Sunday, November 2, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Badrinath October 25th, temple bells ring, are ya listening?
     It's snowing heavy flakes coating my black shawl, we're sitting toes chilly in bed, a towel wet on my greasy, sulfur hair. I slipped on the bridge, falling on the other side of my tailbone, which had finally healed from Nagpur, luckily not bad this time. I am the happiest I've been in a while. Billows of steam rising from below the temple at dusk, we made our way through the fog to the Tapkund. The hotsprings here are the opposite of the last, now the water is to hot to dip in. It's empty now, with thick swirls of steam. We got Indian-naked in conservative underclothes and sat splashing scoops from our plastic containers, so scalding and absolutely marvelous, quick splash arm, arm, head, arm, arm, knee, knee, talking and laughing and trying to keep from burning or freezing. Outside the snow is still coming down. Conversation is easy because talking about the future and present doesn't run out.
     We slept in this morning. I had oats which are so much more fun now with our iodine water, which turns from piss-colored to purple in the metal bowl. Almost makes up for eating oats soaked in cold water every morning. Later we had chai and paratha in the purple plastic cups and shiny silver plates. Our new breakfast favorite, the men flailing around like a parody of something, a skit of a married couple, the man with the big mustache and kerchief tied around his head whacks the other with a rolling pin on his behind as he passes, telling him to hurry up to serve their customers, who number fewer than the staff. The thin teenage boy in baggy clothes boiling chai looks like he might start rapping and the entire scene would turn into a music video.
     We walked through rock pasture to Mana village, up to the temple for the mother of the five brothers in the ancient Hindu epic. We watched a movie playing in the chai shop, the kind of really great, old effects religious film with uncomfortable looking fat actors with ill fitting wigs. As they all cross the bridge, the mother falls down, her blurred, photoshop outline slowly sinks into the water, help me, but the men only look slightly more uncomfortable and sad and keep walking with their black dog. We sat for a while up there, I wrote letters I wont send on the stone steps surrounding the red temple. Went down past the people breaking rocks up to the stone village with mustard growing and hats and cozy sweaters. Two temples where the Bhagavad Gita and other parts of the Mahabharata were written thousand of years ago in caves in the rock. We are getting used to being dragged into pujas in the temples and then asked for donations, which usually happens in the tourist-frequented places. the disappointment with our very small contributions is a little off-putting.The very long road home with dark storm clouds pouring in from the south, starting raindrops and then snow.
Before we saw the Himalayas, but now we are unmistakably in them. Surrounded on each side by peaks so massive, you can't quite take it in, even if you schedule 5 days to do just that. Photos do even less justice than usual because each one could be taken from anywhere and be beautiful, there isn't any way to get the scale.

And up here even higher, we are on a lichen stone table in every fantasy novel, mountains ducking in and out of clouds. My face is so dry, chapped nose and bright sun. . Even less oxygen here, makes you feel even smaller than the scenery make you feel already. We can't see Badrinath at all, only sign of humans is a tarp stretched over a rock, maybe a dwelling or an out of season chai stand. We haven't seen anyone past the shack where we had condensed milk smoky chai, except one man in religious clothes who disappeared far up into the glacier. This place is a different world, the snow is still in patches here, in the town it has all melted. There is a river on the sun side of the valley, which echoes of rocks on the other side. I dreamed I was at a contra dance last night, spun so much I lifted off the ground. There's another sound coming from the mountain above us, irregular, could be air, water, or earth and I wouldn't know. I don't know this land, I love this land in a new way. Where we ended our hike farther up, and the base of a huge peak, I have a page in my journal with lots of scribbles. It was the first time I actually wanted to capture something, usually I am satisfied with a little piece of it, but I'll have to rely on a few blurry pictures.

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