Puja for a friend

February 14, 2013

We held a puja for Chris this evening, at sunset, on the banks of the Ganga River (mother Ganga, throughout India, the holiest of rivers), outside the Sacha Dam Ashram in Laxman Jhula. The sun was just setting, perfectly round and glowing pink/orange/red. The air was warm and glorious, the late afternoon unusually still and quiet for India.

Chris died eight months earlier.   We had spent a full week together in Rishikesh a few years back.   On my return, Kai, his widow and my beloved frien, offered me some of his ashes to bring with me.
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Home Free: Reflections on Nine Years Without a Fixed Address

December 2010, Green River, Vermont. I’m with my friend Craig in his comfortable old farmhouse, nestled in a picture-postcard setting. The kitchen windows look out on the gentle river and a covered wooden bridge. The place screams “Vermont!” like a cheesy advertisement from the Chamber of Commerce. He and I are having a fine visit. I am home.

February 2009, Rishikesh, India. It’s my third stay in four years at the cheap, funky, zero-star Hotel Ishan. I’m in my favorite room, overlooking the bustling Laxman Jhula footbridge that spans the Ganges. The sacred river sparkles below as the noisy jangle of townspeople and pilgrims rises up to my small porch. I love it here. It’s not my country, or my culture, and I’m home. Continue reading

Across the Great Divide: Hiking Over the Hump of the Continent, and Something Else

 I am hiking to the Continental Divide for the first time, and I am excited.

I first learned about this geographic novelty in 1968, in Mrs. Granich’s fifth-grade class, from mimeographed sheets redolent with the smell of fresh ink. On one side of the Divide, all water flows east—spilling and seeping its gradual way into the Atlantic Ocean. On the other, it flows west, rushing or rolling inexorably toward the Pacific. It’s a spiny fulcrum bisecting the Americas, from Alaska to the nether tip of South America. My starting base is an intentional farming community near the sleepy Costa Rican village of Buenos Aires. From here it’s a two-day climb to the Divide, which in this remote region remains an unspoiled, uncharted cloud- and rainforest. Continue reading

Into the Silence: Can I Renounce Speech, and Almost Everything Else, for Three Months?

I’m sitting at a picnic table behind the institutional but stately brick building that houses the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts. It’s the last day of summer, and glorious. Blue sky, the air warm and hinting at humidity, even a tad sultry. I’m staring into a thick forest that skirts the property. I can see the forest’s edge, but not what lies just a bit deeper within.

For the 60-odd people gathered here, it’s not just the end of summer. It’s the last day of many things. Soon we will enter into the protracted agonies, delights, monotony, and strangeness of a long communal silence.              Continue reading

Israel, April 2010

Near the end of the Seder, the ritual re-telling of the Jewish exodus from Egyptian slavery millennia ago, there comes a wish that every Jew familiar with the holiday of Passover (Pesach) knows by heart: “Next year in Jerusalem.” I have just ended a seven week journey to Israel, most of it in Jerusalem. Because I had the good fortune to be invited to a wonderful (and long) seder during my visit, for me it was this year in Jerusalem. As has become my custom, I offer this letter (admittedly too long for email – I apologize) to share some reflections on my time in what one friend aptly called our “challenging, invigorating and maddening homeland.”                  Continue reading

India January 2009

It’s 8:00am in Rishikesh, India, and the sun has not yet risen above the hills that line the Ganges River (the Ganga). January is a bit chilly here in the evenings and the mornings, especially on days when the fog rolls in and mists cover the hillsides, and one hears the wind howl and watches it snarl and unfurl the scarves and shawls most people wear for warmth. Soon, the sun will crest the hills (hills? small mountains, really – foothills of the not-too-distant Himalayas), the sacred river – the soft green of a ripe avocado — will sparkle in her currents, and the noisy, lively, vibrant bustle of Laxman Jhula will again rise to full throttle.                                                                                  Continue reading

Costa Rica March 2007

Hola familia y amigos —
Time being what it is — linear, at least in this plane of awareness — my two months in Costa Rica is nearing an end.  I have a week left of “Tico” adventure and relaxation (“tranquilo, tranquilo” is a common phrase down here), and now feels like the right moment to send off a far-flung hello.  I’m in my lovely cabina back in Puerto Viejo at my friend Colin’s home and soon-to-be hotel, where I started my trip; I’m looking out past the crescent-moon arc of hammock beckoning on the verandah, past the garden hewn out of the jungle, and into the fine backdrop of white-capped Caribbean waves cresting and unfolding onto the shore.  Wishing you were here with me.  (Well, not all of you.  Or not all at once.  It’s a small room.  Okay, frankly I’m quite delighted to be alone, and hey, not everyone travels so well together.  But I’m thinking of you nonetheless).

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