Monday, February 9, 2009


Through the clouds, I gazed at the mountain to which I was headed, in the gloom of the northeast dawn. I went up onto Shiliin Bogd, the wind freezing the back of my neck. Offering scarves, old and new, fading and thinning and fluttering about. The vultures’ wings growing tired over the mountains on the steppe. The wind, invisible on the high passes of the Altai, whistled over the snowy and silent peaks. Everywhere on the sandy plain, as though remote, held the scent of arz. Last year’s tall grasses were ragged with raindrops. I might have imagined Shiliin Bogd a vast blue ship upon the grassy ocean.

I walked three times around the high dark hill. There were many up ahead of me. But I was here for the first time. It is said that the mountain contains a relic of a holy man, that its essence is holy. I thought about its shining beauty, battered by the wind. It glistened on my queue. The clear, bright air filled my heart.

The huge red sun pours out over the southern slopes, touching me deeply. The dust swirls, dense in the sun, as though moved by the hooves of a million horses. I have seen the sun, rising in this way over Shiliin Bogd. I could never in my life forget its shining.

And white gazelles were crowding together at the sound of the arrow on the pennant placed on the peak of Shiliin Bogd, crowding together on the land broken by gullies on the steep southern slopes. The tangle of awkward lines woven by old women disperse and gradually fade away, as though attracted by the seat of honor. Coming down from the mountain, I saw someone going back. And swirling juniper smoke seemed to be forming a screen. My mind grew calm, like a improvement in the weather.

I went on further, and I looked back. A couple of lines from a precious poem about the distant mountain came to mind. I turned from the north and followed the track. This is what the poet was singing to my mind:

Shiliin Bogd is skyblue,

and the mind’s birds singing.

Until I come back again, this mountain on the gentle steppe will be skyblue in my dark eyes, and the birds upon my pennant mind will be singing.


One morning, a couple of days ago, I was walking beside Blackwater Lake. The lake was peaceful. Not even the slightest wave. A clear skyblue in the silence. On the distant eastern shore, a mountainous island rose from the depths of the lake. To the west of the deep skyblue lake, it seemed as though people had been moving among the bulrushes. The grasses had not faded on the mountain. A deep green. A few geese waddling on the banks. And a couple of white birds, unmoving. The surface of the lake was like a mirror. A few encampments along the banks. Outside the encampments, the cows and bulls are lying on their sides. As autumn moves in, the cows briefly forget their calves, and head for what remains of the fresh grass. This morning the cows are in the pasture, but tomorrow morning they will be on the tethering-line. Milkpaint. Miilk is ladled into Blackwater Lake to whiten and thicken it. I warm myself in the sun, high up, free from a cloudy veil, and a distant wind chills me slightly on the road. When the children are up, why should they go to school? The ger are scattered around the encampment. A remote sound, the noise of a distant car. A dry white dust rises into the wind of generations. The eyes of the cows and their calves ooze in the swirling dust, their coats fluttering. Hard pieces of dung blowing in lines. The blue mountains are yearning for the blue sky. A cuckoo rises up, thrilled, like a blue bearcub. And I head home, watching again the surface of the lake, ashamed to be abandoning it until the coming of spring. And the great blue water remains, sighing like my mother.

30 September 2005