|Photo by Lobzang Dadul|
We left Tar as the apricot blossoms fell, lying in white shadows on the newly greening fields. The last time we saw this we were more strangers in the village than family, not knowing yet what it would mean to give ourselves to the life of that place through the cycle of the seasons. One year, and a little more: carrying manure, cleaning yura, preparing the fields to receive the water, plowing, giving the water, herding, planting gardens and alfalfa, weeding, harvesting, threshing, winnowing, cleaning and grinding grain, building a house, gathering earth for stable bedding, woodwork, then celebrating and teaching and resting and holding retreat through the long cold quiet of the winter. Each day was its own distinct story of labor and hospitality, learning, the strength and exhaustion of the body, mountain-quiet. A year is brief, especially in those fields, where histories stretch back more than a thousand years. And yet it was long enough. There was a whole life contained in those days. The Tarpa saw us off with a feast of momo and many tears, laden with bags of chuli, pating, starga, tsigu, yos, and tiny rounds of tagi, gifts for our mothers in America. (sour and sweet apricots, walnuts, apricot nuts, roasted wheat, and bread).
Now the work in Tar continues without us, though the need for help has not lessened. It is hard, knowing this, and yet knowing also that our work is here in Maine. It is time for us to start creating a place -- a farm, that grows into a school -- that strives towards the kind of community interdependence and ecological health that we found in Ladakh.
But if you are reading this, and find yourself longing to be of service in this high altitude desert, know that the way is open to you. Some of our most rewarding times in Tar involved introducing visiting friends of ours to the people and the place, and all working and eating together. The people of Tar assured us many times that in the future they would love to welcome you (our friends), and could really use your hands, your strong backs, your joy in exploring this mountain place, and your laughter.
If you go:
Please consider carefully the environmental cost of your plane flight. (If you choose to take this one across the world, consider forgoing several others in the coming years? Make one trip for several months rather than many for a week at a time?) With lessening snowfall and shrinking glaciers, the farmers of Ladakh will feel the impact of a changing climate sooner and more directly than many people in the world.
Please consider buying a little yellow book called "Getting Started in Ladakhi" by Rebecca Norman (Becky), and learning as much language as you can. I can't describe the difference that interacting through the medium of Ladakhi made in our experience and relationships. You may also be able to meet Becky, a dear friend and an incredible help to us, at SECMOL (contact her before you visit, info at secmol.org).
And please, be in touch with us! The best thing we feel we can continue to do for folks in Tar is to send our friends and keep building these relationships. You can reach us by email at email@example.com and/or firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to help you prepare and connect with folks there in a meaningful way.
Thanks for Reading
Caitlin and Jason