Both the literal and the emotional. You would think the name would be obvious, but let’s face it. I grew up in Alaska. These are not mountains. More like glorified hills. Imagine climbing the Butte with steps. Mountain just sounds so much more majestic than hill.
The kind with a clutch and gears. No sissy moped for me.
The crazy kind, the angry kind, even the women kind. But we’ll get to that.
“I take the universal and make it personal. The only truly magical and poetic exchanges that occur in this life occur between two people. Sometimes it doesn’t get that far. Often, the true glory of existence is confined to individual consciousness. That’s okay. Let us live for the beauty of our own reality.” Tom Robbins, “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues”
Reality is a pretty plastic thing. Perception, insights, emotions, reactions, decisions, and intuition all create facets of reality. Or a reality unto themselves. My reality has been constantly morphing. I naturally grasp at the universal and make it personal. It is all well and good to make sweeping generalizations of humanity’s experience of reality, but sometimes we need the gritty, dirty reality of one person’s experience. Who else can I expect to do that? Knowing this, here I am. Airing all the nitty, gritty, craziness of reality. I would like to peel away the slippery slopes of my own experiences and share as a way of personal reflection, what the f*** happens here. (I’m not one for swear words….mostly. Sometimes there are no other appropriate words that express quite what the notorious f word seems to).
Dancing Odissi has been feeding my heart and soul beyond anything I could imagine. Providing the sweetness of devotion and the heartiness of true nourishment.
Yet, I still have moments when the fluttering in my stomach requires something a little more on the edge. A little more raw. A little more expansive. A jolting change of perception. Like climbing something tall, a mountain perhaps. Giving my eyes an expansive horizon to contemplate. Or renting a motorcycle for the day and flying through the ocher desert sands into a hidden oasis.
Sundays. Oh beloved Sundays. The first or the last day of the week depending on your persuasion. For me, it stands outside of the bounds of time. It is the wild card day of the week. The one day off from class (unless you count volunteer practice). The day that I spend doing laundry, puja, and celebrating my sore body. Mainly reading. As you can see, I’m on a Tom Robbins kick. Often, I come up for air from a thoroughly stimulating page filled with philosophy that obligingly leaps off of the page and into my pocket. I sit up with a *sigh* and “Oh Tom Robbins” with a Cheshire cat grin on my lips, recognizing that I played right into his hand. “You sly devil, you.”
It began on a Sunday. Sunday February 6th to be exact. You wonder what “it” is. The Adventure of course.
The day commenced like any other Sunday. I woke up way to early for a day off (7am) and decided to vent some frustrated energy by climbing the tallest “mountain” temple in the area. I left my room at 7:45am and by 8:45am I was at the top. I climbed the steps in contemplation. The sun was burning off the fog blanketing the rose fields each time I stopped to face the bowl that cradles Pushkar. By the time I reached the top, past wrestling baby monkeys and the “hellos” of the few other similarly possessed foreigners up early on a Sunday for a climb, I was settled in mind.
In place of my weekly trip to the Jaganath Ghat at the lake to make flower puja, I spent a moment in front of the temple shrine to Mataa (Mother deity). I turned off my iPod tunes and pulled out my now well worn “Shambhala: Sacred Path of the Warrior” by Chogyam Trungpa. I randomly opened the beloved pages and read a section on Nowness. A way of merging ancestry and future into the present moment. Exactly what I am attempting to do in this journey. The elegantly jumbled mix of understanding where one comes from and where one is going, in order to understand where one is Now.
I gazed out over Pushkar. My temporary home. Quiet from this distance. No blaring distorted wedding music. My eyes alighted upon the road that led me to the base of the mountain. I realized that it kept winding along the mountainside and through a narrow valley only to disappear behind the next mountain. The road looked essentially deserted following a dried irrigation canal.
My mind sparked. Like the necessary function of a spark plug, allowing a flood of possibilities course through my blood stream.
My pulse quickened with the thought “What if I rented a motorcycle and followed the road into the distance?” (Not so much words but images and emotions flitted across my mind’s eye). A slow smile spread across my face.
I bounded down the steps of the mountain with enough of a bounce that Indian pilgrims beginning the ascent of their own puja, stopped me with grins and “Aap bay houng? Mataa balo.” (You are good? The Mother is good). It was infectious for the elderly women climbing barefoot and stooped. I was grateful to lift their gazes from their feet if only because an odd white woman was cheerfully humming and skipping down the mountain.
When I reached my room and chores called, I decided that I would save the motorcycle adventure for my next Sunday off.
Instead, I awoke on Monday morning after intense unnerving dreams and told Melea I wasn’t emotionally up for class. She asked what I would do instead. A smile started to crawl across my cheeks as I gazed at the mountain temple easily seen from our veranda. I pointed and said “I think I’m going to rent a motorcycle and ride the road behind that mountain for the sake of curiosity to see where it leads.” (I probably didn’t say it quite that eloquently in the moment, but it’s my story to tell).
I undressed from my class clothes, put on something more comfortable yet modest, donned my sunglasses and packed a lunch. I strode down to the dusty bus stand that reminds me of a Western ghost town. Instead of tumbleweeds, biscuit wrappers roll across the path. I walked up to one of the rental shops and stated that I would like to rent a motorcycle.
The lawn chair sprawled group of men stared at me until one finally asked “A moped?”
“No. A motorcycle. One with gears and a clutch” as I mimed shifting with a clutch.
They stared at me as if I grew another head. “You mean a moped.”
“Nooooo. A motorcycle.” I responded with a cheerful grin.
Another man, taking it upon himself to humor me, lead me to a row of motorcycles and asked which I wanted. After test driving a couple I settled on an automatic start, 4 stroke, 99cc. A baby motorcycle, but a motorcycle nonetheless.
I left the shop with the assurance I had enough petrol to ride 40kms. After an initially wobbly start, and brief “I hope I don’t make a fool of myself,” I left the curious stares of the men behind.
I set out in the general direction of the mountain until I found the road. I avoided the craziness of the market and instead, chose a more circuitous route through a small village. When I reached the pavement, I cautiously merged onto the road without a single vehicle in sight. I started to open up the throttle and soon enough I was flying along the black weaving path cutting through the rotund shaped pumpkin colored landscape. Once I settled into the realization that I had the road to myself, no honking, no avoiding cows or people, my entire body smiled, expanded, and I let out a full bellied mischievous giggle. Hearty, light, secret, and eternal all at once.
The wind caught my hair and lifted the unbound mass off my back. My feather earrings entwined with my tresses (which after consulting recent photos, is starting to turn reddish!?) and caressed the skin behind my ears. My “designer” Indian sunglasses protected my blue eyes and abnormally large pupils from the blazing desert sun. I was thrilled by the vehicle of freedom I straddled. It was a moment only witnessed by the elements and the earth. And a couple of water buffalo.
This is decidedly not the end of the Adventure, we’ve yet to reach the Madmen. I feel that I must divide up the writing. There is a lot to share in the next chapter.
Oh. And before I leave the metaphor of the Mountain behind, today I overcame a mountain of fear. The only fear I claim. Not spiders or threatening monkeys, I deal with those without a blink of the eye (sometimes with a squeegee).
Singing. Ahhh. I cringe at the mention of the word. Or I usually do. Today I experienced my first singing class. The first in my entire life. I did not do chorus as a kid. I was not an angelic voiced choir girl. I used my voice to deafen people on the basketball court. I am more than willing to get up in front of thousands of people and give a speech on any random topic off the cuff, but to sing in front of one person makes the marrow in my bones run cold.
One of my teachers held a Classical Indian singing class today. Perhaps because Odissi has given me a new found confidence in my self as a whole being, I decided to show up. Lo and behold I was the only one. Great. Worse nightmare confirmed.
I expressed my fear to my teacher and with great compassion we started with matching notes on the harmonium. After the first few minutes he stopped playing, I opened my eyes to find him smiling with his hand out to shake. As I grasped his hand in bewilderment, he said “You’ve found the soul.” I am not sure if this is a lost in translation moment, “soul” being something else entirely, but it was exactly how I felt. I trusted him and I trusted myself with knowing that I could find the notes.
A couple of more students showed up and I continued to experience the most intense happiness and relief. I am not tone deaf. I’m no longer afraid.
Up one mountain, around another, and blasted through a third. A pretty productive week.
Next installment soon to come.