braid

I often told myself stories of her.

I took the scraps of memories my father would share and I would collect them, secretly.

Slowly, she became almost real to me as I assembled his words to fit in my heart

but my heart is selfish,

she is not full, still not satisfied.

So I allowed my mind, to try to appease her sister, my heart, by letting her run free.

Imagination, run. Through the vast expanses of the plateau, into the rivers and high above the mountain peaks, dare to touch the sun while holding onto pillowed clouds.

When it returns,

gives me the fruits of its labour. Its findings.

I braid the pieces together, grip each strand with ease and I see her hands guide mine. She tells me that we are intertwined. She and I, we can never part. We hold pieces of each other where ever we go.

One day, I will give scraps to a young one, and she too will secretly collect, create and comfort herself.

As I did, as I do.

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Today on the anniversary of the 55th Tibetan Women’s Uprising day, I wanted to honor my momola (grandmother) with a poem. I think of the countless women who’ve fought for our country and who continue to fight to survive and provide for us to this day. I cherish the women around me who’s vibrancy, wisdom and resilience empower me and help me inform my strength and identity as a Tibetan woman.

In Janice Campbell Hale’s book “Bloodlines: odyssey of a native daughter”, she shares a collection of personal stories and memories:

“How I envied them. How I wished I, too, had known her, had listened to her stories, had understood the language. I imagined her, though, when I was a child, and she became almost real to me. My family had a photograph of her taken in old age: She is small and thin, her face wrinkled, her eyes squint in the sun. Her long hair is white. She wears it parted in the middle and in two braids that hang in front to her waist. She is dressed Indian style. She had a fragile appearance, but she was never fragile, they said, never…part of her that lives on in me, in inherited memories of her, in my blood and in my spirit.” (Return to Bear Paw)

I realized that I too told stories about my momola to myself to make real a woman who I never had the opportunity to get to know. How our desires to reify the existence of lost loved ones by creating stories about them for ourselves so that we can feel close to those who are no longer here. When I was little, my father would tell me stories about my momola braiding the hair of other women in her village and as he told me these stories, I would visualize what that looked like in my head for myself. Even now, every time I braid my hair, I often imagine those stories of my momola braiding the hair of the women in her village to myself, as if these were real memories I lived to see.

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