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Rice paddy terraces

Reflection from Mai Gang

At one point during our stay in the Tibetan village of Mai Gang, we did an exercise in map-making and creativity. Below is what I wrote as I walked around the village, observing and reflecting. I wrote this without using my eraser.

We sat in a circle and I thought
Dawn breaks and dawn has broken

I sit and write as the guitar strums
I commit to creation, promising never to undo,
trying to convey this as I see it.

Here I am, the village around me
This morning, last night, on my quest—there I was,
The village was with me

Beyond the red roofs and the rippling snapping flags lay the mountains—white and black in their definite, obscured by haze but the delicate white still blending the horizon.

The stars overhead brilliant in their clarity and unmoved unmoving. The wires not obscuring the sky, the hazy horizon drifting into the haze of my mind until all I see is Orion’s brilliant eye and all I hear is the soft rise and fall of Will’s voice beside me. So it is and ever will be. The marring realities of that night—a bright flashlight, unquenchable rotation—will fade until all I see is Orion’s brilliant eye. But this is no less than what was, and so it must is mapped.

The sun burns hot on the haze, thirty steps after the morning mist swathed the land in a cool blanket.

This woodpile is for fires. They burn the hate and resistance, they burn with the fire of certainty. The flame is hot and wretched, it pulls the dark foe within us the foe that we all must face individually

And I stand on a ledge surveying the red roofs and pink flags when I am struck by how much is unseen unsaid and my soul plummets off the cliff deep in the throws of despair my eyes still surveying until my soul is saved by a murmured word or a soft image.

From where I stand, they stand on no ground but float on the deep, haze-obstructed contours. One dips a head, long black hair flowing, a jacket caressed by sun. They stand curious—three hats and three heads rapidly disappearing on chubby legs. And despite the distance I feel the curiosity as surely as I hear their voices fading down the path.

The wall abuts the path. It is made of brown mud. Yet I watch and it grows in power, becoming more than it is.
The dirt is layered and brittle, its water gone.
The wall is full of cracks, ridges, and gullies.
The brown rolls into ground, changing substance unchanging
The fearsome wall is dappled with sun, littered with rocks.
The chalky dirt grows and grows, eclipsing all else until I perceive only the wall and my pencil scratching on paper. So I weep without shame, because the wall can never eclipse the pencil and live to tell the tale. As I weep, I feel the wall on my hand, I see the dirt beyond written description, I feel the wall breathe over the seasons and years—and then it is only a wall. A man and horse pass behind me, their breathing concrete a measured rhythm ensnaring me.

I open the door—
I step outside—
I see the mountains—
Infinite space under a limitless sky;
Mantras roll through me, spinning on the prayer wheel,
Grandma chuckles.