Harmony in a Box – 03-08

The journey took longer than anticipated and slowly the feeling of hope was weakening as the labor of movement and exhaustion consumed our reality. Our pathway, although  a descent down the mountain, was treacherous and time consuming. It levelled off almost at the base of the mountain, but still above the valley. We continued to follow a pathway that bordered the valley tightly against the mountain’s base. We could see that there was a stream running through this oasis, and that small groups of homes dotted the riverside. Other pathways broke off from ours, paths that would take you into the small village.

Finally reaching the base of the Monastery, we approached a grandiose staircase of white stone, pillared on each side, the steps rose steeply up to the main entrance. Each step of the staircase was smooth and worn indicating use with age. Colin, guiding our entourage, walked up the steps with the aid of attendants. We followed silently; collectively overwhelmed with humility and thankfulness at finding a safe haven after our journey. As I entered the large hallway a feeling of ease flooded my body. There was a distant sound of chimes, sultry, ringing in the air. A beautiful fragrance consumed my senses.

Once we were all gathered in the massive hallway inside the building, Colin turned his attention to us travelers. He told us we were safe. Although the accommodations were humble, we were to make ourselves at home. He assured us that the many questions we must have in mind would be answered to the best of his ability. First, however, he suggested, we go with the attendants to rooms prepared for us. There we could freshen up and relax. We would meet in an hour’s time for a meal that would be prepared for us. Nervously, but unanimously, the group agreed. One by one we followed the various attendants to our rooms.

My room was large with tall ceilings, ornate crown molding edged the entire room. The room had French doors that led to a balcony; through them I saw the long green valley with the river slumbering it’s way through it. The backdrop was a silhouette of the mountain range we had crossed, with all its various summits. The scene was so perfectly surreal I thought I must be dreaming although all my senses assured me I was awake.

Harmony in a Box – 03-07

We seem to wait for a very long time; I watch the moon sail towards its epoch in the sky. The Inuit travelers begin to stir, and begin to strap bags over their fur jackets. Three attendants begin to jockey our entourage into a semblance of order before the rising rock cliff. I watch as they ready the covered sled that belongs to Colin. The canopy cover of his sled parts and he steps out into the moonlight to stand beside his sled. Colin gazes towards the heavens at a sparkling moon. His hands, together in a prayer pose against his chest, slowly lift above his head towards the moon. Then in a descending motion his fingers point down towards the rock wall. Then before us the shadows disappear in the moonlight to reveal a narrow passage through the rocks – a passage that was not there or noticed just moments before. I can’t believe my own eyes!

In astonishment and confusion we immediately scramble to make passage through the rocky crevasse mystically revealed for us through this impassible mountain wall. Colin’s sled is lifted like a stretcher before the giant rocks by two of the fur clad porters. Stumbling a little, in single file we ascend up a narrow path. The porters bearing Colin’s sled lead the way. I am amazed by the ability of the porters carrying this largest and most cumbersome sled. Their legs are as sturdy and sure as mountain goats and they test every footstep for security and balance.

At first there was a steep ascent and wind whipped us, bitter and cold. In the distance there was the sound of falling rocks. The background seemed to resonate with the roar of thunder or avalanches. We trekked for what seemed an eternity, all the while I watched my frosted breath billow and disappear. I could hear the uneasy staggered breaths and coughs of the others. Just when I felt I couldn’t go on, we crested a ragged gray rock. The view was astonishing. There, before my eyes, was a lush green valley. A meandering path could be seen in the distance, leading to a magnificent multi-leveled grayish white building, The building protruded from a rock wall as if it was built out of it; like the ancient apartment complexes built in the canyon walls at Mesa Verde that I once saw in southern Colorado. Immediately the air seemed to warm. I rubbed my eyes, not believing the vision before me.

The silence was broken by Virginia. “That is absolutely beautiful.” She said with an exhausted sigh, half speaking aloud to herself.

“We’ll be there soon – my God we’re saved!” Herb gasped from between deep breaths.

The four of us stood side by side, arms around waists, tears of elation and joy in our eyes. Hope radiated from each of us. What seemed a hopeless situation of doom had unveiled itself and had transformed into a cloak of hope and survival. Shortly, we would begin our descent to this monastery called Harmony.

Harmony in a Box – 03-06

I awake to the hum of activity and tasks being performed by our entourage. It was evident by the scatter of people, dogs and equipment that we had been stopped for a prolonged period of time. I look around and see that we are on a mountain plateau, one side overlooking the barrens of snow and rock and the other a large impassable granite rock cliff that seems to rise straight to the heavens. Shadows of darkness surround us. We stop here for much longer than the usual drink and rest.

The moon rises over a mountain ridge and illuminates the landscape as it continues to climb in the night sky. The sled drivers sit together in a circle. Two of them look into the heavens, engage in a brief discussion, and then head over to the covered sled. They assist Colin out of the sled, and supporting him either side, he is brought over to where I rest on the sled. Like a child on a long journey, I am anxious and I ask “What are we waiting for? Are we there yet?”

Collin smiles, taking his time to answer me. “We are almost there. We must wait for safe passage.”

Although I am relieved, I ask. “But, where are we?”

Colin’s response was, “Labrador.”

I inquire about my companions and he reassures me that they are fatigued but appear to be doing fine. He asks me if I am able to walk. Moving my legs under the blankets I tell him that I think I can. Collin explains the next part of the journey is treacherous and impossible to do on sleds. I assure him I should be able to proceed under my own steam. He bows his head slightly, and instructs me to rest, to gather my strength for the next part of the journey.

With the assistance of his attendants, I watch as Colin approaches each sled. Closest to mine is Jitters’. I listen to Jitters’ barrage of questions: “Are we near a hospital? Is there a phone? How soon can we get home? How much will it cost?” Colin responds calmly and with quiet assurance that all of Jitters questions will be answered once we are at the Harmony monastery.

How rare, I think, a monastery referred to as Harmony built in the middle of nowhere hidden away amongst rock and a barren desert of snow.

Harmony in a Box – 03-05

“Drink this, it will make you feel better and help you regain some strength.” The man spoke perfect English with a well-bred accent. “My name is Colin.” He makes a shallow oriental-like bow. I notice the man to be of white European features unlike the more Inuit mongoloid look of the others. “I am from the Harmony monastery. I will take you there for safety and shelter.” He looks at me and smiles, motioning me not to talk.

I muster a smile and nod of appreciation. For some strange reason, momentarily I slip into my glib bar persona and look at him and say, “I know I’m not dead – they don’t make angels that ugly.” Colin gives me a puzzled smile, bows then turns away. I hear him introduce himself to the others. Introductions completed, the sleds are loaded and we travel methodically over this barren landscape of snow, ice, and rock. I think how the snow-laden barrens look like an ocean storm in suspended animation. The snowdrifts appear like frozen waves.  The snow blowing over the drifts and across the land looks like frozen ocean spray.

Throughout the journey I drift in and out of consciousness for minutes, hours or days I couldn’t tell you. The time of day was difficult to assess. It was gray and dreary with overcast skies. It could have been a dark day or light night; we were in the latitudes of the permanent day or night. Lulled by the sound of creaking snow being crushed by the men and their sleds, these sounds become my reference point, my sonic blanket of existence. I was startled at the occasional command and encouragement directed towards the dogs.

We stop periodically to rest the dogs and receive warm liquids. Recognizing our weakened condition our guides strap us to the dogsleds to ensure our safety. Never venturing from the safety of the sleds none of us have the opportunity to talk to one another. The terrain is getting decisively more rugged and hilly in this desert of snow. There are protruding rocks and boulders at increased intervals with what seem to be a mountainous region looming in the near distance.

Travelling towards the dark ominous highland mountain area, which now seems to engulf my horizon, I sense a vision like I have been here before. A deja vu feeling, perhaps from a dream or past life, although I am not a great believer of psychic phenomena, witchcraft or reincarnation. Periodically I have had these similar visions. They are really unexplainable. I just accept them believing, as long as I experience them periodically, my life must be on the right track. Often, the actual circumstance and scene in which the original vision occurs has no bearing on the real-time event triggering my sensory recollection. I feel somewhat relieved at the vision; it feels like a comfort zone for me, something familiar in this unfamiliar situation. The organic movement of the sled makes my body feel heavy, gently being rocked by the unevenness of the terrain, slowly I drift into another sleep.

Harmony in a Box – 03-04

Time is passing at great cost. Everyone of us realize how bleak our situation is.  Creaks from the boat seem the only sounds to matter. The boat is lifting and lowering like a slow vibrating sound wave on the ocean. In my mind a loud buzz or hum begins to consume my consciousness, louder and louder like the white noise of an end of transmission TV station. The noise is deafening, then in the background beginning ever so faintly I hear the Blue Danube Waltz. A faint smile crosses my lips as in this situation of doom a musical joke dances in my head. Slowly it dissipates to a sense of defeat.

I begin to feel nauseated; pangs of hunger and helplessness snatch my attention. Staring into the distance, reflecting light blurs my vision. Like a baby in a carriage, destiny is determined by forces beyond my control. Subdued I drift into a hypnotic trance looking at some logs floating towards us in the ocean. At some point my eyes close and I enter into nothingness.

“Over here!” Virginia’s voice is faint and strained.

Too tired to open my eyes and feeling some comfort in my fetal position, I just lie there.

“Over here!” This time Virginia’s voice is a little louder. I feel the canvas move, stiffly shifting as it has become a frozen whole. The sound of the cracking canvas becomes irritating as Virginia attempts to get up. I am content to accept my fate. She’s delirious I think, yet with as much strength as I can muster I open an eye. Through the slit of vision I can see that our dinghy is surrounded by undulating waves, and that the logs are getting closer. No, not logs I think, but whales. An uninvited wave blocks my vision. I open my other eye wincing as I try to raise myself. Somehow the whales transform themselves into people in kayaks paddling towards us.

Now broadside, the people in the kayaks are talking to us in a foreign tongue. Gently but firmly poking at us with their paddles; they are trying to rouse us out of unconsciousness and to stimulate movement. They toss across a cloth bag. Inside we find some leathery meat. They motion for us to eat it.

With one on each side and three in front they tow our lifeboat to shore. The shoreline is rocky and barren. Beyond the shore a frozen wasteland stretches as far as the eye could see. Weather beaten rock ledges and boulders spaciously dot the white canvas scene. We are ushered from the boats by a series of hand gestures accompanied by instructions in an incomprehensible tongue. We are wrapped in blankets and furs and then motioned to be seated onto some awaiting dog sleds. From a covered sled a figure appears and approaches the sled I am on. Another person brings over a cup of warm liquid, judging from the steam rising from it, and hands it to me.