Afternoon Light, Present in Ladakh - by Kelly Klein

Sitting in the afternoon sunlight, just outside the gate to our “yard” which is actually a garden of vegetables, a field of barley, and a profusion of flowers, surrounded by a typical handmade stone wall topped with thorny branches to keep out the livestock, poplars line the boundaries, shooting high and straight to the heavens. Green, green ground cushions me with a tumbled stone wall to my back, the remains of one of the many simple yet ingenious grainmills along this waterway. A young calf licks my hand and nuzzles me...
Cows everywhere, walk freely, their waste a prime source of fuel for the frigid winters, collected 
daily, and flattened on rocks to dry, stacked neatly in round towers of dung near each house. Yaks with huge horns, dangerous looking, yet gentle giants, calmly pull the handmade ploughs through the brown earth to the tune of the driver's song. Women follow with seed and laughter.

Dirt roads bordered by rock walls, terraced fields, water running everywhere… creeks, canals, irrigation masteries. Life giving water, fuller these days as the sun melts the ice fields above, racing down the valley at the time when life below needs it most, to nurture the seeds to grow in this short summer season. Coincidence?

On May 29th we were weeding the young garden, grateful for the last snow flurry in this land of little rain.

Sitting in this light, the colors, the life around me is magical. Abba (father) to my left, my 94-year-old friend, still with his prayer wheel and mani beads, laughs at my attempts to speak Ladakhi. We communicate well, quietly without words, only gestures and smiles. He lets me know if he would like tea or needs help.  I greet him with gratitude and hugs as he welcomes me time and again to sit by him, to be with him and share this present moment of beauty. Neither of us are expected to do anything, he as an elder, me as a guest, allowing us the freedom to just be, over and over, day after day at this time, as we sit in the waning light and heat, crystal light shining on the snow covered peaks hidden behind the jagged brown spires of mountains, abruptly rising over the greening fields of barley, wheat, onions, cilantro, potatoes, and peas. The people, the animals, the earth and sky bless me each day in this light, in this beauty, in this place.


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