Blue Sky Kingdom
One morning at breakfast, while gawking at his phone and feeling increasingly disconnected from family and everything else of importance in his world, it strikes writer Bruce Kirkby: this isn't how he wants to live.
Within days, plans begin to take shape. Bruce, his wife Christine, and their two children — seven-year-old Bodi and three-year-old Taj — will cross the Pacific by container ship, then travel onward through South Korea, China, India and Nepal aboard bus, riverboat and train, eventually traversing the Himalaya by foot. Their destination: a thousand-year-old Buddhist monastery in the remote Zanskar valley, one of the last places where Tibetan Buddhism is still practised freely in its original setting.
Taken into the mud-brick home of a senior lama, Tsering Wangyal, the family spends the summer absorbed by monastery life. In this refuge, where ancient traditions intersect with the modern world, Bruce discovers ways to slow down, to observe and listen, and ultimately, to better understand his son on the autism spectrum — to surrender all expectations and connect with Bodi exactly as he is.
Recounted with wit and humility, Blue Sky Kingdom is an engaging travel memoir as well as a thoughtful exploration of modern distraction, the loss of ancient wisdom, and the challenges and rewards of intercultural friendships. (From Douglas & McIntyre)
Bruce Kirkby is a B.C.-based wilderness writer, adventure photographer and bestselling author recognized for connecting wild places with contemporary issues. A columnist for The Globe and Mail, Kirkby has also written for the New York Times, Outside magazine and Canadian Geographic.
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"I had bought a new iPhone. As a society, we understand how distracting mobile devices can be — but at the time it was brand new to me.
"I got sucked in, like a tractor beam, to using the device. My children were talking to me and my son, Bodi, said, 'Dad, you didn't just hear a word I said.' I knew he was right. I knew instinctively something was wrong, that I wanted to be a better father, and to do better.
As a society, we understand how distracting mobile devices can be — but at the time it was brand new to me.
"I could sense this wasn't the way I wanted to live — and this powerful new force was affecting it.
"I have been charged with a small amount of overreaction in taking the children to live at a Buddhist monastery. But Christine and I both shared an interest in Buddhism. We tossed around this idea that it wouldn't do any harm to the kids to go and live in a monastery. Within a few months we were on the road."