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On Juniper Mountain
On Juniper Mountain
Angela Locke travelled to Nepal in the early 90's to research a new book, and found herself on a journey of discovery which would change her life.
Meeting a Tibetan monk in the supermarket before she left, he told her that 'the book is not important, but the journey is'. She would find herself returning to Nepal, becoming immersed in the life of the country, and experiencing a deep spiritual awakening. Her experiences would lead to the founding of the charity Juniper Trust which now works in Education and Health with the poorest communities all over the world. The Foreword is by Sir Chris Bonington CBE, patron of the Juniper Trust.
John Hunt publishing
216mm x 140mm paperback
“The journey is important.” These were the prescient words of a Tibetan monk that Angela Locke bumped into in a Penrith supermarket. She was hastily stocking up on frozen pizzas to enable a deserted family – husband and incredulous teenage kids – to survive her absence on a trip to the Himalayas.
She was totally unsuited to the venture. A middle-aged English matron fearful of aeroplanes and dysentery, she was driven by an inner compulsion on an adventure which was to become the most important journey of her life.
“Everywhere there are the smells of spices, filthy sewerage, human dirt, car fumes, dust. I hate the stinking river, nearly empty now before the spring rains and full of dead things, and I hate the funeral pyres, the dog, the terrible traffic fumes, the poverty.”
However, there is something else, something more powerful even than this overwhelming sense of alienation, the petty tantrums of hatred as her Western instincts reject the squalor and humanity pressing in on her. In the temple of Pashupatinath – “the name breathes a sigh” – she “begins to think in ways which stir me, and frighten me”.
One archway seems set within another endlessly on the sacred river bank. “Inside each is a lingam just like the last. It is the most perfect thing I have ever seen, this endless reflection . . . an image of creation . . . a perfect metaphysical poem of the Universe.”
It is like a child’s memory of dwindling to nothing in an infinity of mirrors “until, finally I could see myself no more”.
She is in a world of flowers, bright saris, shining water, playing monkeys, temple bells – “the most joyful thing I have ever seen”.
Her guide, Sharma, talks of religion. “People are just standing about and chatting, and others are laid out in the sun. I do not know if they are dead or not. But further down on the ghats, the body is still burning on the pyre.”
Even illness and exhaustion fail to lessen the glory of this world. “We seem poised forever in some shining void, as the lake shimmers around us, a mercurial blob absorbing and reflecting light, changing shape as it runs between crumpled hills.”
Out of respect for her developing spirituality, an old sadhu offers her a mantra for herself, but she still lacks the purity to drink from his unclean cup.
Angela is aware of the beauty and the desperate poverty of the people. She sees clearly that simple things can be done to better the lives of the gentle, noble and beautiful people around her – local improvements in water supply, sanitation, help in schools, in medicine.
As she prepares to leave Sharma presents her with a necklace of blue stones as iridescent as the changing skies or the shimmering butterflies. He says, “You must come back. To finish what you have started. . . I will be your guide. I will show you what needs to be done.”
Back in the western world of petty stresses and family agitations, the idea of the Juniper Trust is formed. Friends and local businesses and Ullswater School in Penrith are involved. They come to know Nepal. Hands reach out across the distance that divides the two worlds and people are brought to a greater understanding and life is improved.
At a meeting in Keswick, against the evening backdrop of the mountains she can think of the Juniper Trust’s quiet achievements, how it has brought water and light to just a few communities around the world. The members of the Trust have received water and light in return.
This is a remarkable personal story told with energy and vivacity and sprinkled with spiritual poetry. The achievement is in the doing and the being but the achievement is only part of the journey.
Steve Matthews, Bookcase Carlisle
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