Jhinu dusk. Photography by Amaya Engleking

Pregnant in Jhinu, a hot springs village in the Annapurna region of Nepal, the clear waters ran down and I saw the richest valley in the world: those who live so close to the source of the earth’s last glaciers. Listen, little baby, to the word of God, holy water flowing down the mighty Himal, feeding the Indus, Brahmaputra, and Ganga and all who receive sustenance from these rivers of living gospel. The ones who can hear say, “We the children of the Most High, are led to the highest peaks so we may pray here. By our being here in constant communion with God, the snows come and feed the world living waters.”

Jhinu hot springs, Annapurna. Photography by Joshua Engleking

But in the Langtang temple on the festival day I felt alone, left out and bereft of the Holy Spirit. “Look around, we are blessed,” said Joshua, “we cannot expect selfishly to always remain in the Spirit.” But it’s too much to hear in this din of thick incense smoke and monotone chants as I do not feel well and I just want to feel the baby move in me, and I do not think it selfish to want to be with God, now and always. I have to believe now, in vulnerability at five months pregnant at 13,000 feet up in the sky and a two-day walk to the nearest small town, that God wants his children to remain in the Spirit and to treasure it as the greatest gift we can receive on earth.

Five months pregnant in Langtang. Photography by Joshua Engleking

Then, reading the Man-God on the little cot in Nima’s stone house, Jesus spoke to the people of Hebron -John the Baptist’s land- about how men of God are turned into idols and people ceremoniously bow to dead things, while saints are hated by men. The lamas prayed, drank chang, and the people prostrated before images of the Dalai Lama and I was stone cold with a failure to acknowledge the power, even when time and time again the Man God, the voice of the prophets, offers me direction before I even sleep on the day of torment. I too need to dwell in the blessings. I fear I have the temperament of Judas of Kerioth, wanting to witness the big, breathtaking miracles of Christ, shamefully disappointed by anything seemingly less. Take it away, Good Lord, and put you in its place! Make me a saint. Decapitate the Judas thoughts.

Crow of Kyanjin Gumba. Photography by Amaya Engleking

Things got strange after this plea as we journeyed higher to Kyanjin Gumba, the village of crows. Nima’s Tamang bird songs and Sheerub wondering how Joshua pulls his finger apart and puts it back together again. Dark, dark hut and shimbudu Sherpa stew. Thunder snowstorm. No toilet. Maria Valtorta’s heart begs to say just once, “We are seraphim.” (#212 in the Poem of the Man-God) We cried with the longing but the high mountains enclosed us and something was not right. His sulphuric burps started in the night and he was out in the biting wind with violent diarrhea between intervals of disturbed sleep not even long enough to dream, layers of snow descended on us like the wild dogs’ howls and haunts of the snow leopard. Joshua had prayed just that morning that if there is to be an illness, let him take it all, keeping me and the baby healthy and safe. Hydrated. The world spun. Nima loves and prays for us. But he didn’t give us clean water. Giardia could kill an unborn baby. Full waning moon. Answered prayers. Nightmares on my side of the bed. Daft Punk light show during Himalayan earthquake tremors. (A premonition of what would devastate the valley one year later?) We craved too much color; it baited us and swallowed us up. But maybe this lesson was our personal Judas, cut off.

Back in Langtang the following disoriented day, tsampa porridge. “Make Joshua strong again,” Tsering played medicine woman. Glory to no one but God. Answered prayers. I do not need to be considering, much less climbing up any 16,000 foot snowy peaks right now. My good husband never completely recovered while in Nepal, but he was able to eat and drink normally and keep up with me on the hikes. After a few weeks he could even find the humor in this whole crazy overdue honeymoon/gestational period/Lenten spirit quest, and back in Kathmandu after Nima’s cousin’s three-day wedding, we found a little music shop.

The Langtang dancers at the wedding. People from all surrounding villages will come to the celebration and each perform their own dances and songs. Photography by Amaya Engleking

We met Arjun who played for us a private concert of madals and tablas, and after we bought one made of rosewood, we each had the medicine bowl treatment.

At last, the baby in the womb leapt with joy.

My drawing of Arjun “Nepali Shore”


©2014, Amaya Engleking


One comment

  1. N. Ian McCarthy · June 23

    I’m struck by the scenery. Those are some breathtaking vistas, for sure. Hard to believe such places still exist. Thank you for the narrative.

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