Restored Voice is entering into the last stretch of its field work phase. Today the final damp, chilly gasp of winter is passing through these hills. Rain and cold keep us prisoners around densely smoking scrap fires or in cozy cafes with fogged up windows. I watch the weather move around me in a way I never can in St. Louis. At this altitude, the clouds creep wetly through town and across neighboring hills and mountains, shrouding familiar sights in mysterious glamour. Somehow, a clear view of mountains in the sun humbles me, but when those same mountains turn misty, I feel excitement and restlessness. The sense of impending adventure arises. I’m unsure why this is and it has me wondering about past lives again. Spring should be starting up any day now, and as beautiful as the snow has been on the deodar pines and temples, I am indeed ready for a steady stream of warmth and sunshine.
Losar, the celebration of the Tibetan New Year, came and went relatively quietly this year. Lobsang Sangay, the Sikyong (sort of like a PM), asked his community in exile not to celebrate Losar with the traditional dances and music this year, in light of the ever-increasing number of self-immolations in Tibet. If you ask Tibetans around Dharamsala how they enjoyed their Losar, as I did many times, most of them will say, “Ah, it was okay. This year, not so big. We are sad.” Last year, and this year also, Chinese officials forced Tibetans to celebrate, and taped the farce to show how “happy” Tibetans are in the occupied region.
This past week, two more interviews took place at Dolma Ling. Both of the ani-la requested anonymity, which I was more than happy to grant. There is real danger for their families in Tibet, as well as personal persecution should they try to visit them. Sitting out on the grass in the sun with the women, surrounded by peach trees and chirping, trilling mynah birds, it was hard to imagine the injustice and peril these women have left behind. The community of erudite, peaceful women at Dolma Ling represent such resilience and unity to me. Every ani I have spoken with expresses much contentment, and love of Dolma Ling. As one of my interviewees said, “Dolma Ling will always have a precious place in my heart. I think I could never leave this place.”
Hard to believe that I have already been here for two months, and that I may be back home in just another. In the mean time, I’m soaking it in.