Richard Lutz is blown away by the flags that blow away.
I was getting kind of worried about the prayer flags that circle my house, whipping in the wind on a wire meant for a rambling rose. Not as dramatic as those (above) on the Tibetan plateau. But lively and colourful nevertheless as they girdle my house with all sorts of Nepalese and Tibetan mantras on them that carry hopes and prayers of a better life. I go for that kind of stuff. I really do.
They flutter above the stone wall near the churchyard and over to my shed and then over to a second shed. They were bought at a Kathmandhu temple and, later, more were added from a Buddhist retreat tucked into a Southern Uplands valley near the Scots/English border.
But they are getting tattered after a couple of years. They’re worn by the weather, thin as a whisper. They’ve been battered too much by the storms that roar up from Co. Antrim on the prevailing southwest winds and then smash into the west coast of Scotland. Those flags have had a time of it.
But then a guy who seems to know a lot about these things (well…a great deal more than me) explains all is fine. The flags are supposed to be blown to the winds in order to carry prayers and goodwill throughout the sky. They’re supposed to carried upwards on the gusts that sometimes never seem to end. He pointed to one flag with a symbol:
And that, he tells me, is the Wind Horse that carries the prayers upwards. They are swept away, eventually, by a ftorm ten gale or a soft breeze or a dry wind or a wet wind or even the touch of a zephyr. As writer Colin Thubron explains: “The air is printed with their words.”
There’s nothing to worry about. Nothing at all.
They’re meant to disappear. And the flags, each colour representing air, fire, water and earth, are slowly shredding and becoming more and more tattered and spreading their words. Yes, I’ll go for that take on the prayer flags. But the question is, not to be too flippant about it, will I get my money back when they fly away?
More than 300 miles to the south, in Worcestershire’s Clent Hills, I was thinking of those flags surviving as the December storms rolled in. In front of me, to the south-west, the low winter sun was starting to slip. Its rays cast a light dreamy golden colour over the Malverns and the Abberley Hills They resembled humpback whales floating in the rolling green countryside.
The Clents aren’t high, 1,000 feet at their best. But they offer a 360 degree view on a clear day; there’s those rolling hills to the south, the maw of Birmingham to the north, Shropshire’s Clee Hills to the west and way in the north-west just a hint of a smoky outline of the Long Mynd on the Welsh border. And just beyond, also, just maybe the Stiperstones, just maybe, as the light fades and the wind gets colder on our backs.