Playing Aesthete for a Day in Old Dirang

Among the many pleasures of cycling, one large one is the times when you’re not.  After so many hours spent on the saddle in the effort to get somewhere, it’s a real pleasure to get off and enjoy the little things about wherever you happen to have stopped, even if it’s only halfway to your destination.  Cycling keeps you more mindful than probably any other form of wheel-based transportation, but if you’ve got any sort of momentum going you’re likely to be content just to watch the roses pass by rather than stopping to smell them.

So, on a day off in the middle of nowhere with nothing in particular to do, it’s nice to take a walk.  Once you’ve filled your stomach, you’ve got a few hours in which there’s no need to think about any place but here or time but now.  When I’m feeling mellow, this means having a wander and trying to soak up the beauty and charm all around me: the scents of plants, the sounds of brooks, the texture of rocks, the look of buildings, and the fundamental day-to-day doings of people.  I feel a bit like a cloud floating through it all, or a character from a book of thousand year-old Chinese poetry.  Except armed with a Canon EOS 500D DSLR with Tamron Aspherical LD XR DiII SP AF17-50mm F2.8-32 Lense.  Yeah!


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Old Dirang, the site of my roamings and ruminations.


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The town was bisected by this little stream, which came out of the mountains above and fed into the river below.


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Newer buildings in the area are made of concrete and rebar.  Some older ones are made of a bamboo frame with mud for insulation and weatherproofing.

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But buildings of stone have their own particular charm, so stern, so austere.

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Frankenbuilding – stone based, wooden extension, tin roof.

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Among the scents I savored that day: a grandma working with something especially putrid.  Cheese?  Pickles?  Rotten meat?  I didn’t dare venture close enough to look.

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And among the sounds, the whine of a chainsaw being used to make a new basin for rice-pounding.

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What to do when a strange foreigner is plodding around your neighborhood running his hands over the walls of your house?  Offer him some tea!

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More stone for walls means more wood for fires.  And less chance of your house burning down.

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A wall separating two nothings.

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Another wall not doing much.

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Where there’s Tibetan calligraphy, there are sure to be some Buddhist Gompas (temples) as well.

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It just happened to be His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama’s birthday.  Several village men were occupied with building tiny candelabra-like statues out of congealed yak butter, which acts more or less like play-doh.  It was repetitive, detailed work, not unlike the task of making a sand mandala.  One man shaped the butter into discs and dots of various sizes, one man painted them, another built foundations to attach them to, another did the attaching.   I wish I had a picture of the process, but it seemed too somber, holy, and meditative, so I just sat and watched.

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(The remains of) a prayer wheel, probably inscribed with some mantras about impermanence.

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Wood carving with the wheel of Dharma in the middle.




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Flags bearing wishes for the peace, health, and happiness of all living beings.  Each gust of wind carries them towards heaven.

May it be so.

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