The Cosmic Dance Continues in Oaxaca

Day of the Dead is coming!

I was recently asked how I like Mexico by a Oaxacan friend. We were sitting in my apartment in Reforma, one of the nicer neighborhoods in Oaxaca (pronounced wah ha kah) City, the busy streets lined with restaurants, markets, doctor’s offices, taco and torta (sandwich) stands, tiny local product shops, and more; basically almost everything a person needs within a six block radius. Christian, a student at the local university Autonoma Benito Juarez de Oaxaca, and I ostensibly meet for language exchange – me assisting him more advanced English, him with my basic Spanish — but our conversations often veers into sociological, economic, and cultural issues including my perspective from other countries. Hence I took the question with a broader context.

It’s an interesting question for me after six years of traversing eleven countries and upwards of 40 towns. The truth is the excitement of the early days has give way to a more staid perspective. And because Christian and I were in the habit of speaking honesty and deeply about so many things I told him the truth.  

“At this point every place feels the same to me, when you get down to the roots of it. Everywhere there are families, children going to school…” I said waving my hand toward the street, “you know, daily life, what I’m doing, it’s the same everywhere.”  I thought about it some more and added, “The only outlier for me is Giza and the pyramids in Egypt. Living near the pyramids is another thing entirely…” My thoughts traveled back to the camels and horses trotting past the dingy cafe adjacent to the Pyramid complex.

Pinata shop near my apartment, Reforma

My answer, I could tell, didn’t satisfy him. So I took another sip of Mezcal, a local clear alcohol made from the agave plant, which we were drinking from teeny-tiny terracotta clay cups with colorful flowers on them, also made locally, and said, “Yeah I like it here,”  with an expression that said ‘of course. how could you not?’  

The bride and female mono

As I said this I immediately thought back to the Oaxacan-style wedding procession I stumbled upon a few months earlier in front of the Preciosa Sangre de Cristo, a four hundred year old church. I’m hard to impress (jaded you might say) having seen a number of spectacular weddings, celebrations, and just plain incredible sights in India, Israel, Egypt, Malaysia, Nepal and Singapore, but this was something special. First and foremost there were two giant puppets, each ten feet tall or more. The female Mono de Calenda (monkeys of the procession), as I later learned they are called, was dressed in a colorful dress, the male in black slacks and a white shirt. And they were dancing! To a twelve-piece band! While four women in brightly colored skirts and big baskets on their heads filled with flowers and plants twirled, as did two people carrying giant balloon-like-things on tall sticks. In addition, there was a person dressed in a rag-like traditional costume with a tall wicker top hat called a tiliche who danced, bounced and twirled without pause, adding further joyful mayhem to the gathering. In the center of all this was the bride decked-out in a Cinderella-esque pale pink gown and members of the bridal party, who were also dancing.

When I first came upon this incredible scene I was moseying down the pedestrian promenade in centro, a tourist mecca lined with street vendors, restaurants and art galleries. I quickly forget about my plans to get home and settled in to enjoy the show.  Eventually the monos led the group down the promenade while the band continued to play and the dancers and tiliche danced.  Of course I followed. I couldn’t stop smiling.  Next stop was the Santo Domingo de Guzmán Church, a five hundred year old church only a block or two away which offered an even more spectacular backdrop for the ongoing festivities.

Oaxacan wedding now in front of the Santo Domingo de Guzmán Church. Tiliche surrounded by dancers, bride is on the left
street mural

After a while I needed a break from the sensory overload and I went to sit on a nearby stone wall. I got to talking to a young guy who told me that the family must have gotten special permission from the authorities because due to covid restrictions these processions were not allowed. Later I learned that similar processions normally took place on an almost daily basis, organized for festivals, graduations, weddings and even protests (yes there are protest monos, some with slogans affixed to them). To think that monos, dancers, and tiliches could become ho-hum!  One can only hope.  

With or without giant puppets, life continues. It’s not perfect but it’s pretty great most days, despite all my jaded tendencies. On the horizon is a move to the mountains which surround the city. I’m hungry to be closer to nature. I found a place just north with a view, private terrace and hiking trails only a fifteen minute walk away.  By the end of the month, if all goes well, I will be newly ensconced in my mountain aerie. There life will continue. Eating, sleeping, writing, praying. And inevitably, there will be moments when the ho-hum recedes and I will fly. Swept away in the swirling skirts of cosmic dancers. My teliche rags fluttering in the wind. As if all time, all place, were unfurling at once amidst the peel of trumpets and reverberation of drums. Then, once again, I will land. And life will proceed wearily and sometimes merrily on.

NEW !! Check out myvideos of the wedding on my new channel

**having some layout challenges with wordpress, apologies for any issues

wedding in front of Preciosa Sangre de Cristo Church. Male mono on the left
Female mono with dancers and tiliche!
the band on the procession
The bride on procession with dancers and mono
10,000 year old rock painting!
10,000 year old painting!
This valley is where archeologists found the earliest corn in mesoamerica.
Dia de Muetros ( day of the dead) coming! I hope the street events are not cancelled …
this Tule tree is 5,000 years old !! Or more! It is closed off now (in quarantine from people?? people from it??). The trunk is enormous, it takes 36 people holding hands to encircle it. Someday I will touch it!
At the Tlacolula market about 30 minutes from Oaxaca City. Live Mexican music, good stuff!
At the Tlacolula market with Eric, where his family is from. I’ve seen better pictures jaja (haha)
I’d be remiss if I didn’t add in some of the countless beautifying murals here! This one is on a restaurant
one of the many handicrafts in the area, baskets etc made from local reeds in a nearby village.

Mexico Musing

I am on new a plane these days. Not a plane that flies through the air, although I did take one of those. It brought me Mexico City on May 2 and was followed by multiple buses –to Zipolite on the pacific coast, San Jose Del Pacifico in the mountains, and finally to Oaxaca City (pronounced Wah Hah Kah) where I am now. It’s true I’m traversing new streets, streets often lined with colorful murals, ladies selling tamales out of cloth-covered baskets, and old churches some of which I am told were built upon sacred Mayan grounds. But these streets, these people, it’s like I am watching it from afar. I am here and not here.

cool street art

Entering our second year of covid restrictions, I find myself changed in ways I don’t fully understand yet. No longer enthralled or impressed by infinite manifestations of culture, everything is just another visual display, sight, and experience. Sometimes I think I am jaded, that nothing can impress me after the Giza Pyramids, great desert sea of Siwa Oasis, inanity and wonder of India, and deep history of Jerusalem. But it feels like something more. Something deeply human and real. I don’t know where I belong in the world and I am ok with this. I couldn’t have said this a year ago.

ladies selling tamales, bread and more roadside

The truth is that as I have moved around the world these past six years, guided by signs and flow, I always believed that one of those towns would click and I would stay for a long long time. But it didn’t happen. Then covid hit. As the days and hours crawled by, first in India and then in Denver, bereft of the joyful diversions I normally sought out, I found myself finally able — forced maybe — to sit in it, the truth of this thing, that maybe this place doesn’t exist. Needless to say, this realization cascaded me into some pretty dark ruts. But time moves on, as it always does. I have accepted “good enough” as perfectly acceptable. Or at least the way it is.

pastries and bakeries really big here

For now I have an apartment. No one bothers me there. The landlord is helpful. I sleep well on my good-enough bed. There is a stove and food in my refrigerator. Many markets, mercados, are within walking distance and filled with all manner of fresh vegetables and fruit. Did you know they eat cactus in Oaxaca? What about grasshoppers? lol Yes it’s true. You can even get them on pizza and in chocolate. My new favorite fruit is the fruit of the cactus, aka prickly pear cactus fruit or tuna as it is called here. It’s my favorite not so much for the taste but the novelty of it. The red ones can be cut in half, eaten with a spoon and inside are tiny black seeds that give the mushy sweetish fruit a crunch which I find delightful in some inexplicable way. I guess some aspects of the adventurer in me are still alive and kicking. 🙂

fried and seasoned grasshoppers for snacking!

One of these days I am going to be at Santo Domingo Church when there is a wedding happening which from pictures and videos I have seen may even compete with the splendor (if not inanity) of Indian weddings, replete with dancers, musicians and giant umbrella-like things. In the meantime I started taking Spanish lessons, an absolute necessity here, and have organized my first language exchange with four people tomorrow. We plan to meet at a roof top restaurant called Gorozi that has a great view of the mountains that surround Oaxaca City and where I expect to not understand three quarters of the menu. lol.  I have taken to asking the waitperson for recommendations, recomendarios, but all too often they just shake their head looking baffled. When I’m not feeling tired it’s funny; this muddling on.  Twice I have gotten on the wrong bus and it didn’t phase me at all. I just got off and regrouped – taxi? walk? ask someone? go back home? If I’m not too tired walking is definitely the best option, sure to offer charming discoveries that could include cute cobblestone streets, colorful murals, occasionally (if I’m really lucky) live musicians as well as cute little shops with odd hours that happen to be open and selling local honey products or mezcal (local alcohol made from agave plant) or a hundred other things.  

That said, I miss the days when I knew what I was doing — or at least thought I did! — maybe muddling is the new normal. I like this quote from Brent Spiner, an American comedienne who played Data on Star Trek Next Generation: “I try not to make plans, even the best laid plans etc. etc.” Ha! Yes so true. The more I understand the less I seem to know.  Etc. Etc.  All I can tell you is that I am reporting from southern Mexico. It is somewhere. The food is good (usually) or at least interesting.  I am alive. And each day is a new day.

Santo Domingo Church, Oaxaca city

weaver Oaxacan textiles

cloth they are making!
cool street art
cute street, Oaxaca City
street art, you could probably fill a book with it, this is just a small sampling
weird street art!
co-working group in Oaxaca!
local craft seller in front of Santo Domingo church

ladies knitting in the mountains, San Jose Del Pacifico, famous for magic mushrooms!

nice fresh pressed orange juice vendor on the left
one of hundreds of kinds of mezcal
hand embroidered shirts, special Oaxacan-made styles, ladies embroidering
selling tamales and more roadside
eating nopal aka cactus in my taco, Mexico City. Nopal is a super food, very healthy

Rocky Mountain Musings

It was late July 2020 when I flew home to the United States, after two and a half long years away. Also, after two and a half short years. I merged into the rhythms of home smoothly, surprised at how easy it was to be back driving a car, cooking in a fully equipped kitchen and visiting familiar supermarkets and clothing stores, as if I were a round peg that finally landed in the round hole. For a while anyway.

First months spent in the pacific northwest, blueberry season!

Because life is like that. One minute you’re smooth sailing through time and maybe across continents, and the next you’re tumbling, a rolling stone with no direction, alone and feeling like a complete unknown, as the Bob Dylan songs goes. Or so it seemed. Because the family and friends I yearned to reunite with when I was in India didn’t ching-ching into place the way I imagined. Some are busy with school, work or some other project, one is in long term quarantine, and others are still a thousand miles away on the east coast.  Nevertheless it has been great to finally enjoy non-virtual hugs and shared meals with family. But deeper down, when the newness ended, I was just me again; no one really, just a person supposedly writing a book and sometimes actually writing it, a drifter seeking anchor and meaning.  

Priest Point Park, Olympia, Washington

I’m now in Denver. I rented a room in a house with the intention of planting roots for awhile but already my mind drifts and I don’t plan to stay in this house long.  Still, I like Denver. I have family here. And the high desert has its charms. Nothing gives me more joy than coming upon a community of prairie dogs foraging around their dens by the side of the road. Nor so much wonder as seeing the Rocky Mountains rise up off of the high flat plains, their majestic wild-ness providing a surreal backdrop to the deluge of box stores, office buildings and highways.  The Rockie’s which stretch 3,000 miles (4,800 km) across five states and into Canada are the third largest mountain range in the world and each time I see them, which is often, I feel they are saying something to me, something like there are bigger and more beautiful truths in our midst and that things like jobs, cars and bank accounts are transitory, as much an illusion, and not an illusion, as the mountains themselves.

Snowy day at Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge, Denver

Back when I was staying with my mother in Highlands Ranch, just south of Denver, there was a dry creek bed a few minutes’ walk away. Lined with Plains Cottonwoods trees I took to climbing down into it and walking in the sandy bottom with my shoes off, enjoying the relative peace it offered and the white tailed rabbits loping along and slipping into the low brush.  I started leaving a couple of hazelnuts on a fallen tree trunk for a small group of squirrels. After placing them on the tree I often sat down to watch them scampering up and down the trees, going about their business, not unlike the way I watch the humans denizens here go about their business, as if I am a different sort of creature that has entered an alien world.

My squirrel friend awaiting nuts

As these strange covid-times go on and on, the squirrels and prairie dogs are a welcome diversion to what feels like a hard rain falling, as if the crooked highways and seven sad forests of another Bob Dylan song have leapt into our 3D world.  Because despite being in familiar territory, in a country where I can navigate everything easily and without assistance, there is an emptiness to my months here, the social gatherings in coffee shops, theaters and homes replaced with masked humans, keeping apart, and speaking in muffled voices.   

When I was at a particularly low moment my sister shared with me an apt quote by Pema Chödrön, a American Tibetan Buddhist teacher.  Chödrön  writes, “Things are always in transition. Nothing ever sums itself up in the way that we like to dream about. The off-center, in-between state is an ideal situation, because we don’t get caught and we can open our hearts and minds beyond limit.”  

It’s so easy to “get caught,” to rail against the utter and at times complete lack of neat summings-up.  Perhaps this is where the Rocky Mountains come in, the way they beckon one to see beyond the foothills, to where snow capped peaks unfurl for miles and miles, a veritable landscape of infinite possibility. Maybe that is why I shrug off the need to stay. In the blink of an eye I could be anywhere — here, there, nowhere. Like a great mountain range, each moment is so vast you can never see it all.

Beautiful Cherry Creek trail near my house in Denver
frozen pond at Rocky Mountain Arsenal with my sister’s child Rosi
My sister’s garden, beautiful August flowers. Olympia Washington
Wild Bison herd! at Rocky Mountain Arsenal
The Rockie’s on the horizon!
Rockie’s on the horizon! from park near my house
A not dry creek bed, Cherry Creek Park Trail
Cherry Creek trail, Denver
My sister and I at Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, Olympia Washington
Family gathering! Denver, Jewish New Year, left to right me, Rosi, Sydney, mom, Hunter and brother Jim. Sister Debra taking pic. :))

Tiger’s in our Mist

I seem to have lost my words, my rhythm. It’s day 111 of lockdown here in India. Three months never felt so long.  At times the chit chit chit of the tiny Indian palm squirrel calls me to the window and I gaze mindlessly at its tail twitching and the birds flitting around the hotel garden. Further out I watch a herd of water buffalo and cows, their tails swishing behind them, grazing in a field that pre-lockdown housed a weekly vegetable market. I have fallen into a kind of vortex. Maybe we all have.

Indian Palm Squirrel with Peacock. Photo by unknown.

I booked a flight home for July 5, then ten days later it was cancelled. I vacillate, sometimes making peace with what is, other times yearning for the abundant freedoms I normally enjoy. Little gifts come in quiet packages – the lotus flowers on the lake, flocks of green parrots flying overhead,  swimming in the Ramada Hotel pool that the owner graciously allows me to use.  I have become like Judy in the Wizard of Oz chanting there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home; the clicks of my ruby slippers echoing into time-space, asking for things – a flight home, non-virtual hugs from friends and family — that the world does not want to acquiesce at this time.

Ramada Hotel pool

Still there are signs of change. First the hotels and restaurants opened. Then last week a few foreigner friends, also in Khajuraho through lockdown, invited me to go on safari to Panna National Park and Tiger Reserve which also opened in June.  The next day the five of us piled in a jeep at 5 AM and set off for the 40 minute drive to the park. As the already hot and humid air whipped through my hair, I felt excited to be doing something, something new, something different.  Plus there could be tigers!

On route to Tigers! Photo by Helene Lejal.

By 9 AM we had seen herds of spotted dear, peacocks, three types of raptors, monkey troops, a stork, monitor lizard, antelope, the footprint of an Asian black bear, and even a single male gazelle, but no tigers.

Young Sambar Deer at Panna National Park checking us out. Photo by Nicki Glasser.

“It’s hot, tigers will be in the forest to stay cool,” the guide told us.

As the jeep bumped along the path and traversed through the teak forests, plains of short grass and picturesque lakes and waterways I prayed to the Tiger spirit to show us her jewels.  Suddenly the guide sat up straighter and pointed.

“A tiger!” He said. “Up ahead, on the road.”

The driver hit the gas. A second later I saw it, a live, wild tiger.

“Slow down, ” I said nervously laughing, thinking, are you mad?

Tigeress at Panna National Park and Tiger Reserve !!! Photo by Evan

Because the jeep was speeding right up to the tiger, too close I thought and I knew the driver only had a long stick for protection, as if a tiger could be swatted away like a cow.  Meanwhile  the tiger didn’t even bother to look our way but  continued walking unhurriedly away from the road. At first  I just sat there, or maybe I stood, awed by the incredible beauty of the tiger padding heavily and slowly on huge paws, the black stripes slashing artistically, surreal-ly, through the deep orange fur and the long heavy tail trailing behind. By the time I started taking photos the tiger was 30 yards away and quickly disappearing into the trees and bushes, likely headed towards a cliff and gorge where there was water and caves, our guide said. A female tiger, he said.

And just like that, too fast, she was gone.

When we arrived at the gorge we looked for her scaling the rock walls but only saw a few monkeys scampering along the ridges.  Still the view of beautiful and we snapped more pictures.

Two hours later we were back in Khajuraho feeling changed, refreshed, new, from our viewing of the Tigeress. I mean are tigers even real? What fantastical creations. Famished, four of us ate a hardy lunch of vegetable and legume curries on the second floor of a restaurant overlooking the lotus flower covered lake after which I gratefully retreated to my AC cooled room. Later that day I ventured to my window again. Watching the ponderous black bodies of the water buffalo grazing, their tails twitching behind them and listening to the birds chirping as the quiet hum of my air conditioner marked the seconds going by.

Covid19 times. Someday we will talk about it to young ones. What will we say? How will it end? Because there is talk of new viruses surfacing and now a second wave of the current one.  Killing dreams, yearnings, lives. For those of us still standing — at windows, treading in place — something new is bound to spring up. Like the rains come each day, drenching the dry ground, watering the garden and lifting the heat. All of us in this together, like tigers slowly making our way across vast plains to cooler vistas.


Getting henna tattoo from Falak 🙂


Lotus flowers on the lake


If you can still drive you can bring it on your motorbike LOL

My new young friend

She wants to come inside and be my pet cow

International dinner – all from different countries — Germany, Sweden, Japan, France, USA and India :))

Cow hanging out. Photo by Helene Lejal.

Lake and Maharaja’s palace, Khajuraho. Photo by Helene Lejal

Feeding the sweet Kulkul, early in lockdown (masks on!)

the gorge, Panna National Park.

Smoke Signals from India

My hotel-prison pad!

I am writing from my hotel-prison, as I like to call it. There are worse places to be locked-in. I have a private room and bathroom, table and chair to work at my computer, comfortable enough bed, space to do yoga in my room, deliveries of essentials when needed from hotel staff and local friends and there is an inexpensively-priced restaurant upstairs.  Moreover, my first floor room stays fairly cool despite the intensifying heat in Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh. That said, the front door is essentially locked for hotel guests, of which there are seven, and mayhem sure to ensue if I try to go out as I learned about a week ago when I could not believe that going out was completely banned by the government for foreigners in Khajuraho.

Yogi Lodge restaurant with my two French friends Elaine and Alexandra 🙂

Yogi Lodge hotel was meant to be temporary sleeping place after self-isolation was instituted about two weeks ago, back when going out for essentials and walking to and from the family house where I semi-lived was still possible and a few shops were open all day. Much has changed!  Now the whole world is in stasis, waiting for the COVID-19 virus to die out.

I admit I was freaked out at first, particularly when a large gang of police showed up at Yogi Lodge after my ill-advised excursion to buy water, fruit, almonds and potato chips!  A few were carrying long sticks, which are better than guns as far as I am concerned. Online videos have shown Indian police using them on people in the streets who, I assume, were not getting essentials, much in the way vegetable sellers use them on cows to keep them away from their produce. Strange times!  I had a few stressful days as I realized the extent of my prison-like situation during which time I informed the U.S. Embassy in India and consulate services for citizens abroad about it and regained my balance.  In the process I learned that the United States was organizing evacuation flights for citizens to return home.  Excited about the prospect of returning home I decided I would pay any price, which was good seeing the flight turned out to cost $2,000.

Getting check for COVID 19 at local hospital. They just took our temperatures!

Then.  I decided to stay.  It still sits in my stomach like a lead weight, particularly when I read embassy emails about the flights slated for this week. Not because I am afraid but because it feels hard to not be in my home country with friends and family at such a time.  Nevertheless I am pretty certain it’s the best decision for me. Usually I listen to the flow, it’s pulls and pushes, it’s demands and offers and at times also consult with my spirit guides; yes that’s right, I’m talking to unseen divine beings who happen to be all around us!  Usually they confirm my flow-feelings but at the moment my heart is calling me home while my spiritual guidance is advising me to stay put. It is an unusual situation and reminds me of events that transpired eight years ago.

I was running my dog walking and pet care business Dogs are Heaven in Boston, a business that richly fed my heart, soul and bank account. So-called “work” days were walks on wooded trails in the company of pack of dogs I adored and visiting sweet cats while their owners were away.  Concurrently I was extricating myself from decades of catastrophic physical and emotional health challenges and doing a lot of personal healing, including working with Ben Oofana, a Shaman healer.

“I think you will need to leave Boston to fully heal,” he said to me one day while we were discussing the challenges of living in Boston.

As soon as he said it, I knew it was true. I didn’t even like Boston, was totally sick of the urban stress, high cost of living, congestion, traffic, and hostile what-you-looking-at mentality of many Bostonians.  I began to scout different cities around the country and became charmed by the slow pace, friendly people, beautiful ocean shoreline, and promising prospects for restarting a pet care business in Charleston, South Carolina. Still, I didn’t want to leave my dogs and cats, as I thought of them, nor their awesome human-keepers. Unable to face leaving the business I procrastinated and in short order my life unraveled. First the apartment I was living in was sold and I spent two months looking for a new place; I moved into a client’s house to help with her dogs but the arrangement fell apart in two months; a month later I moved into another apartment but one of my apartment-mates had an addiction problem and it was impossible to continue there; I found myself essentially homeless and living on a friend’s couch. It felt like my life had digressed overnight from a wonderful dream to a total nightmare.

Finally I listed my business for sale on craigslist. Within two weeks of doing so I found a suitable apartment where the landlords agreed to issue me a six-month rather than a year lease, which was unheard of in Boston. Moreover, a couple of months later I sold my business, another miracle given it was a service-based business in a part of town where many pet care providers were so busy they weren’t taking new customers.  The lesson was loud and clear. I had to trust and follow my inner-knowing even if my heart was saying something different.

Pre-lock down in Khajuraho, Mahashivarti festival chariots with children dressed as Lord Shiva and his consort the Goddess Parvati

Although a part of my heart may always be in Boston on those tree and babbling brook-lined paths with the dogs, life rushes on. Time stands still for no one. The day I drove off for Charleston I thought I must be crazy — going to a city where I didn’t know a sole and leaving behind the security of everything I knew — a feeling not unlike today where every passing hour makes it less likely I will be able to return home anytime soon. Charleston-or-bust has turned into India-or-bust.

20200331_150643Life is a big mystery, which is more apparent than ever these days.  All I can do is lean into the minutes as they sometimes scrape by, grieve for home the same as I grieved for my dog business, and remind myself that I am here now, tapping on my keyboard, sending smoke signals to friends and loved one’s far away. And I am fine. We are all ‘fine’, as per the definition “of very high quality;” and life too is fine, as per the other definition of a “very thin or narrow” road.  Given that gymnasts dance, spin and flip along four-inch balance beams, the possibilities are vast even as our very fine selves spin into the perpetual mysteries unfolding.  If you fall down, get mired in fear, don’t worry. Just get up. Up. Up. Dive into each very fine new day as it arrives and goes, arrives and goes.

Alas, the time has come to snuff out the ringlets of smoke rising from my keyboard. My restaurant-prepared breakfast awaits. Prison, indeed.

Yogi Lodge Hotel, food ahead!

in front of Yogi Lodge, deserted like all the streets

Lobby of my low budget hotel, Yogi Lodge

cows hanging out in the middle of the street lol Before lock down

monkeys came to Khajuraho last week! Pic taken my Yogi Lodge cafe

Cool cow hanging out by the lake, Khajuraho. Pre-lock down.

Neon-Lit Chariots, Cows and the Virus

Until three days ago I thought I was going totally bypass the virus mayhem. Because Madhya Pradesh/state where I have been staying has no reported cases of COVID 19 and life has been going on comparatively normally with the exception of drastically reduced numbers of tourists.  But last week ago my host’s relative arrived from Delhi bringing warnings about foreign tourists being sent home. Long story short I am now sleeping in a hotel and not the family house I have been comfortably ensconced in for six weeks.  Moreover as of tomorrow the whole country is going on quarantine. Ah well. At least the hotel is around the corner from the family house and I continue to pass the mornings until evenings there, eating meals made by the two wives, working on my computer and whatever else I feel like doing until 8 or 9 PM. Time will tell if I will be able to continue in this routine.

bride and groom with flower wreaths

I am back in India after forays to Nepal, Malaysia and Singapore; a country I find maddening, absurd, chaotic, extraordinary, disappointing and charming, sometimes all at the same time. It is marriage season here in Khajuraho and a few weeks ago and I was invited to one — noisy pomp, spiritual beauty and general hilarity ensued.

I arrived on a dark road around 9:30 PM to find a chariot covered in blinking neon lights being pulled by two white horses bedecked with bells and colorful fluffy balls inside which the groom sat with a feathered turban on his head. In front the chariot were a gaggle of people and a wedding band dressed in matching silky purple outfits among whom five or six men were dancing energetically to the horns and drums as well as the music blaring out of speakers in a neon lit truck-like-thing which was on wheels but needed to be manually pushed. In front of this contraption was another truck blasting techno dance music behind which a group men and boys danced in the blinking strobe lights.  A few strays cow lolled around, looking unimpressed with the noisy spectacle.

The whole procession was moving and stopping, moving and stopping, for what reason I couldn’t say. I hung around for about 30 minutes during which time we made it about 100 yards down the street. Meanwhile cars were sometimes getting backed up behind the procession and needed to pass in the opposing lane where people from the procession were also straying. In addition around eight people lined the procession each carrying giant umbrellas composed of white neon lights. Just another normal night during Indian marriage season!

Back at the house there were fireworks (naturally), a large spread of food that included

women and I at wedding with the bride

dosa, curries, butter roti, and sliced vegetables and around midnight a ceremony took place where the groom and bride hung flowered wreathes around each other’s necks.  For some reason an older man was carrying a rifle; he didn’t speak English so I asked someone why he had a gun. All they said was that he must have a permit for it. LOL. I was dressed in a white t-shirt, black leggings and fleece jacket which contrasted rather shabbily with the young women decked-out in brightly colored saris heavily laced with gold and silver designs and wearing plenty of makeup and jewelry.

vegetable market vendor

Then there are the ubiquitous cows who wander around wherever they please. The twice weekly vegetable market is a luscious cow-banquet, the farmers  colorful assortment of red carrots, sugar snap peas, cabbages, little red onions, daikon radishes, and various mystery vegetables piled on blankets. They keep sticks on hand to shoo the cows away but the cows are not easily deterred. Inevitably one of them manages to gobble down a small pile of eggplant or whatever before the farmer notices.  Whenever I see this I start laughing and a few others join in with me, whether because they also think it’s funny or they think it’s funny that I think it’s funny I couldn’t say.  No one talks about solutions to keep the cows out of the market. It just is. India.

20200221_104750People from all over the world come to Khajuraho to see the 1,100 year old tantric temples in the center of town. The western temples, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are adorned with most exquisite well-preserved sculptures I have ever seen and depict all aspects of human life including people harvesting fields, attending school, eating meals together, and fighting in wars. What makes these temples especially unique are the erotic sculptures. There are couples engaged in tantric sex, which is considered a way to connect with high spiritual energies, as well as couples having procreative sex  and even people having sex with animals!  When I asked about the meaning of the latter I was told that the temples represent all aspects of human life, high and base.

arriving for evening aarti ceremony at the Shiva Temple, Khajuraho

I suppose it’s true that the high and base are always with us. It is especially visible these days as some people panic and others appreciate the rich unfurling of unscheduled time and opportunities to connect and help one another.  In Venice dolphins have returned to the canals ! and the pollution levels have decreased dramatically in many cities. Life is ushering us into a new chapter, taking us in unseen directions. A few nights ago as I was leaving the evening aarti ceremony at the Shiva Temple I saw a big bat fly overhead. I smiled. Because it occurred to me that bats are creatures of the night and play an important role in our ecology.  And here we are –  all of humanity — soaring in our our night, the future uncertain, unseen.  Moreover bats can eat up to 500 mosquitoes an hour, a sign and reminder I thought,  that good things happen in the dark.  Because even as we are whipped around by what may feel like gale force winds I am certain there is something positive brewing. Somewhere out there, over the lights and flags of the Shiva temple, overhead across dark skies, a blazing sun is awaiting the new day that is sure to come.

I appear to be here for the duration because as of tomorrow all flights into the United States will cease for “an indeterminate period,” according to the state department. I am in it now ! India or bust. Maybe it’s good. I find myself forced to forget about the future and my plans to return home for a visit. The future is unknown anyway.  It is never known, the future is mystery.  So I settle into the moment more and more. Maybe that is the whole point — to be here now. What else is there, after all.


my host’s cow who comes inside to eat every morning!

A Khajuraho cow awaiting her meal on the door step  lol

the Beautiful bride!

Classical Indian Dance Festival with Khajuraho temple in background

Shiva Temple lit up for Mahashivarti festival

Western Temples, Khajuraho

Shiva Temple, Khajuraho, arriving for evening aarti

dancing horses at a party for a new baby!

temple sculpture

western temples!

temple meditation sculpture

classroom sculpture. Khajuraho western temples

spice seller at market

my favorite cow and street puppy!

day time groom wedding procession through downtown Khajuraho

wedding processing women dancing

old temple, Khajuraho

with my little parrot friend!

The Strange and Wondrous Place called Singapore

We had been right next to it when we exited the metro but we didn’t look up.  It wasn’t until we were at the top of the Gardens by the Bay dome we got a clear view of whole the building called the Marina Bay Sands.

I stood there my mouth ajar, gazing out of the curved octagon shaped dome windows.

“It’s like we stepped into a sci-fi movie,” I said to my sister.

The building comprised of a hotel, convention center and mall was made up of three enormous curving pillars each filled with 1,000’s of rooms, shops and offices. But what really made the building was the blimp-shaped tree lined promenade that joined the buildings. It didn’t look real.

None of it did — the Gardens by the Bay was equally as surreal, like stepping onto the

enjoying the crystal towers in the Cloud Forest dome!

movie set of Avator or Jurassic Park.  The Cloud Forest dome, one of two domes in the Gardens, is the largest greenhouse in the world and filled with plants and trees, crystal towers, orchid gardens, a large waterfall, sculptures of dragons and tribal figures, and on the top floor a small pond surrounded by insect eating plants.

It was all a lot more than I expected or imagined. I mean is Singapore real? Take the streets and sidewalks. They were so clean that when my flipflops began to hurt my feet I walked around barefoot. Right downtown. I wondered if the city mopped the streets every night, it was that clean. And the locals many of whom were of Chinese descent fit in perfectly — neatly coifed and fashionable dressed, young and attractive, I rarely saw old people and definitely no homeless people. There was something too perfect about the place. I wondered if I had stepped onto the set of the movie the Stepford Wives or something, Was there something sinister going on?

Perhaps. In 2018 Singapore was ranked 151st out of 180 nations for human rights by Reporters Without Borders in the Worldwide Press Freedom Index and the government has restricted freedom of speech and freedom of the press according to the Singapore wikipedia page.  It showed in incongruous ways. For example there were little squares painted on the ground every few blocks for smokers and I was told that smoking outside these tiny boxes would get you a ticket for $200 Singapore dollars ($146 USD).  On a more serious level my cousin who lives in Singapore part of the year emailed me a warning.

top of Cloud Forest dome

“Don’t bring drugs in!!! They will kill you!!!” She wrote.

I thought she must be exaggerating but when I talked with other people they assured me that if you were caught bringing illegal drugs into the country they killed you, for real. Then there were the walk lights. Everyone waited at them to cross the street even when there were no cars coming at all! I suspected that jaywalking might be ticketed as well.  Once when I was standing at a deserted intersection waiting for the walk light to turn green I asked a local man.

“Can you get a fine for crossing now?” I asked.

He shrugged his shoulders. “It’s dangerous!” he said.

But there was no cars in sight.  Weird. I crossed.

Supertrees from Gardens by the Bay dome

Yeah. Singapore. A most amazing town and also a little bit strange. I could go on. Like how a number of the buildings had plants growing up the sides like a mini forest right on the buildings, a testament to the cities dedication to ecological building design.  Not far from our hotel Orchard Road was a shopping extravaganza lined with one huge and beautiful mall after another each filled with tantalizing products and shops from all over the world. On the top and sometimes bottom floors of these malls and elsewhere in the city were food courts and markets offering so much delicious Asian food — Malaysian, Japanese, Chinese, buns and soups, stir-fry’s of infinite varieties and fresh fruit and juices — that I ate until I was stuffed on many occasions, sad only that I couldn’t eat more.

It was getting dark when Debra and I left the domes.  As we made our way down a long and very clean promenade, my flipflops swinging in my hand, we heard live festive music. Speeding up our pace hoping to locate the source we spied a Chinese New Year parade of kaleidoscope proportions across the river. One square of marchers were waving big red flags in time to the music and I could make out several neon lit floats. We continued to walk fast hoping we could get to it but soon realized it was too far away. Conveniently we found ourselves next to another dazzling mall — one of the 103 malls in this tiny city — and headed inside for food.20200118_180435

On our way back to the train station we remembered about the dinosaur eggs.  Giant ones floating in a lily pond called Dragonfly lake which naturally had two giant dragon fly sculptures in it. After walking in circles trying to find the train station we luckily stumbled upon the dinosaur egg art installation
again.  They were lit up now in bright colors — royal blue, magenta, yellow, green, turquoise, and red  — and there was peaceful chime music coming from somewhere.  It was like a magical fairly land with the music and the eggs changing colors and with the giant mushroom shaped structures called Supertrees nearby upon which flowering vines were slowly taking over.

Maybe if I stayed longer I too would have morphed into a giant botanical mushroom-y human-dreamscape.  But alas our five days were over too fast. My sister had to fly home to Olympia Washington and I too alit, my dirty backpack filled with new purchases and my mind filled with memories of gardens and domes and food. I rode a super deluxe double-decker bus to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Five days later I would fly back to the land where men piss on the side of the road anywhere they please, trash piles up on the corners each night, cows roams the streets and leave behind poop, and rickshaws and motorcycles pollute the air. Ah India. It’s definitely not Singapore.


Debra talking with Orchids!

Singapore view from high rise apartment

Singapore Botanical Gardens, Debra and I surrounded by Orchids!

Singapore Botanic Garden, only garden listed as a UNESCO Heritage site!

Giant lily pads, Singapore Botanic Garden

Flower Dome, Gardens by the Bay

Flower dome, Gardens by the Bay

Flower dome, Gardens by the Bay

Cloud Forest dome waterfall, Gardens by the Bay

My Little Secret

Arriving in the Gambia, 2018

I have a secret. I am not a light traveler. Most long term travelers consider this a burden only the most foolish foist upon themselves. Some of them travel with only a 32 or 50 liter backpack.  Personally I cannot imagine it.

“You have a lot of stuff,” people often say to me, sometimes in a derogatory tone.

“Yeah, I know!” I respond laughing.

It is not so much stuff in my opinion for nearly two years of nomadic living — one medium sized albeit heavy suitcase on wheels, a 42 liter backpack and a big shoulder bag. Plus the guitar I bought in Egypt which I admit makes everything a little unwieldy.  Still I manage and can lug it all myself though preferably not long distances or up hills.

Peacock feathers found in Dehli park, crystals from Egypt and India

Maybe it is excessive. Inside my bags I have crystals (yes I have rocks in my bag probably too many), Tong Ren healing equipment (of course), scarves and shawls from Gambia, Egypt and India (maybe more than necessary), six packages of incense (good smells bring joy, plus it was hard to choose just two), yoga mat (duh), handouts for reiki level 1 and 2 trainings (only one copy), multiple hair products, make up and a mini hair iron (looking good is feeling good!), small bag of flower essences (for emotional balance), enough clothing that I do not have to wash clothing every day or three because I am too lazy for this, only one tarot card deck, sneakers and flip flops, lap top with extra battery, mouse and external keyboard, and fairly long list of miscellaneous items including little gifts I have bought along the way which I felt i could not live without like a cool knife in a handmade leather holster with a camel bone handle from Siwa Oasis and colorful little carry bags from Pushcar.

Tibetan medicine doctor extraordinaire, Tenzin a Buddhist nun, in Manali

I also have a big bag of medication. That is my other secret. I have been sick. A lot.  In fact just last week in Pokhara Nepal I was diagnosed with Giardia, I think for the second time. Who can keep track. I think I have had five episodes of parasites over the past one and a half years as well as multiple episodes of bacterial intestinal infections from new food and water organisms or from ingesting unhygienic food or water.  I have also had a series of colds and flus, not to mention the heat stroke in the Gambia which set my electrolytes dangerously out of balance and coupled with a nasty bacterial infection led to two days in a hospital. I know it sounds bad but I am laughing as I write this because it is so crazy I have to laugh. It’s life, my life, and it keeps going on and I survive sometimes very well, other times in a more bedraggled style.

Bhanga lassis in Pushkar with new friend from Mumbai

OK there are other secrets. Like I thought it would be lark to smoke tobacco in Egypt and now I can’t stop, leading to various lung problems requiring more medication. Moreover, in Egypt after decades of personal healing I decided I was cured of the disease of addiction and experimented with various, um, mind altering substances unique to the areas I have been in. I dabbled.  Siwa Oasis has an extremely strong local alcohol from dates, Manali is famous for hashish, in Pushkar I discovered a paste cooked from marijuana leaves called bhanga commonly put in yogurt lassi drinks, and in Khajuraho a local alcohol made from oranges. I even tried opium ! which is considered a medicine in India and I believe legal or quasi legal. Despite these forays I continue to spend the vast majority of my time clear headed and unaltered per the last 24 years of my life and that is often just as fun or even more amazing.

Ah freedom!  Sure there are dark corners some of which I am still extricating myself, but it is like a ferris wheel, there are ups and downs. Meanwhile I am on it and will ride this freaking thing for all it’s worth. Reveling in all the silly things crammed into my suitcase, stumbling my way through chaotic hospitals employed with well and poorly trained doctors.  I laugh at the incongruity of it all.

Sampling local alcohol made from millet in Pokhara, Nepal with Deepak

I wrote a new song called “Stop Trying to Understand.”  One verse goes:

It’s a thin line
into the nothing
marketing something
it’s a black bird flying in the night
on a moonless sky

I don’t try to understand anymore.  I just go forward.  Today. Today. Today. It beckons like the towering snow capped mountains surrounding Pokhara, like the sun glistening on the Phewa Lake. It is a medicine too.  Even the plants and trees outside my balcony speak to me of more. Of things beyond the body, beyond the mind. Of the friendships forged with people across the globe. Of deserts unfurling like God. Of undulating azure seas and ceremonies on mountainsides that lift me in ways I didn’t know before.


There is one more medicine my heart is pining for. Home. It just began it’s tap tap tap. Friends and family have been too far for too long.   I am not sure when but soon I will board another plane, lugging my bags and medicine, my crystals and scarves.  But for now there is Kathmandu, I am considering renting an apartment to stay awhile, rest my weary bones.  Then off, off I will go. Into the next today.

Here’s a cool video about visiting Nepal that I am in!! Made by Deepak in above photo in Pokhara.

Ran into this woman early morning carrying around hot freshly baked pastries for sale in Pokhara, Lakeside. I had a “apple pie” one. 🙂

Bauddhanath Stupa, World Heritage Site, Kathmandu

Freshly made noodles for sale at corner shop, Kathmandu

My new fake “North Face” jacket, much needed! Only $17!

Peacock in Dehli Park

Annapurna Mountains seen from Phewa Lake, Pokhara. Photo by Pedro Nogueira

20190125_155854 (2)(1)
Ancient temple medicine, Siwa Oasis, Egypt

Desert medicine, Siwa Oasis

shopping medicine in Cairo with Kelly from USA 🙂

Friendship medicine with Kelly Maya in Dahab, Egypt. Co working on the Red Sea :))

bhanga seller, khajuraho, this is a government store! This stuff you have to cook yourself.

home made alcohol made from fruit paste, Khajuraho

drive up on your motorcycle pharmacy, Pushkar  LOL

Tibetan herbal medicine dispensary. Consult costs 100 ruppes/$1.41 and herbs around 200/$2.80 for 10 days. Very good medicine!

puppy medicine! Manali

Free medicine, Pushkar India

Spiritual music Medicine in Pushkar

Spiritual medicine, Maha Aarti, Pushkar Festival

Bhanga paste from government store, Pushkar. Pre cooked. Very strong stuff!

The Hill Road: Nepal

It was a long ride, 12 hours on an old bus with so little leg room I wondered how full grown men managed to fit into the seats. I was traveling from Sonuali on the Nepal-India border to Pokhara Nepal. The trip was supposed to take 7-8 hours but the ticketing agent said the regular road was blocked so I got on the “hill road” bus. I wondered if it was really blocked.  I am a foreigner and hence clueless about most things, some people take advantage. I wondered if the bus driver just wanted another passenger on his bus. Still I got on.

Our little bus

I was glad I did.  First there was the music, folk pop Nepali music. The driver put it on shortly after leaving and it continued to blare out of the speaker directly across from my seat for nearly the entire 12 hours. None of the other passengers seemed to even take notice which made me chuckle because in the United States no one would tolerate such a disruption to their personal-sound-space. And although not usually a lover of pop music I immediately liked the revolving selection of songs and grew to appreciate them more and more as our little bus sped down paved and pocketed roads, through small towns lined with shops and restaurants, and past farms, small herds of buffaloes, and a few forests.  At times I could not resist bobbing my head and tapping my foot to the beat and I kept having visions of local women in flowing shawls and skirts dancing in a what I imagined was a local style though I didn’t  have personal knowledge of such styles. I wouldn’t have minded getting up and dancing myself in the narrow aisle.  My favorite songs were and

Then there was the driving team — two guys sharing the driving and a third managing the passengers continually boarding and alighting — all three appeared to be in their 20’s. When we stopped at a restaurant late in the afternoon I got out to stretch my legs. As usual I planned to avoid the roadside food lest I found myself sick from it and on a bus without a bathroom. Then one of the drivers waved me over. He was tall and his unlined olive colored face was handsome.

This guy got on for a few stops and played and sang traditional Nepali music for donations

“Hungry?” he asked me.

“No,” I said shaking my head, “Thank you.”

“Come, good food,” he persisted in his limited English.

I shook my head again.

“Good,” he said again turning his head towards the kitchen, which I took to mean that the food was very good here.  “Nepali food. Like chapati?”

I had to admit I liked chapati, a flat bread that came out hot and slightly crispy from the tandoor oven and in India was a common accompaniment to curry. I walked over and looked at the food being served on large stainless steel plates. In the center was a few hot chapatis surrounded by little piles of four different dishes, one a leafy green, one that looked like curry with potatoes, the other two I wasn’t sure but it all looked fresh and not oily.

He was standing beside me looking hopeful, clearly determined.

“Mmm, it looks good, ” I said brightly.

And it was good. Very good. Moreover, the driver invited me to sit with him and the other two bus guys and the four of us proceeded to eat heartily while the waiters came around loading more chapati and curries and vegetables as well as hot tasty rice on our plates and the tall driver implored me to eat more and more. The food was good and so was the company.  The price wasn’t bad either at $1.32.

From the start Nepal was rolling in with aplomb.

“You have a guitar,” a slim man in his 40’s said to me as I stepped out of the squat cement building where I purchased my 30 day Nepal visa in crisp American dollars.

By the tone of his voice I could tell he liked guitar. I realized at that moment only a few people even noticed my guitar over the six months I was in India and one of them was Canadian.  Moreover he recommended his friend’s hotel and proceeded to usher me and a young Russian woman there.  Although I assumed he was earning a commission from the hotel for this service but I didn’t care; after 22 hours of travel by train and bus from Dehli to the border I was exhausted and grateful for any guidance.  Later that night he joined me in my room and it turned out that he played guitar quite well.

Two mornings later, still in Sonuali, it happened again. “Oh you have a guitar,” said a man directing me to the bus; there was regret in his voice and I could see he wished he had a chance to hear me play or maybe play himself.

I was headed to Pokhara, a medium sized town on the southern edge of the Annapurna mountain range. The range has three of the ten highest mountains in the world — Dhaulagiri, Annapurna I and Manaslu — and is a big tourist destination for trekking.

After my musical bus odyssey during which I passed countless run down towns I was surprised to find the Lakeside area in Pokhara a modern commercial center with upscale restaurants and coffee houses, high end hiking supply stores, big brightly lit supermarkets, and even vegan restaurants.  It was like I had suddenly come upon an American resort town, perhaps Boulder Colorado or some cute village in upstate New York or western Massachusetts.  That night I spent an exorbitant $7 for a pizza with sundried tomatoes and grilled vegetables in a beautifully furnished and festively lit restaurant called Roadhouse.  It was worth it because after one and a half years in the developing world whenever I step into familiar looking places — modern malls in Cairo, Tel Aviv almost everywhere, and the clean efficient metro of Dehli — a part of my soul lights up.  Not because I dislike the grittier aspects of these countries but because as my mother says, “You can’t take the American out of the girl.” I suppose she’s right.

But these moments are fleeting. It is in fact the rougher, dirtier and often chaotic aspects of developing and semi developed world that captures my imagination, enlivens and titillates me. There is inanity and surprise around every corner. No one cares about the latest fashions, brand names, if their decor matches or chairs have broken arms. Sure everyone needs an income and has dreams of a better life but the focus is on other things too — family, kindness, sharing culture, taking time to leisurely drink tea and pass the time with friends. I rarely get asked what I am doing that day. I just am. Me. Living, moving, writing, dreaming. It feels right.  I suppose life is the hill road bus — not perfect but perfect enough and sometimes better than I might have imagined.

Sunset over reservoir, Khajuraho, India

riding with Lucky on motorcycle behind buffalo herd, Khajuraho

with good friend Lucky, who I met in Manali and happened to cross paths with in Khajurah, famous for erotic/tantric temples. At Khajuraho Temple

outside of Khajuraho where Lucky and I saw crocodiles, 2 kinds of monkeys, spotted deer, Indian fox, antelope, and kingfisher bird!

Goddesss yogini temple!! Khajuraho

at couchsurfers house with friends and his family, Agra


horrible overnight sleeper bus Michaelito and I shared from Pushkar to Agra, very bumpy not much sleep

Canadian friend Michaelito and I, Taj Mahal after near sleepless night on bus!

Taj Mahal!!

they put jackets on their goats in Agra lol

view from mountain temple, Pushkar with friend Ravi


Bollywood dance class with Canadian friends Michaelito and Roselene and choreographer/teacher, Pushkar

Red Fort in Dehli with Lucky

Dehli dentist Dr. Pandey who replaced all my mercury fillings. Best dentist! She at Clove Dental in the RK Puram area of Delhi.

Inside Roadhouse restaurant, Pokhara

on the reservoir, Khajurho with Lucky

cuddling 2 day old baby goat! with a local family

Yogini Goddess temple, Khajuraho, India


Animal Magic in Pushkar

I was sitting in a cafe called The Laughing Buddha when I heard a rumbling to my right.

“Was that a monkey?” a woman with a brown pony tail and light skin, a foreigner like me, asked.

black faced langur monkeys gathered by the Pushkar lake

“Yes. It was a monkey!” I said, the two of us clearly titillated.

Laughing Buddha on another day, monkeys are across the way, you can see why there are bars on that window lol. Two ran across the blue roof by my table but too fast to get pic.

It was in fact two monkeys that had scampered across the roof ledge two or three feet from my table, members of the black faced Langur troops that populate the town.

The cafe owner nodded, unimpressed but perhaps looking a little proud of our delight.

In Pushkar I have seen people and animals living in harmony to a degree I have not seen before, some animals are even actively revered. Perhaps it is because Pushkar is considered a holy city for Hindu’s, a town mentioned in Hindu scripture and mythology and associated with the creator-god Brahma. “Non-veg,” food i.e. meat and eggs are not allowed within the city limits and every morning and evening pooja prayer ceremonies are held along the edge of the Pushkar Lake.

A few days later I was at n outdoor cafe called Mali fresh juice bar enjoying a thick mango and ice juice with two local men kindly helping me find a new apartment when a camel loped by. My companions and I looked around but no human owner was in sight. Camels can cost several hundred dollars or more so to see one just roaming around without a human overseer was, well, unusual.

“It’s a free agent camel,’ I said and laughed.

My companions looked almost as charmed as I as we watched the long legged camel stride down the road looking like he had somewhere to be.

Even the smallest animals garner attention from locals. One day spying an older man and woman sitting in front of a shop doing something with coconuts I ventured over because I like eating dried coconut and wanted to buy one. But I quickly realized these were not for sale.

“What are they doing?” I asked the guy accompanying me.

“They making this for the ants,” he said pointing to a bag of grainy looking seeds. “They put it inside with water,” he said referring to the halved coconut shells.

“Really?” I said, “They’re feeding the ants?” I asked make sure I understood him.

“Yes because we step on the ants by mistake so to make up for this harm some people make this food for them,” he explained.

It kind of blew my mind and at the same time I loved it — this respect for nature and all its creations.

the bee hive on my balcony

The theme was repeated across many species. Like the huge beehive hanging over my bedroom balcony. I texted the landlord about it, thinking he must not know.

“I know,” he texted back.

They were honey bees after all. Busy. With more important things to do than badger humans. They flew down into the desert terrain, pollinating the desert cacti, flowering bushes and into the nearby forest of the thorny acacia trees and returned directly to the hive. Only once did two bees veer from this regimen to perch on my window screen. Perhaps they were checking me out too.

Then there are the cows, street cows, as I like to call them, the giant brethren of street dogs. Both bulls and females, many sporting long pointed horns, roam where ever they please. They are of course revered in India, believed to be closely aligned with different goddesses, much like the ancient Egyptian goddess Hathor. Killing or hurting one can lead to jail time or even mob violence. Beef consumption is prohibited. It is not unusual to find one or more standing in busy roads blocking traffic, cars and motorcycles swerve around them or beep and wait while the cow or cows slowly amble out of the way. At night solitary and small groupings curl up on roadsides.

cows blocking motorcycle traffic on side street

“Do they belong to anyone?” I asked a local friend one day sitting behind him on a scooter as we sped into the market, dodging people, cars, and of course cows.

“When the cows have babies the people they belong to take them in and oversee the birth. After that they let them go. They are free,” he explained, emphasizing “free” in a way that said being free was a very good thing indeed.

“They are healthy looking,” I said, “Fat even, some of them.”

“It’s a blessing to feed a cow. People believe that when you feed them you release bad karma. Locals buy food and feed them and some foreigners too,” he said.

They are like people, only on hooves. It’s not unusual to find them standing in line at vegetable stands and restaurants waiting for a meal. This morning a tawny colored young bull arrived at the gate at my hotel; one of the workers said he stops by everyday for a few chaptis, a popular flat bread lol. Moreover, they are docile and relaxed, even the giant old bulls; sometimes I can’t resist petting their heads or large bodies.

Cow politely awaiting a handout at this restaurant.

Some even receive a spiritual blessings called “tilak” on their big heads, a red or yellow line usually applied between the eye brows by a temple priest or “sadhu” believed to impart serenity and spiritual emotion to the receiver throughout the day. During the annual 8 day Pushkar Fair which ended last week some were adored with flowers and painted in bright colors.

Once I started thinking about the animals I realized I had a long list of stories.

Monkey with bananas. I am like 2 feet away!

There was the afternoon a large Langur monkey was calming eating bananas in the middle of the main market while crowds passed by and the shop worker who gave the bananas proudly watched the monkey eating. Several times I stopped to watch small herds of Rajasthani Shirohi goats pass by, charmed by their spirited gait, distinct markings and big flapping ears. During the fair thousands of animals were added to the town, primarily horses and camels. That is when I met my first Marwari horses, an otherworldly breed with inward pointing ears and saw for the first time large herds of camel being ushered down busy streets.

Some animals were transporting. Like the night a large black bat soared over the lake and landed on a nearby tree during an Maha Aarti ceremony. As I sat under the glow of full moon, mesmerized by the ceremony fires, ringing bells, aarti chant, and glittering lights on the lake I knew that bat and that moment was something special, something I would not soon forget.

Maha Aarti ceremony, Pushkar Lake, Pushkar Fair 2019

It is among this cornucopia of four legged and winged creatures, women bedecked in brightly colored and sparkling saris, village men in swirling turbans, and foreign explorers I walk. I don’t know why. I am just a traveler. Lost among the lumbering cows and mythic horses. A traveler praying at the lake edge, dipping in fully dressed, welcoming the cleansing it promised. Readying myself for whatever journeys await. Nepal is next. Perhaps I will stop along the way for the ancient erotic temples of Khajuraho, a dental visit in Dehli, or the Ganges River in Rishekesh? Time will tell. Time will unspool and upon its wings I will fly, a full moon in my heart, aiming to land on just the right tree.

Pushkar Lake at night

Maha Aarti pooja, Pushkar Fair, 2019

Man feeding Langur monkey. I am a couple feet from monkey!

Cow hanging around

bedding down for the night on a side street

Cows on side of main road

Cool Hindu temple, Pushkar

big girl blocking half the road. Yes went a bit crazy with cow pics.

Classical Indian Dance, Pushkar Fair 2019


Camel herd, arriving for the fair for trading and competitions





Rajasthani Malwari horse, Pushkar Fair

Milk delivery Indian style


Thousands of camels descend for cattle market of Pushkar Fair 2019

Maha Aarti Ceremony! Pushkar Fair 2019

Thousands of Hindu pilgrims arrive for Pushkar Fair, to sit by holy lake, say pooja prayers, and take cleansing dips

Fresh coconut juice

Dressed up for wedding

Traditional Rajasthani dress for wedding

It’s wedding month in India. Grooms ride a bejeweled horse through the town amidst a live band and procession on the way to the marriage ceremony. This groom was staying in my hotel I caught the procession as it was starting out.

Managed an unsanctioned picture at the Brahma Temple at his consort the Goddess Gayati’s shrine.

To see an amazing Malwari horse at the fair this year go to