photo by ellen reitman.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Letters From The Edge, 2.

letters from the edge.
2. the last pill.

the inevitable has happened. first i had monumental jet-lag and now i've got a horrible cold. initially i couldn't tell if i was jet-lagged or not. i usually feel weird anyway and my sleeping patterns have never been exactly normal. but, there were spaces in conversations, time-lapses. i figured it must be jet-lag. my eye-lids would get heavy. i'd want to lie down on the roadside in a fetal position. now, my whole head is heavy, my big nose has turned into the proverbial open faucet and the world is not looking so good as it did a day or so ago.

the world is not looking so good over here anyway. when i first came to this valley, in 1975, it was a kind of paradise. and if you even go one valley over, up the hillsides far enough or down to the river in places, i suppose it still is. the closer you get to the road, however, the uglier, dustier, dirtier and noisier it gets. the population explosion over the years has precipitated all manner of construction with little or no planning, few or no rules. a stroll to local shops can be a dangerous endeavor. vehicles rush past at break-neck speeds with no sidewalks, next to no room. walking into the town can bring on asthmatic episodes. and then there's satsang.

satsang(sanskrit): 1. the company of like-minded people. 2. the meeting of people whose attention is on the oneness rather than the duality. in a land of extremes and wild contrasts, the dichotomy between the area and what's happening here seems almost appropriate. but, there is beauty at the ashram. the gardens have flourished and matured. every square foot of the grounds has been well developed over the years. the buildings have been creatively designed and well-built. the paths wind along, a discovery around every corner. this place, along with places like it, are special. they lift the planet.

having said that, i must add that the only thing lifting me right now is advil. still, i recall a time here, long-ago, when i was much sicker, in my room for a couple of weeks. i had malaria, a little something i'd picked up in the south. i would sweat profusely, then shiver from cold, continuously, back and forth, back and forth. every pill of quanine felt larger and more unpleasant than the one before. it was during the monsoons and my place at the time was far up the hillside, a mud and stone hut with slate roof and dung floor that i helped build. i was distraught, mostly alone, miserable. a friend, who was a nurse, would make the long trek up with food once a day, check on me. as far as i knew my teacher, swamiji, had not even asked after me. by the time the last pill was in my hand i couldn't bare it. each pill seemed to have grown a little larger than the one before and made me feel a little worse. the rains pounded the top of my hut as i stared at that pill for a long time. nobody would know if i didn't take it. nobody would care. i placed it in a cup, slid it under my bed and rolled over.

not too long afterward, my friend came in, drenched. "what are you doing here at this time?," i asked. "swamiji insisted i bring you this note." she handed me a small folded slip of paper. i opened it and read: 'dear hansraj; take your last pill and you'll be better by the morning. love; swamiji.'

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