Ever Present


I found her eighteen years ago in a small shop in Kathmandu, Nepal. I wrapped her hefty weight in thick cloth and carefully transported her in my backpack on my return flight back to the States.

She’s occupied various corners and shelves of every home I’ve occupied since. Her expression, no matter the environment, always the same: ever-present, content, gracious.

Inspiration for the morning.

The Burden Strap

He keeps coming to my mind. That man with the washing machine on his back. An image in my memory back from my travels in India over twelve years ago.

I’d seen lots of small men carrying big loads through the inclining streets of the hill station where I was staying in Northern India. But this one man, maybe 110 pounds, rubber slippers on his feet, was bearing a full-size washing machine tied to a strap that stretched across his forehead.

Indian streets are a-bustle with everything. Dogs, pigs, cows, mopeds, cars, and people moving in all directions. These streets were paved upon steady slopes, up and down, stretching through miles of chaotic thoroughfare.

I watched this man, his posture slightly bent forward, the huge, white square resting upon his back, just take it, one step at a time. A meditation in motion. Dogs crossing his path, mopeds swerving around him. His pace never faltered. He never seemed labored. Just a steady haul of a heavy appliance, the crux of which, seemed to rest on his head.

I was a witness to this scene over a decade ago. Why it has now been flashing in my mind at random moments, like when I’m washing dishes at the sink, I don’t know.

Prompted to seek a little further, my research has taught me that this forehead strap has a name. A “tump line,” also known as a “burden strap,” is ancient in its origins, dating back to the time of the Maya, who used it to carry loads equalling their own body weight.

The strap was designed to rest on the top of the head, where the weight would be directed into the spinal column, somehow offering greater support for heavy cargo. This also streamlined the transporting process, freeing the traveller from a cumbersome cart, and offering the ability to traverse more narrow and rocky terrain.

That man in the hill station town in India probably spent the entire day stepping one foot in front of the other with that heavy appliance on his back. What I saw was a walk of grace. He was defying gravity through use of efficiency. He was using what he had, taking it slow and steady.

We all have our burdens to bear. Some greater than others. But the tump line proves that we all can carry loads greater than we thought possible, and with more ease, if we only shoulder it properly.

Here’s to lightening the load, or at least repositioning it. Using our resources at full capacity. Adding endurance. Bringing more grace to our trek.

courtesy of leoncillo sabino
courtesy of leoncillo sabino

When the Goddess Washes Up at Your Feet

Already I was feeling prosperous.

At home there was a big pot of vegetable barley soup on the stove. Banana-chocolate-chip-walnut muffins were fresh from the oven. It was a Sunday morning at the beach, with surf that threw waves on the sand, making pools deep enough for Jeb to float (or cannonball).

There was a blue sky with cotton ball clouds, accented by the circling of angelic white, long-tailed Tropic birds. Once in a while they’d swoop low above us.  There was me, and the Bohemian Lover that sat at my side. The bird’s heads moving, quickly scanning us below, clicking calls from their throats, then gliding away.

I hummed a Feist song, “Cicadas and Gulls”, (I’m in the sky, sky, sky, sky…I’m in the sky, sky, sky) while the Bohemian held my thumb, intently removing an old embedded bee stinger with single-pointed thoroughness. And, once removed, kissed the empty space where it had been.

Jeb and his friend were nearby, relocating beach weeds to create a new ecosystem of greenery and pools from a nearby waterfall and stream.

Looking North, there was nothing but ocean and horizon. Waves that never ceased. Our bare skin was warmed in the late October sun.

So when it was time to go home, I was feeling to be a wealthy woman as I left the Lover, the birds, the sun and surf. I was still humming as I gathered the young boys and we began the stroll back to the car.

And then the goddess washed up at my feet.

Well, technically, she was embedded in the sand – just a bit – like any self-respecting buried treasure would be.

Yes, there it was. A golden coin, about 2.5 inches in diameter, peeking up from the wet shoreline. Engraved on one side, was the Hindu goddess Lakshmi (Gaja Lakshmi, to be exact) where she sat upon a lotus flower flanked by elephants and imparting gifts with her four hands. The coin’s other side was carved in Sanskrit in the shape of a bursting sun of light.
Gaja Lakshmi
Jeb was in awe. “It’s gold!”

His friend inched closer to peer at the coin which was now in Jeb’s tight grip.

“We’re rich, Mom! This is gold. It’s worth a million dollars!”

“Mmm…it looks gold. I don’t know if it’s real gold…”

“Don’t say that. No. It is. For real!”

His friend: “Yeah, it looks like real gold…”

We continue walking, the boys side by side, studying the coin, taking in the mystery. I’m smiling, still in the sky, sky, sky, sky…now with even a little more sparkle to the magic I feel.

At day’s end, after soup and muffins, I do a little Lakshmi study:

Gajalakshmi represents prosperity, happiness and luck, and is the Goddess who brought back all the wealth lost by Indra, the King of Devas (demi Gods). The giver of animal wealth like cattle and elephants, Gajalaxmi is the fourth of the eight aspects of Ashtalakshmi, or the eight aspects of the Goddess Laxmi.

Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, happiness and beauty emerged from the ocean of milk when the Gods churned it to produce Amrita (divine nectar) and she at once became Vishnu’s consort. She is pictured as an ideal of slim-waist, full breasted feminine beauty. When she is depicted separately from Vishnu as in this case, she has four hands: in two of them she is holding lotus flowers, while the other two bestow the gifts of well-being and prosperity. Lakshmi is said to reside in sweet-smelling floral garlands which bring fortune and wealth to the wearer. She also has a role as a fertility goddess and is particularly linked to the richness of the soil.
(source:  http://www.goddessgift.net/lakshmi-gajalaksmi-brass-OM-BST156.html)

Wealth comes in so many forms. A healthy body, a bowl of warm soup, the vision of a bird in flight. The look of wonder on my son’s face. A kind man removing a bee sting from my finger.

And if life wants to offer a golden coin from the goddess of prosperity to wash up at my feet, so be it.

For those days when I’m feeling downright in the dumps and desolate, I’ll soak up these reserves. Let it permeate my cells. Fill up with the golden love. Vow to shine it all around.