This video is a sampling of sounds from Pushkar, an especially musical place in India.
Women on the dusty road sing a cappella, wedding guests dance and process to marching bands, pilgrims call and respond in a mountain temple, a chanter rings a bell to gather the faithful.
When you are the creator of the universe and drop a tear or a lotus leaf in the desert, you will not be surprised that Hindu pilgrims flock to the lake that springs up there. Nor will you wonder when, chanting and singing, they’re drawn to its waters to bathe. Shrines and temples won’t surprise you either.
What about tourists who come and take incense and prayer bowls and pictures of monkeys and videos home to remember you by? I suspect you are taking us all in benevolent stride.
Here in Cleveland I send you my images, music and time.
This morning I made the bed and wondered if my time in India might account for the lightness and contentment I feel lately. The question came with a strong sense of being onto something.
Rationally, it makes no sense. Fifteen days in a small corner of a vast and complex land, lacking language or historical perspective - how could this change anyone? We plunked ourselves down in hotels, trains, tuk tuks, taxies, metro cars, markets, temples, eateries and monuments. We were stared at, touted to, smiled at, talked to, photographed, swept along and humored by the people. India let us in. A country where hustle is survival and survival is gas in the tank or tea in a glass allowed us for a couple of weeks to let go and simply be.
Be a drop in the ocean. Be a speck in the storm. Be a clueless westerner, humbled by ancient, inscrutably beautiful forms. Be welcomed. Be borne.
Here we hike to one of those welcoming places.
I was just thirteen at a Girl Scout jamboree on the edge of Camp Drum my first time at this. The older girls told us the soldiers on base would fly their copters over the shower house to see what they could see. So when we heard propellers chopping the air, as we grabbed towels and grinned up at the undulating branches, we pictured the guys in green fatigues taking a good long look through their Army strength binoculars.
There was innocent excitement to it all, sheltered girls that we were. A feeling like the very first day of school when moms hover over five year olds, guarding their sweetness one last time before the world takes charge.
The second time, I was the mom. We gathered on a small island in Georgian Bay where my brother’s family spends their holidays. Most of us were visitors, careful not to trample on the delicate filigree of kinship. Dutiful parents and curious young cousins clambered and climbed in and around the rocky waters and mossy woods, getting smeared and smudged with island vegetation.
What has vividly remained with me these many years hence is the outdoor shower. The pine scent and ebullient clouds of that place inhabit a brilliant patch of memory that bears no ill to anyone. It is for me a wonder of the world.
The Youghiogheny ushered in a third bare tribute to the sun, with our sons - teenage strong - on a raft with mom...
And though they give no standing O, their mouths are round in stunned appreciation. Admiration. Oh.
Followed by a thunderous applause. A new work well received.
After which the humor, no, the comedy steps in. A one act play with Cleveland's own first couple, call them George and Gracie, troupers from the burbs, entering stage left.
Now if only they hadn't swum a 4000 yard workout just before arriving at the festival... so many plays, so little time between them. The play's of course the thing, but dolphin kicks and minute send-offs make a body hungry. It's time to supper up.
Our heroes settle in a far corner of the dim lobby, reaching into Gracie's bag for egg salad on slabs of multigrain. "Wouldn't these go nicely with a glass of wine," she says, scanning the horizon for a trace of booze. Ah, what's this? A wish come true. A tiny bar in the lighted space across the way, a mostly empty space, and Gracie's on her feet.
"Two glasses of red wine," says she, offering a twenty. The woman pouring hands her back the money. "I'm afraid they'll have to be complimentary," she says. "I haven't got my register up."
This might provide a clue to strange happenings in this place of empty tables that in themselves distract Gracie from giving it a thought. She thanks the...