IN DEVOTION TO THE DHARMSALA MOUNTAINS

{some reflections made on the mountains and sweetness of meditation}

Today, the mountains were particularly spectacular, let me tell you, there was no need for glasses or binoculars, for the mere vision of them would bring holy water to the eyes, healing anyone in its path. They jutted out, razor sharp hips and edges where light would hit in parallel lines, turning each crease of the fabric of snow upon mountains into soft peach, indigo satin. Crowned like a godly halo, the kings of the valleys sat patiently, waiting to be bathed in gold. The blooming light from the red biscuit sun tiptoed, leaving behind a trail of lemon light sitting straight-spined like prickly baby hairs on new mountain skin.  All dressed in their sunset gowns, these kings and queens sank back into the soft pillow of the sky, the color of flower petals: a melting from pale, new violet to deep wine, like spilled paint, lathered with a butter knife. And if you tilted your head back enough, amidst her guardian bright tufts of clouds, you would see her. The moon, an elegant milky fingernail, cutting the sky apart with a smirk that implied she’d seen it all: you dancing on the roof below, countless times.

The sweetness of meditation: 

It is the feeling that is indescribable, beyond human petrified symbols such as ‘stillness’ or ‘vacuity’, for they are a mere skeletons of reality. It is the feeling of blowing on a pile of weightless ash with a single exhale, or the complete collapse of a sandcastle, with the sweep of a satin nightgown. Smaller, lesser, lighter than the bare wisp of vapour emanated from whispering lips. Slighter than the sound of a vanishing mid-born intention. And that’s when you realise the marble under your feet, holding the equation to what you’ve always thought was frigidness, bed-rock hardness was actually a door into something minuscule. An ink spot sitting comfortably, languidly stretching out, amused at the pattern at the tip of your finger. It urges you to look closer, squint, yet it will only show itself if your spine unlocks, muscles melt like butter and your gaze drops nearly to sleep. Only then, in that sweet promising moment edging into darkness, will that minuscule microcosm pull back its curtains for you. Once you open the door, it is sharp as the rays of noon sun, biting through the fangs of winter cold, crawling invisibly under your skin like an unknown yet completely familiar traceless shiver of a lustful memory. That’s when you know it’s gotten to you. And at last, you ingest every last drop of its essence, and you’re all of it. You explode like a sunset flooding the sky completely, leaving behind infinite traces like clouds cut up by a child and thrown into the air, to have them stick to the clear blue canvas sky as if it where a whiteboard. 

You realise you’ve been dog barking at the reflection of the moon all your life.

It’s a gloomy, cloudy day, which happens to the consequently lead to very cold temperatures. I’m wearing an immeasurable amount of layers and a lukewarm hot water bottle. There’s a cut in the crease of the fabric in the sky and the sun bleeds through it hazily, like melted white chocolate. The prayer flags whistle in the wind- their limbs running urgently, trying to catch the last train of the night. The big tree in front of me swings its big head- a mop of oblong leaves forwards and backwards, like a melodramatic lover, weeping at the balcony. Meanwhile, the tall, stark, mustard bamboos stay still like statues of living things, crystallised by medusa. The wind or threat of the rain is not a source of discomposure for them. And I, sit by the steps of the gompa, splayed and scattered like the unfortunate bougainville flowers blown off their branches at the ripe age of their effervescent magenta.

I’ve realised that my mood reflects the weather like a mirror. On cloudy, murky days, this body walks slow, feels mellow and seeks warm comfort. Its breaths are longer and deeper and time moves slowly. Every sound elongates at the touch of the ears, and every taste tiptoes up to it like a silent ballerina. This body and mind just want to fall back into the bunch of feathers that composes the sky. Make me some warm tea, read me some bedtime stories, let’s bake some cookies and give them all to our neighbours. But mostly, what I seek, is human body warmth.

And on days where the sun blazes its radiant teeth out, reflecting infinite rays, this body opens up like a bud and follows the light like a sunflower. It becomes pure gold, malleable, there, yet not there- motion of a compendium of sparks exploding. I’ll gobble the world up and sprint across all oceans, exhale breaths full of love with hands in prayer over my racing heart. The world is my garden, flamingly alive, every lead and cloud and rose petal breathes in unison with mother earth and this blood that is of mother earth. Nothing is mine. My fingertips loosen their grip and become like the hands of each mother: transparent, yet powerfully there, healing. Like vines, I wrap this self around each everlasting yet fleeting present moment. Come sit with me in this enchanted place of a dream and let’s marvel at it all, with a pen, a book and  pair of sunglasses. Sprawled like lazy caterpillars on this grassy meadow. 

Hello, I sit on a small bumpy rock in the middle of these yellow rice paddy fields that roll like small waves on ocean foam ridges. Sitting where I am, if you tilt your head slightly higher, you’ll be met with the forked spines of naked trees, fanning out their branches like hair in the wind. And even behind that, you’ll find what I’m really here for: these mountains: relaxed, as if on a reclining chair, yet vigilantly aware, they stare back at me. Their white snowy eyes, blurred azure shadows of mouthes and deep dark arms of furry trees- all bare through my pupils, with gentle insistence. And what is this soft whispered urgency of the mountains? It is the truth that has been begging to come home to our fluttering hearts. The reason to why we always long for a home we can’t reach for. For we do not know, like blind moths stumbling, that the power and essence of these icy snow-capped giants already runs through our bloodstream. It is the air we exhale, it is the glue to our flesh and bones, it is the string to our words and songs, it is the last moment before we roll into sleep, it is in the deepest cry of our human sorrow, and the lightest feather of joy. And even when your breath has been snuffed away or your heart misses a beat, in that absence of all, that clear, pure, power undresses itself completely. 

I walked by the fire he had created with sticks and dead bougainville, and wrinkled leaves. We nodded to each other and I silently placed myself next to him. He put out his hands in front of him, and I imitated. We both tried to communicate- me looking straight into his dense light brown irises, trying to decode something, while he stared back at me blankly. “Ok.” He would reply to my questions. I would nod back at his hindi. Both of us knew this was going nowhere, yet there was something intimate that remained when one shares a fire with someone. Both beings seek for the same primal need of comfort. The fire crackled like ice-shards cracking into millions of pieces, patiently and elegantly. The wind blowed and the soft red flames hid their own ashes for while, which then sneaked out like sheep after the wolf had gone. They were persistent: these slow, laughing, blames, as we fed them smaller branches and they exhaled in relief. For some time, the wind changed direction, blowing bits and pieces in the lanky man’s direction. He lowered his cap, keeping his head down in his squat position. He asked me if I was from America, and I said no. Then we sank bak into silence. He sneaked a cigarette, which he hid below his crossed arms, and then we both went back to watching the fire as if it were the only thing keeping us alive. After some time, he got up and walked away. A few moments later, I followed suit. 

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yellow buoy man

Today, my brother swam in the ocean for the first time in a year. The water was frigid and licked our toes maliciously, tempting us to dive in and merge with the fish. We entered at the same time, and immediately sprinted metres away from the shore. The burn of our muscles fought the tingling cold. With our laboured breaths, we streamlined in and out of the salty water, eyes agape, trying to make shapes through the fog of our goggles. The underwater realm was turquoise, but of a dark tint: the clouds were to blame for this, as they stood above us, troubled and stormy. Yet, the sea was just as calm and welcoming. It took us under its battered blankets of algae and mossy rocks. The pebbles and dark algae armies seemed incredibly alive beneath our floating bodies. Occasionally, big boulders would rise above others, so we would plant our feet on their welcome mats and rise above sea level, looking for the shore like kings. Leo placed both feet and a slipping hand over a rock, and climbed it.

“That yellow, huge box-shaped buoy, behind the smaller red ones…”

He bent forward, slightly swaying like a lanky tree to the force of the tide. “Let’s swim there,” he mumbled, and threw his body back into the ocean.

Wordlessly, I glanced for a second at the yellow blob in the distance. I spit in my glasses, rinsed them twice, and tailed him. Minutes later, we both stopped, and the big yellow buoy, probably the size of both of us, remained just as far. I overtook my brother, then realised he had stopped.

“You’re coming, right?” I inquired.

“No, I’m scared.”

And so I watched his back hunch over the water and each node of his spine dip back into the sea like a while after having come up for air. He swam back towards the shore, and I followed him too.

 

Half an hour later, we’re both back in the water. We rented two kayaks and we were ready to go looking for jellyfish, like the year before.

“Left or right?” I yelled in front of me.

“Let’s go left, then,” I replied to myself.

Nonetheless, we both ended up drifting to the right. Like falcons searching for preys, we looked for lighter spots in the ocean: sand not populated by the algae, better for finding jellyfish. Having caught a glint of bright blue at the bottom of the sea, we both dipped our heads underwater like ostriches. It turned out to be a piece of plastic. We were expecting to find the big blue jellyfishes from last year. And as we pedalled, we realised that we had reached the big yellow buoy. Out of nowhere, a sense of satisfaction and closure filled my heart. But what truly took me aback was the low thumping that came from around the buoy. I circled around it further, to then gather that the soft humming actually came from inside it. As we leaned forward, with our kayaks uneasily tiptoeing forth, we picked up the melody of a song. The discrete music seemed to vibrate all over the surface of the buoy.

“It must come from the beach, they probably have strong speakers…” Leo mumbled.

But we both knew his assumption was a rather scarce attempt at covering up what was truly happening before us. And as we came full circle around the box-like buoy, we found a small circular window near the water surface, half engulfed by sticky moss. A thin rod poked out of a tiny hole from the window. I pressed my face to it, and saw an old little crumpled man holding a record player. He sat cross-legged, spine bent over, and was completely naked. His skin shone, as moist as an amphibian, and his wrinkled, swollen eyes were closed. In that tiny enclosed space, he somehow still managed to sway slightly to the music’s beat, as if his body were part of the music itself. His beard and hair cascaded over his whole skeletal body in cataracts, reflecting shades of faded brown and grey from the scarce sunlight that filtered through. Before we both decide whether to knock on the window, our kayaks crashed with force against the buoy, and the strong wind opened the window wide. The little man stopped the music and looked directly into my eyes, as my face contorted in shock and embarrassment.

“Well, hello.” His voice was melodious, and flowed like liquid.  Yet, there was something to it that made it remain slightly inhuman.  He pulled the fishing rod back in and stashed it behind him. At the same time, I noticed his thorax did not expand or contract to breathe.

I struggled to find an explanation. So my brother did, from behind me and remaining hidden.

“What are you doing here?” He asked.

“I’m living. What else?”

“How long have you been here?”

“Oh, a long, long time, my dears. I can’t really truly remember how I came to be here…”

He squinted at my face and I moved back slightly.

“What did you say your name was again?” he asked.

Before I could reply, he checked his watch and swiftly pulled out the fishing rod from behind him. I was surprised there was even space for him to move his arms that way. He took a worm out of his mouth and poked it through the hook. Soon enough, he was fishing from inside the buoy. I gave him another inquisitive look.

“It’s dinner time and my stomach’s rumbling for jellyfish,” he blurted out.

“It’s him, taking all the jellyfish away from the sea,” Leo whispered in my ear. “That’s why we didn’t see any.”

The old man didn’t hear the comment for he had already turned the music back on. He was happily humming again.

“The jellyfish are attracted to this music. And so am I…”

He seemed completely unworried about the lack of response.

“It calms the soul, this soft music, doesn’t it?” He continued.

“Yes?” I barely whispered, still utterly in shock. I couldn’t stop staring at his incredibly moist and shiny skin.

“Why are you here?”

He stopped and really looked at me.

“I don’t know, really. I’m the only one that can fit in here, and I truly do suffer from memory loss…” He scratched his head. “Nature has taken one thing away from me, memory, but IT has given me something else in return. You see, nature is always give and take.”

He untangled his limbs and came towards me. Alarmed, I sat back into my kayak. He poked his head out, nodded at my brother and touched the water. The moment he did that, his face scrunched up and his tiny eyes shrank into miniature fish. A tear slid down his cheek in pain. A few seconds later, he pulled his hand out of the water with a curse.

“It burns,” He hissed. “I can’t touch water, but I can have conversations with it. You want to know what the water told me today?”

We stare back at him, and he continued.

“It told me tomorrow will rain and that your cat died two years ago on June the 25th. Is that right?”

We took one last look at him, and our muscles clicked at the same time. We paddled away as if we were saving our lives.

 

The next day, it rained like never before. The palm trees outside the small glass rooms shook and shivered in pain, and breakfast was delivered directly to all the rooms. My brother and I didn’t speak about the old little man, nor the fact that his prediction was right. I didn’t tell Leo what I planned to do that night, once the rain had subsided.

At 3am, I WAS awake. Under the blooming sky, I ran to the beach. My heart felt palpable and crazy from adrenaline. It was the first time I was running off, or breaking any rules. I got hold of the the first kayak and ran off into the frigid sea. I found the little man by following the faint music I heard the day before. He opened the window to my knock, not at all surprised. I wondered if he had predicted that too.

“I’m taking you out. I’ve decided. You need to see the world, you can’t stay trapped here forever. I need to save you.”

“Well you needn’t save me.”

“Why?” I ask, incredibly perplexed.

“I don’t want to leave. I may not know much about the outside world, but I know that this is my purpose and my place on earth: to stay in this little buoy, play music and eat jellyfish. I was born into this life with this sole reason.”

“But, don’t you want to explore all this, outside? Let me at least take you to those boulders over there.”

He didn’t protest.

He wrapped himself up in a blanket, picked a few dried jellyfish and told me to not let him touch the water as I carried him on my kayak. We paddled towards the boulders peaking from the water, at the southern edge of island. He didn’t speak the whole ride. I carried him with utmost care, as if he were made out of porcelain and ice and the floor were made of fiery spikes. With serenity, he sat cross-legged on one of the boulders and calmly waited for me to join him. We both sat on different rocks and gazed up at the sky and the water, hugging our knees. He offered me some dry jellyfish and we both munched on them.

“Won’t you ask me about all this?” I asked him. “Have you seen these rocks or trees before? Or those umbrellas at the shore? Do you know what a shore is?”

I was completely bewildered.

He looked around once more, not amused, as if he had seen this view forever.

“You see, my dear, I’ve lived so long in this little buoy of mine, and as time went by, I sat in pain and talked to the waters. And you know what they told me? That I could not be anyone else and could not be in any other situation. My role had been assigned already. Right now, outside my buoy, I am not playing my role and this hurts the universe around.”

I looked at him with a blank glance.

“In every universe there is meant to be a little man in a yellow buoy hunting jellyfish,” he explained. “That role happened to land on me. Just as there was meant to be a role for you, and you’re playing it out accordingly.”

At that time, I was thirteen and I couldn’t understand a word he said. So, we finished our jellyfish in silence and then I brought him back to his little buoy.

He gave me parting words. “The waves tell me that it is of utmost importance that you don’t come and find me anymore. Human contact deteriorates me.” And he looked down on his body. I noticed moss and barnacles starting to crawl up from his feet.

 

Only years later did I understand his need to return to his purpose. And only after four years later did I return to the little island in Italy. I only remembered him once I saw the same yellow buoy. The first thing I did was to swim there, fearlessly. The music thumped and I was filled with nostalgia. I looked inside the buoy but I only found the record player. Dazed and sniffing from the salty water swim, I looked underwater and followed the cord attached to the buoy. There was a boulder that served as the anchor. Expelling all the air from my lungs, I sank down to the sea bottom, and I saw him. His features and cross-legged position were were mummified into stone. Moss covered him from head to toe. Even frozen, he held held his fishing rod. I stretched out my hand to caress him, but I ran out of air before I could do that, and my legs pushed off the bottom as a reflex. I came up for air calmly.

 

 

meditations

On the rare occasion where I settle down and stop my wheels of blood from rolling, I sit down to watch the burning trail I’ve made- the friction between the soles of feet and unnerving city cement. I cremate the moment and look at its ashes. All that exists are the flames, the heat, the black dots dancing across vision. I empty my vessel, picking and scrubbing at all corners of this machine. I unhinge the engine and I’m left with splutterless silence. Suddenly, I realise how obsolete certain things in life are, yet at the same time, the intentionality behind everything. Immortalising this moment, I immortalise myself. I, who thought I could conquer and bellow tyrannically over soul and mind, control life like a maniac. Now I dress in titter tatters, sit with simplicity, hold rocks in the palm of my hands and happiness comes in with mischief. Caught red-handed, I surrender my fortress, my megacity of plan-thoughts and let the moment pierce my skin like a subliminal vaccine. Protecting and giving asylum. The future in my head is now past-tense overgrown weeds, that only belongs to night terrors. I realise its opacity, and in turn, my solidity as I breathe. Thick, unkempt hair and rosy cheeks. Elbows propped against knees. It’s all at ease and I exist, slightly hovering above this body.

Walking in the Forest

Walking in the forest,

I tore my shoes off, coat off, past off,

irises merge into aquamarine fish

swimming from eyes to chest:

now a nest of soft dew between the cracks

of tree barks,

fingers edging on backs of

beautifully bumping roots.

Hands turning,

squirming,

into fledgling pepper green moths.

Naked salt-skin opens up like

undersides of leaves.

 

And the trees

whispered me these things:

“We’re wise, and old, yet still sons of this earth,

you too have been birthed

from this mother.

This is your womb, just like any other.”

I listened to them hum, these

old folksongs delivered by wind, like drums,

each word, a mellifluous golden heart

lulled by the her petrichor sweet pitch.

My footsteps followed to the beat,

attenuated tones of riverbeds and creeks:

I listened and listened like a child.

 

Walking in the forest,

she pecks me on my cheeks with sun,

lathers me in the buttery buzzing sounds of bees,

blankets and bandages my toes with primrose.

I thank her in profusion,

she shakes her head in confusion,

poses before me, and says,

“Welcome back.”

evening waves

Evening waves,

tell the most beautiful of tales.

 

Electronic

grid-like fluctuations,

jittering trepidation:

 

waves,

 

lulling

each other out of and back to

incandescent

sleep.

 

Murky mercury

hiding under slick

silver.

These

glowing

pre-pubescent hills,

too scared to expand,

hence, retract,

push back.

 

Suddenly with a playful,

almost knowing

glint,

they change their mind,

and roll forwards,

loll their head back,

with hair that

sprinkles baritone

hums

down the ocean’s spine.

 

Hums of

an unrecognizable

tale;

just like the tide,

it spirals out of its

shell as rapidly as it

scurries back

behind a

wave’s swish

of a gown,

hiding their blooming

flourishing

cheeks:

 

ready to exhale

salty relief.

 

And if the tide

subsides

and if

the waves

turn sleepy,

eyelids folding over the shore

with what seems

like

infinite

patience,

 

then, humans lean

over. Look closer,

and in this miracle,

they see

featherlight depictions

of who they dream

to be:

sensual figures

skate alongside

waves,

ever morphing

ever merging,

becoming one.

 

For that second,

life seems a bit more

mystical.

capsize

I can’t muster up,

roll up,

a compendium of courage

just enough

to balance onto this string,

so i’m always on

tiptoes,

either grappling for gravity

or

floating (so high I can’t feel my fingers)

 

teach me these few

things, how not to:

clip fingernails to

split knives, then try to trace my face

or smash teacups

because the house has

ceased to whisper (i can’t stand silence)

or scorch the tips of pencils

when words stay hanging below my throat,

limply,

refusing to move any

farther onto paper

 

sometimes,

if my mind eases on the accelerator,

i’ll make sure to

stand under a storm

and hope for lightning

i’ll have my hands full of

plasma coalesced into electricity

(so blue it could burn your eyes)

at least there’s this

effervescence,

i may say,

that I can dissect,

squint into,

pick and fiddle with

like an old toy

made out of unknown

mechanisms

 

my life is a time bomb

and i’m running away from

the silence between each tick

tick

tick.

from feeling like

an empty hotel room with

undone beds.

don’t leave me vacant,

 

 

I’d rather capsize a boat

than have it float