These are my journals from my first year in Bhutan. They’re creased and frayed from being opened and closed, carried and read,
packed and moved, shipped and stored, in various bags and boxes, over twenty-five years, between Pema Gatshel and Toronto, via Kanglung and Thimphu, and innumerable places in between.
On some pages, passages are circled or starred, marking material that made its way into my memoir. In other places, where I wrote in pencil (what? why?), the words are illegible. But even where they are perfectly clear, many entries describe things I have no recollection of now: a picnic in front of a temple, an onion growing in a bottle, a journey with candles at night.
I kept a journal in order to have a second memory; in case the first one failed, I thought, I would be able to open the pages and relive these moments. And on some pages, I can. (Class IIC, I remember your crazily smiling faces!) On other pages, however, the words bring back no images. It’s like trying to recall someone else’s story: you know they told you, you just cannot remember how the whole thing goes. (“For some reason they were walking in the dark….”)
And I am stricken with sadness at the realisation that these memories will not restore themselves, that what I recall of my time in Bhutan will shrink as I age, the years I spent there becoming shorter and shorter until they can fit into a dream.
And then, how I am reminded of the words of the Buddha! Decay is inherent in all component things.
But I am glad, still, to have this fading, tattered record. Around this date in March of 1989, in Pema Gatshel, I was listening to the rain fall and reading The Kiss of the Spider Woman, and when I got to the last line, I burst into tears. I know this because I wrote it down. I wrote down the line as well, but as it happens, I also remember it: “This dream is short, but this dream is happy.”