First, a disclosure: I’m completely open to wonders and miracles. They happen to me. All the time.
I'm from Tennessee, the buckle of the Bible Belt. My roots are southern and deep, and my dear departed mother passed on the sacred rituals of frying chicken and cooking cornbread, a sure way for women of her generation to snag a husband. When I married it was somewhat late in the game, long after anyone expected me to, and it was to a rather surprising, albeit wonderful man: a Tantric Buddhist from Bhutan, a tiny country located in the Himalayas between China and India. Fried chicken didn't work with Namgay, who prefers large platters of steaming rice and super hot chilies, washed down with yak butter tea. He's about as far as you can get from NASCAR, tailgating, country clubs, and deep fat frying-- all the things we hold dear in Nashville. He's a quiet, shy, funny, deeply religious thanka painter, who paints iconography, indigenous to the Himalayas. We have an unusual marriage, but a good one.
We met about 13 years ago at the national art school in Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan, where we both worked.
Here are six reasons I married him:
1. I’d already fallen in love with his country. It’s certainly the center of my universe. Mysterious, rare, endangered, beautiful to look at—all of these adjectives are used to describe Bhutan, which truly is all of these things. They also describe Namgay, who embodies some of the best characteristics of his country, and of people in general. Also, consider this story, which kind of sums it all up for me: long ago, in the 8th century, a high holy man known as Guru Rinpoche (precious teacher), fled Tibet because of some political problems, and came to Bhutan. Actually, he flew to Bhutan on the back of his consort/wife, who had changed herself into a tiger. That’s one hell of a precedent for marriage in any country. The story is told to schoolchildren in Bhutan, and there’s never any description of it as “myth” or “fact” or “fiction.” There’s no distinguishing between any of these to my knowledge. When we married, I told Namgay I had a master’s degree in fiction. “What does fiction mean?” he asked. I find this very advanced.
2. He gets creative with Viagra: Once Namgay said he wanted to get some. I said, "Whatever for!" He said, "So I can see if it will make the plants grow." How to put this delicately? Because life is simpler in Bhutan, people have more time. There aren't a whole lot of distractions: shopping malls, movie theaters, restaurants, or stadiums, so the Bhutanese tend towards a certain intimate type of recreation. In other words, there's a lot of fooling around.
3. My in-laws are half a world away during the holidays. Actually, they are lovely, honorable and hard working people, and even if they are around, they don’t celebrate our western holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving, the Fourth of July, and Easter. They have absolutely no expectations of what a Southern wife should be. Talk about reinventing myself. I am deemed useless in a Bhutanese kitchen. And I am too educated and advanced for most housework. See? Magic.
4. When we married I had a basic knowledge of his language, Dzongkha, and could talk about food, household things and body parts and spoke at about the level of a six year-old. He spoke a little English. We decided if we couldn't articulate it, it wasn't important. We communicate more with actions, less with words. This really cuts down on the clutter in a marriage—a marriage that has lasted for eleven years.
5. Namgay is a Buddhist. Buddhists aren’t mad at anybody. You can’t imagine how much stress this cuts out of our lives.
6. Last May we had a terrible flood. Our house was high and relatively dry, but the power went off, and we were stranded. The next morning I was lying in bed, bemoaning the fact I couldn't have coffee. Then I smelled coffee. Namgay had built a fire outside with rain soaked kindling, and made coffee and toast, which he served me in bed. And there was strawberry jam. He’s like some kind of uber mountain man.
Sometimes in our lives we wait around for something magical to happen. We wish that we could experience wonders and marvels first hand, instead of in the movies or in books. But if we move out just a bit from our comfort zones, just aim in one direction, scratch an itch, follow a whim, pursue an intuition, turn a corner, it’s possible to discover a whole new world. That world doesn’t have to be far flung like Bhutan. Or even a real, physical world. Magic doesn’t have to be located in a particular time zone. And magic means you don’t actually have to physically get married. In fact, it can be just a change in attitude, mostly metaphorical. But you do have to marry yourself to something you feel passionate about. Go ahead. You know you want to.