by Linda McMillan
Middle-aged women traveling alone are not common in Ye. English-speaking women from America are not common either. Thus, last week, when the traveler stepped into the beer station, all eyes turned to gaze upon the fat, white, lady from afar.“Where you come from?” they wanted to know.“I am from America,” said the traveler. And all nodded that they know where that is, and they murmured “Obama, yes… Obama, strong.”“Why you come Ye?” They wanted to know.“I came to meet you,” she said. They were unimpressed with this answer, but let it go. “I went to the lake,” she said, “…and I saw your fish.” And, finally, she was invited to sit down and tell the story of her day in Ye.“I saw the fish fighting for food. They seemed do desperate, like they would die if they didn’t get some.” And they all agreed, the fish are desperate.They are shiny fish, about the size of a human hand, and they vie for small pellets which pilgrims buy and drop into the water. The fish literally swim on top of one another in the quest for some food. Sometimes, in their enthusiasm, they jump out of the water entirely, landing on the sharp rocks that line the edge of the lake. A young lad usually pushes them back into the water, but there were fish bodies that didn’t make it back in too — fish who struggled so hard for survival that they didn’t survive. Other fish were injured, swimming crooked but still trying for a few nibbles of food.“I think that we are also desperate for some kind of food,” she ventured. Everyone agreed, we are desperate for something.“Later,” she continued, “I walked out on the causeway to the little Buddha shrine. Even out there, I could hear the fish smacking and swimming, begging for some bit of food. But, I believe that out beyond the Buddha — past his placid expression, the candles, and incense, and hopes of many worshippers, out past all the accountments of religion — there is a big fish who swims alone.”“Yes, the lake is deep,” they said. There would be food, and there would be release from the clamor of constant desire.No conclusions were drawn. The beer was finished, and the traveler left.