I arrived in the painful, bitter cold of winter. It was far below freezing! It was the first day of snowfall of the year and school was cancelled. I walked my little Bhutanese students’ home as we shielded our wind-burned cheeks against the stinging frost. However, my layers upon layers of clothes couldn’t stop the piercing Himalayan chills of Bhutan from entering my bones.
I hurriedly followed my students down an unknown, curvy road pass pine trees brushed in whiteout when suddenly the path before us shifted to a depressing grayish-blue. We looked up to see a heavy mass move above us threatening to hurl more snow. The Himalaya wintry was fierce; it showed no mercy. There were no signs of life-no greenery, no animals, and no trace of sunrays, only a collapsing dome of thick, dark mist. I felt as though we were in an eerie black and white photo.
After I saw my students off to hibernate in their mud homes, I headed home alone with death lurking in the chills. I felt mortality all around me – in the bare branches, in the frozen river, in the angry sky and in my heavy heart. I grieved the death of my old life; I was scared and nervous to be in a far away, frigid land for the first time. I wondered if the bleak, numbing darkness would ever go away.
But I learned that the darkest wintery hours of life always came to pass and I would survive winter to see the miraculous rebirths of springtime. All around me life was born from sprinkles of rain and the warmth of sunrays. Sprouting seedlings covered the forest floor, shooting ferns uncoiled, birds filled the sky and buckwheat fields turned pretty in pink.
The numbness of winter wore away breathing life into me, leaving no trace of darkness. I tore off my top layers of heavy clothes as well as my fears, skipping down my favorite road through the vast Himalayan Mountains. This time I had came to know the bends of the road and singing students followed me. My heart tingled with love!
I wondered if Bhutan could get any more beautiful. Needless to say, I discovered that when I asked life a question, it would always give me an answer; Bhutan became even more gorgeous during summer.
The summer monsoon rains had an agenda: To color the mountains neon green, to swell the rivers and to drape the sky with rainbows. Life was bursting everywhere – wild strawberries, bountiful crops, ripen fruit trees, flourishing wildlife…
I celebrated the abundance of life! I had a surplus of energy and my walks became longer as my laughter became louder. It was the happiest time of my life as my students took me off the paved road and into the forest to pick bouquets of red, exotic rhododendrons. The exquisite of summer made me wonder why life couldn’t always be so deliciously sweet.
And like the season before, fall came to teach me my last life lesson: Why summer had to leave!
Day by day the monsoon rains became less and less leaving the mountains to desiccate under the powerful rays. Everything transformed into a brilliant amber hue. Slowly the golden pine needles descended, twisting and turning above our heads before smothering the forest floor. As the air became thinner with traces of coldness, we walked slower noticing sings of alarming change everywhere; the leaves withered away, pinecones littered the forest, ferns shriveled up and birds retreated.
Under the last clear days, everyone was busy preparing for another transformation. Farmers plowed their fields bare, mothers dried mushrooms, villagers stored potatoes, men collected firewood and students studied for final exams.
As coldness approached, I yearned for summer and my heart cried out, “Why can’t things always stay the same?” Finally, among all the preparations, I realized that fall was here to prepare me not just for winter, but also for the hard times in life in order to make room for the new, such as the upcoming goodbye that I would have to say to my beloved walks and my dear students; it was time for another adventure, in another land, in another season.
On our last walk together down the winding road, I reflected on how blessed I was to have been able to witness the seasons transform the forests of The Kingdom of Happiness. I witnessed the nature of change, the cycle of life, the impermanence of all not only outside myself, but also inside myself.
Thus, I left Bhutan filled with joy and gratitude in the middle of a welcomed white winter. I had come full circle to see how the seasons of change could be found in the transitions of life.
About the Author: Sabrina Soares from California is an elementary teacher who loves adventures. She is currently self-publishing a book about fear, love and change based on her year long experience teaching in Bhutan, which was inspired by many requests from her blog.
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