In our backyard a tattered set of Tibetan Prayer Flags flutter like butterflies anxious to be free. Four years old, their colors have faded and the individual flags have become fringed and frail from the seasonal moods of Minnesota. It makes me sad to see their decay, and happy as well.
I bought the set when I was in the small Tibetan town of Tagong. It once held a bit of an outlier reputation, almost a â€œwild westâ€ sort of feel, but under Chinese occupation has felt growing pains and domestication. Or, so I have been told. The streets remained dusty, and it was not uncommon to see a Tibetan herder walking a string of horses through the back alleys.
Near the edge of town a small shop, door ajar, intrigued me with its colors. Inside, a woman who spoke almost no English sat at her sewing machine creating set after set of prayer flags. Our eyes met and she waved me in. The shelves reached floor to ceiling and were filled with varying sizes of prayer flags, aprons, wall hangings, and fabric. The woman motioned that I should look around, and I was happy to oblige.
I bought an apron in the style many traditional Tibetan women wear, two sets of prayer flags, a small wall hanging of some goddess, and a necklace of sorts. The necklace was hanging on a nail near a shelf, and was composed of a square of folded paper wrapped with brightly colored thread. I held it up to the woman and shrugged my curiosity. She pantomimed it was a sacred piece, and that I could have it. I was thrilled.
Today as I look at the prayer flags that traveled so far to grace our home, I know they are irreplaceable. The odds that I will go back to Tibet are small, and that is what makes me sad. And yet, by intention, each thread that gives way to the wind carries with it hope and a prayer for a peaceful world. Itâ€™s a beautiful design, a beautiful intention, from a beautiful culture. And that makes me happy.