Three of a kind
For the Weekly Photo Challenge: Trio
I am not a lover of the ornate; it often strikes me as overly busy, fussy, and even messy. Nevertheless, I was strangely attracted to the Tibetan Buddhist paintings called thangkas that I saw all over Tibet. Is it the geometric nature of the design, the purpose behind the work, or the way they are created? I can’t explain why I like these somewhat garish compositions, but I do! I viewed hundreds of thangkas all over Tibet, in temples and shops, and at the end of my trip I took some time to pick one out to bring home.
Thangkas are meant to be a guide for personal contemplation, a meditation tool to help lead adherents down the path to enlightenment, and many thangkas serve as teaching tools for monastic students by depicting the life and history of the Buddha, other deities, and important lamas. As I watched some artists at work in a spare, sunlit room, I saw that many seemed to be in a meditative trance as they moved their tiny brushes in regular, repetitive strokes to produce the ornate scenes.
As you can see, thangkas are very elaborate compositions that may include hundreds of very small figures. The design of a thangka is highly geometric and symmetrical, often with a central deity surrounded by other figures. Body parts like arms and legs, eyes and ears, as well as other ritual implements are all laid out on a systematic grid. While the process seems very methodical and prescribed, it requires training and a deep understanding of the underlying symbolism to create an accurate and meaningful thangka. Like them or not, most would agree they are quite ornate and intricate pieces of art.
I sit in pure Himalayan peace and bliss, cupping a mug of coffee in my hands and gazing out my frosted window as the sun rises over Kwangde, the mountain and hanging glacier that face the town of Namche Bazaar, Nepal. There is a jagged ridge to the peak that reminds me of a crenellated edge on one of the Gothic spires at my university. Namche’s amphitheater layout sprawls below, and I can see two-thirds of it, a monastery, and the mountain from this early morning perch at my window. The exhilaration of another day of trekking awaits me, yet I am in no hurry; I sit transfixed, breathing shallowly, almost meditative, for an unknown number of minutes. This will always be my happy place; though I may never return there physically, it remains an indelible memory of the most complete and utter contentment.
Click here to see the happy places others go to recharge and restore themselves.
Based on my recent (low) level of participation in the Weekly Photo Challenges, one might think I’d gone seriously off the grid for a while! But no, I’ve been squarely in the digital world, just too busy or lazy to take or search for photos that mesh with the weekly themes these days. Today, I’ve gone overboard with a collection of grids from around the world.
(Click on or hover over gallery photos for full-size photos and captions)
The basics: classic horizontal and vertical grids
Vibrant, colorful grids
Sad, solemn grids
Crooked, distorted grids
Parisian architectural grids
Shimmering, shiny grids
Click here for more grids this week.
One of my favorite parts of the Everest Base Camp trail in Nepal was crossing the long metal bridges that spanned the rivers and valleys along the way. Most of them crossed and re-crossed the Dudh Kosi, some just a few feet over the water and others high above the raging, milky water below. I can still hear the sounds – the creaking cables, the tapping of our hiking poles on the slats, the jingle of yak bells – as the bridges swayed beneath my feet, carrying me ever deeper into the Khumbu.
The image seen alongside my name on both of my blogs is the endless knot, a (usually Buddhist) symbol that many other cultures have used in similar forms. I came to love this design in Tibet and Nepal, where it is also known as the sherpa symbol. The photo is of a small silver medallion, bought in Kathmandu, that I wear on a chain nearly every day. It reminds me of some of the most meaningful trips and hikes I have taken and also stands for many things I appreciate in general: the intertwining of wisdom and compassion, harmony, and the interconnectedness of all life in our world.
Check out some other symbols for this week’s photo challenge here.