A couple of nights ago, Sharon and Parker performed a poignant ceremony welcoming us to Nepal and to this program. It was freezing cold, but that wasn’t too important as we sat on the roof in a circle, aware of the surrounding, formidable mountains that would only become visible from Dhulikhel the following morning. During the ceremony, we were asked to sit in silence for a moment and think about why we chose to come on this trip. Then, we were instructed to place a flower into a bowl of water between us, and if we felt compelled, to share our reasons for coming here. When the ceremony was finished and the candles blown out by the wind, we made our way down the stairs and into our rooms, to huddle in our sleeping bags, and try to sleep.
I thought I would fall asleep instantaneously, but instead lay there overwhelmed with thoughts. Why am I here? Is it to see incredible landscapes and begin to learn a new language? Is it to form new relationships, or maybe to let go of old ones? Is it to escape all the media madness back in the United States? When I consider, it’s likely that all of those factors played a part in my decision to come on another Dragons trip. Yet after many discussions with the group about the significance of this experience – and of life in general – I think for more than any of these reasons, I’ve come here in search of hope.
Being a rather cynical person, it’s easy for me to believe that there is no hope to be found – we have destroyed the planet, lost sight of what it means to be a human being, wrecked our democratic infrastructure, and there’s no going back. No matter how hard I try to avoid that thought – that it’s too late – it always comes back after reading the news and being inundated with information that is out of context and out of my control. How can anyone be hopeful in the face of all that? Should they be?
Some part of me must think we should still hold out hope, because as I sit here in the terraced fields of HASERA farm, surrounded by yellow mustard flowers and looking out over the valley, I start to feel hope coming back, and when I feel it, I know it’s why I’m here.
Being on a Dragons trip and being connected through this community to so many inspirational programs and people, I eventually start to feel that what I choose to do with my life actually matters. It’s possible, maybe even likely, that I’m deluding myself in this belief, but I’ve decided that for this trip, maybe that’s okay.
Staying at HASERA farm and being able to observe the overwhelmingly positive effect it has on the community gives me that feeling of hope. Mithu said something today that stuck with me: “Everything has a purpose. If it didn’t, Mother Earth wouldn’t have created it.” It’s not the first time I’ve heard some iteration of that message, but it might be the first time it felt somewhat believable.
Mithu and Gobindaji welcomed us into their home and farm, and told us that we should feel as if we had just returned home after a long day of travel. They gave us tea and snacks, and began explaining the philosophy and practice of permaculture. They told us what it means to follow its principles, from how to graft plants, to the importance of singing while you work, not only to send the plants positive energy, but also to produce extra carbon dioxide for them. This intentionality permeates all aspects of living on the farm. At HASERA nothing is wasted, all food served at the farm was grown here, plastic water bottles and old shoes are used as pots, and the water that is not used flows down into a pond that is a natural solution to insect issues: The bugs are attracted to the light reflecting on the pond and end up drowning in the water, where they then act as nutrients to the fish. Thus the cycle continues, and, as Mithu said, everything has a purpose.
Communities like this may exist in the United States, but here in Nepal, removed from the conveniences afforded by living in the West, the effect of this kind of intentional living becomes much clearer. Dubos argues that “western man denies the legacy of traditional wisdom in a desire for progress.” In a place where such “progress” is not readily available, the truth of this statement becomes even more evident to me. Maybe such intentional communities can’t even make a dent in the rush of “progress” and loss of traditional wisdom, but maybe that’s beside the point. Maybe living in intentional touch with the ecosystem you’re part of can be more than remedy for harm we’ve already done, because it is valuable unto itself. I think this allowance for hope may be at the heart of what I’m here to learn.