Sentinels ...

 
Today, a bat joined me on my sunset repose, pond side.  Silhouetted against the slate gray sky, devoid of color , the sun now gone beyond the mountains.  Arial acrobatics at their best, on display for a solitary spectator.  The fish, too busy being fish to notice such prowess.  Alas, today’s tale is not about the bat or fish or any other creatures of the realm.  What I call the sentinels, occupy my thoughts and command my words.
These sentinels stand their vigil over my valley home.  Strong silent beacons for wonderers and adventurers such as myself.  Ceremonial locations for others.  To the North and South are hilltop shrines visible in the distance from window, yard or field.  To the West, looking out over the pond and past the mountains that conceal and nestle the dam and reservoir, on the most distant ridge line, is a lone tree that stands out from all the rest.
To the East the sun and moon must climb the mountain range before their light is allowed to bathe our valley.  On the face of that forest green curtain, is a bright white marker, that from a distance, resembles a small pyramid.  Today I felt the call of that Eastern sentinel and set forth to search out what trail might be leading there.  Left or right seemed to make little difference so I set out, intent on making a clockwise circle route, there and back.
Approaching the area and uncertain which avenue to take, I addressed a stranger with my query.  As one often finds, I had stopped mere meters from the turn.  The concrete lane soon turned to rutted clay and rock.  The rear tyre slipped and fishtailed and I feared my untested skills on a motorbike might be exposed as lacking.  Suddenly there was an opening in the forest.  An idyllic, peaceful setting indeed, resplendent with temple dogs to greet me.
An appropriate gesture of greeting for the presiding monk and his welcoming reply.  Granted permission to take pictures, I was also given directions to isolated bungalows where the monks live.  They pointed out mountain trails which lead to waterfall and catchment in one direction, and a distant hill tribes community in another.  The day growing short, those trails were left for another day.  Assured that they are long and difficult, perhaps waiting a month or two for cooler weather would be prudent.
I visited with two monks on the day.  The younger one was in quiet repose on the front stoop of his little bungalow and beckoned me to sit with him and quench my thirst.  Both were gracious and welcoming and before departing, the elder monk who had welcomed me to their mountain retreat, engaged me in conversation.  Being unapologetically non-religious, I find it perversely ironic that conversation with this monk was so much richer and fulfilling than talking with many a typical villager or many expats for that matter.  Even presenting myself with utter candor, common ground of thought and conviction presented in is such a way that we could almost complete each others sentences.


Weather and trail conditions permitting I will certainly visit this Eastern sentinel with increasing frequency in coming months and each distant glimpse from the village will bring a smile to my heart.