The Mountain

One night, after New Years and before the days are long enough to call it spring, I curl up in my oversized chair with my kitties and watch Lost Horizon, the 1937 version with Ronald Coleman and Sam Jaffee.  For those of you who may not have seen this film, Lost Horizon is a story about an unforeseen turn of events, a detour to the idealistic place called Shangri la.  It is a tale about human acceptance and reaction versus action in finding that perfect place within oneself.  It is life, both good and bad and filled with hope and loss.  I began the ritual of watching Lost Horizon the year after I moved back to the States from Nepal.   Lost Horizon always reminds me of the first time that I saw the mountain, its majesty and grace which in largeness alone demanded respect and of its wrath which I knew must be equal.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I want to take this opportunity to thank you for flying Royal Nepal.  We will be approaching Kathmandu in approximately 40 minutes.  Skies are clear, wind is low and the temperature is currently reporting a pleasant 73 degrees, which is a lovely day for March.   Oh my…for those of you sitting on the far right side please look out your windows.  For those of you sitting on the left side please move to the right.   Ladies and gentlemen, this is Mount Everest.  It is said that if you are lucky enough to have a perfect view of the mountain while approaching Kathmandu then good fortune follows. ”A collective AHHHHHH.  “Now please return to your seats and fasten your belts, we are preparing for landing.”

Disembarking the plane, I knew now the thump thumps and clunk clunks preceding the long skid it took to land this plane. There was no tarmac but only a grass runway.  I felt lucky already that this part of my trip had gone as well as it had.  I grabbed my backpack from baggage, flashed my passport and visa and hurried out of the gate to a flurry of motor rickshaws.  “Langtang Hotel, please” and off I went.

Three months and two treks later, I was once again fastening my seat belt but this time preparing for takeoff.  Each event in my first trip to Nepal is a story within a story which I will attempt to disclose with detail at a later date.  What I share with you now is that I left the mountain trying to take as much of my experiences home with me through words written in journals by candlelight or flickers of fires in tea lodges drinking salt tea and sometimes hot rhaksi with butter.  I also disclose that this journey had facilitated an internal change in me.  I was trying to hone in on the exact meaning of this awareness when a woman excused herself to the window seat next to me.  I could see that biologically she was near my age but looked much older due to a seemingly sadness emulating.  This was odd to me who was leaving Nepal in an ecstatic state.

Once again a clear view of the mountain could be seen.  “I lost my husband on that mountain”, a faint voice came from the woman next to me, tears beading in her eyes.  There were no words that Ii could say that would make her feel alright.  I simply placed my hand upon her quivering hand as we both watched the mountain fade away.  I later learned that her husband was a well know mountain climber who fell attempting a solo climb on Mount Everest.  Not another word was said until we left the plane to connect with our flights homebound.

“Seattle”, I said.  “Denver”, she replied.  We came to our crossroads, that of finding our gates.  There she stood, so gentle, so vulnerable like a fawn that had just lost its mother.  I gave her a big hug trying to bleed some of my life into her.  Then we parted.  We did not glance back at one another as old friends do, we did not exchange contact information for the future.  There we were, two women who had shared the mountain.  One woman was trying to take a part of it with her and another woman who had left her heart there.  So this was pure human connection.  Two women trying to find their way back home.

– Teri