Thursday, September 6, 2007

Chapter 13 - Lake Manosarowar

Dearest Ivan

I don't know when this letter will find you. As you requested, I won't email you if I find another Internet cafe -- how unimaginable to find such a place here in the remotest place on earth, but I have done so twice, and am always waiting to see a little building perched behind the next hill with a picture of a computer on the outside!

As you have advised, I will gather the scraps I find each day in my travels and in the books you have sent, selecting those passages that leap from the page only. This is a nice kind of research project. And I'll take terrible photos of what seems like good locations with my cell phone (it does work here as you said it would!) and send them on without comment.

Again, I will only take photos where I find myself stirred or where I see the hint of a story, of people pitted against the terrain -- or each other in that terrain -- appear to me.

Right now, I’m reading Jean Fairley again, The Lion River. This, so far, is my favorite of all the books you've sent me.

"The source of the Indus (and Ganges and everything) is not Lake Manasarowar. Moorcroft found it out in 1811. Fairley writes: (p3)…for the first time the the legendary source of the Indus came under a clear and scientific eye…The lake, he reported, has a noble appearance, its pebbled shores and sandy beaches strewn with great blocks of red and green granite that had fallen from the 300-foot-high cliffs. It was a windy place and the winds constantly shifted and fluctuated. The water was ‘well-tasted.’ There were eagles, grey geese and several kinds of gulls. Clouds of black gnats bothered him during the day but when the wind dropped in the evening they flew out over the lake and were snapped up by the innumerable lake trout.

"Whatever else Lake Nansarowar offered for Moorcroft’s interested inspection it was not, he was certain, the source of the Indus, nor of any other river. Many steep streams spilled into the lake but no rivers at all flowed out of it, so far as he could see. The holy lake, ringed by beautiful and awe-inspiring mountains, was not the inexhaustible found of great rivers that legend maintained it to be."

Now, that's like life. I know you’ll smile at such a stupid sentence, but listen and you’ll see there’s something to it. Some of us faced the truth and tried to learn about the colored granite, the eagles, the gulls, and we crabbed about the gnats and the weather, and we loved the trout. We knew we had to make it do.

The others, perhaps like you, Ivan, saw that meaningful phrase at the end of the sentence: “Many steep streams spilled into the lake but no rivers at all flowed out of it, so far as he could see." and these people spent their lives retracing his tracks, always looking where they thought he could not see.

Kim never came this far north, Ivan. I have it on the authority of Hopkirk, in that small book I found in one of the Buddhist rest houses. His opening map shows ‘Kim Country’ and you can see he got no farther north than Lahore and Amritsar. That’s the British paradise of Kashmir, where they came up from the steaming heat of the plains in summer to their rest houses and English gardens. Over the top of his pointy little marks that represent mountains, far away from the dotted line that marks Kim’s travels, is the name that intriques me: Leh. A place no one in my home town has ever heard of. So I’ll go back to Fairley, who explains it well, as I recall.

Have I thanked you lately for giving me this job, my dearest Ivan? Despite my gloomy meanderings about the over-glorified Lake Manasarowar (and life) (how you must be laughing at me), I now have some sort of direction, something to do that seems to matter.

To say nothing of your craggy face, the door to a safe and beautiful world. Shall I delete that? No, I don’t think so.

I’ll write again as soon as I find something worth writing about. If any of this looks useful for the script, let me know and I’ll try to do some sketches. I’m amazed at my new-found ability to draw, and although I’d never be allowed into an art show, I think my depictions might be very useful for your storyboards.

All right, to sleep and tomorrow I follow the Indus northwest from this pretty, landlocked little lake. And yet, it’s not isolated, blocked, irrelevant. It's like a library: Books come in, books go out, and each book is a world. So it is with the pretty lake: springs from beneath the ground flow into it, steams flow out. They say there is an underground channel between Lake Manosarowar and the actual mouth of the Indus, some thirty miles away.

So maybe it is the source of the great Indus.

Tonight I shall try to dream of that and by morning, perhaps life will also look open-ended instead of landlocked.

I'll write some more on this paper since I see I have left some space, and then I'll mail it off to you and hope you get it someday.



I did dream, but not of anything I wanted to send to Ivan. I dreamed of Verischensko talking to someone, a young man who was out of sight, from a dark hallway, maybe a mirror in the shadows and the words he said were stirring:

They were silent for some moments, and then Verisschenzko went on:

"When the state of being in love is waning, affection often remains, but then one is at the mercy of a new emotion. I'd be nervous if a woman who had loved me subsided into feeling affection!"

"Then define loving?"

"Loving throbs with delight in the flesh; it thrills the spirit with reverence. It glorifies into beauty commonplace things. It draws nearer in sickness and sorrow, and is not the sport of change. When a woman loves truly she has the passion of the mistress, the selfless tenderness of the mother, the dignity and devotion of the wife. She is all fire and snow, all will and frankness, all passion and reserve, she is authoritative and obedient--queen and child."

"And a man?"

"He ceases to be a brute and becomes a god."

After that, I fell into a deep sleep, but the words are still with me.

I sealed and addressed the envelope and gave it to the first messenger who passed by us on the way into the center of Tibet and the postal services. And I wondered what the devil I had gotten myself into.

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