Years ago Jack and I spent a month in Nepal. We were exhausted and elated by Kathmandu, our week at Chitwan National Park, and a persistent tour guide who took us to his family home in the actual middle of jungle where we were treated to warm milk complete with water buffalo hairs floating on top. So, when we arrived in Pokhara on the shoulder of the beautiful Fishtail peak of the Himalayas, we were ready for a long rest. We stayed at the Stupa Hotel, owned by the King of Brunei and managed by a charming young Nepalese man who took us to a Tibetan refugee camp where we bought most of the rugs which, right this moment, our respite worker is taking up and storing because area rugs and Jack’s new wheelchair are a potentially dangerous combination.
In those days Jack was charming, gregarious, and truly charismatic. Everyone loved him. Including the manager of the Stupa, who put us in a room with a view. And what a view. The Fishtail framed perfectly by our French shingled window. The window had other, closer views as well. Directly below our room an open field was home to a motley herd of brown and white goats, and just to the left was a tiny, dirt-floored hut, in which lived a stooped, always shawled Nepali grandmother who cooked over an open fire, and waved up at us each time she caught our eye.
We traveled with one change of clothes and usually just washed everything in the sink and hung it to dry overnight. But, since we were at The Stupa for a week, and Jack had this ongoing relationship with the manager, Gautam, Jack arranged for our clothes to be ‘professionally’ laundered.
So, there was the afternoon we returned to our room from a stroll along the lake, Jack looked out the window and called to me, “Hey, Pam, come look at this. The goat next door is wearing your Victoria Secret Panties on his horns.”
Turns out professional laundry service in Pokhara meant beating the material on lake rocks and draping clothes over bushes and fences to dry in the thin air.
Each morning tea was delivered to our door when dawn was still no more than a slight silvering of light. As I luxuriated in its warmth, I watched our neighbor emerge from her hut of scavenged materials – mostly old wood, cardboard and a few ragged lengths of sheet metal. Bent with obvious osteoporosis, the old woman, shuffled outside before dawn each day. She knelt at a small pile of wood she had arranged the night before, and worked to light the tiny pieces of paper trash she’d collected. Then this patient old woman, blew carefully on the flames until the ragged kindling caught. She sprinkled an herb of some kind over the tiny fire. Smoke rose directly in front of the sacred Fishtail peak. The old woman pressed her palms together in prayer, and knelt so that her forehead touched the ground. She stayed in this position until the offering had dissipated in the cold mountain air.
Here’s why I am telling you this story in a blog series about care giving.
Jack and I stayed in that lovely room with its view of the Fishtail for eight days. On only one day of our visit was The Fishtail visible just before dawn when I sipped my hot tea and the old woman made her offering.
For me, this is a lesson in faith. Beyond faith, it is a lesson in commitment. A choice to believe, to carry-on, even when the original object of our love and faith is obscured by cold, dense clouds, whipped by fog, and covered in darkness.
The narrow runners with mountain symbols which, until a few moments ago graced our hall, were woven by the old woman in the hut who taught me one of the greatest lessons of my life. We bought them from her on our last morning in our room with the view.