Gampo Lhatse, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
It rained all day as I drove around the Cabot Trail, and didn’t let up when I hiked up Gampo Lhatse. It’s a steep climb, so I was warm in spite of being soaked through. The view of shore hills rolling up the coast, wild and treed, and the ocean below. The smell of wet pine and earth. The trail narrow and rooted, and the enormous friendly boulder about halfway up that I pat as I go by. The sudden darkness of singed forest with a cave-like shrine to Kuan Yin. Tattered prayer flags tangled in the branches. Ashes and rain.
Gampo Lhatse is a symmetrical, wooded hill at Gampo Abbey, a Buddhist monastery in Cape Breton. Gampo Lhatse is a Tibetan mountain spirit, and the protector of Gampo Abbey. Gampo Lhatse is where the ashes are buried or scattered, including those of Ani Migme who taught me during my days as a monastic at the Abbey. I have a history with this place too.
Can it be that residue of experiences resides in the place where they happened, that memories remain in the soil and are revived when you set foot on it again? It seems that way sometimes, and what a bundle of memories were waiting for me here. Climbing Gampo Lhatse with Norbuu after the consecration of the stupa, the hum of monks chanting resonating in our bones. Walking back from the village one night after a baseball game with Rachel, Spencer, and Clarity, the four of us walking hand in hand in hand, spread out across the road and full of love. The long walk through the snowy forest on snowshoes with Karma Ghyatso, making it back just before dark with snow-covered robes. So many walks that were taken just to have a private conversation, because living in community and largely in silence meant that the only place to talk was outside and on foot. The moose and fox that we’d see on those walks, and all the rainbows. Walking in starlight so bright it flung our shadows across the ground.
Location: Near Pleasant Bay, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Length: 2 km
Date: 3 October, 2018
Sandra Cowan likes to walk on trails, paths, and city streets. She is based in southern Alberta, Canada, as a visitor in the land of the Siksikaitsitapi (Blackfoot Nation).