It’s still dark outside, but the birds are already singing at 6 am. I hear the familiar clink of the metal cup on my doorstep and know Vijay has just left my morning herbs for me, so I crawl out from under two layers of blankets and crack open the door to retrieve the cup. The air is chilly, and I quickly close the bolt and turn on my heater.
For a few minutes I text with Declan, who is home in NH buried under snow drifts and 50 mph winds. Yesterday they recorded the strongest winds on Mt Washington in February history: a crazy 171 miles per hour. He tells me about how he tried to scrape the ice off the solar panels but lasted only three minutes with the wind chill and his Irish cheeks freezing off.
Here in the mountains of south India the weather is what I would call perfection. Nights are chilly at about 50 degrees F, and days can get into the mid 80’s if it’s a bluebird day. Mornings are just right for walking, so I pull on my yoga pants, two shirts and a fleece jacket, my hat, and out into the pink dawn I go to meet the walkers in our group.
Some days there are six or seven of us, but usually it’s a handful who are faithful about this daily practice. My favorite route is up the hill through Pemberly and across the tea field to where Bharatnagar sits like a box of colored chalk: houses of every pastel blue, pink, and green you can imagine sit in tiers all the way to the road far below. The concrete steps leading down to the old primary school are an awesome workout for the quads, and every 30 feet or so there is a side lane where the cottages sit side by side, laundry strung up to catch the sunrise.
I have been walking this way for four years now, so I have returned again and again to the same homes, to little families with children I have watched transform from one year to the next. I am always received with such warm eyes and sweet smiles. I know they are both curious and delighted that I always ask to take their photo; and the kids ask every year to be in a selfie. Sometimes I scroll back two or three years in my phone for pictures years so they can see how they have grown up or changed. Always smiles or giggles. Always the gesture of a bow or the salutation “namaskar,” good morning, good sunshine.
Each morning is it’s own, but there is ritual here too. The same dogs sit on the same steps, children dress for school, roosters crow, and women line up to fill their water jugs.
Here the sun climbs up and over walls and into little gardens laced with poinsettia, ivy, and lantana. Chickens are released from their pens and scuttle out to eat bugs on the pathways. A man balances a basket of jasmine flowers on his head and travels house to house collecting 50 rupees per strand. I follow him for awhile just to smell the blossoms.
Some mornings we hike up to a small mountaintop that overlooks a handful of villages below. People greet us as we go, and as we begin to ascend the last quarter mile, the pavement ends, there are no more houses, and the path becomes uneven. Rust-colored earth crumbles under our feet, and we really have to watch each step. Eventually, I duck through a grassy opening that leads out to a ledge. The five of us stop to catch our breath as we take in the sun rising to our left and the moon setting to our right, in the West. We set a timer and take a group shot as the sun begins to stream over us.
Amaz’jhi takes a picture of me in headstand that catches the rays.
From the heart of India, I wish you all a blessed morning. May it be full of beautiful surprises and so much joy.