Sunday, July 30, 2017

New Audiobook...Walking with a Himalayan Master

Walking with a Himalayan Master...on Audio!
You can order here.

Excerpt from my new audiobook.

A Child of Agni

      Snow was never an enduring challenge in our portion of
Pennsylvania. Consequently, spring always arrived on time. Once
he sensed the warmer seasonal change coming over the mountains,
Swamiji would rally the troops and call for the annual day of
grounds cleaning. We donned old clothes, hats, and gloves, put
the phones on hold, and set the kitchen staff making picnic food.
Everyone enjoyed the outing, for it was a pleasant change of pace
from the indoor work. Of course, the master himself always pitched
in, enthusiastically barking out assignments and organizing crews.
On cleanup day he was in a rare mood, pleased to have so many
students working in the outdoor beauty, loving the sun and the
wind and the challenge of such a huge space. He teased as he
walked around, humorously inspecting everyone’s work and
strongly recommending their consideration for new careers.
      Our focus was the immediate grounds within a rolling mile
radius of the main building. Bramble bushes with thorns were
waiting to be cut out; dead branches pleaded to be trimmed;
weeds and rocks and debris all found new homes. In the cool air
of the bright sunny sky, we scattered in all directions, grabbing
tools and snapping to work with orders to chop and pick up and
rake and tear out.
       I volunteered to take care of the fires. I pursued the endeavor
alone, finding dead branches and uprooted scrubs strewn on the
paths from the autumn and winter toll, collecting the piles the
other workers left for pickup. Once I stacked the piles of branches
eight to twelve feet tall, I lit a match and moved to the next likely
pile. I kept a canteen of water at my side and ate fruits most of
the day. The aromas of the fires, the textures of the branches,
the struggle of lifting and stacking the twisted limbs, and then
lighting the flame and feeling the heat made the hours slip by.
I enjoyed working alone, hearing the others scrambling in the
woods and fields about two hundred meters away. Swamiji, in
the meantime, came by and swiped my hat and, not to be outdone
by me, set a few fires of his own among the grass fields behind
the building to encourage new growth. By five o’clock, we usually
had about thirteen fires burning.
       One late cleanup afternoon, some of the students who lived in
town arrived with their children to join us for an outdoor supper.
Looking like a bunch of displaced immigrants with thorn cuts and
bruises, we laughed at our dirty attire and reminded Swamiji of
how much he owed us in wages. He replied that we owed him,
not only because we undoubtedly destroyed many of his plants
in our careless clean up, but also for the opportunity to gain
experience in possible new caretaking careers.
       People were tired, but felt good, and after supper they
headed for the showers. The sun dropped behind the hills, and
the first stars began to blink. Swamiji called Theresa and me
for a walk through the grounds to survey the day’s efforts. My
clothes reeked from burned wood and sweat, and my face was
charcoaled with soot, but no one seemed to mind. My earlier fires
were smoldering safely; the last one, which had a huge log in it,
was still ablaze. We sat on rocks before it and watched the flames.
       Swamiji didn’t say anything for some time, just sat pensively
looking at the fire. He wasn’t staring like most people would;
rather his peering seemed to discern something about the fire,
as if the fire was revealing to him that which no one else could
perceive. Without turning his head, he poked the flames with a
thin branch and spoke to us. “Agni is my friend.”
       His admission didn’t surprise me, for I had noticed over the
years that fire, called agni, beckoned with fascination for him.
       “When I was a boy,” he continued, “my uncle wanted my
inheritance, so he hired some thugs to kill me, in order to make
himself the sole beneficiary. Once my master and I were walking
in the mountains when suddenly he said that we should camp.
We gathered some wood and built a fire. We continued to throw
logs on the flames until it was a blazing bonfire. Then my master
lifted me up and placed me in the center of the fire. Just then the
killers came into our camp and demanded to know where I was.
       “ ‘As you can see,’ replied my master, ‘there is no boy here.’
       “The men peered about saying ‘The boy must be dead, for no
child can survive these mountains at night.’ They said the same to
my uncle who accepted their report and stopped looking for me.
       “After their departure, my master reached in to the fire and
took me out. I did not burn; the flames were harmless before him.
       “Never be afraid of fire. Agni, the God of fire, promised me
that you would always be protected.”
Our teacher looked at us across the ebbing flames and
reiterated the words of his master to us.

The Wanderer