Five days ago, I physically arrived back to Portland. My mind is still on the job in Nepal. My spirit is still with the people there. Last time, it took almost eight months to feel that I had returned home (in as much as it s possible to return, when you love an entire community this strongly.)

I come down to my basement at one or two o’clock in the morning, so as not to wake my family with my jet-lagged schedule. While I’m down here, I practice clumsily writing the Devanagari script, I watch Nepali movies on Youtube and I scan my emails for high-priority stuff (like, we’ll shut off your electricity) but can’t seem to get to the rest of them. I text with my friends halfway around the world and have even taken to sending Snapchats to bring my mood up. I remember this feeling from last time. My teacher, who runs the program in Nepal, calls it “Soul Delay.” It can go on for months.

Right after I left, the people of Nepal celebrated the color festival, Holi. This festival rings in the vitality and energy of the springtime. As I see that same energy around me in Portland, I note that I always go to Nepal during the Winter. It is dry and bare while I am there, though I feel alive and creative in so many ways. It’s almost perfect that the gentle, generating aspect of the springtime receives me home to help nurture the part of me that brings my life forward.

Having just gotten back from the land where the Buddha was born, I am thinking about the meaning of all of this. I read a beautiful Nepali poem this morning: Deshko Parichaya by Mohan Koirala. This poem was published in 1951 in the journal Sharada and later translated to English by Michael Hutt (who writes all of the Nepali language guides I am using.) I found this to be a beautiful description of the spring. It also eludes to the lotus flower, which has long been a symbol of Buddhism. The flower is often the purest white possible, though it grows in some of the most disgusting filth possible. I have heard it said that the worse the filth, the more pure the flower. It was this concept, explained to King Ashoka by one of the monks in his torture chamber that ultimately converted him to Buddhism and stopped the violence he had committed himself to.

Now that I am hearing the first bell of Spring, the call to regeneration, how will I grow? I can try to plan my year, to take charge of it and to force it to be what it will. However, what is left of the ashes from last year? In what soil does my lotus grow?

This week off before I go back to work has given me time to spend with my children, especially my youngest, who will start kindergarten next year. We’ve drunk our fair share of hot cocoas and spent the morning rain-soaked and mud-covered on the Angel’s Rest trail. After the dry, dusty pollution of Kathmandu, I welcome all the moisture and even the clouded skies of the Pacific Northwest.

I’ll leave you with Mohan Koirala's poem now, as I continue to ponder it for myself, feeling a bit lost in the world I have returned to, and a bit lost in myself. I find so much of my experience represented in these words and I await the golden morning. 

This is the first bell,
and this is the first voice,
to our duties we are called
as the orchids flower on the precipice;
once the kumari has shared out the garlands,
every day will be the auspicious time:
very soon the light will come
on a golden morning.

An owl is weeping with open wings from its roost behind the cremation-ground,
another adds his song in fragments:
"in what soil grows the lotus now?
From which bough sings the nightingale?
In which forest do the peacocks dance?
what green plain will those eyes open,
which sleep now in deep emotion?”

Twisting its body, night attacks me,
black fangs glistening, it readies itself,
its arms are outstretched: I beat a drum,
to declare that the world still meditates and has yet to wake from its trance.
I picked up a firefly, held it up to the stars:
"It fears no one, it glows and dims,
it dims and glows, of its own accord,
Light  oh Light!" I cried,
and the eastern sky reddens:
very soon the light will come
On a golden morning.

The moonbird calls out to make me restless,
I stride out - the sound of voices is far away,
and the river sleeps between us;
it has rushed and roared,
washing vermillion from the Himalaya's hair.
Without the human hustle and bustle
which drags me along with this country's dreams
or knocks me up with its awakened martyrs,
my country grows cold
in a shroud of clouds. 

The sun hides under my pillow
and appears around midday,
when sunshine melts into the snow,
warming the hillsides,
re-opening every door:
very soon the light will come
on a golden morning.