A Free Day

Sunday, I got up pretty early, had a light breakfast of microwaved raisin oatmeal cereal (provided by the hostel, along with a dry milk mix). I added a cinnamon honey stick from Saturday’s farmers’ market–delicious!

I checked into my email Saturday night and had a note from Nikolay Naydenov, professor of political anthropology at University of Sofia (whose family I stayed with while living in Bulgaria). He needed a quick edit of an abstact in English for a Bulgarian journal article. I gave the abstract a once-over in the evening and took a closer look this morning while having breakfast and drinking coffee (also hostel provided, though glad I’d packed individual, liquid half-and-half creamers that don’t need refrigeration).

I didn’t have anything special planned for Sunday. But it turned out to be a special day. I knew there was a closing ceremony by Tibetan monks at UNM, but wasn’t sure I’d be up in time to go.

Having dispatched the editing, I set off by city bus for the Tibetan Dissolution Ceremony at the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology on the University of New Mexico campus. I was just in time.

The hall was crowded. People gathered around the monks standing in the center of the hall in front of the mandala sand painting. They were in full ritual dress and wearing those amazing yellow headdresses.

Attendees also lined and leaned over balcony railings above the hall to see the mandala and the monks who were already chanting, but had not yet erased the mandala, also an altar to Green Tara created for this program.

Green Tara is a female goddess representing creation and compassion. She is found in many different religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Celtic lore, and in South America where she’s known as Tarahumara. She is one of our oldest known deities, similar to the Greek goddess, Demeter, in being a goddess of the earth and of all creation. The Latin for earth, terra, echoes her name.

The oldest known reference to Tara is in Finnish lore that speaks of the Tar, or wise women. She is incarnate in all good women. Among Tibetans, she represents a special
deity, reported to have guided and protected refugees fleeing the Chinese occupation of Tibet.

Entering, I was immediately moved by the resonant sounds of the monks’ chanting. Bell, cymbals and drums accompanied the chanting in a changing sound flow at times almost like a cacophony of city sounds, sometimes a long, smooth harmonic wave, occasionally reaching the lowest registers in a deep hum. I remember being surprised at the variations and fullness of sound, similar to Gregorian chants but polyphonic rather than monophonic, and with jazz-like oscillations and alterations.

I took photos of the monks and the close-gathered crowd (will post photos later after I receive the camera-to-iBook connector from Pat back in Austin).

The monks then circled the mandala, erasing it while chanting, now a cappella, and ended the ceremony with a short description of what they would do next–literally get into a van to drive to an outdoor location by the Rio Grande river (the mundane mention of getting into a van elicited brief laughter from listeners). The crowd was invited to follow along and maps were available.

Leaving the museum, I walked around the campus, visited the Duck Pond (just so-named), and took the 66 bus back toward the hostel, getting off at Robinson Park to walk around the Sunday version of We Art the People, minus the farmers’ market.

The park was festive! Multicolord torn cloth streamers lined the tent stage area and walkways; trees were hung with painted paper lanterns, sheer panels of colored cloth and paper flowers; children built and painted paper-stick sculptures made from rolled paper “wands”; while others painted drawings on large sheets of white paper laid on blankets on the ground; and still others made colorful paper hats fashioned from crushed newsprint.

There were also covered canvas tents and colorful umbrellas with art by adults for sale along the sidewalks. Scattered among these were musicians, dancers (Hawaiian dance lessons being given), ringed at the park’s edge by food carts.

I sat on a park bench for a while, resting and listening to an accordianist and xylophone duo. Nearby, between two trees, were arrayed some very large puppets, as if waiting for their giant puppeteers. A little boy played hide-and-seek with his mom, crouching behind small bushes in a garden between musicians and the puppets.

All-in-all, a full, free day.

Green Tara

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About jillscherb7

Retired intercultural educator & speech/English faculty; traveller to China, Europe-France, Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, Mexico (who's lived in China & Bulgaria); lover of books, poetry, film, narratives, music & art; sometime book reviewer; and Austinite (Texas, U.S.A.)
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One Response to A Free Day

  1. Leslie Hughes says:

    Awesome! I love the ceremony details. Keep blogging!!

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