Inside the cabin, the tea that Ama boiled this morning is reheating on the mud-brick stove. I ready the churn with butter and salt, and—protecting my fingers with a thick cloth—ladle the strained brown liquid from the pot into it. My eyes adjust to the dim light as I plunge the shaft of the tall, cylindrical churn up and down.
Tulku Drimey Ozer sits on a bench cushioned with a yak-skin throw. Uza Khandro is seated at his feet. Ama sits at a respectful distance, her head low, her arms tucked in at her sides. Two of our best plates are in front of our guests, stacked with tsampa balls.
Rinpochey must be the finest looking lama in eastern Tibet, with his imposing height, chiseled features, and fine moustache. A red thread is woven into his long hair, worn swirled up in a topknot. His right arm is pulled out of his long winter chuba, to cool him from the cabin’s fire. Its fluffy sheep-fur lining extends out around the lapel. He holds his mala against his chest and pulls one bead at a time between his thumb and forefinger in silence. Snow still clings to his chuba’s hem, obvious against the dark fabric.
Uza Khandro looks attentively to Rinpochey from time to time, tender and radiant. I’m transfixed by the intricate weave of her lapel and belt.
Once I pour their tea, I race to fetch the cleanest cushion we have and offer it to Khandro. She shoos me away without taking her eyes off Rinpochey.
“Sonam Palden,” Rinpochey says to Ama, “I sent my attendants on to Nyimalung so preparations can be made for our arrival. I’m here to see you because I know things have been hard since Lobsang passed away. He was one of my best, most loyal students. I feel some responsibility to make sure you fair well.”
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