light.
From the enormous stone slab protruding from a cliff face which we stand on, pockets of island-like cloud cling to the mountainside. Revealed below are huge rice paddy terraces that step down to the valley floor. The green becomes an ocean to the horizon, brown of branches like whitecaps, shaken in the wind’s passing or by the leap and reach of a monkey.
Behind are the sky-climbing foothills of the Indian mountains. And beyond, the magnificent, snow-covered, cloud-conquering Himalayas. This is Dharamsala, the residence of the Tibetan government in exile and home of the Dalai Lama–you are most welcome here.
It is funny where life leads you if you let it–I’m floating like a Poo-Bear hanging onto a balloon…
…Two months before, near sandy shores in the south, two hotel guests befriended me. Writers both, and successful at it, suggested I travel here to meet their guru. They were newly wed, you could see the freshness of their love. You could feel the rightness of it and the warm magnetism between them. It was in the gentle way they walked together, sat together, eat and talked with others–together. Never further than a hand reach, a delicate swan-lake-skate, two people moving in their very own orbit of sun-like love.
Two planes, three trains of 35 hours and more, four buses over 24 hours, one that broke down in the night and in the nowhere of the middle. Bumpy rides, white-knuckle frights around precarious cliff-top racing roads, sick bags and seat-belts tight.
… It was worth it for this view alone. The feeling of warm sunshine on closed eyelids. The sound of complete silence after the tumultuous racket of weeks of chaotic cities.
The swelling feeling rises in your chest and spills from your eyes as you see the mountains on the horizon growing towards and inside you. The feeling that you are home for the first time in your entire life.
Now we sit by the chalk-grey Ganges in Rishikesh. Its waters are as smooth as milk. It bends around the vibrant, green-covered mountain shoulder. Trees climb out of pebbly banks, competing for space on the slopes and heights with chalk-pink and blue-painted ashrams, temples, houses and holy sites–and many moneymaking places.
Steep steps concertina to the water’s edge, where pilgrims and tourists bathe in the cream-like water. The Sun sets beyond the mountains. The grey day gives way to a deep blue sky, the violet becomes black. As the light fades, window lights twinkle in the now-hidden hills like constellations.
A procession of thousands sing a lullaby sound on the shoreline, and when the first star shows itself above, they each light candles, send them drifting in the now black Ganges on sauces of flowers – suddenly the river becomes a galaxy of floating, jasmine-scented, swift flowing stars.
Once I have lit my own; two for those gone before, two for friends near and far, one for Love, one for regret, and one for the person I haven’t met yet. I splash, climb and sit on a wet rock in the river. Stars above and stars below, the world has become a mirror. I know not which way is up or which way is down.
I feel that all my love is in that river, a light for everyone I meet moving gently past my feet, curving out of sight. I am alone in the dark, surrounded by light.
Above, the true masters of shine and night sky look down at the flattery with silent grace and I wonder who else is looking at the stars tonight.
A fisherman hauling his nets, hopeful.
A teacher with no answers but questions.
A soldier in the desert readying weapons for the sunrise he regrets will rise.
Parents showing the stars to their newborn baby, maybe.
A doctor who has failed a patient. A man on a yacht ending a call that just made him richer.
A traveller, just checked into a hotel, bed sheets stark and empty, goes to the balcony for company and finds…
…Who looks at the stars tonight? Someone I know, someone I love?
A Sadhu towards me sings. What does he see when he looks at me? A fellow likeness? Long scruffy hair, curled and mattered, face sun darkened, clothes worn, another worn-out wandering soul? The river rushes past and I wonder, is this the path to take? To become a Sadhu in name as much as nature and wander ever further into the hills, up amongst the higher peaks where the deeper-seekers sit, in caves shallow and deep contemplating life’s secrets, seeking liberation from constant reincarnation?
I hear its call, the cold cave floor, the empty nights, the dying embers softening the stone walls in shadowy orange, to sleep with only the wind to whisper me goodnight. What would life be like if I go? Spend a week, a year, ten years or twenty. What would I learn… enlightenment? Would the price be worth the years missed in the world by your side? Friends married in my absence, children born and grown, my nephew and niece no longer recognising me for the vast and tangled beard? Loved ones now grown old, even passed away whilst I was… not there when it mattered.
And what of love in life for me, a wife, another lover? Will I ever be a Father? Or do I go further on my own, barefoot up this river, seeking answers in the solitude of my longing?
I can feel them, at times my children, not yet born. With hand out, palm down, I can almost feel them as I pat their heads, bend and pick them up and show them the vistas and wonders that astound all around.
To teach them they’re free. To show them that no matter the cost the world tries to charge, no VIP access denied, nothing is as priceless as what they already own – natures gallery, its vastness only limited by the capacity of our own hearts to hold it, and courage to seek it, is yours, belongs to you, belongs to me.
I could climb up the road, throwing my backpacked belongings into the gorge at the last bridge. Continue on higher through the forest with its crunching leaves and sun-dappled spaces. Past the rock-covered heights where green things no longer grow, following trickling streams until legs burn and become thigh deep in snow. And higher still where the sky ceases to be blue, turns black and the air so thin, lungs fail to rise, instead shallow fall and then we float up into the darkness of space, you and I, ascending lightly as a feather.
Fear grips in the darkness until realisation hits – that this is the greatest show in the universe – The only one that never tires of you looking and you never tire of it looking back. It is an uncountable display of planets and stars and Mars and all the others laid out before you – life on a spectacular scale.
Floating, would you look back at the Earth and see it for the Eden it truly is – life in a lifeless void and utterly precious?
Seeing the white of distant snow, the brown and green and blue picture patchwork of our world, feeling the presence of all those dreams and hope, the anguish and fears, the screams… does it fill you with rage that they’re building us a cage of convenience from which to feed us false information and food that poisons us as well as the land and sea. Creating new monsters of cancer and obesity?
Microwave meals on ready wheels so long as you’re full of tubes and plastic, paying your taxes. Making us ashamed of our skin and our looks, those profit-seeking crooks with their scalpels and surgeons’ coats, young girls of eight… E I g h t! …Starving themselves sick to be a stick, to fit in clothes no one knows who makes – yet still it isn’t enough to stop us from buying the stuff at the checkout lines that make us vomit.
– yesterday I saw a child crawl through rubbish piles looking for food, fending off dogs –
the magazines making a mockery of our lives and our strifes with their dramas and celebrities of ignorance. Leaders and board members that swap peace for pennies, bombs and warplanes deliver dollars to the bank at the expense of a kind world for those that deal in Hate.
You can hear it, if you listen, the children crying, the cities burning, the forests falling a football pitch an hour, animals fleeing, pollution overflowing… Politicians ignoring scientific evidence, using morals set in stone a thousand years ago to justify the deepening of their pockets and power placements…
As long as we are ok… Building towers of coins with our sweat and toil at the expense of our backs breaking and our relationships creaking, our homes and hearts mortgaged for a rainy day. Our health and education now commodities to be exploited. But that’s not what we’re told because even our freedom of speech is on a leash of profit – so give us scandal and gossip because it is so much more interesting. And so our Cynicism and worry for change make us see we’ve never had it so good….WE HAVE NEVER HAD IT SO GOOD… …but who the hell are we, anyway?
Can we please just stop treating each other like shit? Can we stop overfeeding one group of people and starving another, please? Can we stop placing our happiness into another’s hands, and then punishing them when they inevitably fail to balance the act? Can we stop, not letting love in…can we start loving ourselves again?
That green and blue world – our home – is beautiful.
Doesn’t it hurt just looking at it, doesn’t it hurt all that love?
ALL THAT LOVE
I came here seeking answers the caves and solitude may provide. Yet an answer I have; I found it by a river of starlight. I feel it deep down in the core of me, the part that sees the beauty in the sunrise. Which smiles with delight every time it sees a rainbow rise.
That finds peace in the music of the stream bubbling over rocks in far away Devon. It tells me you are important. You are so very special and significant in this world.
And if all you can do in this life is to live the true expression of yourself, to do those things that bring you joy, and then by extension, bring joy to others then that is enough, start from there.
Because no act of creating, poetry or painting, no act of inspiration, fun, joy and laughter fail to delight and ignite hearts or go un-noted.
So spread your wonderful self far and wide, share your magic, and go… be, it’s free.
Because it’s a good world, it is a good, good world. And if you and I can light just one candle in the world’s heart to send along this river of life, who knows who will be watching in the dark?
I am not ready to give up on my heart, on my dreams and the world and its screams for a cave in the hills, just yet. So, if I can hold on to this crazy ride, hold on tight with courage like Poo Bear to a string on a balloon, no matter the challenge, age, wage, no matter self-doubt and fear and distractions or delight, and all the things that everyone else wants us to be and to do, our work, drinks and screw, lets just me and you hold on… follow our hearts.
Can we just hold on you and me to our little dream balloons and trust our Souls to do the guiding?
I am going to hold on to this gift, this beautiful, delicious and funky funny world, with all its faults. Light a candle in the cave of my heart and hold on.
Side by side, Orbiting the sun of our life together, in this fast-flowing river of stars,
Will you hold on with me?