Oh, Yes it is!

It’s indeed that time of year once again
But where’s my sister, where's my friend?

She left me in Baharat all on my own
I miss her sweet face; ponder how has she grown?

Cherishing her smile, the sadhus agree
India isn’t the same since she's decided to flee

The walas the Yogis, the pups and the cows
Don’t listen to reason, we want her here now!

But placing self-serving motivations aside
Loneliness in check, no choice but abide

Her gifts, more important must be shared with the world
There’s good to be done, community unfurled

She returned home what feels so long ago
To alter the landscape and boy, what a show

Monks, murals and mayhem; a circus divine
Children galore all you need is a mime

Creepy as clowns, that’s a really bad plan
How about instead we invite Superman!

Oh wait there he is, right there by your side
I’ve got pictures to prove it; his cape is his ride

What a pair, lookie lookie, here’s a candid of you!
Decked out as Supergirl in a red underoo

By leaps and by bounds watching both of you fly
The wind beneath you, touching the sky

‘Eat dust baby’; oh wait, that’s not nice
That’s what you get without editing advice

This rhyme’s getting weird, so I’ll get to the point
Oh crap that’s no good; all I’ve got’s the word joint

Ahh…yes

It’s time once again to rejoice the day of your birth
You’re managing quite well; despite this fast-spinning earth

Steadying peace with chaos and fun
It’s not always easy to balance life’s run

And so you’ve inspired me to do just the same
Bring home some OM, in more that just name

So it’s off to our hometown to see what’s the fuss
I hope it’s okay, even Zen I still cuss

Dropping the F-bomb for fun and for play
I hope you'll enjoy; happy fucking birthday!

See you soon Lovebug!

p.s.

If my words don’t rhyme and the reason makes no sense
It’s the element of surprise, keeping Mimi in suspense

All OM that is published, dear sis deserves credit
She’s the only one I will dare allow edit

This poem may need help without her keen eye
Apologies abound, I gave it a try…

~ by Christine Fowle

Happy Anniversary — Birthday Poem !!!

This poem first made its appearance one year ago — and because it is indeed that time of year again...

We interrupt this esoteric and suddenly serious nature of this blog for a (40th) birthday tribute to my sister…ahem…

An orbital rotation marks a shift into bliss
A spectacular of dreams, sure not to be missed

For those with an eye on my beautiful sis
It’s indeed that time — to Plant a BIG Birthday Kiss

Mother India’s been restlessly chanting her name
Where are you dear child? Why aren’t you in the game?

Gear up. Get ready. Get set. And Go!
There is no escaping your roll in this show

The players are here; the pieces in place
It’s you we’re waiting on; your turn in the race

Yoga & mantras & kirtan & such
Her head may pop off; it’s all just too much!

Agores & Monks, High Priests & the like
They all will line up to bask in her light

A magmatic glow, iridescent as stars
Sparks will soar, colliding with Mars

Planets will sing; Galaxies will hum
Moons will shine on, engaged in the fun

What a time we’ll all have, zinging around
Who’s time for liberation when such fun is abound!

Break for the party; celebration for all
When lil’ sis arrives she’ll be queen of the ball

So make up your mind. Set your resolve.
Your big sis is waiting, controlling the mob

It can be intense and at times kind of scary
The monsters look fierce, all bloodshot and hairy

Sometimes they smell and play nasty tricks
It’s all in good fun — how they get monster kicks

But I’ve got some pranks of my own up my sleeve
I know some things you just wouldn’t believe

We’ll dazzle, disarm, confuse & distract
Little do they know it’s only an act

While clown-puppets dance on a stage with a script
The element of surprise only shoots from the hip

For real freedom lies in no agenda nor plan
The Universe alone holds the true fate of man

But until such a time sis hears the great
Mother’s call Its nose to the grindstone and balls to the wall

There is work to be done but a break in sight
Until she arrives I’ll continue with might

For years sis has nurtured a much softer side
No alter ego to disguise, maneuver or hide

For her liberation will be but a breeze
With a little encouragement she’ll find it with ease

My goals are for naught but when shared with another
She’ll serve as my muse. My sister. My brother.

She’ll inspire with grace, with joy and with love
To see her freed on the wings of a dove

With this last thought I will bid you adieu
Until we lock eyes sis…Happy Birthday to you.

All of my love.

~  by Christine Fowle
~  Photo Credit: Paideia: Songs of the Celestial Beings

It's Like That Sometimes

This poem was inspired by Hari, a young Rishikesh waiter, who, when overheard responding to a curious traveler regarding the change in his usual attire replied, "It's like that sometimes."

My sister and I have adopted this mantra and applied it to the assortment of circumstances we’ve encountered, as well as to personal divergences from what previously, we perceived to be absolutes only to discover — it is like that sometimes.

It represents our transitory nature and the magical unpredictability of the world around us, while underpinning our innate ability to choose differently at any time. 

 

It's Like That Sometimes

 

In love with this life
when it's not complete strife

Drawn toward the light
we forego the night

The people, so kind
when you're not their best find

The offerings, the smiles
…transcend all the miles

Oh, so bloody hot
except when it's not

Are you feeling your best?
No. Yes.  I mean, No.  Oh, Yes.

He asks where you're from
“Which country, my friend?”

"My shawls, madam, my shop…?”
Have you time you can lend?

Is the power on?
It was.

But not now, why?
Because.

So beautiful — Divine
except for the grime.

You see my dear pilgrim,
It's like that sometimes

The children so sweet!
come right to the street

Although there are some
seek only a treat

Oh no, where are we?
I haven’t a clue

Try left, or no; Right?
Look out for the poo!

"I heal" (or was that steal?)
the tout, he may say

No worries, no problems
I'm sometimes that way

You call out to greet me
I look the other way

What, you don't want to talk?
Nope, sometimes I'm that way

The colors so vivid
the history so rich

But why is it often
there's somehow a hitch?

A country so poor
so many no door

Who says? It’s not true
there's none that has more

Diversity galore
dichotomies, even more

World upon world
so much to explore

I'm Buddhist, I'm Hindu,
no, maybe I'm Sikh

The options so plenty
but who are the meek?

The sweet Ganga flows
the temple bells chime

You see my dear human,
it's like that sometimes

Our dear Mother India,
we run for the door

But when no one is watching
we come back for more

~ by Amy King

Jerry Would Love It!

Why India??

Surely there are other, gentler, locales in which one could do, well, whatever it is I'm doing.

The best way to explain the power of Mother India's allure is through the medium of music. No. I'm not gong to sing. And it isn't the mixing of keys and strings I'm referring to either. I suppose the easiest way to know this experience is if you've been to a Grateful Dead show (Phish would also do). But it's not the concert itself that lends to the depth of this realization. It's the pre-show unfoldment that takes place in the parking lot. Yes. The parking lot.

In the moments following the breaking of dawn, hours before the band takes the stage, an empty slab of dirt silently hums with the first signs of life. Drops of morning dew slowly slide down arching blades of grass — and the daydream begins.

Pilgrimaging devotees, arriving by whatever viable means possible filter in with the rays of the rising sun. Seeking mystical affirmation, a sign, a vision, message from beyond. Nothing fancy — just an otherworldly indication that the journey was not all for naught.

Early morning zeal is handsomely rewarded with front row seats to the pre-show acts I, II & III. Hatches lift, lawn chairs unfold, canopies are pitched & the coolers come a-rollin' out. VW Buses transform: glitzy marketplace shops, make-shift kitchens, DJ booth, massage studio & spacious sky-decks. Extraordinary vantage points for examining the swirling microcosm precariously preparing to burst.

Intricately bound together by the forces of space & time, the vision unfolds in expanding moments of swift succession. An existential bizarre for the senses pops open with boxes, bins, blankets & booths, begging one-and-all: Come out to play! FRESH Vegan Muffins (no meat added), bRight sqUisHy toys, gReAt BiG fiLLeD BallooooonS, bouncy sticks & pixie sticks, bubbles & YoYos & soooo many Striped Tall Hats. Dr. Seuss would be proud — As is so very much of the crowd, Many fans are dressed like Who’s, Their only job to leave musical Clues…A road to follow, A sign to behold, Magic to know, or so we’ve been told, Just open your ears, There’s nothing to fear, the message is ready, If you’re game to hear.

Swirling heights of mayhem peak at a palpable pace.  Nothing ascertainable, abstract glimpses of the menagerie pouncing and leaping by:  a pogo stick riding dog, banana tossing jugglers, volume cranking at volatile decibels; all of Canada invited to stand next to Jimi's fire, tie-die banners maniacally waving hello, trails of streamers leading to a party everyone is invited to. A crazed continuum of rapid-fire enquiry — huh? how? what the hell was that?

There's the muffin guy again...no meat...no sir...hoola hoops! Eight of them swirling and swirling; round and round. Are those superballs? Pingng off the roofs of cars? YES they ARE!!! Do they glow in the dark?

WARNING: Serious Seekers: Don't get lost in the labyrinth. Step smartly. This way please…

Kaleidoscopic sprays assault every mental faculty. Just when one more ambush cannot possibly be dissolved and then the mooing begins. The show's about to start.

Ah yes, my point — India's kinda like that.

~ by Christine Fowle

Who gave you this number?

As I sat, deeeep in meditation, a series of melodic whispering please reached my ears...a mixture of laughter & crying, bordering on giddy hysteria. What? What's that I hear? You're trapped under an avalanche of tourists and the hotel is buried under a pile of s'mores.

Huh?? Who is this? And how did you get this number?

It was a symphony of voices, of colleagues past
Executing plans in season going fast

With Christmas a memory, awaiting the day
When finally the last of the snow melts away

Peace of mind, it will come, bringing with it spring flowers
Knowing again, the town soon will be ours

As President's weekend came and went
Colleagues on my mind were spent

Not far from my thoughts, yet the work I don't miss
From East to West a Namaste Kiss

If a destination you're searching for mud-season bliss
You know where to find me, along with my sis

Unless you're Tim Sanders, who should go somewhere classy
I'd be elated to buy your first honey lassi

This little lyrical ode to my friends
I hope you'll enjoy until ski season ends

Big hugs...and lotsa love. You're not (too) far from my thoughts...

~ by Christine Fowle

What Would Buddha Think?

It is unlikely that 25 centuries ago Guatum, The Buddha, would have conceived of a lassi shop across from the spot he attained Enlightenment, sporting his name. But here it is nonetheless.

I believe oppressive was the word the guidebook used to describe this holy desert in the month of June. Devoid of rain and tourists, my parched pilgrimage to the Divine One was short-lived and after a six-moth detour, Bodh Gaya has once again found its way into my plan of plans.

Monks donning maroon, yellow and orange robes far outnumber the vendors, beggars and touts competing for tourist rupees. Cool temperatures have propagated an ideal environment by which those seeking vibrations of peace, love & compassion can comfortably collect under the infamous Bodhi tree  to chant, pray and meditate for salvation.

The journey isn’t complete, however, without a sentimental reminder. Luckily, a person need only turn around to find such a treasure. Pendants, clocks, playing cards and plastic trinkets, all for sale, commemorate Buddha’s relentless pursuit of Truth. 'Get your Guatam shoe-horn here…’ Only slightly more disturbing is the much larger-than-life, 80-foot Buddha statue down the street.

What The Buddha would truly think, I cannot be certain, but I have to believe it would be along the lines of, “find your own tree.

~ by Christine Fowle

A Birthday Poem

We interrupt this esoteric and suddenly serious nature of this blog for a (40th) birthday tribute to my sister…ahem…

An orbital rotation marks a shift into bliss
A spectacular of dreams, sure not to be missed

For those with an eye on my beautiful sis
It’s indeed that time — to Plant a BIG Birthday Kiss

Mother India’s been restlessly chanting her name
Where are you dear child? Why aren’t you in the game?

Gear up. Get ready. Get set. And Go!
There is no escaping your roll in this show

The players are here; the pieces in place
It’s you we’re waiting on; your turn in the race

Yoga & mantras & kirtan & such
Her head may pop off; it’s all just too much!

Agores & Monks, High Priests & the like
They all will line up to bask in her light

A magmatic glow, iridescent as stars
Sparks will soar, colliding with Mars

Planets will sing; Galaxies will hum
Moons will shine on, engaged in the fun

What a time we’ll all have, zinging around
Who’s time for liberation when such fun is abound!

Break for the party; celebration for all
When lil’ sis arrives she’ll be queen of the ball

So make up your mind. Set your resolve.
Your big sis is waiting, controlling the mob

It can be intense and at times kind of scary
The monsters look fierce, all bloodshot and hairy

Sometimes they smell and play nasty tricks
It’s all in good fun — how they get monster kicks

But I’ve got some pranks of my own up my sleeve
I know some things you just wouldn’t believe

We’ll dazzle, disarm, confuse & distract
Little do they know it’s only an act

While clown-puppets dance on a stage with a script
The element of surprise only shoots from the hip

For real freedom lies in no agenda nor plan
The Universe alone holds the true fate of man

But until such a time sis hears the great Mother’s call
Its nose to the grindstone and balls to the wall

There is work to be done but a break in sight
Until she arrives I’ll continue with might

For years sis has nurtured a much softer side
No alter ego to disguise, maneuver or hide

For her liberation will be but a breeze
With a little encouragement she’ll find it with ease

My goals are for naught but when shared with another
She’ll serve as my muse. My sister. My brother.

She’ll inspire with grace, with joy and with love
To see her freed on the wings of a dove

With this last thought I will bid you adieu
Until we lock eyes sis…Happy Birthday to you.

All of my love.

Alice, is that you?

One change in Phnom Penh and bussing it to the Southern coast takes twelve hours. This and a twenty-minute bumpity, bumpity, tukity, tukity ride in the dark; finally I reach the out of the way retreat. Exhausted, I walk across the tiled floor of a guestroom resembling a Q-Bert video game. Yes, I realize this dates me considerably but regardless, I open the wooden shutters to let in a night breeze and suddenly step on something. That something turns out to be a six-inch caterpillar. Seemingly unimpaired the furry creature regains consciousness and slowly and extremely tentatively, creeps away.

Plopping back-first onto the bed I close my eyes and inhale the soft scent of jasmine. Upon the exhale, I release the tensions of a long day into the gecko-chirping symphony surrounding me. A muffled plunk drops into the concerto prompting my eyelids to spring open. I peer up to meet the gaze of a small tan cat perched high atop the armoire. Staring down at me and then back again at the floor, she is sporting an expression that would indicate there are some descending issues underfoot. Following one of my few travel rules, this one regarding manhandling foreign felines, instead of assisting I open the door and watch as she carefully works her own way down and out.

Tired, frustrated and apprehensive about what other curious creatures may sneak, slither or crawl into my room to introduce themselves, I quickly close the shutters. One backward glance at the dizzying floor sparks a brief analysis of the situation:

It has finally happened — I have morphed into Alice. And this is Wonderland. If I open the door to the armoire odds are grand that I will discover a full tea party brewing inside, along with a stunning, albeit tiny, hat. Of course — this must be what Kitty was searching for — how silly of me not to see! It’s all so obvious!

Or perhaps I just need some sleep.

Upon waking the following morning I am greeted not by the Queen of Hearts, but by fields bursting of lush green vegetation. Having chosen a cozy area within the region, I’m finishing out my Cambodian adventure at a small retreat boasting an organic garden and gorgeous eco-philosophy. A gorgeously contemplative backdrop to bask in the glow of the last two weeks.

Feline Death March

Battambang is described as a small provincial town. And that it is. A tuk tuk tour takes care of the local sights — temple, fish market, peanuts drying in the sun and chat with my driver, following which, I make the decision to leave the next day.

The geckos in my room chirp in concert. The air outside is hot and dusty and there is renovation work taking place on the rooftop directly above my room. The banging and sediment dropping begins at 7:30 and every day I extend just one more night. One day turns into five and whatever the force begging me not to leave is, I don’t argue. Perhaps it’s because I feel no guilt eating squishy fruits, waiting for the floors to dry.

The girl that works the Front Desk has a peculiar manner of speaking English; it goes beyond normal difficulties with pronunciation. Come to think of it, she may have similar issues with the Cambodian language. Anyway, I was thinking about perhaps pondering a visit to a temple considerably out of the way and shared this with her.

Four of us were sitting on a wooden bench in the lobby, waiting for the freshly mopped tiled floor to dry — myself, and three young girls that keep an eye on me. The young lady with the impediment was peeling me little opaque fruits as she explained that the mountain the temple sits on, is where cats go to die.

With obvious confusion, I repeat her claim with a decisively questioning look. To further punctuate my disbelief I proceed to demonstrate, using my hands as paws, the arduous sport of feline mountain climbing, all the while crooning high-pitched wails of impending cat-death. I end the performance with a pointed expression beckoning re-confirmation.

Yes. This is in fact what she had meant.

The girls, mystified by my ear-tweaking, dramatic display, place an inquiry and the feline death-march assertion is then translated into Cambodian. They both whoop and howl to the tune of you’re crazy. My girl turns back to me and in all seriousness explains this is what her mother told her.

This was one of my more active days.

~ by Christine fowle

Lady Tuk Tuk

An understanding developed a few years ago. It involves how I spend money. Awareness began cultivating, that one powerful method of expressing my values is by aligning my purchases with the principles I hold dear. Spending meaningfully is one way of making a statement. Yes, I am only one individual and perhaps the conglomerates whose lean production costs are capitalizing on overseas labor don’t miss my patronage. But the social entrepreneurs taking risks to start businesses representative of their own convictions, value my support on a very personal level.

This being said, I have been officially reduced to the auspicious title of Lady Tuk Tuk.

Two nights ago, based on a desire to spend my Riel in significant ways, I strolled past a looong row of drivers along the narrow street, all competing for my off-season business by shouting the afore mentioned “Hey lady, tuk tuk?!” Wrong move. “I’m no lady,” reverberated through my head but didn’t quite convey the reversal of respect I was hoping to command and therefore kept the thought precisely where it belonged. Instead, a young man uttering nary a word, caught my eye. He was a young twenty-something wearing a baseball cap and when I approached, he smiled a smile that lit up his entire face and I just knew — he’s my guy.

“You want tuk tuk or motorbike?” he asked and I noticed the bike was unhooked from the cab and I’m all about the cool night breeze whooshing through my hair! “Motorbike,” definitely the motorbike. His name is Boran and his temperament is every bit as genuine as his smile. I also find that he makes for very good company.

After two days of climbing Angkor’s holy rocks I’ve self-prescribed some extended temple rest and decide that open road therapy is the sweet cure I’m looking for. So, I employ my newest friend and we head for the hills. Breaking through the city limits, cruising with our gorgeous traveling companions flora and fauna, it’s a rural daydream leaving nothing but dust! The highlight is undoubtedly our trip to the butterfly sanctuary — from caterpillars to pupas into winged beauties, the fluttering works of art are precisely what the doctor ordered; we even spy two butterflies mating!

Inhaling the scenery in reverse, Boran returns me to town where digging into the Siem Reap soil also unearths a bountiful bouquet of happy. A myriad of projects cultivating empowerment, education and community are sprouting up on either side of the river, providing numerous opportunities to support this city in lasting ways. Planted along busy streets and quiet roads are shops, eateries, galleries and hotels offering charming collections of meaningful methods to help grow local prosperity and travel with a purpose.

Along with Sala Baï, a small handful of neighborhood restaurants are also serving as training grounds for fresh, young pupils looking to make their mark on the world. Traditional and experimental artists occupying studios and alleys include painters, photographers, weavers, carvers and silver smiths — amateurs to master craftsman, from remote villages and developing cities. Landmine victims are peddling books by pedaling with their arms and clothing stores are assisting women living with HIV/AIDS. Boutiques offer sustainable handbags, Fair Trade souvenirs and jewelry crafted from recycled materials; there is no shortage of shops focused on projects supporting orphans, education, the disabled and disadvantaged.

Time, energy and financial means are finite resources and therefore not only valuable but cherished, and expenditures I make return the favor. In addition to receiving the benefit from the product invested in, I’m also granted the gift of satisfaction. At home and abroad, knowing my dollars, Rupiah, Riel and Rupee are feeding sustainable systems provides a small slice of inner peace. Even if Lady Tuk Tuk does at times, go a little out of her way to pay it forward, its well worth the effort. The rewards are priceless.

~ by Christine Fowle

Rave 101

Unbelievable. I’ve been bouncing around this island for almost two weeks and have yet to attend one of its infamous raves. Chasing the inland beach trails and zinging to the beat of my own inner trance-dance, has instead kept me quite distracted. But determined to appease the cosmic overlords of all things techno, I set out last night with the sole intent of tripping the lights fantastic and showing the kids how this is really done.

While there is certainly something to be said for being treated like family, my new brothers and sisters around where I’m staying are not only abundant, they are also curious. Where you been? Where you going?Why you not eat breakfast? Having spent most of my days South of the harbor, my habits have taken on the scrutiny of a culture observed under a microscope. And last night — this amoeba crawled out of the petri dish and made a break for it.

I took my pre-rave activities North of the harbor in search of something a little different. After passing dive shops, restaurants and ATMs that didn’t exist one year ago, a colorful chalkboard sign leaning against a post caught my attention. Very much like getting my temple-groove on, it was no sooner that I finished reading the colorful print and looked up than I knew; instinct had led me to the right spot.

The four pavilions are a miniature version of the beachside spot I’ve passed many an hour on the last fourteen days. Located on the opposite side of the street, it’s got the perfect distractive combination of streaming street parade and soothing backdrop of rolling waves. And this isn’t even the best part.

The spot is not only cozy and propels sweet vibes in every direction; it’s also where I meet my favorite person on the island. His name is D; like the letter D. Like the other young men on the island he’s in his twenties. But unlike the other boys, he sports a full head of dreadlocks. He possesses a gorgeous outlook with the disposition of an angel and his virtue-based beliefs were, in part, the inspiration for my last post.

The night I find D is also the night I discover the best live show in town, directly across the path from my newfound friend! The six musicians play everything from Santana to Sade, and the best bit — they perform every night of the week. Experimental, soulful and from the sounds of it, having a blast!

Thrilled at the prospect of a new friend, comfortable hangout and rockin’ entertainment, I take my leave of D with every intention of continuing my mischief into the wee hours. Reaching the outdoor party club I survey the crowd of twenty-somethings spilling over the path and crammed into the large sections of bar, dance floor and pavilions on either side. The beat pumps auditory jams, every cell in my body is thumping to. Circumnavigating the sweaty, gyrating bodies, avoiding lit cigarettes and ducking swinging drinks, I finally succeed in making it to the other side of mayhem street.

Heaving a sigh of relief I follow the beacon back to my bungalow-boys and finished my night in the comfort of my favorite beachfront perch. When I finally do retire, the party is still in full swing and I smile an enormous grin as I climb into bed; it only took forty years, but perhaps I’ve finally reached adulthood. My mother will be so pleased.

~ by Christine Fowle