Sunday, September 24, 2006

Finishing Things is Fantastic

I finished the three memory quilts about Mongolia. I'm trying to show the biggest -- almost as big as the two others together -- of the steppes. The steppes are horse country -- wild, wild East of Asia. Kids learn to ride before they walk. In the annual Nadam festival the horses race several kilometers; the jockeys are kids, 5 up to maybe 10. Mostly boys, but a few girls nowadays. They not only have to ride the course, they have to know how to let the horses cool down afterwards. Very exciting. Lately some parents are putting helmets on the kids.
Also in the picture, the gray damoiselle cranes that nest out on the flat plane with no protection except their coloration and fierce will to protect themselves, their eggs and chicks from hawks, wolves and all other preditors. I saw several pairs, and a couple of chicks.
In the background, thanks to photo transfer with my wonderful new printer, a picture of a family's gers, one for living, one for cooking in summer and between them a solar panel powering the satellite dish. Maybe they have a single electric bulb also but probably don't need it in summer. That far north it stayed light quite late -- one night when my Girl Guide Exec. [Canadian] roommate wanted to give me an star gazing lesson, we had to sit out until 11:00 to see the stars begin to shine.
Also in the background, another transfer not clear in this reproduction, is an ovoo. This is a cairn of stones that have been deposited around a pole on which is the Buddhist enternal wheel. These are scattered all over the steppe. The are adorned with the Mongolian equivalent of the Tibetan prayer flags, in this case, blue or orange strips of fabric or plastic. People also leave offerings at the ovoos, often crutches [when the owner no longer needs them], liquor bottles, animal skulls, and coins. One circumambulates an ovoo clockwise as one circumambulates other Buddist structures like stupas and statues in shrines.
I quilted the steppes heavily in undulating patterns like the land. Until I hung it up I thought the bottom was nice and straight and now I see it isn't. When something like this happens I think of the Amish who are said to have intentionally sewn a mistake into each quilt so as not to challenge God by making something perfect. In my case, I'm not even a contender against God. I always get something wrong without intending to.

The other two pieces of the three-part quilt: The one with fish, deer, hawk and rabbit is of the tiaga in the north near Lake Khosvol which is surrounded by larch forests -- it's really southern Siberia. There we met some of the tribal people who follow the reindeer, including a woman shaman. The reindeer people live in teepees of deer skin very much like the Plains Indians of the US used to live. The lake is crystalline and very beautiful.
The third part is the Gobi, with Bactrian camels, dunes (only in some parts), huge beds of dinosaur fossils ... and here we saw a wolf -- an old, possibly blind, wolf -- my heart hurts just remembering him. We also saw, which this does not reflect -- ICE. Yes, in canyons of mountains in the desert were some patches of ice left from the winter. Also not reflected, we saw one of the year's very few rainstorms when the trackless desert became a vast three or four inch deep lake. Then a wonderful rainbow. ... With experiences like this do I need to explain why I LOVE to travel and why I come home and make memory quilts? Every moment I sewed on these pieces I remembered different moments ... gives me great happiness.
I can't finish writing anything about Mongolia without invoking the name of Chengis [current spelling]. He conquored his known world. I was inclined to remember him as the leader of a terrifying army. At the Nadam festival announcers and actors reading traditional poetry used a declamatory bass baritone that gave me prickles at the nape of the neck. I love things theatrical! The sound of those voices were as grand as the steppes and the vast skies. Goosebumps all over.
Dear readers, if I can suggest in what I write the wonderfulness of this wide earth and the peoples who live here, in the hidden corners, the far away places, with traditions we do not know or understand ... if I can impart any little portion of my awe and wonder and love for their diversity I'll have done something worthwhile.

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