Linda Leaming's memoir Married to Bhutan, published today by Hay House, is a story about following your dreams and finding true happiness. In Leaming's case, that journey led her to the remote mountain kingdom of Bhutan. In a guest post, Leaming writes about what Bhutan is doing right, and the magnificent creatures who call the country home.
Living in a magical mountain kingdom
guest post by Linda Leaming
So many of us educated, plugged-in Americans are trying to be socially responsible and responsive. So we immerse ourselves daily in news of wars, natural disasters, and celebrity recidivism—it’s an endless stream on our Twitter, Facebook, and TV. It’s the way of the world. But every once in a while I have to switch off. I have to have some good news. And it has to be more than a cuddly kitten video on YouTube, although I do love those.
I live for part of the year in, and write about, a small corner of the world that isn’t particularly tragic or mired in problems. Bhutan is a happy, magical little place whose king would rather have Gross National Happiness than Gross National Product for his people. It's 200 miles from east to west and 100 miles from north to south, deep in the Himalayas between India and Tibet, a dot on the map. Yet it has every known climate zone, from snow-covered glaciers in the north to rainforests in the south, and hundreds, maybe thousands of endangered species of plants and animals.
The Bhutanese people do a lot of things right. They’re Buddhist and they’re not mad at anybody. They live close to the earth and they eat seasonally. They honor their traditions. They are aware that they have something very special, and as the world encroaches, they try to keep a balance between modern and traditional. They take their time, and they believe if it doesn’t get done in this life, then they can do it in the next. The Bhutanese environmental policy is the envy of the world; they are good stewards of the earth, and they’ve made a law that says the country must remain sixty percent forest-covered in perpetuity.
Bhutan and the Bhutanese escape the notice of the rest of the world. That’s good for Bhutan, because it can carry on and keep going. But it’s bad for the rest of the world. The world should know a place like Bhutan exists.
Bengal tigers that have historically inhabited the Duar plains of India to the south are shifting their habitats to Bhutan. They’ve never lived above 3,000 feet. But now they’re migrating to escape poachers, crowded preserves, and farmers who use slash-and-burn agriculture on their habitats. There are now fewer than 3,500 of them in the wild. A meditating lama that I know who lives in the mountains in a hermitage about 15 miles from Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital, says he’s seen tigers in the forest near his hut. The tigers have found a safe haven in Bhutan.
And so have I. And when the world gets to be too much, I think of the tigers and how Bhutan is buying them some time. I am so grateful and thankful that I have been able to have an association with this marvelous country for so long. I believe with all my heart that not just the tigers, but the rest of the world could use some of what Bhutan has.
[Thanks, Linda! Readers can find out more at MarriedToBhutan.com.]