The main temple sits amid the ruins of old, dilapidated structures strewn with prayer flags and stacks of clay roofing tile to be installed for the restoration. The grass grows untended and haphazardly softens the rough edges of the landscape. As we cross the threshold the rhythmic chanting seeps quickly into my soul.
It is cool in the main temple and the lamas are wrapped in crimson robes. Their blue cuffs flit about as they adjust and re-adjust as fidgety kids are known to do. The grace in the sweeping crimson wool and the tide of the chanting quiet my thoughts. Sweeping toward the sky in the center of the temple colorful drapes accentuate the rise toward the blue sky and suddenly, two small wren fly through the main door and up towards the eaves. Delicate chirps and the quick flitting flash of their flight do not slow the chanting and only distract my mind with an upward gaze and a deep, honest smile. I could have stayed there for hours, watching the boys wrestle with each other, wiggle in their seats and play with their prayer books. They are children, acting like children, smiling and goofing and coming into the practice that will define their life. They are children, wrapped in crimson, drinking milk tea laced with protein rich curd following ancient rituals. They are children, with their sniffles and their coughs and their honest, welcoming eyes. When you focus on just one, it is their voice you hear, louder than the others, crisp, clear, and determined. At one point the chanting stopped and the cymbals clashed, drum was beat and conch shells blown in an orchestral ruckus fitting of the boyhood that underlies this cloistered practice. Breathing deeply in the sound and the dusty cool of the temple I found a breath of peace deep in a valley in the Mongolian countryside.