One takes a small, slow, open wooden boat to the Pak Ou Caves. Over the past 60 decades, more than 4,000 Buddhas have come to live in these caves, spaces to retire broken Buddha figures. Talismans that cannot be disposed of find a home, protecting and worshiping the river gods and the people of Laos. The caves are located about 25 kilometers north of Luang Prabang on the Mekong. Along the way, the mountains rise in a golden green silhouette of faces and bodies laying along the horizon, which evokes the legend that the mountains are gods that came to earth from the heavenly realms when they fell in love, and lay down, where they became mountains, and now protect the people of Laos, and are joined in love forever. At the mouths of these sacred caves, local village people lend lanterns or small torches to light the way inside, and incense for those that wish to make offerings.

When I was there, it was almost dusk, and the only people I encountered on the steps leading to the caves were two old women and a group of giggling, curious children who quickly disappeared into the jungle as I entered the dim hollow. I was alone amongst the countless broken buddhas, overwhelmed by the energy of reverence and peace.  I pulled a folded up paper from my wallet. A scrap of hope and a reminder of possibility that had been given to me during the months I had dismantled, then abandoned, a life I had worked so hard for. It read “just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.”

Silly. Simple. Yes, I know.  But dear.

I opened it up and left it along a reclining Buddha figure. I had been occupying an untenable dream state, waiting for something, someone, some sense of peace, for a long, long time. So appropriate. The words were in their proper place, just as the Buddhas were. I knew I had the faith needed to continue on my journey. Being slightly broken, yet holy and of the universe, resonates every day; wherever I find- or quite often lose- my self .


November 2012