Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Above is Tiger Leaping Gorge, the deepest gorge on the Yangtze River. This is a considerable distance from the Three Gorges that are now dammed and through which many tourists cruise. Our little group did not go down to the bottom of this gorge, one of the group had serious knee problems. There were young men doing the work formerly done by "coolies", carrying tourists up and down the long, steep path in tacky version of a palliquin. None of use wanted that kind of ride. To me, in retrospect, if was a visual hint of how I would feel some hours in the future being carried on and off airplanes by people I had to trust not to drop me.
As of today I have been "graduated" by both the Visiting Nurse and the physical therapist. I've mde excursions the last two days. Yesterday to a new cardiologist and today to a Barnes & Noble in search of a book on tape or CD to listen to while hand appliquing the butterflies to the quilt. How disappointing the trip was! Literary snob that I am, I do not read mysteries or spy books nor almost any best seller. All I found was Katharine Graham reading a condensed version of her biography. I'd prefer the whole thing; several people whose taste I respect have said it is a book worth reading. So I'll get a feel for it and I like that she recorded it. The best book on tape I ever had was Wm. Faulkner reading AS I LAY DYING -- prose became poetry in his voice & accent.
I spent much of yesterday marking quilting patterns on the two borders of the Monarchs quilt -- I had a template with two sizes of a chain design which was perfect since the inner border is a little over 2 inches and the outer is four inches. I'm so glad this is not bed size-- wall size is big enough. Today I spent all morning machine sewing the borders and I'm not done yet. I have about two hours more on the outer border. Since the butterflies are going to seem to be floating over the background [I hope] the quilting has to be done first. It was so slow because the white chalk pencil on the inner border did not always show up and I had to do quite a lot of remarking. I know alternative ways of marking exist but this seemed direct and is what I've usually done. So I'm resistant to "new fangled" techniques.

Back to China. This is a Tibetan monastery with prayer flags. They are called "wind horses". They are in the five auspicious colors. They are usually stamped with a picture of a horse as well as a prayer. In Tibet they are omnipresence -- or were when I was there which was ten years ago. By now the Han Chinese population of Tibet has exceeded, by far, the native, Tibetan population. But I'm certain prayer flags remain abundant in the countryside. For a long while I did not understand, on an intuitive basis, why the practice had come about. In the mountains there are few horses -- lots more yaks. But gradually I learned that large parts of Tibet are plateaus and plains and the horse has long been extremely important. So a wind horse began to make sense -- a spirited steed to carry prayers throughout the world everywhere the wind blows.
That the prayers are not individual but for the benefit of all sensate beings appeals enormously to me. Likewise the prayer wheels [drums] -- the copper colored items along the wall of this monastery -- are packed with printed prayers. [I saw one being constructed.] The visitor turns them clockwise when walking beside them and they send prayers forth as do the flags ... again to benefit all sensate beings. Tibet, lying at the top of the world has been sending forth such prayers for hundreds of years. Cynics can say it doesn't seem to have helped either the world or the Tibetan people much, consider the history of the last century and today's ongoing wars and horrors.
I felt Tibetans were different from other groups I have met -- they were immediately likeable. I was eager to visit the Tibetan village and Ganden Monastery on the last day of the Yunnan trip ... I'm disappointed I didn't get to see them. I expected it to be the highlight of the trip. Alas!

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