Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Gardener and His Memories

Another rainy Sunday in Budhanilkantha...

As I dig out my behemoth boulders, shoveling soil over to slope the land and tossing the small stones on to a shimmering pile behind one of the larger rocks, these masterpieces of nature reveal themselves below the bamboo culms above.

For the past few months, nearly every Saturday and Sunday (when I'm in K'du), I'm out in the back w/ shovel, scythe and broken fingernails, clearing the soil and digging out these boulders. For about 2-3 hours I work in my t-shirt and boxers in the mud and water. I've begun to take off my crocs, as the mud feels good between my toes and my grip is better as I step up out of my trench to carry the dirt over to the bamboo groves by the wall.

Usually, after a few hours, Gita will show up with either Nepali tea and some popcorn (which I've explained to Gita that it's hard to eat when my hands are covered w/ mud...).

Today, she stood and watched me for awhile, commenting that it must be good exercise and wondering what I wanted for lunch (fresh juice and yoghurt w/ fruit). She also let me know that Lapsi, my favorite dog and long-time companion is still not eating after two days. Gita said that she's just hiding in the garage with a lonesome look.

Comparing Lapsi to her mom, who is also ill and just went back to the village after a couple weeks in Kathmandu, Gita said that Lapsi is shivering. Two weeks ago, Gita's mom said, "get me back to where it's green and I belong!" She didn't want to die in this unholy city.

We both fear that Lapsi is also getting ready to leave us. We stood quietly for a bit just thinking of our Lapsi, a wolf-like street dog who came to us some 14 years ago when we lived in Mali Gaon. I remember the first day we brought Lapsi up here when it was just land with a wall around it, some 12 years ago. Lapsi ran around like she was in heaven. So much land and freedom, even compared w/ our nice yard in town at that time.

Lapsi was always the best guard dog, too. Attentive, never letting anyone walk by the morning glory covered gabion fence without letting them know that she knew they were there. Yet, so loving, kind and caring to all of us. She's among my dearest friends here. So gracious, beautiful, elegant in her own way, like my long-gone Grandma Rose, refined, calm and steady.

Who knows? Maybe there's a bit of Rose Rose's soul in Lapsi. I certainly don't understand the way of souls, much less where ours go when our physical presence decays and ends.

As they say, "it's a mystery..."

So, who knows, maybe Grandma Rose came back to this odd world to keep an eye on me here in Nepal when the boys were small, to make sure I was on the (nearly) straight and narrow. Maybe she took a long celestial journey, where time probably doesn't exist as we know it, and then found Lapsi's incarnation to enjoy sharing her never-seen grandchildren's early childhood here in Kathmandu.

After all, my dear Grandma was fond of bluntly telling me when I was a young teenager back in Upstate NY more than a few decades ago: "If you don't like America, find somewhere else!"

Funny that, no?

After all, Rose's generation, for good reasons, were true and loving American patriots. For her parents, leaving Eastern Europe and finding peace, stability and generosity in the States was enough of paradise for them. They needn't look any further...

Whereas, I am here, as I mentioned, in my backyard paradise, below lush and sacred Shivapuri digging out my karma on a blessed Himalayan terrace. Possibly, more a student of Milarepa with this constant physical labor than the Yeshiva student I was born to be...

Funny that, no?

But, curiously, it was that same dear, wise, perpetually Pall Mall smoking Grandmother who put my 1954 birth announcement in the NY Herald-Tribune. When it fell out of my "Seven Years Baby Book' some years ago, sometime after starting my life here in Nepal, having carried some of my early life's records and memories here with me, to say the least, I was surprised...

On the backside of the small newspaper snippet encased in plasticine was the bold headline: "The Conqueror of Everest" -- an advertisement for the movie about Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay's expedition to the top of Everest.

Now, who would have guessed that the baby, just fresh from his dear Mom's womb, out in the world of space and time, would end up spending more of his life in Nepal, country of that famous Mt. Everest, than in his native land. Definitely, not my dear Grandma, who some thirteen years later would be telling me to find a new country if I didn't like the current one...

Curious, no? Fate, karma, intentions, dreams, desires, ambitions, confusions, creativity, openness, searching, seeking, finding, losing, finding again, love and finality.

So, beloved Lapsi, incarnation of beloved Grandma Rose, we are coming full cycle, again, twenty-seven years after Rose left us in 1983, when I settled in Kathmandu and received my first 'official' His Majesty's Government visa (ironically to leave suddenly to go back to Manhattan for Rose's death...).

Now, I fear and must acknowledge that you, Lapsi, protector, guide and friend, are preparing yourself for the next state of life or non-life, whatever is out there.

While these boulders are timeless in their own way and I"m just another human ant digging around their surface, a faux archeologist-child dreaming that an ancient Lichchhavi dynasty temple or remnant will appear one day.

Or, as I told Gita, returning to my childhood when I used to meander to a stream not far from our new Haverhill Drive home to look for tadpoles and fish hiding in the shade under a small bridge in suburban DeWitt, NY.

Far from the traumas of Mother Russia where my family came from early that century and yet distant, too, from the complex history of Nepal at the end of that same century to which I was moving -- unseen, unknowable, unconscious in my future.

The 56 year old man has become his six year old self, mud between his toes, dirt under his fingernails, tossing stones and playing in water, like a child.

Or, am I simply an old Japanese man preparing the soil for his Taoist rock garden (some succulents are already planted...), so he can sit in later years on the largest of boulders, under the sway of his Crouching Tiger bamboo grove, staring, eyes awake, at the pure and beautiful emptiness from which all true life appears.

I love you Grandma Rose. Love you, too, Lapsi.

May we all travel in peace for as long as time permits us...

I couldn't have shared this life with any beings more precious, loving and beautiful.


Again and always, Shanti Shalom!!

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