“The clarity of my single goal — to stay on the trail — is like a meditation. My worries drop away with every step forward. Nothing matters but each footstep pushing into the snow. Everything else is out of my hands now.”
What a stark revelation for Dena Moes, some 10,000 feet high in view of the Annapurna peaks in Nepal during her family’s eight-month, life-altering trip to India, chronicled in her charming debut, The Buddha Sat Right Here: A Family Odyssey Through India and Nepal (She Writes Press).
To fully understand Moes’s feelings, one must understand what she had left behind:
“I am not driving a carpool today!” she sings.
“I am not at my computer paying bills!”
“I am not wandering the grocery aisles wondering what’s for dinner!”
“I am off-call!”
Dena Moes’ typical Californian day involved aiding women in childbirth, dealing with new parents and scheduling her two daughters’ activities and meals. When this busy and tired midwife in 2011 took a much-needed vacation to visit her sister in India, it began a love affair with the country and planted the seed for a future family pilgrimage.
The book tracks her journey to escape the pressures of personal and professional stress, seek spiritual guidance and to reconnect with her family.
After her visit with her sister, Moes decides to go back to India with her husband and two daughters (14-year-old Bella and 10-year-old Sophia) for an extensive excursion throughout Southern and Northern India and Nepal. Not only will they visit the site where Buddha became enlightened, but they will pilgrimage throughout the country to see and learn about the Gods and other holy beings such as Amma (the Divine Mother). Shifting from a working mother overwhelmed and unsatisfied in her American household to guest houses and worship in Southern Asia, Moes finds solace, understanding and herself.
It took two years of careful planning, preparing to home-school the children and packing the essentials before the Moes family takes off. The story of their trip through these fascinating countries offers readers a chance to understand the inner workings of India, Nepal, Buddhism and so much more. Moes describes the trials and tribulations of travel, and along with her personal experiences, she includes small diary entries from eldest daughter Bella to add the adolescent viewpoint.
We as readers are drawn into the world of India and Nepal, but we are also pulled into the family. Almost as if we are traveling with the family, we receive insight into the many complications of long-term travel. We see how the family copes with obstacles and overcomes them to grow stronger.
Moes’ narration is genuine — she doesn’t shy away from unsavory topics. When Sophia needs to use the bathroom on a disgusting train, she deals. When her handbag is snatched from the seat between her husband and Bella, you can feel her frustration and anger. These intimate anecdotes illustrate the authenticity of the story.
Moes does an exceptional job unpacking the history and spiritual importance of each destination. For instance, her explanation on the background of Siddhartha (the Buddha) provides context for the family’s next visit to the Bodhi tree (the tree he sat under when he became enlightened) — so we understand why the site is so special.
The history of the Divine Mother, a living saint, is given prior to the family’s meeting and receiving a hug from her. Knowing that her hugs are famous for their healing powers made the experience all the more understandable and interesting to readers.
Moes’ work opens a special, personal window into the diverse world of India and Nepal. I do wish she had explained in detail how she planned a long and difficult trip over two countries so that I could copy her. This book is a gem.
The Buddha Sat Right Here is available now.
ABOUT DENA MOES:
Dena Moes is a Hollywood born, Yale educated midwife with a BA in literature and an MS in Nursing. She is the author of The Buddha Sat Right Here: A Family Odyssey Through India and Nepal, publication April 2, 2019. Her book is a memoir of adventure, motherhood, and love, woven into a spiritual journey. Dena’s writing has been published in The Daily Beast, Ravishly, Midwifery Today, Minerva Rising, Mutha, Grown and Flown, and The Wisdom Daily. As a nurse-midwife Dena has provided compassionate healthcare to women, mothers, and babies for twenty years. Learn more about Dena, and order the book, at www.denamoes.com