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January 10, 2013

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Time has a way of smoothing out the hard edges of memory. When I look back at the past 5 weeks, everything has a slow, dream like quality to it. Even with the dizzying travel and chorus of horns, all I seem to hear when I think of our honeymoon is the first soft minute of Debussy’s Suite bergamasque. I’ve never been so enchanted by a place before, the way that India and Indonesia enchanted me. I’m not sure I’ve quite woken from the spell.

I’ve also never been anywhere as chaotic as India. Imagine your senses being set on fire and then add the smell of incense and urine and roses and chai tea brewing over a fire on the side of the road. And imagine a dust that never settles and how it puts a golden filter over everything. And imagine a thousand cars and tuk tuks and mopeds honking all at once. And children with babies on their hips walking barefoot through rubbish, women working in the fields in colorful sari with long scarves trailing behind them and a big metal bowl on their heads, “evil eye” talismans made of lime and chili peppers hanging over every door and garlands of marigold wrapped around Hindu Gods on the dashboard of most taxis, the smiling eyes of old women sitting on their doorsteps, the rose petal dawn, children waving and dancing as trains go by…

It is an assault on the senses. There is no other word for it.

And yet… yet, there is a stillness there that I can’t quite put my finger on. It is an inner stillness. The people of India radiate with it. They do not appear to have a burning desire to fill the void we all carry –  a soul stirred with restlessness. Perhaps poverty brings a certain freedom. They cannot afford to fill the void with material possessions and so, they turn to faith.

A Hindu will not hesitate to stop what he is doing, to park his moped and take a moment to remove his shoes and make a silent prayer to Vishnu or Ganesha or Hanuman or whatever God he chooses to worship. Our society works a little differently. And we seem to be searching, constantly searching for a happiness that we will never find because it’s not out there. If it were, would the people living in slums, surrounded by trash and the acrid smell of ammonia seem content?

If you were to ask me what I took most out of this trip (after much-needed rest), it is that sense of inner peace that the people of India seem to carry with them no matter how little they have.

This inspired my word for 2013 – STILLNESS. Last year felt like a never-ending emotional roller coaster ride. This year, I want to stop the damn ride, get off and sit still. I want to learn to breathe again. I want to let go with every exhale and open up with each inhale. I want to find that kind of inner peace I saw in India, even when thousands of tuk tuks and honking cars and mopeds and cows were going by. I want to be still in the swirl. I want to be able to slow it all down and see things through a softer set of eyes.  And connect with that part of myself that ran off last year and joined the bloody circus.

I wondered if, after 3 weeks, I’d be able to describe India and the answer is no. It is so steeped in mystery, I want to leave it there. I can tell you the facts and show you what I’ve seen but I’ll never be able to capture its essence. Its essence is in the people and unless you come from there, I don’t think it is possible to really “get it”. And maybe if you are from there, there is nothing to “get”… everything just is. And maybe that is the secret to their happiness.

Wishing you all a new year filled with intention. One that fills your heart with hope.

Love,

J.

P.S. I’m still waiting for 5 rolls of slide film to get processed. And I have a notebook full of writings. I’ll be back with more photos and stories soon.

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. January 10, 2013 10:53 am

    jeanine*

    i am appreciating you + your post this morning. ’tis perfection as the day calls for gentle-ness, going gently.

    sitting with you in the stillness you’ve invited me to …

    sweetest blessings,
    Meghan

  2. January 10, 2013 2:56 pm

    oh my….i am just loving this peek at your trip. gorgeous pictures. india is so difficult to describe, isn’t it? people ask me about it, and i just stare at them, wondering what i could possibly say that would make them understand the magic, the chaos, the beauty, the poverty. i’m not sure there are words….that being said, i love the words you chose.

    xo,
    c

  3. January 10, 2013 3:09 pm

    My god, these photos capture so much beauty. They’re intoxicating. You are very talented, my friend.

  4. January 10, 2013 3:21 pm

    This is almost as gorgeous as being there. Stunning pictures, they convey that very stillness you talk about.

  5. January 10, 2013 4:21 pm

    I’ve read your words and they’ve left me with goosebumps and excitement. I look at the photos and I feel like you’ve already done a pretty good job at describing India.

    I need to see more! I feel a very big pint (and scotch) is needed very soon. Sending you dates via email now…

  6. January 10, 2013 6:10 pm

    omg omg omg. i knew these would be breathtaking.

  7. January 10, 2013 6:22 pm

    I love the candid, photojournalistic but still very intimate style of your photos. It reminds of the quirky India from The Darjeeling Limited.

  8. January 10, 2013 7:32 pm

    Your holiday is like a dream, and your photos are swoon worthy!

  9. January 10, 2013 10:14 pm

    Oh, man. Those photos are amazing. But really, I love this perspective that you have for India. I have never been there, and probably never will, but I have heard of it, obviously. All I hear about is the poverty. I love thinking about the inner beauty. You certainly captured it, both in your words and in your photos. I am so happy you had a great honeymoon! Yay!

  10. January 11, 2013 12:44 pm

    Your pictures have always been really great but these are beyond amazing. Thanks for sharing, they’re great inspiration!

  11. January 11, 2013 2:05 pm

    It´s great to hear from you again! I can´t wait to read more about your honeymoon.

  12. kmthouston permalink
    January 11, 2013 8:32 pm

    Ahhhhhhhmazing photos! I can’t stop scrolling through them & viewing them over & over!

    May you have a STILL year! x

  13. naomihattaway permalink
    January 12, 2013 1:28 am

    It is so painfully and incredibly hard to describe … with words and photos, because you’ve removed the sound of it all. I am still trying desperately to describe our time living there, and am not sure I will ever be able to. LOVELY photos! (I wonder how many times the phrase “assault on the senses” has been used to describe India .. and how few times it has been used to describe anything else!)

  14. January 15, 2013 10:30 am

    such beauty
    in your images
    AND your words.
    thank you for shairng it with us.
    my heart longs to see it one day in person.

  15. January 19, 2013 7:39 pm

    love love love love love love love.

  16. January 22, 2013 2:14 pm

    These photos are so beautiful. And they words you use to describe the experience fit with the photos perfectly.
    India is a place that, while beautiful and mysterious and everything, I’ve always been a bit afraid to think of visit due to the sheer amount of people and traffic and bustle. But the way you describe it… perhaps despite the movement it isn’t the same kind of busy as a bit North American city.

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