Our eight-year-old Kellen rebels at the mention of having an outing. He likes to stay home all day and play with Aidan, or by himself, or with us. He loves imaginative play. We have had to institute a rule that we have some kind of outing everyday. He can’t stand it! He throws a fit. Jennifer can’t stand to stay home very long. On vacations, her family likes to get out and do things–every day. Kellen can’t stand that! Aidan and I fall somewhere in the middle.
When the boys were little, I told them stories as they were going to sleep. One series featured two chipmunks, one named “Chip” and the other named “Monk.” Chip was adventurous. He couldn’t wait to get up and get outside to see what the world had to offer that morning. Monk wanted to stay home. He preferred to be inside and make tea and cakes and then spend most of the day in bed by his window drinking tea and eating the cakes while reading his favorite books. It took some sort of crisis to get him out of the house. Of course, crises came regularly.
Kellen has turned out to be our Monk, and Aidan our Chip.
Yesterday, morning, Kellen threw a royal fit about having to leave the house. We persuaded him by saying we would take a taxi up the steep hill to the town square where Jennifer’s running trail begins. We’d take a walk on the trail and then go to Nick’s our favorite cafe and have a treat. He agreed to that.
Mostly Kellen doesn’t like transitions. Once he’s out on an outing, he doesn’t want it to end. Today, was a beautiful day. Perfect weather. Blue sky, towering peaks, a dense fir forest. Aidan and Kellen got very involved in their imaginative play, that they ventured far ahead of us on the road, between us and two monks ahead of them. They’ve gotten much more used to negotiating the occasional car or truck or tuk-tuk coming down the road. And there was Kellen, skipping along with his arms in the air in a kind of dance. Happy as a lark. Free as a sparrow.
After lunch at Nick’s,
Jennifer took the boys home and I took care of some errands, getting our train tickets to Delhi for the end of June, printing Kellen’s birthday letter an an internet cafe (I’m writing a letter to each of the boys each year on their birthdays), and buying some naan, Indian flat bread. I’d found some pinto beans in a little grocery and planned to cook and mash and spice them and with the naan make some Indian burritos.
Jennifer and I don’t usually drink caffeine, and there’s no decaf in Dharamsala, so I walked through town on a caffeine high reveling in the sites and sounds, joyful at being here, at being alive. And giving away too much money to the beggars. To a sweet old woman sitting on the curb who had no fingers–I imagine from leprosy–I gave four sweet rolls that my boys didn’t like; to a young woman with a baby I gave thirty rupees; and to a young emaciated sadhu whose upper body looked like it had scaring from being burned all over, I gave fifty rupees.
Tomorrow I’m gong to write about the beggars, whose plight and whose pleas can feel overwhelming.
My friend and former student and poet, Lon Young, is taking his family of six to Chennai to live for a year and work with the lepers there. I can’t even say how amazing that is.
They say in India you will experience your highest highs and your lowest lows. And this can all happen in a single afternoon.