As he turned off the car ignition, Tim sighed and took a minute, resting his hands on the steering wheel. He wasn’t sure what to feel at that moment but he allowed himself a smile as he grabbed the ruck sack that had been lying alongside him on the passenger seat. Once out of the car, Tim had a stretch and was conscious of the beeping of the central locking system as he secured the car. It was always so quiet here, just the sound of the birds and the occasional passing car.
It had been years since he last came here, he tried to work it out as he started his walk along the gravel path. The crunching below his feet sounded like thunder in the quietness, but no matter how hard he tried, he resigned himself to the fact that you can’t walk quietly on gravel.
She used to do this walk most mornings when she was here. The path encircled a lake and she loved walking for a little while and then just sitting watching the fluttering prayer flags which towered over her. How many times had she told him how everything seemed so much more real up here, there was more clarity and she had appreciated the small things; the fish leaping for the gnats, the wind rustling the flags and the rabbits that sat contentedly munching the grass.
He paused for a moment to get his bearings. He spotted the beautiful ornate exterior of the temple and the pathway leading upwards, towards Fairy Hill. He never did find out why it was called Fairy Hill, she never told him. He knew that the walk would be heavy on the knees for a while before reaching the peak and then he would be almost there. He imagined her huffing and puffing her way up here and he smiled.
Heading off, he made a small detour and stopped at the prayer wheel house. This was always a favourite place of hers; big brass rotating drums which when turned sent up hundreds of Om Mani Padme Hung prayers – she liked that. With just a spin of the wheel, she was showing her compassion to her fellow sentient beings.
Onward and upward, he finally reached the top of Fairy Hill and stopped for a short time to catch his breath. He reminisced, how many times had he run up here as a child? Now, somewhat older, he couldn’t imagine running up here ever again. This place seemed exactly the same as the last time he was here – with her. More prayer flags; some very vivid in colour but mainly faded and wind torn, flickered in the breeze. Little makeshift shrines, hosting a variety of Buddha statues lay scattered at various spots on top of the hill where people had left their offerings of coins, pebbles, flowers and even hair slides.
She couldn’t have known that he would be here now but she would have approved. She loved this time of the year with the season changing to the orange and browns of autumn. As he stood to take in the view from Fairy Hill, he noticed that the white Stupa looked brighter than he remembered it, maybe it was the blue sky and the autumnal sunshine that framed it or maybe the monks had being doing some DIY. His eyes scanned the scene at the bottom of the hill and his heart leapt for a moment. There it was.
Keeping his emotions in check, he headed down the hill towards the little copse of trees and the stream, which he remembered ran into the two rivers which crossed a little further down. He looked at his watch and saw that it was a little after midday, not long now before his reunion. As he reached the wooded area, he spotted the little tree stump which she used as a seat and smiled. He was here. Her favourite spot. Her thinking, praying, meditating place. He stood for a moment and remembered; so many thoughts and memories. It was hard for him to be standing in a place that seemed timeless and yet everything was different, everything had changed and moved on from the last time he was here.
He turned and walked to the edge of the stream. For him it was like greeting an old friend, it was all so familiar. Without really thinking he picked up a pebble and after spending a few moments running his fingers over the smooth surface, skimmed it down the stream. How many times had he done that as a boy?
The sound of the pebble hitting the water was interrupted by a chuckle, Tim turned around to see a friendly face in maroon robes smiling at him from the edge of the wood. His bald head gave away no indication of his age but Tim knew that he was getting on in years. Walking to each other, both men embraced. Tim knew how special this man was to her.
“Trinley, how are you?”
“Can’t complain Tim, can’t complain”, answered the monk “and how are you doing Tim?”
“Well you know how it is”. Tim replied “Shall we?”
For what felt like a lifetime, both men just stood and looked out to the stream and the fields beyond, lost in their own thoughts. Tim had memories of this place, that was for sure but she spent more time here than he did. It was her place really, her safe place and it almost felt like he was intruding
He wiped a tear from his eye, crouched down and watched by the monk, took out a little box from his ruck sack. He gently held it as he removed the lid; he paused for a moment before finally and very carefully emptying the contents into the stream. He watched the grey ashes as they were swept away by the fast flowing current, momentarily clouding the normally crystal clear water.
“Bye mum” he whispered, “Namaste”.
©Tracey Louise Marinelli