I suppose we always need reminders of the impermanence of everything.
But whether we think we need them or not, such reminders tend to visit us uninvited rather more frequently than we may care for.
After surviving two monkey invasions into my small forest dwelling in the past, I would not have felt a third visit to be necessary. They had certainly left their mark in my life and a point had been made.
However, recently a friend came to visit me at my little tin palace at a retreat center not far from Darjeeling. We had not seen each other for a long while so there was much to catch up on and share. Prior to my friend's departure the next day we decided to take a walk through the forest to a flat and open area near some tea gardens. From this place there was a lovely view of the surrounding valleys and mountains. From habit I advised my friend to check her hut and be sure that all the windows were shut and I made a thorough check of my own. I even double checked that everything was secure, closed the door, locked it and off we went.
It was a delightfully warm and sunny morning, the sort of morning that brings a good deal of optimism and spontaneous joy to the heart. The air was slightly hazy but even so, the majestic, white forms of the eastern Himalayan giants rose up before our view, breathtakingly beautiful.
A couple of hours slipped by but we hardly noticed until the familiar rumble of empty stomachs warned us that it was nearing the lunch hour.
Making our way back through the forest we could only marvel at the natural beauty of the area as we picked our way over the cobbled road canopied by old walnut, pine and Utish trees.
However, after crossing a small bubbling stream, just before the gentle rise to the monastery staircase, we noticed a young man on the road looking up very intently at my little cottage nestled among the trees and bamboo groves on the ridge.
I saw him but did not immediately understand why he was standing there and gazing up with such rapt attention. Just then a monkey, struggling to run with a jar of something tucked under its arm, suddenly shot out from behind a bush and darted across the road just in front of us. It looked very comical but then the implications of this little display suddenly ignited the light bulbs in my mind!
Holy sh......! It all became clear, horrifyingly clear. I started to run. Poor Katya who was not far behind had no idea of what we were in for, but I knew only too well.