Judith Conant Chase still remembers flying into Kathmandu in October of 1974, looking out of the window at the wrinkled terraces of rice fields, forested hills and the snowy mountains beyond, and telling herself: “This is the place.”
The American had come to Nepal to try to climb a mountain in the Langtang Valley, and 45 years later she is still here. Along the way, she has done pioneering work to document Nepal’s crafts, joined an ashram, started an organic agriculture movement, collaborated on a project to market ceramic products and started a museum.
“Nepal was so casual, and of the earth. It connected to nature in so many ways in the puja and the way people worshipped,” recalls Chase, who resonated with the Hindu mantra ‘Satyam Shivam Sundaram’ — truth is God, and God is beauty.
She travelled across Nepal, and while many foreigners at the time marvelled at the scenery outside, Chase was drawn to the interior of people’s homes and the everyday objects they used: wooden storage bins, straw mats, bamboo baskets, clay vessels, metal craft.
Chase never rushed through the countryside. She lingered and learnt from families she stayed with, collecting beautiful objects and understanding their traditional use and significance. She kept a journal, knowing that one day she would want to write a book and perhaps set up a museum.
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