I lowered the tired frame gingerly onto the mattress. The once firm mattress sagged a little, and I felt the springs creak, as though mattresses moaned. The senses were feeling somewhat overwhelmed. It is often the case after a long day amidst crowds, and cacophonous sounds. Crowded airports, train stations, bus stations can all bring the feelings to a head.
After a couple of weeks of continuous travel, I felt unmoored from the Earth. I had been flying a lot: both for long hours and frequently. I felt euphoric amidst the clouds, but yearned to stretch my legs and feel that solid connection to the Earth.
My steps on Mother Earth between my travels gave me a rushed feeling as well. Asian cities are crowded, and I lacked the narrative of control in my feet. I shuffled along with the crowds to make it in and out of places. I was being harried and jostled to a particular direction. I needed to slow down, to take it all in at my own pace, in solitude. Maybe speed isn’t a good thing, and bullock carts were better off.
I don’t know how our ancestors felt after traveling a few days by horseback or bullock carts to neighboring villages. At first, I started my musings on the travels in time assuming simpler times and less problems, but my pragmatic side took over: If all our modern methods of comfortable travel still pounded the muscles and energies out of our system, how must rudimentary modes of travel have felt on their poor frames? After their tiring journeys, there were no instant methods of heating water, drinking tea, or cooking a meal after all. If the humans felt that way, how did the bulls and horses feel?
No, maybe we all have bodies that need rest regardless of bullock carts or airplanes.
This is where I rewind to the place in the narrative where I lowered the t.frame gingerly onto the mattress. The m sagged and springs creaked, thoughts swirled. You get the picture.
I tried to calm the senses enough to sleep, but it was uphill work. I tried visualizing the misty mountain tops that I love hiking in. I tried imagining the body after a good hike amidst the mountains, but found I just could not! It was then that I surrendered to the written word with a deep breath.
In the Snow Leopard, Peter Matthiessen was on a journey to find snow leopards in the upper reaches of the Himalayas. Journeying into the heartlands of Tibet’s Dolpo valley, and possibly an inner journey much richer. The author was discovering the meaning of being present. He was walking a high cliff and looking down upon a distant meadow with goats grazing. The cliffs on either side of him a constant reminder that unless his entire being was concentrated on being there, he would not. There was a moment of clarity he says, when he realized that he would never set foot on that distant valley in this lifetime, and not be amidst the same goats in that distant wanderland ever. But he was given the opportunity of being there on that ledge-like cliff at that moment, and he took it.
Of course, I realize I am doing a poor job of both my explanations and interpretations of the passage. (I was too tired at the time to jot down the passage for reference), but that was a clairvoyant moment for me. In one sentence, in one breath, I felt space both in me, and around me. I was in a cramped city with no parks or beautiful walkways nearby, but I was transported to the clear mountain ledge atop the Himalayas. Maybe we all have such moments of clarity, and appreciate them. Or the moments themselves vaporize and there is a vague feeling of contentment, I do not know.
I felt one such moment when I came home, and was standing in my backyard. Winter had come in, the leaves had all been stripped bare from the trees, and the wet earth squelched as I walked gingerly on it. There, in the glorious peek of the sun’s rays, I felt a moment of grounding, a moment so profound that I can visualize it now. The suns rays caught on the rain drops in a spider web that was gently swaying to the winds. The work of one creature that did its work in solitude, with perfection, and at its own pace. Though the web itself was spun well above the ground, it held against the branches of the trees, on a planet spinning very fast in its cosmic journey with the Universe.
I remembered this passage from the book then:
“Before heaven and earth
There was something nebulous
unchanging and alone
the mother of all things
I do not know its name
I call it Tao“