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Namche Bazaar

the wait, the long wait

a weather-borne tragedy

oh my sweet defeat

 

but then among clouds:

helicoptors are the best

the timer reset

 

through the mist and fog

a clearing among giants

I stand on my feet

 

we begin at last

but, dear air, where did you go?

lethargy, no, no!

 

veggie lasagna

yak cheese, lemon tea, dal bhat

hard-boiled egg, no jam

 

step one, breathe two, puff

first steps are good for the soul

monsoon rain, go ‘way

 

up the mountains go

as the fog clears, higher still

to the atmosphere

 

benign mountain slope

here I am from whence I’ve come

the future is up

 

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Chronology is someone else’s problem.

I’m more a stream of consciousness girl. I’ve already told you about my motivations for going to Everest Base Camp – and then there’s the journey and the preparation for the journey, the gear, the must haves and the never do this.

Let’s talk touchy feely preparation. I knew from the beginning that my trip to Nepal was more than about a destination.  In fact, the place was secondary in many ways.

Trekking is really just, you know, walking. A trek in Nepal is fundamentally the same a trek amywhere. You just have to walk*. One foot in front of the other. (At altitude, one foot will go very slowly in front of the other as you move up the trail at a snail’s pace in order to acclimatize.)

The best physical preparation you can do for any serious trek is walk. As must as you can, as far as you can every chance you get. The best mental preparation you can do is, well, walk.  This is how I prepared anyway.

I love to hike alone. I like being quiet with my thoughts and a sense of peace and relief and freedom come over me. Surrounded by the forest, I feel grateful to be alive. I feel lucky to simply exist.

It was no chore to get outside and walk around for the sake of getting my EBC on. Every weekend for the last 4 or 5 months leading up to my departure for Nepal, I was outside in the horrendous heat and humidity of Arkansas. It’s a brutal time to be training with a heavy pack.**  Despite the sticky weather, I found the quiet time to myself was a great way to center myself and a way to be open to whatever thoughts and experiences came to me.

So often my heart and mind on my walks turns to meaning. The meaning of wamderlust. The meaning of self-actualization. The meaning of existence.
It’s a gift to hear my soul gurgle up its secrets, its purest joys. Somewhere in the foliage and bark, I find something sacred.

Herman Hesse said it better than me:

“For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfil themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves…

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life…

A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.

So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours….Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.”

 

 

Friends, you see now, don’t you? The truth for what it is. 

I walked to Nepal so I could make like a tree and find my true self, to find happiness in being who I am.  I trekked to EBC so I could come back home.

And even after all those miles, I’m still walking.  

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

*So, okay, it’s not as easy as that. For one, you’re going to have to walk forever. Then, with the altitude, a trek in the Himalayas is no walk in any Arkansas state park. And walking forever every day at altitude is plain misery. You should totally do this. Really. This kind of misery will make you happier than you can imagine.

* *Okay, it was only a 20 lb pack but 1) I’ve never done any pack work so that was plenty hard enough for me, and 2) it was in the mid- to -upper 90s with high humidity. Stop being so judgmental!

I’d forgotten how hard blogs are. There’s a story to tell and I keep thinking it’s about Nepal. I should be writing about Nepal. I am supposed to be writing The Nepal Story, after all. So, why can I not write about Nepal?

Dramatic sigh.

I was once told by my mentor to trust my instincts when piecing a narrative together, meaning I shouldn’t be so arrogant as to think I can manhandle an experience if I don’t let it unfold. My story hasn’t even unfolded yet. I want to write a redemption story that hasn’t happened, so it’s no wonder I can’t write about it. Truth be told, mine is probably not a redemption story anyway. Deep down, I know Nepal as a requisite transformative experience will be dark because, when reduced to its smallest divisible parts, Nepal is all in my head.

And there’s a writer in there, too, who refuses to shut the hell up.

From a distance, a shadowed mirage is waving at me like a summer heat reflection on hot pavement and this passage comes back to me:

         Despite our best intentions, we forget the dead.
         Do they forget us?                                  Jane Summer, “Erebus”

So. Leigh “Bindo” Binder*, if you refuse to die, I’ll just have to kill you off in a mediocre poem that’s an apology as much as a lament.

Sleeping Beauty
When the stem drooped and the petals died,
I slept
Sleeping beauty sleep

I awoke to gold
Light too bright
You offered me a dim corner

You and I shared caramelized melancholy
Like cotton candy
Adolescent sweetness, the things that grew in our heads

Restless dreams like your cigarette smoke
From a few thousand miles away
Choke me awake

Weighed together like stone
Bound and pull down like some English great, we weren’t built for this life
But mostly: Have we lived our eternity?

 

*Leigh Binder was a friend and fellow writer, who died two years ago leaving only his writing and YouTube videos (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-43KL2khFHhJ-LmRqA-y2A) to haunt me.

I’m dead with dying
There is an eye I refuse to catch

I was born with knowing
I look and I listen and I discern
I know

You’ve caught my eye
I’m not God
But I know

Tell me everything
The bile and the filth and the worst, pour it
All that will be left will be left behind
Listen to my knowing

Let me catch your eye
My knowing is a reflection
There’s no dream I can’t decipher
I simply know
You tell me what’s the matter
And that’s what’s the matter
A reflection
through kinder eyes than you can’t bear to see
This is my knowing

I was born in January
I am dead with dying
There’s an eye I refuse to catch

It’s the eye of a child
Who won’t let me see
Something terrible happened
Something awful and humiliating
Something that drained my blood from my face my screams from my throat my heart from my chest and
Something that puddled my potty down my leg and between my toes
Something terrible
And I don’t know
Something terrible
And I don’t know

Hollow now
I won’t catch my blue eye that eyes me in the mirror

I was a child born dead with knowing
It was January
It was cold something terrible
Something terrible
And I don’t know

In a sleep, the wound wept its tears
Bloodshed
Seeped from itself without knowing
But I knew
I saw your death a million times before you did

But then you said
In a sleep, all around was death, death, dea th
You knew bloodshed
Wept for us both before I ever did

Let’s forgo the easy way.

In October, I found myself at a funeral for a friend’s daughter, who was just shy of her 19th birthday. She’s just a kid. It’s the phrase that played on repeat the whole day. At the service, two things were emphasized that struck a deep, reverberating chord in me:

— Finish your unfinished business

— Learn as much about life as you can while you have the good fortune to have breath in your lungs

It made me think about what it meant to be an 18-year-old girl again. I can’t quite fit into the shoes of that girl anymore, but I remember the world had endless potential then. There was a promise of things to come. I still think there’s my whole life to do all the things I wanted to do when I was just a kid.

I’m not just a kid anymore–even though I don’t feel like an adult, either. I’ve had 18 more years on the planet than this girl did, and I can’t help feeling as though I have unfinished business.  For all the hard (and necessary) lessons I’ve learned in my life, I’ve not learned enough. I’ve not done my part.

I’ve spent a good deal of my adult life sorting myself out. It’s been necessary. I believe in the power of self-reflection and brutally assessing oneself. I’m self-aware, sometimes to a fault, and I believe in the power of self-reflection and internal struggle. While suffering matters – it means something – I’ve nearly out-suffered myself.

But I’m not a kid anymore. The thought is as sobering and final as the closing of a coffin.

And so when I started thinking about how to enrich my life, the one thing that kept coming up was travel. With the exception of a “go me” solo excursion to Alaska and some side trips here and there, travel has been on the backburner for quite some time. It’s too bad, because I feel a sense of freedom and euphoria when I experience a whole new world.

And oh, where to go. There’s so much ground to cover (literally). The immediate bucket list is chock full of mountains and/or glaciers and/or snow…the very things I do not have in my corner of the world. Nepal and Iceland are the top two international contenders while the national parks in Alaska, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming are calling my name stateside.

The details will come. It feels good to make an 18-year-old promise to myself to continue to learn what I can about universe. After all, I’m not a kid anymore.

there are no promises that can be kept
by gift we live by right we die
grace is optional
except when it’s not

the grace to bear grief
is sometimes always never
the only prayer there is

in these hot, breathless last days, it’d do us to get on with the praying
sooner than later

I went back to read your words
But they aren’t there
They aren’t to be found
The website says
Nothing here

There’s nothing there

Was there ever?
If I can’t read the words
I can’t be sure I ever knew you

You always knew I was of flightly, flimsy flesh
So why take the words from me
Why is there nothing there?

image

As Bryan Borland’s closest frenemy, I have of course not read or bought his brilliant new book, My Life as Adam. I have seen the artistry on the front cover. It’s very intense. I have lived Spammed and seen the coming of Adam in twilight technicolor. The way Bryan cuts through his butter bread and shouts out to all the boys who wronged us.

Listen, I would purchase it and read it. Really I would. But you see two years ago Bryan bought me a Wally Lamb book. They are epics and I’m 3/5 of the way through it. If I stop now, it would be an insult to Bryan, now wouldn’t it?

I hear the format is nice. Call me critical but I doubt the font is in bookman old style, which is unfortunate because I’d give him a higher rating for the right font.

I give a thumbs down to Bryan’s acknowledgements, which don’t include Medicated Lady, for shit’s sake. Fuck that. This book sucks.

And besides, a guttural voice in me says: Why pay for the cow when I already got the milk free, see?

Rating: 72-hour Suckage*

*A note on the rating system: being obsessed with ticks and the transmission of lyme disease or worse, my rating system is not based on the number of ticks that I would give your book. Instead, it’s based on the amount of time that the tick is imbedded in your skin. The longer the tick stays on you, the worse it is and so the more suckage hours, the worse the book is. There are very obvious reasons why Bryan’s book scored higher than the 36-hour suckage mark that it usually takes to transmit Lyme Disease.

I continue to keep up with author/SEAL Marcus Luttrell, who survived a grisly battle in which three of his teammates were killed in Afghanistan and who wrote a book about it called Lone Survivor. He’s starting to help soldiers get comprehensive rehabilition upon returning home. Nothing right wing or left wing about it (see previous posts!), it’s just a damn good idea.

ML

More info from FB:
Lone Survivor Ranch – Marcus has a vision of an all encompassing, phased in facility that will not only support hunting, fishing and many outdoor activities, but other rehab/wellness as well. The primary intent is to create a safe haven for warriors and their families to heal. He plans to identify a BEAUTIFUL piece of property in TX and build a multi-phased ranch/rehab complex. The ranch will have an on-site gym complete with coaches, trainers, etc. He intends to build it with significant expansion capability, and ultimately support warriors, their families and kids. He’d like to have a counseling aspect interwoven into all activities which could include team building, obstacle courses, horseback riding, bowling, rock climbing, art therapy, journaling, fishing, yoga, spa services, etc.

Long term he sees the need for a physician, nurse, and social worker/therapist on staff. He’d like the physician to be trained in pain mgmt, because that is an issue that affects almost all of our wounded warriors. He also plans to have benefits counselor come there during everyone’s stay to conduct a government benefits brief and help get whatever is lacking.

For more info on Marcus Luttrell, go get your google on or check out his facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Marcus-Luttrell/63643878405

SOB with me

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