A one-eyed monk in a Santa cap sits on the ground, giggling manically, twirling his staff in the dust.
Women in long blue skirts circumambulate the monastery, their prayer wheels whirring in the wind. Under their breath they mumble om mani padme hum.
And it must be true what they say about the dogs–that they are reincarnated monks. They scorn my offers of doggie biscuits. Every last one of them. But gratefully accept any people food I give them. One morning I wake up to find five of them sleeping outside my door.
Sharp, snow-capped peaks are carved in the distance, and the moonless nights, sublime.
At night I roll out my mat in the small room where Padmasambhava’s fierce countenance watches from the altar. With no electricity, no fire, I burrow under the blankets and sleep shortly after the sun goes down. In the morning I wake up to a forest of stupas surrounding me. I fill the bronze chalices on the altar with water and light a yak butter candle. This is the only thing the monks have asked of me in exchange for staying in what must surely be one of the most sacred shrines on the grounds.
The writer in me searches for meanings or metaphors, but sometimes there are none. Security is nebulous. The future is never set the way we think it is. We fall. And pick ourselves up again. We move on.
And in exchange we’re given moments, sometimes longer, of walking through a land where monks carry on traditions hundreds of years old. We find a cave where every morning someone hikes down to light candles and fill the cups with water and don’t question that the voices whispering through rock are real.
In the end, it’s all we have. These moments. One following the other. Cherish them. They’ll never return.