On the 18 th of June, Ritoma’s pastoralists brought their yak and sheep to Chakka, the highest and furthest point of grassland in their yearly migration pattern. In late summer, they will bring their herds to a lower area, then back to the winter houses and grazing area, to wait for the grassland to rebound.
Following a circular route means repeating the same routine. It is not about finishing something, like going from point A to point B, but using the circle's continuous route to bring about a form of attainment or continuation.
Circles fill the lives of Buddhists, of pastoral people, and the people of Ritoma, home of the Norlha atelier, are both. Buddhists believe beings are caught in the wheel of existence, a cycle of endless rebirths, from which only the attainment of ultimate wisdom, through the accumulation of great virtue, can bring release. Tools of attainment use the dynamic of the circle. Like a sprinter honing his skills on a running circuit, the practitioner accumulates merit by turning prayer wheels and circumambulating holy sites, filling the air with mantras that spread positive energy and will eventually lead to liberation from the circle of Samsara.
Pastoralists follow the cycles of nature. Their patterns of transhumance take them yearly to the same pastures earmarked for each season, timely moves that will contribute to the balance of the grassland’s fragile ecosystem. Wild flowers, many with medicinal properties, cover the pasture in summer. The yaks graze on the plants, their hooves move the soil and spread the seeds, and their dung brings nutrients that facilitate the plant’s reproductive cycles. In absorbing the plants, the yaks will filter their unique properties into their milk, which will be consumed by and benefit humans. The pastoralists believe that respecting this delicate equilibrium, the local deities will be kept happy, and will answer their prayers for protection. Contentment is virtue, and virtue brings fulfillment.