Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Golden Eagles & Weeping Kiwis: A Mongolian Farewell!

The Golden Eagle features in the culture of Mongolia. Kazakh tribes in Western Mongolia have an intimate relationship with eagles, capturing young Golden Eagles and training them as hunters of marmot, fox, and wolves. Eagle hunting.
But to me, an eagle is more than that: it represents thoughts and feelings, friendships and memories that transcend time, space and dimensions, soaring on forever.

Friends we make upon the travelling road may be wonderful, fun and interesting companions for a fleeting moment in time, to reside faintly in our memories after we part. A few may be remembered fondly because exciting events were shared and enjoyed, creating special bonds that go beyond just a casual encounter.

How do you reflect upon the good friends you have met on your journeys? 

Photo of Golden Eagle by Bill Clark.

Play this as you read the words. Then play it again throughout the story I have to tell.

White Stupa No 1 by  N Jantsannorov.
 A famous, Russian trained, Mongolian composer.

Across azure Mongolian sky
Golden eagle soars, wings spread wide.
Where trails diverge, the blue flags fly,
Ovoo spirits are our destinies guides.

Rock cairns - Ovoo - besides roads and trails where travellers walk three times clockwise to invoke good fortune on their travels.

The eagle looks down upon the place
Where on Orkhon River's grassy swathes
Cotton carpets the trees' green glades,
Lasting friendships were duly made.

Wool from Cotton Wool trees covers the ground where we enjoyed a barbecue picnic with friends beside the Orkhon River near Khar Khorin, Mongolia.

Grasslands reach to horizon clear
Crushed thyme scents the crystal air
See horse and rider hurry there
For Naadam Festival draws near,
When silk clad wrestlers will vie their chance:
The victor does the eagle dance.

Wrestlers prepare during Naadam Festival. Victor of each bout dances with arms stretched wide simulating an eagle in flight.

When came the time for sad goodbyes
And new found friends need pass on by,
Fragments of our hearts will now reside
With the Eagle flying free and high.

Communities throughout Mongolia hold their own local Festivities at Naadam. Not unusual to see lone riders, often very young children, galloping across the vast grass steppes preparing  for upcoming races.

 White Stupa No 1 is often playing in our home or my workshop, especially through June and July, those months when we know Naadam Festival season occurs in Mongolia. For us, it's both a reflective, soothing tune and a very powerful melody. We're both back in Mongolia!
Deegii bought us the CD. Deegii is nephew of the family we were homestayed with in Ulaan Baatar, 7 days living and travelling with Zundui and wife Armara in 2005, on a Friendship Force exchange.

With no common language, communication boils down to more basic gestures and body language to get feelings across. You have to really concentrate on the person, and give deeper thought as to how you convey meaning and needs, and similarly you have to pay attention intensely to your new friend's feelings and intent.

Perhaps you reach each other on a deeper level? 
Perhaps language smothers at times? 
7 days getting to know each other, without common language, creates deep, lasting bonds.

Driving towards the airport on the morning of our departure, the thought that I would never see Zundui and Armara again hit me. Kay looked glum also. I was wondering, after all the short but intense time we had spent together, just how our friends felt about us, and did our leaving mean much to them?

Zundui and Armara were also quiet, then an animated discussion ensued between them. Zundui made a mobile phone call, chatted to someone, then switched on the 4WD radio and turned the volume up. A few minutes later we heard the announcer speaking in Mongolian, but with "Jim and Kay" interspersed several times coming over the radio! Zundui and Armara were also excitedly pointing at us, and to the radio, saying "Jim and Kay ". Then the announcer switched to English and dedicated the next tune to  friends of Zundui and Armara - "Jim and Kay, who are leaving Mongolia." 

I don't often cry, but tears filled my eyes; Kay was blubbering, and two weeping Kiwis listened intently to the music dedicated to us on that final farewell drive. It was a joyously sad time.

Thanks Zundui and Armara - it was the best of times.

On our return home, there was a big let down emotionally for some weeks - post travel depression syndrome. Then one day I decided to chuck one of the CDs I had brought back from Mongolia on the stereo. Part way through track five, Kay and I looked at each other as we recognised the tune playing as our "Farewell" tune!

White Stupa No 1.

In Mongolia, Stupa represent the Buddha's body and relics placed within it represent the life energy.
Simple rock cairns or Ovoo lie beside paths and roads where travellers may invoke good fortune for the journey by walking around it three times clockwise, and placing an item there, often a stone or pebble. Over time, the ovoo become quite large. Prayer flags will also fly above. Blue represents sky or space, white for air or wind.

Zundui and Armara used modern technology to create an online Ovoo to wish us good fortune for our travels by having the radio station play White Stupa No 1. We left Mongolia with our stupa on CD. Good fortune certainly has enveloped us.

It's a wonderful, hauntingly melancholic but inspiring tune, very evocative of the vast, natural and raw country with beautiful people with the hugest, whitest-teethed smiles.

And the best part is, now that I have written that verse, I can sing along with the music! Everyday!

For Zundui, Armara and family. Hope we meet again!



Ravenmyth said...

Jim...Wow is all I can say...the way you took this beautiful poem and intertwined your words with brought everything to life...and while reading and listening to White Stupa #1 it evoked a very emotional feeling...I so loved this post...what an amazing "Memory"...the "Eagle" was the perfect Metaphor for the wonderful mixure of stories, travels, new friends made and the sad farewells...leaving you with "Memories" to now share with the world. Brilliant my Friend...and very Powerful...xx

Jim said...

Thanks Raven Myth. If anyone could understand what this post is about, you could. The "eagle" is of course a fond memory that soars across time, space and dimensions...forever.

Jessica Brant said...


Love your poem and the photos are perfect..



Jim said...

Thanks Jessica. Did you like the music?

Roy Durham said...

the golden eagles fly free over my home, i have soared with they while hang gliding. that music is what i felt soaring with the eagles. great post just wish i still could soar with the eagles. god bless

Jim said...

That would have been a wonderful time hang gliding with the eagles Roy.

Jessica said...

Loved the song...I really liked the question you posed: "Perhaps language smothers at times?" I think that can definitely be true. I enjoyed reading your reflections...seems like you made a profound connection with a very special family :)

Andrea said...

That wrestling would be awesome to watch! We've met so many amazing people on our travels that it's always hard to say goodbye. I find the only problem with being so international is that all our friends are scattered all over the place!

Michelle Shaeffer said...

Beautiful music, and a lovely story.

Carolina HeartStrings said...

Wonderful sights from a culture very known to me. Enjoyed your post.

Jim said...

I Jessica. Yeah, I wonder about that sentence. Do we talk so freely, rely on voice so much that it swamps or lessens the need to use our other senses to tell us what is happening in our environment. Meditation achieves using the 'quiet' to allow us to read our inner senses...what are they telling us when we shut up, sit quiet, and enjoy inner peaced?

Jim said...

Hi Andrea, the wrestling at Naadam is a spectacular sight. Easier keeping in touch with people around the world these days, but in 2005, very few of the Mongolian families we were with had access to internet except through their work, so we lost contact. We still contact Deegii though who is studying architecture in China.

John in France said...

Jim, thanks for this. You are creating such a powerful new form of poetry. Adding this new dimension reminds me of artworks I have studied from 30,000 years ago, where their work was performed in different dimensions, not just like a 2 dimensional painting. Loved the music, loved the poem, loved the writing!

Jim said...

Thanks Caroline, I'll have to head over to your blog and check out your perceptions of Mongolia. Sounds like you were captured also!

Jim said...

Hiya John. If you can say that then I must accept that the concept has carried the feelings over, and on more than 2 dimensional level! Thanks Mate!