The life of a nomad is active, regulated by nature and requiring constant vigilance. The herd is the nomad’s source of livelihood, and is constantly exposed to the vagaries and cycles of nature. He or she must ensure the spot of pasture chosen provides the animals adequate nourishment, protects the herds and flocks from wolves, the lambs, born in the dead of winter, from the cold and ensure the ewes are strong enough to sustain them. They must be able to know their animals from those of other herders, hundreds of them, the sheep by their horns and the yaks by their size, color and demeanor, making sure none are missing each evening when they are gathered back at the camp. It is a life where constant alertness defines survival and success.
Moments for fun and release are rare offerings, opportunities that are eagerly latched onto, and are short but intense. A beautiful summer evening will prompt a dance amongst the wildflowers, the pasture in full bloom, a sea of undulating hills turned yellow. A special visitor will be a pretext for a lavish meal followed by games that will pitch the women against the men, involve water fights or tug of war, all provoking wild laughter and what would be, in other circumstances, considered outrageous behavior.At Norlha, release has been institutionalized by the picnic, a favorite Tibetan activity. Each year, the workshop workers, staff and their families and guests dedicate three days to the pleasures of summer. The Norlha employees are all former pastoralists, and though the nature of their work has changed from pasture to work room, their sense of fun and release remains unchanged. The importance of this event is marked by the seriousness with which it is organized; the spot carefully chosen, the food planned, the tents repaired, games organized, chores distributed. The picnic framework provides the platform for the most cherished, though often unspoken, aspect of the picnic; unbridled fun. The women pounce on the men or vice versa, drenching them in water, chasing each other across the pasture. The games we introduced, many inspired by activities in kiddy parties, were enthusiastically adopted and adults can be seen trying to bite hanging apples, feeding each other yogurt blindfolded or racing in sacks. The best singers are invited to play their mandolin and everyone dances in a circle to the sound of the year’s most popular songs.
This lightness of heart is not limited to picnics; a new snowfall will precipitate a snowball fight, and lunch break on a hot day, a water fight. In the first years, it was difficult to control, and pranks were frequent, most marked by the day the weavers teased their supervisor by tying her to a loom.