Bo & the Wish Fulfilling Tree

Bo has taken a huge step forward in his art of painting local scenarios–Angel Island, Dunphy Park and the sailboats against the Golden Gate. I notice lately that his colors are brighter and the self- portraits in corners have changed the expressions on their faces from fear to hope. One may even call the looks peaceful. Our town is Bo’s gallery, outdoors, along sidewalks and by the bay. Bo is our Basquiat.

Everyone that moves here meets Bo eventually. He rides his bike through town with his keyboards strapped to the back fender and is always wearing pin striped overalls covered with paint. Bo sells his paintings to earn his meager living, that of living in his van, an art masterpiece in itself. The local authorities look the other way as long as Bo causes no problems. The majority of town locals own a Bo and I’ve decided that it’s time I do too, a simple evolutionary process similar to that of when one first moves here and attends their first art festival. Locals all have their one time expensive piece that says that they belong here, including me. We all want to belong.


Swerving through the cobbled streets from Kathmandu to Patan in a motor rickshaw I literally hold on to the side rail as we dodge bicycles and cows. I’ve called Kathmandu home now for the past 2 years since writing for its international tourist publication. Patan is a medieval Newari town with an ancient temple complex, Durbar Square, which dates back to the 6th century and the Licchavis and Mallas, key castes in the development of the valley. It is an artistic community with many of its works devoted to the gods and their religion which is a combined form of Hinduism and Buddhism. When we arrive at Patan Dhoka, the historic town entrance, I feel once again “at home”

I pay the driver 50 rupees and extra 10 for good service. I walk through the damp doorway and up the narrow flight of stairs to the second floor flat belonging to Lok and Sati. Lok opens the door before I make it to the landing, as always, Lok’s diligent. Namaste, Namaste, Namaste! We bow and I enter. Sati is at her sisters today. Lok begins preparing tea and asks if I’ve heard about the milk. I explained that I had been on assignment in Solo Khumbu for 3 months and knew nothing. Lok tells the harrowing story of how the Ukraine sold radioactive powdered milk to Nepal, how they tried to sell it first to Bangladesh and even they said no but Nepal’s king agreed. Only drink the fresh milk for now.

Lok’s is of Chitari caste known for its paubbha painting or religious iconography. He is one of the best and placed second in all of his caste in the King’s awards. The other man, Prem, who has years and experience on his side, placed first. Chok has just returned from Kyoto 4 months ago where he was hired to repaint its temples. Lok and Sati lived there one year and had enough. Lok talks about how people in Japan who eat at McDonalds pay a high price for a meal. For a hamburger, fries and soda it costs $25.00 USD! Since they returned home the Maoists have moved in directly above them on the third floor. They hear loud organizing parties all night long and do not understand the dialect. Sati feels afraid. She fears for her family’s safety and especially for their newborn baby girl.

I am here to pick up my masterpiece, the Wish Fulfilling Tree, Lok’s been working on since his return. He says he’s finished and that it is his best to date explaining that he added more gold leaf than we spoke about because it needed to have it, but there will be no additional charge. Lok is a perfectionist and a good man. I trust that his painting truly needed it. He tells me to wait in front that he will bring it to me. The painting is large, cumbersome, but he manages to bring it in the front room with no help. The gold silk cover rises and before me is the best painting I have ever seen.

Lok explains to me the painting’s meaning. The low part is the animal realm, the lower life form rising from the sea. In the center is the tree of life which has life’s fruits–precious and semi- precious gems and gold- which arise from good karma. There is a man and woman in the center, devi and consort, who pick from the tree. Behind them are the Himalayas and above are the gods. Gold leaf is plentiful and colors traditionally stoneground–indigo and cinnabar–with tsunami like brush stokes for the water and a horizon in Dottism. Although it is considered sacred art the painting has all the elements of what we in the west consider fine art.

I am grateful, for the chance to know Lok, to understand his belief system and to have a piece of his art work, his Wish fulfilling Tree. Grateful to today, back in America, have a remembrance of his heart hang on my home’s wall. Grateful simply for the chance to belong.