nepal’s divine light

{i took this photo this morning from the village of jomsom, just as the first light of day hit the himalaya peaks}


the greeting literally means “i see the divine light within you.” it’s a phrase the boy and i have exchanged with hundreds of beautiful nepali people over the last twelve days that we’ve spent in this magical country. and we’ve offered the greeting in true genuine honesty – we have certainly, certainly seen the divine light in these shining women, men and children.

last saturday, we were trekking along a path carved into the side of a brown mountain, surrounded by snowcapped peaks. as we began to cross a suspension bridge across the river we’d been following through five days of hiking along the annapurna circuit route among the himalayas, the boy noticed some landslides – dust and rocks plummeting down the opposite mountainside. we paused, and after the falling stopped, we continued walking. a few minutes later, we stopped to take a break at a mud-shack teahouse along the trail. while we were sitting on some rocks with some fellow trekkers, sipping water and snacking on protein bars, we felt the ground begin to rumble beneath us. it was a wild and frantic ten seconds – we ran from the building and lose rocks and the woman working at the teahouse immediately began to pray out loud – and then it was over.

in the moment, it felt equal parts scary and cool to have experienced an earthquake. but we had no idea then what this movement of the earth had done to the beautiful people of nepal – how much rubble and tragedy had collected around the divine light of their spirits in those small shaking slices of time. (the landslides we saw from the bridge were the initial quake, the tremor we felt was a significant aftershock.) it wasn’t until we had hiked dozens of more miles, slept two more nights, and felt several other tremors, that we were made aware of the awful disaster that had struck.

then, with wifi at a guesthouse in the little village of muktinath, we were overwhelmed with the love and concern of family, friends, and strangers and with shock at the devastation of this earthquake.

of course, our immediate reaction was an intense desire to help. we figured we’d get back to kathmandu as quickly as possible and throw ourselves into the relief effort, seeking to contribute to rekindling any collapsed divine light. as we considered the complexities of the situation, our desires to help only grew but we began to recognize the reality that without specific expertise and/or a very well organized effort, our presence in the disaster zone would most likely cause more strain on incredibly thin resources than truly effective aid. over the past couple of days we have struggled with strong feelings of helplessness, and eerie feelings of guilt around doing anything besides actively reaching out to those so close and so in need. but the truth is that this is not about us, our feelings or desires – it is about the divine light of the people of nepal, and inserting ourselves into the tragedy may only make a dent in the wrong direction.

we are still in contact with several organizations providing relief on the ground in kathmandu and other areas, and if we can secure a situation whereby our presence somewhere will provide significantly more help than consumption of strained resources, we will be so glad for the opportunity to serve. in the meantime, we have decided to make a donation to the red cross (we chose this organization because of their solid infrastructure, proof of making a difference, and our ability to designate that our donation goes straight to victims in nepal) and would love to encourage any reader to do the same (click here).

we are also hoping to absorb the unique experience we are having here, close to such deep devastation, in a way that will always remind us of both the fragility and the beauty of human life, the ever-present need to anxiously reach out to those suffering, and the divine light of the nepali people that has touched us profoundly during our time in this country. we feel confident that that light will not be put out by this awful tragedy, and hopeful that it will, through the power of compassion and the miracle of renewal, only be made to glow brighter.

{thank you so very to all those loved ones and blog readers who expressed concern and offered prayers on our behalf over the past few days. namaste. we are safe and sound in the beautiful lakeside town of pokhara, hoping to let our hearts grow from this wild experience.}


  1. Beautiful. So glad you're safe! SO respect your decision about serving! Namaste. You two are on QUITE the journey!

  2. Hey, this is a solid piece of writing. Well done.

  3. Thanks for link to a direct donation for Nepal!

  4. So glad you both are safe! We offered so many prayers for you and the people affected by the earthquake. And sometimes the best help we can give is staying out of the way not helping. How often people don't realize that. I hope your remaining time in Nepal is amazing! Enjoy!!!

  5. Char, you are a poet! Beautiful writing, and an absolutely stunning photo.
    This Nepal experience will be a life-shaper!

  6. Hi,
    Thank you for the update.

    Many of us have been really worried about you & Ian & have been remembering you in our prayers.

    It's so great to know you're both ok.

    Will continue to pray for the people of Nepal as they recover from this terrible disaster.x

  7. So glad you thought it was "cool" while thousands were dying. Here we all thought you were helping people out when actually you were finishing your vacation. What a lucky girl you are to experience such a "life-changing" event! *eye roll* Go home!

    1. dear anon,

      you seem to have really misunderstood my words :( i will try to clarify a bit.

      of course when we realized the scope of the earthquake, we were horrified that we ever considered the experience of feeling it "cool." i assumed that would be obvious, but perhaps i should have stated it more explicitly in the post.

      i do not consider myself "lucky" at all to be here right now. it has actually been pretty terrifying at times and i have felt terrible feelings of helplessness and heartbreak for the people of nepal. i am, however, feeling tremendously fortunate to be alive and hopeful that, although we have concluded the best way for the boy and i to help right now is send money and stay out of the way, being here now can help me become a better human more equipped to help others in the future.

      i hope that eases your eye rolls :) and helps to clear up misunderstanding.

  8. I love your deep heart and the way it sees light in others and feels deeply the desire to ease pain. I know it has been hard for you to be so close to suffering and agony and not have the ability to reach in and physically help. I think you are wise and good to know when helping wouldn't really be helping.

    I love you char. So sad for the people there. Your heart full of compassion and prayers and love for these people is a bright little mght amidst all that tragedy.

  9. So glad that suspension bridge "held"! I know you were both totally ready to defer or postpone your trip in order to stay and help but as we talked to people there in Nepal running relief organizations they told us that for many reasons you would probably be more of a detriment than a help at this point in the disaster. We love your kind and gentle hearts but also know how hard it was for you to leave. But we are glad to know that you have know flown out of Kathmandu and will be sleeping at the airport in Abu Dhabi tonight! LOVE YOU BOTH!

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