Thursday, November 01, 2007

Ludka's Journey to the West

This is my friend, Ludka
and this post is about her "Journey to the West"

(I think the man next to her is Jan, her son)

I assume she flew west instead of east to get to Nepal,
but even if she didn't,
these photos from her trip
perfectly capture what I was imagining
while reading that famous Chinese saga,
which I highly recommend to everyone

Ludka is something of a travel maniac.
She goes overseas at least once a year.
This is her third trip to Nepal,
and the first time she's gone there
without a guided tour.

This is the kind of picture
I beg all my friends to take
whenever they are traveling,

or maybe
something with a little sculpture in it

but regretfully,
this one from Bhadrapur
is the only one Ludke sent me

she was soon saying farewell to civilization,
and heading into the wild,
demon infested mountains

This one looks pretty wild, doesn't it ?
I'm sure that an enormous tiger
is lurking nearby

I would call this tree a "sign post"
and its message ?

"this way to nowhere"

Did I say this trip was rough ?

There's no roads,
and sometimes not even any paths.

It's a world in which humans are very small
(and very edible)

and astonishingly beautiful

(just be careful you don't slip and fall)

beyond every range of mountains
is another range of mountains
.. only steeper

Is this the right way ?

or maybe... we should go this direction ?

I assume the fellow in the red jacket is Monkey,
and he's usually right.
(he can can turn that walking stick, BTW.
into the size of a toothpick
or a telephone pole)

There are some rather daunting
rivers to be crossed

This is the spot where the travelers
were joined by Friar Sand

That's him helping the pilgrims over the bridge

Xuánzàng himself is the last to cross

and finally the crew
sets out across the vast deserts of central Asia

but even the barren wastelands can be beautiful....

though lonely places,
a vast emptiness,
broken only....

by the occasional flowers

artfully arranged into a rock and flower garden
by a traveler who had passed here before.

But these barren hills are not completely uninhabited

Here is Xuánzàng approaching a habitation
(if only he knew what was in store for him!)

this appears a quiet peaceful village

where nothing much has happened for the last
thousand years or so

what's there to do up here
except feel the sunlight
and breathe the fresh mountain air

and these would appear to be cattle
peacefully grazing

Oops -- where did that telephone pole come from ?
(or maybe that's Monkey's toothpick ?)

But I wouldn't knock on that door if
I were you

and I think whoever (or whatever)
lives here
is best left alone

and it's time to walk back down the hill

and set out for your next destination,
the snow-capped mountains

not very inviting,

is it ?

it just keeps looking worse


it's time to turn back ?

Here's Monkey, Pig, and Friar Sand.
But where is Xuánzàng ?
(possibly he's been kidnapped,
yet again)

up among the clouds

even ice can be beautiful

is that break in the mountains
up ahead ?

Yes !

Our friends have stumbled into
a hidden valley

and at the bottom,
have discovered a lost civilization

where people grow food
(instead of eating travelers)

and they are charming

and gentle

and colorful and enterprising

and industrious

and creative

and meditative

preparing the pots for sale

it looks like the kilns have been busy

and so have the bead stringers

and let me share
a secret
with all you pilgrims

The reason why this village is so peaceful ?

It's guardian deity
is the sacred monkey himself

(we'll leave it to ethnographers
to find a connection between Hanuman
and Sūn Wùkōng )


Blogger marlyat2 said...

I'm glad we could go on this rough journey in just this sort of way!

November 02, 2007  

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