A paradise it was, the Himalaya
I fell in love a half century ago
with soaring peaks and glittering lakes
and plumes of snow blowing from the summits.
I climbed through deep valleys and gorges etched by rivers
and through pine and rhododendron forests
where strings of ponies sported red plumes and clanging bells
Wild roses and willows grew in dry creek beds.
I saw thorny, blue poppies
on a dry and scrubby hillside
where little puffs of dust rose with every step
and disappeared into the cold wind.
With reverence, I visited gompas perched on cliffs
their shrine rooms opulent and full of history
Curious, shy children laughed with me
while their families tended yaks.
I fell in love with thin air, expansive views and shining peaks
The majestic guardian that is the elusive snow leopard
was often in my thoughts
though never seen.
Now the climate shifts
Glaciers melt, permafrost warms
The ground dries
and tender green meadow grass dies.
Blue sheep tear at clumps of tough grass
Their numbers may dwindle
A hungry snow leopard takes a yak
Herder and animal conflicts may rise.
My love is a forlorn love now
yet I do not feel betrayed
for this is not the fault of paradise
nor of the splendid snow leopard that is its guardian.
I am saddened by changes that we seemingly cannot prevent
Species will disappear from the Himalaya
causing disruption in a finely balanced world
What will become of the snow leopards, the flowers, and the children?
Yes, I am saddened and afraid
that paradise may shrivel and die
Unless, like a beautiful snow leopard poised on a rocky cliff
we can balance our needs now with those of a future world.