ALABASTER JARS

Life in Abundance


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Dung and Stars

by Fylvia Fowler Kline

Before moving to Nepal, I did my research. Lonely Planet, the Internet and an uncle who had lived there. But my information sources obviously did not prepare me enough. As I stepped out of the airplane, the smell hit me, almost knocking me over—the warm, pungent combination of diesel fumes, animal dung, and human sweat.

The hour-long drive from the airport was decorated with sights to match the smells. Animals and humans defecating side by side. Ancient buses grinding against one another, puffing black fumes. From somewhere deep inside my sterile soul came a silent scream, “Take me back to air-conditioned homes and litter-free streets!”

With every new day, I grew increasingly sensitive to every dung heap and diesel cloud. My daily walks were carefully orchestrated—wear shoes at all times; ensure pant legs end above ankles; use perfumed handkerchief to cover nose; and most importantly, don’t take eyes off the road. Always. Look. Down.

The inevitable happened one dark night. I stepped into a fresh, warm pile. In anger, I waved my arms into the black night and yelled out my every suppressed thought. And as I vented, the brilliant beauty hit me: Nepal’s coal black sky, far away and untouched by the pollution of its soil, showered me with the most beautiful stars I had ever seen—translucent, shimmering sparkles of perfect beauty. A canopy of gems, fit only for nobility; yet it shone on everyone alike.

Standing in a pile of dung, I was lost in exquisite beauty. All that time, while engrossed in combating the smells of Nepal, I missed out on the beauty. All that time, I was looking down instead of looking up.

Standing in that heap, I realized that life is kind of like dung and stars. There’s the good and the not so good. I can either spend my time looking out for the smelly stuff in life or I can revel in the beauty.

Life is what we make of it. A heap of dung. Or a thing of beauty.