Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Saturday with the wind rippling off Shivapuri...

Josh and I just watched Liverpool dismantle Bolton in the English Premier League tonight while Shaku slept on the couch... but before napping, she made an especially delicious dinner for us of steamed rice accompanied by an exquisite roast pork, sauteed tofu vegetables and a sauteed garlic spinach.

Shaku said she was dreaming of how Ezra, who left a few days ago to go back to his desert solitude at Deep Springs College, would have wanted his home-cooked dinner. She felt she was cooking with her absent son in heart and mind...

Being a parent does truly odd and indescribable things to one's inner life...

Earlier in the day, Shakun and I had lunch at a British couple's home up here in Budhanilkantha. Richard used to work w/ Caroline at the Aga Khan Foundation in Geneva. Now he manages a national civil society project with the World Bank and is slowly adjusting to his new life in Kathmandu.

After an enjoyable afternoon w/ Dee Depert, Bruce Moore and Lisa Choegyal at Richard and Claire's home, we headed home up the hill about 3 pm to spend some late afternoon hours in the garden.

Today's task had already begun in the morning when I was out trimming scores of lower branches on the rapidly growing trees around the house. Some of these evergreen trees have grown so astonishingly, they almost completely block the natural light. Now that we've enjoyed their impressive size for a few years, we want to open up more space below them -- especially in the courtyard at the entrance of the house where it's been so dank, dark and moist this summer.

Last weekend I'd already started trimming some lower branches. I began after my morning Nepali tea with the 40'+ stately juniper from Nuralyia, Sri Lanka, the one in front of Josh's bedroom that I carried back on the plane 14 years ago in small plastic bag. Then, the burgeoning Peepul (Bodhi) tree with five separate trunks (one for each of us in the family...) by the walkway leading up to the house.

Some years ago, when we were first planting the garden, friends gave us a bunch of these Peepul trees as gifts, so we planted them all near each other at the approach to the house. Knowing these Peepul trees, however, some day, long after we have turned back to earthly compost, someone is going to have the roots of one helluva enormous Peepul bot lifting up the floor of the garage and winding across the rivulet. If you've ever seen these trees in South Asia, you know what I mean: massive...

I'd nearly smashed my right hand on the Sri Lankan juniper while I was up on the aluminum ladder whacking branches off with the small village sickle/scythe. Laxmi, Gita's young neice who's been working with us the past year, walked by. Looking up, seeing me using the smaller blade, she made a typically Nepali 'chhhing' sound and turned around. She went back to the garage where she picked up the heavier, stronger hand sickle, and lifted it up to me on the ladder. Not, however, before the knuckles on my right had were swollen from the repetitive blows against the immoveable, rather substantial tree trunk.

Today, it was the turn of the willows along the eastern brook to take a major hacking. Whoosh. I can still hear the sting of Tek's axe against those dense 10' diameter branches. The wheeping willows must have felt it painfully, too! Ouch! But it was really time to clear those muscular branches of the riverine willows as their dense monsoon foliage had been been blocking the growth of everything below.

Now, the stately plump Metasequoia (deciduous Dawn Sequoia) with its feathery leafettes has plenty of space to rise elegantly on its little patch of green before the house. To my great surprise, I'd found that young sapling over a decade ago in a nursery behind the palace. Little did I know at the time that the Rana upper classes had acquired these refined sequoias from Yunnan in the 40s and '50s, like the ivy-coated universities in the States. There was one gargantuan Metasequoia behind the Smith College library, par 5 on the 9th hole of our frisbee golf course, as I remember. Presently, to my householder's delight and pride, a similar Metasequoia, more than a few decades younger, stands as a solitary, exquisite forest sentinel as we walk up the mossy stone path to our home on the outskirts of Kathmandu.

Besides the Metasequoia, the tropical palm from Cambodia we'd planted along the stream years ago, as well as the luscious mint green Dendrocalamus minor amoneous bamboo from Florida, were being crowded out by the dense cloak of willow branches overhead, as well. Clearing out these lower branches of the 15 year old willows has given a more spacious look to the front yard.

Tek, of course, was the main man behind these copsing efforts today. Tek did the serious, agile tree climbing work while I knelt in humble regard to lop lower branches off the Lemon Cypress tree in the backyard. Then I cut the prematurely deceased 7' Deodar and Tajik Junipers along the brick wall that separates us from our neighbor's property. These promising saplings, sadly, died over the past six months (due to unknown causes...); their roots, possibly, cut when we built the new wall or simply out of botanical compassion for the tragedy of the over-crowded, polluted, congested commons in Kathmandu below.

Josh had gone out while we went for lunch, but returned in the early evening to relax at home before watching the Liverpool game after dinner. Lying on Leah's bed upstairs, he was reviewing some of the hip clothes he's designed on his laptop for his new internet company, the Fyujan Factory -- a creative, entrepreneurial idea to market high-end fashion, leather bags and computer cases through an ethical local business in Nepal.

The night before Leah had her adorable Danish friend, Esther, sleep over. Of course, the two had to rush in the morning to get out by 8:30 where Tek took them to meet Priya (their close friend and the third Mouseketette...) to go together to the Wind Horse stables in Thapathali to ride horses for an hour. Priya goes regularly and Leah's been joining her for the weekend friendship and animal affection time. When we checked in later by phone, Bruce, Priya's Dad, said that they were taking the co-conspirators to the American club, Phora Durbar, for swimming, lunch and total fun. Ms. Leah didn't come home until eight pm as the girls didn't leave Phora til 7 pm, and crashed soon after arriving on the bed next to Josh and Shakun.

While most of the life inside the house was centered on Leah's bed, I enjoyed the lingering, crepuscular light in the garden. I stood alone on the roof looking south toward the city. The monsoon clouds gathering above the nearby Shivapuri ridge while the fading, tempestous light shown clear and beautiful across the congested city below.

As I filled my soul with this radiant late monsoon sun fall, Shakun appeared from the back garden w/ a bright yellow lemon in her hand. "It fell!", she called up to me on the roof, then strolled behind the house to advise Laxmi on some plants below the Camelfoot Palm that Steve L. had given us a few years ago rising above our no less congested, but lushly tropical 108 Lotus pad pond.

On the flat roof, taking in the sweeping view across the Valley, I looked toward the rooftop loggia above the living room, with the diminished willow trees still rising 40' above the stream providing a comforting privacy from the road outside, and imagined an Finnish sauna on the backside of the loggia for those chilly winter evenings.

Actually, this persistent daydream may actually happen...

Last Wednesday when I flew to Pokhara for our latest Federalism Dialogue series on the Division of State Powers, I ran into a Jesuit friend, Greg, who I'd first met in 1984 with Father Joe, a Maryknoll priest. They are both Catholics of the cloth, but different in most every other category. Joe is the motorcycle priest from Ohio travelling across Nepal to look at mental health issues; a jovial, barrel-chested, athletic man who played squash with a sweet, laughing disposition. Whereas Greg is a true Jesuit: serious, intellectual, academic and purposeful. He's already written one book on Newari Buddhism for his PhD and become fluent in a handful of national Nepali languages. I hadn't seen greg for a few years. He'd put on weight, but still had those same round, Harry Potter glasses, very observant yet shy.

Somehow the subject of saunas came up. G-d knows how -- except I've dreamt of having a sauna on our roof for a decade... well, basically, since we built the house... and, to my real surprise and delight, Greg knew a Nepali carpenter who has built 5-6 of wood-burning saunas for Finns living in Nepal. Before I could call him when I returned to Kathmandu on Friday, Rohit called me. So when he arrived I took him up to the roof, by the loggia, to measure the possible sauna location. Although Shakun and I didn't agree on which way to face the sauna, toward Kathmandu or up at Shivapuri, she kindly deferred to me, knowing that I'd been speaking/dreaming of this for years.

So, as I stood today at twilight en plein air gazing at the lush forested Shivapuri National Park behind us and down on the dipasi brick roof loggia, I could almost imagine, come October/November, as the temperature drops at the start of our night-time winters, how glorious it would be to be sitting in a pine sauna sweating profusely after a long day in town, with the lights of that harsh city shimmering deceptively below, and thankful, once again, to have this Licchivi sanctuary up here on this Himalayan hill, surrounded by a botanical garden we have created, designed, trimmed, culled and loved for over a decade, more.

I then stepped silently away from those open vistas for that scrumptious family dinner w/ Shakun, Josh and Leah before the Liverpool game began on another Saturday night in Kathmandu.

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