Friday, September 18, 2015

Taktsang moments

A pair of butterfly wings
pressed into the mud

yellow on black
a common speckling 

 a hundred and eight passing feet
 will flatten them further 

'sinners' on the way up
'enlightened' on the way down

  all bodes well for an auspicious rebirth
  perhaps next life, a Bhutan Glory

 (Bhutan Glory, Bhutanitis ludlowi is the national butterfly of Bhutan)


Step by step

hand in hand

the lovers climb

 140 years between them

their romance just three years new

Beside the path

a young fern uncoils

tender-green fronds 


At the dinner table

the bassoon player from Hong Kong town

plays a soulful tune

we recognize uncertain notes

In his poems, questions of dharma

and great devotion to the master

Before our Takstang hike, he says

"there’s nectar at the top

bring a plastic bottle"


Up here the air is thin
breathing  laboured
the going is slow

But don’t despair,
there is a Gentleman Walter
 to hold your hand over the rocks
and through the mud

It may take a while
but Guru Rinpoche can wait all day
and blessings for Gentleman Walters
are infinite.


Horses descend the muddy track

embroidered saddle cloths flapping

 (from western bottoms)


At dinner in our hotel
the American travel journalist couldn’t believe his luck:
fourteen writers to tell his story to
(again and again and again)


Entering the Taktsang Gate
the chock, chock, chok
of an axe on wood

Excited voices from the teahouse
I think of Japan
a place I have never been


In the teahouse restroom queue
a Polish girl:
flouro-pink singlet
flouro-pink nails
The Japanese girl in front
fills a flouro-pink bucket
ready to flush


A worker carrying steel rods
flies up the steep muddy track
bottle green board shorts and a jaunty hat
music playing on his phone

I feel like dancing dangdut

(Dangdut, the popular music of Indonesia has Hindustani, Malay and Arabic influences)


Halfway up
my arms begin to tingle
the prick of a thousand tiny diamonds on my skin
Altitude sickness?
No, a tinkling light rain
or perhaps a splash from the water fall
near Yeshe Tsogyal’s meditation cave.


No gadgets allowed in Tigers Nest
no phones, cameras, I Pads, I Pods,
even our notebooks and pens, we must leave in the locker

The policeman checks us before we enter
Earlier, between frisks
I heard him sing under his breath
a low sonorous mantra 


In the small gonpa of Guru Rinpoche’s cave
thirteen monks and their lama
chant a long life puja for the Royal Grandmother
They will go all day, one of the monks tells me in between breaths

Where are you from? How long will you stay?  he wants to know
Are you Kagyu? I ask
No, Nyingma, he replies
Me too, I tell him with a grin

Out come the long horns and cymbals to join the low beating of the drums
A wild primordial punctuation before they speed their up chant double time.

Butter lamps flicker wildly
the water offerings shimmer

In front of the altar
a flock of flies air-circling
 in a merry dance

(C) Jan Cornall,  September, Bhutan 2015

Read more writing from westerners in Bhutan here

Jan Cornall leads international writer's workshops and retreats. Find out more at

 Heading out next
 Morocan Caravan, Feb 20 - Mar 5.

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