The plane climbed higher and higher, the curvature of the earth was visible.
This might be fun for fighter pilots and astronauts, but I was not amused … I though I was going to faint, or be ill, or be ill then faint. Nevertheless, I was determined to go to China, even though I was all alone, to discover what it was that kept calling me to be discovered.
Usually I can’t put my finger on what calls me; I just get a nagging feeling that I need to be somewhere or do something and experience has taught me to trust my instinct and follow my curiosity.
I arrived with no fanfare to Hong Kong, where I was one in a zillion nameless faces. I stayed in the Hilton, ate well, dined well, went shopping as one would expect in Hong Kong, but something was missing. Those things bore me to the core.
So I took a ride on a Chinese “Junk,” (boat) in the harbor. I was still bored… too commercial so there was no magic. Something kept calling me, I wasn’t sure what it was.
A ticket office for local transit was close by so I stood in line as the only tourist. I wasn’t sure where or why I was going, but I knew I was going. The ticket seller looked at me like I was nuts when I asked her if there was anything interesting to see on her route, so she told me about some “Pirate Island,” where pirates used to hide their stash after attacking ships and towns.
Hmmmm. Pirate Island. Yes, that sounds great. One ticket please.
Against logical judgment, I boarded the ship with several hundred lovely Chinese people, and if you have ever seen me, let’s say I stood out like a sore thumb. I didn’t speak the language, didn’t know where I was going, wasn’t sure why, but was fascinated and drawn by something.
I’m not sure how long we traveled, but eventually arrived at a tiny lush island. As par for the course, the majority of the people were headed to the shops, so I went the opposite direction and walked a tiny, lone path down the neck of the island until I stopped at a graveyard and a Buddhist Temple. I had never seen a Buddhist Temple so I respectfully entered.
The smells of incense bathed me. The flickering candles entranced me. The deep red paint on the walls took me to another dimension. Vegetables and small trinkets adorned the alter and flickering shadows danced on the walls. I’m not sure how long I stood there, but I can return in my mind so perhaps, in a way, I never left.
I stumbled back into the world and out the door and gathered my thoughts outside a tiny hospital beside the Temple.
This is where I met him; a tiny, toothless, balding ancient man in religious robes who was potentially one of the most beautiful people I have ever met.
Perhaps he wished he hadn’t met me because I sat with him for hours asking every question I could think of, and then some. People kept walking up to us and were fascinated by the two of us bonding as if we had known each other for a lifetime.
And despite my interrogation, my relentless questions and fascination about his life, it was as if my memory of the details were obliterated from my mind the minute I left the island. Perhaps God purposefully erased the details because, in fact, the details really didn’t matter.
What mattered was his essence; I can sum up this man in one word.
He had a tranquility of spirit that I have met once in my life…. and he was it.
I don’t remember his name, and he has probably long passed on, but he lives on in my spirit and I thank him for his time and his patience with my million questions.