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A Hundred Gourds 3:4 September 2014

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Sonam Chhoki – Bhutan


Mapping Memories


I trace the old mule track that winds around the valley, a strand of my ancestors' dreams as they explored boundaries beyond their own. The cobbles, which once clattered with the footsteps of travellers, traders and pilgrims, are now silently cast into the loam. Fern fronds bob in the breeze. Blackbirds flit between the gorse weaving invisible patterns.

I come to the crest of the hill. Dawn streaks the sky where the dark bars of rain clouds have been broken. The watery sunshine catches the tops of pines on the hump of the hill. Below the pines, irregular slabs of shadow slant away towards the gorge. A gauge of mist hangs over it. Amidst the roar of the gorge in full monsoon spate I pick the melodious pitch of birdsong. A humid draught plays in my hair. The dankness of hay and cow dung fills my nostrils. I breathe in the comforting scent of chillies and cucumbers maturing on the slopes below. Rows of newly-sown rice seedlings ripple in the pale sunlight.

Everything is alive with a still expectancy.

ancestral valley -
the sounds and scents muted
in photographs



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