Can't See The Fabric For The Trees

Sagarmatha, Nepal

Indicating a degree of privilege and separation, this young girl celebrates the last day of Tihar from the elevation and safety of her second story window. It is tradition for the kids to go around and sing songs to the adults, in exchange for money or other small gifts, but I got the impression that this young lady wouldn't be doing that. At least, not on the street anyway, like so many other children we encountered.

Tihar is the second biggest Nepali festival after Dashain, and usually last for five days. In larger cities like Kathmandu and Pokhara, many buildings and homes were decorated with glowing strands of lights, identical to what many Americans decorate with during the Christmas holidays. It seemed like such a familiar little slice of home!

But up here in the Everest Region of the Himalayas, where electricity is scarce and precious, there were no superfluous lights to be found. Instead, the primary and ubiquitous decoration were strands of marigold flowers, strung together to make garland. These simple marigold strands were hung not just around the windows and doorways of homes, but also worn around the neck, much like a Hawaiian lei. You can see that the ones worn by the young girl in my photograph are not old and dried, like many we encountered, but vibrant, new, and freshly picked.

I spent a good amount of time interacting with this playful young girl at her window, and quickly learned that she was not fond at all of my large professional camera, and would shy away; however, she had no problem whatsoever with my iPhone, even when I blatantly indicated that I was taking her photograph. So: Proper camera = scary, and causes the girl to turn shy and look as if she’s ready to leave, but iPhone camera= totally fine, and the girl is waving and happy and ready to play. Got it!

I talk about this phenomenon in much greater detail HERE.

Read that later though, because now I am dying to share something with you that is both amusing, if not a tad embarrassing. Since I had photos of this Window Girl on my iPhone and not just on my camera card (which was completely inaccessible at the time), I spent some time editing the photos in the evening.

I showed my friend and travel companion Kimby (who you can read more about HERE), as well as even sent a few texts of the photo to some friends back home. I did all of this, both the photo editing and the sharing, all under the impression that there was a tree covered mountainside present in the reflection of her window.

It was not until I got home and loaded the photo onto my computer, and sat down to edit in earnest with Adobe Lightroom, that I came to learn the truth— that the entire time, we had been looking not at the reflection of trees, but at a tattered and torn, white silk curtain.

It felt like the rug had been ripped out from under me, or a more appropriate analogy might be that the curtain had been pulled back! It reminded me of those old Victorian optical illusions where a single painting could hold two completely different images, depending on how you looked at it.

Is it a silhouette of two faces, or is it a vase? Is it a curtain, or is it a mountainside covered with evergreen trees?

If you can’t see what I am referring to, then never mind, and Happy Tihar!