In other lives

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I’ve been missing the plateau a lot recently. I thought this feeling would slowly dissipate after spending more time in the states; on the contrary, I can’t help but feel it has grown stronger. I don’t say this as an insult to my friends and family here, or as a disservice to those who have helped me reacclimatize to American life – you were the reason I moved back! However, I am oddly still unable to detach. Read the following nostalgia- and regret-laden paragraphs at your own peril.

I stand atop a ridgecrest, geologically muscular buttressing cascading down to rivulets and streams and rivers far below, through shrubland and forest and, angle lessening, terraced fields of hydrovoracious crops. Iridescently impressionistic color-dots – wildflowers, birds, droplets of dayold frost, distant neon farmers’ jackets – spackle three hundred and sixty degrees of landscape, transforming the uncountable multiplicity of life into a single breathing entity whose entire purpose is simply in the every joy of existing. From below, a raucous wild scream of a voice, slowly pitching and vibratoing into a tone, a song, a herding ballad offered to whichever eligible daughter of whichever eligible family might be interested in switching tents this night. White, awkward lumps amble haltingly over a rise; the herd comes ever closer, finally surrounding and engulfing me within munching stumblingness. They slowly pass, toddling over ridgetop and down the barren southfacing slopes below, medial-laterally wobbling canoes on a vast grass sea. I sit, transfixedly staring at nothing and everything in particular, only eventually jolted into movement by the overripenly reddened rays of a fast-descending sun.

Exhausted, I sit at a low table in the office, trying to tap out another sentence on tomorrow’s worksheet. The door suddenly opens; students enter, only remembering to ask ‘can I come in?’ after having taken several steps past the door. The same questions are asked, again; I answer with as much positive energy as I can muster. I have already seen these students two periods today; I will see them for another ninety minutes during the upcoming night class – and, no matter how much they induce worry or distress, I will not tire of them. We have a conversation, nothing unusual: English, life in America, families, significant others, Ti$e$an customs – except for being beautiful in its profound simplicity and Nietzschean (if almost daily) recurrence. Somehow, for all their lack of apparent depth, these conversations – in their herculean stretch to encompass peoples, cultures, and ideas infinite worlds apart, in their mutual innocently infantile (in the most positive way) curiosity, in their spirit of (mostly) pure and utter goodwill, tinged with healthy doses of humor and sarcasm and quirk – carry surprising meaning, some uncharted variety of Yogic third-language simple profundity that forms strong bonds of intimacy and inspiration and trust. And then, still tired but inwardly energized, I glance up at an introductions poster hanging on the wall, a map of the region with students’ pictures and self-introductions pasted onto the locations of their hometowns. Writing quality is first-year, meaning therein is genuine. I unaccountably, inadvertently, unavoidably break into a wide grin, now full of energy and life and a more-than-British-sense-of-vigor-and-vim, blood pumping through vessels at top speed and adrenalized and ready for class and for life and for anything that could possibly come my way.

I straddle a motorcycle, the beast fretfully purring as I turn uphill along a narrow path lined with strands of barbed wire. Dogs occasionally race beyond; the bent yet regally robed half-parabolas of old women dot the landscape, collecting dung, herding sheep and yaks, drying cheese, washing clothes, bending painfully upwards to crinkle bent-tinfoil-like faces into broad, wrinkle-etched smiles of curiosity and (if not joy, then) goodwill. Children scamper randomly about houses and tents, occasionally herding small animals, occasionally playing in the grass or swimming in the streams, fully naked. I eventually come to a hilltop, rising only slightly above the surrounding grassy plains, yet providing a prospect ranging far into the distance, towards snowy peaks and distant forested gorges and drunkedly meandering rivers. Some manmade objects dot the landscape – a small school, herders’ tents, a faroff cell phone tower and a distant solitary powerline – but all else is an endless horizon of grasses and topography. I lie down amid the now three-dimensional ground cover, insects crawling around the corners of my head, breezes coursing through my hair and pushing them away, soil below my body warm and comforting and deep and rooted, skies overhead cold and clear and full of freedom and possibility – and here I am, amidst all of this quotidian splendor, mind balanced, at ease, at peace.

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