|Detail of Tibetan painting, artist unnamed|
Actually, J was a pistol-packin' rough-rider, raised partially by an alcoholic father with a barn full of pack horses, and a mother who moved to the city to further a lucrative lingerie-party business (thus funding her daughter's Ivy League education).
Okay. So obviously I couldn't wait to go on that hike. I love people like that. And the fact that J had a string of pack horses at her disposal was almost too good to be true. John's students are truly amazing.
There are a number of things I remember from that trip, each of them probably worth a post. But the one I'm thinking about right now is this:
It was quite dark, about 10 PM on a late July night. The darkening sky meant that the temperature had dropped quickly and it was nearly time to crawl into our sleeping bags. The brightest stars were beginning to appear. The peaks just above us were capped in snow, and it was very quiet; the horses were already asleep. The fire was low. There were 8 of us sitting there staring dreamily at the embers. One of us broke the silence, saying "My family would hate this. They wouldn't understand."
It was CK who said this, a Greek-American, and I've never forgotten it. "This wouldn't be fun for them! They want to be in a big group. Inside! With their friends and family, loud and laughing. This...solitude...they would not be comfortable with this." Wow. The rest of us looked at her, and listened as she described her family.
When are you happiest? It's a cultural thing, what you grew up with. CK, however, had gone in a different direction from her Greek childhood, marrying a wildlife biologist with a big black lab. She loved being out there in the wilderness, miles from other people. Like many of us, she found that she could recharge her energy in places like that; nowhere else is quite the same.
Not everybody can dash off to the mountains when they feel the need. Doesn't everybody need to be alone? Actually, maybe not. When we visited our daughter J in Niger, people seemed to be happiest in groups. Same with our own experience in Afghanistan: being a loner was discouraged.
So much of the world lives happily in very tight quarters. I don't know if I could be happy with that. But the following video (from Maeklong, Thailand) just proves that you can make it work no matter what: