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Although I was tempted to submit many of the dozens of portraits I have taken around the world in a giant mosaic for this week’s photo challenge, I chose to post just this very special one.

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This beatific woman allowed me to take her photo alongside the wall of prayer wheels surrounding the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. She is one of the pilgrims who have traveled to Lhasa to pay their respects at the home of the Dalai Lamas of the past, as well as the temples and shrines in this most holy of Tibetan Buddhist cities.

What I don’t know about her is how she got here, or from where. Many pilgrims arrive in Lhasa after journeys of several months from faraway rural areas, and the most pious of them do it by prostrating themselves the entire way. They sink to their knees, push their arms and hands ahead of themselves to lie down flat on the ground, then slide their arms and legs together again to stand, only to repeat the supplicating motion over and over again for days, weeks, and even months. (And I think yoga-barre-Pilates is hard!)


Other pilgrims arrive in this city at the top of the world by car, bus, horse, farm vehicle, or on foot. It is a humbling vision to see them in our midst; we are there to try to absorb this mysterious country’s culture for a short time while they have waited a lifetime to get the chance to come to Lhasa. They are everywhere, twirling their hand-held prayer wheels, prostrating outside the temples, and walking circle after circle around the Jokhang Temple, the Potala Palace, and other sacred sites.

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This dear woman was but one of these gentle, devout people that make up the Tibetan population, but her sweet, weather-worn face is a poignant memory of all of them.