Cotton candy clouds fill the night sky and the full moon shines like a ripe peach waiting to be plucked. Jupiter is bright and orange beside it. The grass is lush and green like a moss afro blanketing the land. Sheep graze happily and horses roll in ecstasy on the luscious landscape. A rushing river cuts through the center of the scenery, giant boulders caressed by its chilly tendrils. Canyon walls encompass this paradise, standing sheer faced and striped with shades of black. Himalayan heaven is spread out before me. Not mine, not anyone’s, but today parading its feathers for me to enjoy. Cotton candy clouds hang wispy in the night sky, embracing a full moon reflecting an orange ring, ripe and ready to be plucked.
I am sitting, legs crossed, hands on knees, atop a huge boulder. In front of me is a cascading waterfall. Water plunges down from steep, sheer cliff faces, cutting through black, stripped rock like a knife. As it hits the ground a spray is sent rocketing into the air that envelopes me 50 feet away. The backdrop of this epic temple are mountains, tree covered and snow topped, stretching back in layers with some nudging the atmosphere at a staggering 7000 meters. Cows graze the lush green mountain crop and birds soar above. Hands relaxed, eyes close gently as I face this alter of cascading water. Cold mist carried by a strong breeze surrounds me as though Mother Nature is embracing me whole. Tranquility and awareness settle into the mind and body, and peaceful pleasure takes over.
Later we depart and descend from this high oasis into the pit of dusty, dirty, stink that fills the city. The road is jammed with cars horning at each other in sheer frustration at not being able to move a millimeter. In an attempt to avoid this glimpse of the underworld we detour on foot to walk a parallel path along the banks of the river. The way is clear and beautiful; horses are happily grazing. This seems promising.
We cross a large sewage outfall, which flows into the river and the scenery changes, suddenly grim. Shoes and plastic debris litter the riverside and upon closer look the horses are thin and sick looking. One even has a wound on its belly from being overworked. A bad odor arises to burn the nose hairs. We enter a tree covered area and the landscape becomes even more grim. Descending into the trees we find ourselves trapped in an outdoor toilet. Human shit covers the ground where people have been practicing open defecation. Amongst piles of feces is an assortment of trash and stark white animal bones, scattered. A pelvis, and perhaps a femur? Those could be hips. If the stench burned nostrils before, now it is penetrating the pores. We have descended from heaven into hell. The reality of this country and of this world crash upon me as we frantically search for an escape route.
This stark reality, though well hidden in the developed world, nevertheless exists. We are suffocating in the excess of our own waste, be it exhaust, packaging, plastic or poop. And the rest of our planet and its species are drowning alongside us.
Once we finally reach the hotel I feel relieved and try to picture that mountain oasis, re-purify my spirit of the grime it accumulated on the descent. If I close my eyes and focus hard enough, I can feel a cold breeze and a misty spray enveloping me as though I am being embraced by Mother Nature.