07 December 2011


It is morning and apparently the full moon eclipse cleared the skies. After a string of foggy hazy mornings that set a deep chill to the bones I am sitting on the roof with coffee and my HajurAmma soaking in some winter rays. We sit together on cornhusk mats, her shiny little feet tucked up and under her long red shawl, my feet large and be-woolened in some hippy Himalaya socks. She is repotting various plants, sifting the dirt for kera (insects) that she claims are bad for the flowers, plants… she is fierce when it comes to insects and I have learned not to show her any that I find, like the beautiful hairy caterpillar I found during another sunning afternoon and pointed with childlike enthusiasm “ Hernus H.Amma, kasto ramro!” (Please look grandmother! How Nice!) Which then resulted in her furrowing her smooth brow and herding the little fellow onto the edge of a basket with a stick and dropping him over the edge of the roof into the street below, claiming that it was not nice and would bite us all over and make us itch.

I look around the rooftop garden and notice various things I have thrown away that she has retrieved and used, plastic bottles, Green Magma jars, and plastic bags. The other day she gave me a lesson on composting, telling me to put my vegetable waste in one bag and other waste in another bag and that then the vegetable waste will be put into the land. Roger copy that.

Now that flower season is tapering I no longer find the little bunches of chrysanthemums tucked into my doorjamb or windowsill in the morning, but mustard greens are in full swing so I will find a big leafy bunch on my doormat, we have grown more familiar so that it is no longer a quiet shuffling offering, but often accompanied with (if my door is locked) loud banging and shouting in Newari until I open the door, some mornings there is still a quiet surprise like the gundruk. Gundruk is this tasty ‘thing’ made from fermented greens ( I think) some friends who do not share my taste for it say it is Rotted Grass, whereas I prefer Aged Spinach, in any case it is a winter food and looks like dried black seaweed hair. One morning I went to put on my bike helmet and inside was a big nest of dry gundruk, yum.

We exchange plates of popcorn and now its tangerine season so I bring home bags of the little jewels and we sit in the sun peeling and eating, she organizes the peels and seeds into neat piles. One night she walked into my apartment, unfurling her had to reveal a crystal like piece of rock sugar and one pale green cardamom pod, “Khannus” “eat”.

As I work on my computer (on the roof where its warm) she sits or lays down to sleep next to me, she also encourages me to stop working and take a nap on the corn mats in the sun. Now when I bring my yoga mat on the roof she makes funny yoga imitations points at the mat and says exercise garne?

At night I will make tea and we sit together on the floor in the cold room, bundled and drinking warm tea, often when I am drawing she will watch and run her hands across the smooth paper. When I was packing my bags (moving!) I found some body lotion, she was greatly amused watching me smother my arms and legs and then she took some and hitched up her skirts, shawls and followed suit.

Today I am moving and she came to my door very early, with a steaming mug of tea and hot chapatti, in Nepali she asks why I am going? Who I will eat with? Who will I talk to?

Oh grandmother, I feel endlessly fortunate to have moved in to your building, all the hours watching eachothers faces in the winter sun, living our lives next to one another, my drawings, and your pickles. Both of us alone and quietly watching the others habits. My time here feels full of love because of you.

I go to get a taxi to move my bags back to Kathmandu and when I return to get my bags there is a pink plastic bag on top of my backpack, it is full of flowers and herbs from her pots. The whole neighborhood watches as I fill every inch of the taxi with my bags, rolls of paper, books, I look around for HajurAmma, she is not there, I smell the fresh sage from the pink bag and look up, there on the roof, she is smiling down, her hands in namaskarasana pressing to her forehead, the early sky like pale blue flames behind her.

Here we sit on the roof furrowing our brows against the sun.