Monthly Archives: October 2011

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Reading and Daydreams

Usually I have no time or desire to read when I’m on one of our long, rough road trips. While we’re in the car I can’t read, of course, because I’m supposed to be looking at the route book and map.  Besides, reading a book while the car’s moving would make me carsick. I also am a pro at useful daydreaming, fantasizing about what I’ll do first when I can get out of the car for good that day. Those daydreams tend to go in an endless loop of “shower,” “stretch,” “change out of sweaty clothes,” “go for a walk down the street,” “have a cold beer.” Not necessarily in that order. (more…)

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Home Fires

Fire is probably a bad word to use these days, especially since a lightning strike in September immolated one long, gorgeous stack of premium mountain meadow grass hay in the ranch stack yard.  All 340 tons of it.  We were away when that happened, somewhere in Iran is about as precise as I can be.  I was sitting with my headscarf on, trying to pretend I was comfortable in the autumn heat wearing a head covering more suitable to the winter months, when the news arrived by email.

Bernard in the windrows


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Michigan Moose

It’s been a dramatic and turbulent ride for Michigan Moose, who metamorphed through many roles over the past 15,000 kilometers. As Mehmet and then Mohammed Moose, he suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, accepting gravel flung at his bulbous nose and not a few curses at his lack of head covering, the latter of which I diffused by pointing out that he had antlers and therefore must be male, thus exempt from the headscarf rule.

Michigan Moose, chillin' at the Oberoi, Kolkata

As Mustapha Moose he sulked only briefly at being left behind in a rubble-strewn guest house parking lot while we walked across the Afghan border without him. And he rose to the occasion as Pamir Moose, braving sharp sleet and early snows over high passes with head unbowed, to lead us forward to the Tajik/Kyrgyz border. I

n China, despite being Chairman Moose he was sudsed and drenched at an over-exuberant car wash in Golmud, left at the curb all soapy to drip dry while we indulged in a steaming Mongolian hotpot dinner. He gasped for air with the rest of us at Everest Base Camp as Mallory Moose, never once demanding oxygen (perhaps there’s something to the notion of inhaling diesel fumes to quell that altitude headache). And he rose to the occasion as Mahatma Moose, always willing to turn the other cheek despite the rude jostling he received at the hands of the worst of pot-holed roads that India could throw at us.

So, I think he’s earned his plush seat in our hotel room and the cozy quarters of my suitcase as he makes his way back to the ranch.

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Calcutta Goodbye

Everything comes to an end, even the rusting filigreed balcony rails and louvered wood shutters, warped and molding, which gently subside into street rubble throughout Calcutta.

I love Calcutta, regardless that my body bursts into rivulets of sweat in repeated failed attempts to cope with the heat and humidity. Regardless that as I weave my way down the sidewalk I press through an endless crush of people, more in one block than in all of Jackson County. Regardless that taxis, those ubiquitous Ambassador models with what look like permanently slumped shoulders, crawl along, gears grinding, horn gasping helplessly at the onslaught of tuktuks, rickshaws and clattering buses that rise and fall like waves around us.

Worn out

I love the tiny plastic cups of steaming chai I can get on any corner…and do. I’d forgotten how much hotter everything is at sea level. I love the street food, like the thin slabs of potato lashed with batter and fried in oil so hot they instantly puff into pillows of soft potato on the inside with a bronze crisp skin on the outside that would be the envy of any high-class tempura chef.

Blossoms ready to be strung

Yesterday, garlands of brash yellow and orange marigolds were strung on all the shrines. Today, as the latest puja for the Divali festival gives way to the next round of goddess worship it appears that even the goddess Kali might have had a hard night, along with many a delivery boy and rickshaw-walla. The black goats that are ritually sacrificed inside Kali’s main temple seem already to know their fate. They calmly accept being cleansed and cradled before having their heads neatly chopped off. Barefoot devotees cue patiently for a chance to leave their offerings at Kali’s feet. Under the broad branches of a sacred banyan tree, which shade a side shrine, sits a serene young woman with her eyes closed. A wizened crone dips magenta bougainvillea blossoms into blessed water and sprinkles her and the newborn infant on her lap. Is she there to give thanks for having her prayer from the year before answered?

The Goddess Kali

The poor and homeless who receive food once a day in the temple square swarm around a vast pot of rice and another one of turmeric potatoes. Each gets a big ladleful in whatever receptacle they have brought…tin bowl or plastic bag.  Nearby a man holds statue still, while his nose hairs are clipped by the corner scissor-man.  Oblivious to the bustle, a girl brushes her teeth at a communal hydrant.

Food for the homeless

Next to bowls of red dye, a mother swings her toddler in the air and catches her, mother laughing, toddler chortling with glee, while another plays with a simple toy. Those lucky enough to be harbored by Mother Teresa’s Home for the Sick and the Elderly gather on a second-floor balcony and survey the scene below, as I do from the street.


Just sit....

Alas, though, all things come to an end.  Even fierce West Bengal curries, strange, unseasonable monsoon weather and a 45-day drive from Istanbul to Calcutta.

Calcutta street

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