Excerpt from Blue Sky Kingdom by Bruce Kirkby, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Blue Sky Kingdom

An Epic Family Journey to the Heart of the Himalaya

by Bruce Kirkby

Blue Sky Kingdom by Bruce Kirkby X
Blue Sky Kingdom by Bruce Kirkby
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2020, 352 pages

    Jul 2022, 352 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Jane McCormack
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About this Book

Print Excerpt

With unsettling frequency, I seemed to be drifting through life with my consciousness untethered. I lost track of conversations. It was not uncommon to drive somewhere, only to find myself unable to recall anything of the journey. In the supermarket, I wandered the aisles, unsure what I had come for. I had even lost the ability to read several consecutive pages of a book without Googling something. My brain felt constantly ravenous, its capacity for concentration and contemplation gone. The result was a state of never quite feeling caught up, of permanently fractured awareness.

The situation had worsened following the purchase of an iPhone. Now instead of reaching for my wife at dawn, I reached for the bedside table. Ungodly stretches were passed in the privacy of the bathroom, scrolling through Twitter in private, while large portions of my work days vanished into email and Internet wanderings. At the playground, I flicked through Instagram in the company of other preoccupied parents while my boys dangled hopelessly in swings.

On top of that, since the birth of our children, both Christine and I had grown increasingly socially isolated. Between sleepless nights, runny noses, emails, business trips, mortgage payments and all the other tiny, imperceptible assaults of modern life, it felt like we were slipping underwater. And while our marriage itself wasn't in threat of capsizing, it wasn't all smooth sailing either. We bickered, went to counselling, and then bickered some more.

"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives," Annie Dillard famously noted, and while I worried about our deteriorating situation, modern malaise is unremarkable. Inescapable, some might suggest. And we had more immediate concerns.

Three years earlier, on a blustery November afternoon, Christine and I had taken Bodi to a child development center in a neighboring town, where in a cinder-block basement, behind a soundproof window, we watched our son endure a battery of tests. Later, a hushed team of specialists gathered to deliver an opaque diagnosis of PDD_NOS, pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified. It would take years for me to grasp the full implications, but the synopsis was clear—Bodi experienced the world differently than most.

In the intervening years, Christine and I had tried everything we could, enrolling him in a palette of interventions, including social skills coaching, behavioral therapy, speech pathology, counseling and occupational therapy. Like all parents, we wanted to provide our son with every opportunity and possibility we could, helping him grow into everything he was capable of being. But despite these relentless efforts, I remained haunted by a vague sense we were somehow losing ground.

But it wasn't until that quiet winter morning, as Bodi bawled and Taj sprayed Cheerios across the table, that I saw the years slipping past and our boys growing older. I sensed a million opportunities lost and I recognized the role my own lack of attention was playing. And I understood that if there was to be any hope of truly connecting with my eldest son, of deciphering all the opaque messages he left scattered in his wake and bringing to light all the beauty concealed within, I needed to be goddamned present.

Something had to change.

For years, Christine and I had batted around the idea of taking our family to live in a Himalayan Buddhist monastery—we envisaged somewhere far from the tentacles of modernity. But it had always been a sort of fantasy, something that might happen someday.

Well, on that midwinter morning, as butterfly wings fluttered against the dark windows, I sensed that someday had arrived.

Christine—a truly amazing woman—required almost no convincing. She once spent an entire winter in the basement of a Calgary community hall, studying the complex rituals and iconography of Tibetan Buddhism, and ever since had harbored a desire to experience the ancient tradition first-hand. Within days, plans began taking shape.

Excerpted from Blue Sky Kingdom by Bruce Kirkby. Copyright © 2020 by Bruce Kirkby. Excerpted by permission of Pegasus Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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