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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! 

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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.

It is hard facing the dark after a beautiful light is so suddenly extinguished and yet Stevie Nicks’ haunting voice rises up to remind me, “there’s a heartbeat and it never really dies.” This, I remind myself as I sit at a funeral of an 18-year-old who’d died so tragically in a car accident a few days before. I can’t help but try to remember what it was like to be that age, when everything is a promise and before we find out there really are monsters hiding in the dark.

So, why Nepal and why now? I’m going to Nepal to trek to Everest Base Camp and yet that isn’t what I’m doing at all. I’m going to Nepal to listen.

Of all the things that could have come to mind at this funeral, of all the things that seemed to mean so much when i was a just a kid myself, it was Nepal that floated to the surface. After reading Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air” for an English Comp class, my 18-year-old self vowed to visit Nepal one day and see the mountain that seems to enthrall people to death. So, all these years later, I wondered whatever happened to the old promises to myself. Of course, life happened. There are so many things to figure out when you’re in college and then later when you’re establishing your career and yourself. You have to pick your battles and the promises you keep.

Sitting in the church and seeing photos of this beautiful girl drift across the projector screen, I suddenly felt ready. Ready to make some of those old dreams happen. Later that day, I Google the heck out of Nepal and then came across several articles that solidified my resolve. After the earthquake in Nepal, the Nepalese people are struggling to rebuild. So many Nepalese have lost loved ones, their homes, their livelihoods, their roads, everything.   While one can argue tourism is a blessing and a curse in many ways for this country, but it ultimately will feed more money into the economy quicker than any other sources of revenue. Stimulating the economy promotes rebuilding efforts and securing infrastructure that is still in shambles in many communities.

No one questions the resolve of these people and despite the need for serious, conscientious reform of financial resources and management, the most compassionate thing we as Westerners can do is visit the country. Westerners have an opportunity to promote compassionate travel and a considered approach to tourism that respects the Nepalese culture and environment rather than contribute to erosion of it.

So, why not go now? It’s mutually beneficial for both Nepal and us bucketlisters abroad to go for it. Besides, Everest is only the surface; I can’t help but think our Western compatriots who were lost in the avalanche on Everest or elsewhere when the earthquake struck knew that, too. When it cones down to it, I really want to go to Nepal to soak up the miraculousness of the indefatigable human spirit in the faces of those who have lost so much but endure nonetheless.  

So, Stevie has it right. In the rubble, you can hear it if you listen. There is a heartbeat and it never really dies. Neither does the human spirit or the  promises we once made to ourselves before life happened.

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

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

That’s the hardest part

Picking through the rubble to find scraps of once-yellow note pad paper written and abruptly, rudely, ended:

Toilet paper

Apples

Erasers

8 batteries

Trash bags

Birthday card for —

The hardest heart catches itself before it does what it made to do: lie or die. (And flower and a cake for –)

Again with the ending. Before the card, there was snow. Glowing snow but the ice was  better. You’d sprayed painted it gold and silver and a tie dye of the other primary colors , which ran and pooled at our feet. The flakes and shards died a hued death.

Still the ending.standing at the top of a great mound that once was not a welcome to the White Ones.

They welcome you. The hardest part, you accept.

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

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

When you drooped and died,
Gold was gilded with light
There is no sleeping beauty sleep now

We welcome scar tissue into our arms like it’s a good thing
As if it were a long-loved but long-forgotten lover we pretend never made us long-suffering
Scar tissue whose flap signals hardening and distance, both reasons to smile sorrowfully
Scar tissue whose cells allow us to survive
But at an angry and vengeful cost

Scar tissue whose existence prolongs our own as if it had an agenda despite our will to die
Whose will does it heed?

I do not let tears well
That will come later
After the worst
Whatever it is
Always goes one way or the other
There will be a ring
Strangers will answer

I said it’s time for tragedy
And one is here
Listen.

SOB with me

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