Meg Noble Peterson

Author of Madam, Have You Ever Really Been Happy? An Intimate Journey through Africa and Asia

Author: Meg Noble Peterson (Page 1 of 22)

HAIL TO THE SPRINGTIME WITH FLOWERS AND BIRTHDAYS

It’s a given that being a Gemini is a heavy cross to bear, but when the number hits eighty-nine you start to take stock big time. You receive a plethora of funny cards warning that “the warranty on your life has expired,” or “don’t worry, it’s only a number” or, “hell, you could be ninety, so stop complaining and consider the alternative.” At least by this time I am completely honest…I don’t subtract a year and I certainly don’t add one. It is what it is! And, believe me, I count my blessings, which are many.

We had a magnificent cake from CJ&Y Decadent Desserts, the women who bought JW Desserts. But Mr JW Desserts himself–John Auburn (now of Whidbey Island Bagel Factory fame)–came and gave me a birthday present of a ride on his motorcycle!

Time for a new lifestyle!

It was fun to be joined at the head table by such friends as Irene Christofferson (96!) and Loretta Wilson (a mere 86), along with little ones coming up on six-years-old. So enjoyed the evening with friends at Talking Circle and the hilarious birthday limericks. I couldn’t resist another ride on the zipline! You should try it some day….

Fun on the zipline!

I can’t get enough of all the flowering plants, trees and rhodies that bloom around the time of my birthday.

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Look at the beauty of Whidbey in June as seen from Meerkerk Gardens.

SCROLL BACK TO LAST DECEMBER AS WE MAKE OUR WAY THROUGH DELHI TO KATHMANDU….WE’LL GET THERE YET!

On December 5th we headed for the small airport in Kangra, two hours from Suja, where we boarded a plane instead of taking our usual long taxi ride back to Delhi. I have to admit that it was a lot more comfortable and afforded us quality time to chat with a new-found friend, an anthropologist and her extended family, as we waited four hours for the plane to arrive. Patience is a virtue I am finding indispensable when traveling in Asia. “On time” is not finite. It can mean most anything!

I never tire of the classy new Delhi airport and its elephants who greet us:

Our adventure in Delhi with a prepay taxi driver from the airport was classic. Not only did he not know the destination—a very popular hotel close by—but he refused our meager tip, throwing a fit when we wouldn’t reward him half of the entire fare. We should pay for his mistakes? To our surprise he followed us into the hotel lobby, where nobody had any small change due to the monetary crisis. Even fellow Indians seemed appalled by his aggressive behavior. Fortunately, Cary unearthed a fifty rupee note and thrust it into his outstretched palm. With an ‘haruumph’ he stomped away.

At dinner we met a charming gentleman living with his wife in Shanghai. Their plan is to adopt Chinese children and move to Australia. He then told us about the more than fourteen million “ghost children” living in China…second or third children, mostly girls, who were born after the one-child policy was instituted in 1980. These children are not recognized by the government, have no official identity, cannot get an education, cannot legally marry, and cannot get medical services. They live outside the institutions of a regulated society. It is an horrendous problem known to very few people outside the country, but there is extensive information about it on the internet. Yet, until government policy changes, these children will continue to live in the shadows.

The next day we flew out of Delhi, and it turned out to be a sad one for voters, especially women, in the southernmost state of Tamil Nader, whose capital is Chennai. The much-beloved chief minister, Jayalalithaa, died, triggering mass grief and leaving a political power vacuum in southern India. As I’ve written before, there is much interest in politics and political personalities in India. It’s a young democracy full of problems, but it citizens are intensely vocal and active!

Before boarding Jet Airways for Kathmandu, we met the head steward and one of the stewardesses, both from Sikkim, and started chatting. They showed a great deal of interest in the post-earthquake situation in Nepal and our desire to make a contribution, however small. In a gesture of compassion they gave money for one of the schools in Solukhumbu and asked Cary to light butter lamps at the Boudhanath stupa for those who were still suffering. It’s gratifying to see such generosity from total strangers. These new friends also arranged for us to sit on the side of the plane with the best view of the Himalayan range. Is it any wonder that Jet Airways is our favorite airline?

Here are a few shots of the vast display of natural wonder we observed from 30,000 ft.

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How great it was to get back to Kathmandu and be met by Buddhi, our guide, and Ram Hari, both from Crystal Mountain treks. The director, Jwalant, had returned to  the mountains to help deliver supplies for his ongoing school rebuilding projects. The Kathmandu Valley as we evidenced on our drive to Boudha, was in a constant state of repair, from road widening and resurfacing, to shoring up a crumbling infrastructure, to house building. And traffic had resumed its chaotic spider web after the gas shortage of last year had subsided.

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The Shechen Guest House staff greeted us with open arms and we spent the rest of the day and the next checking out the continued construction around the temple, the refurbished stupa, and our favorite shopkeepers. The stupa had just been consecrated after a year and a half of restoration, and it was magnificent.

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At dusk we walked kora and delighted in the variety of faces and native dress of the people walking alongside us, fingering their malas and murmering their chants. Cary lit butter lamps for the Jet Airways flight attendents, and for many friends who requested prayers from the Boudha stupa.

As we left, the colored lights, strung all around the stupa, had come on and a half-moon hung in the night sky.

I’m glad to relate that, finally, I’m getting used to the roaring motorcycles outside the stupa grounds. I just keep walking slowly and let them dodge me. I’ve been lucky so far! It’s hard, at time, to keep your cool, but easier than trying to second-guess the drivers.

Early the next morning, December 8th, we headed for Phaplu, a ten-hour jeep ride over roads ranging from marvelous (built by the Japanese, and similar to the fly-overs outside Delhi, built by the Chinese)…

…to horrendous (result of monsoons, landslides, and the 2015 earthquake), with a superb driver who seemed clairvoyant as he wound around the narrow mountain roads, unable to see who was coming, but squeaking by buses and maneuvering sans guardrails to keep us from diving over a cliff. I tend to be dramatic, but so would you…had you been sitting in the front seat!

There were times when the road was washed out and we simply went through streams onto higher ground. There were also those drivers not so skilled, who found themselves stuck in the river. Here are some photos of our journey as it unfolded.

 

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As we made our way into the hills we beheld a panorama of the world’s most famous Himalayan peaks. This is the first time since my Everest Base Camp trek in 1987 that I saw Everest, Lhotse, and the Nuptse Ridge all lined up. It was thrilling! White, crisp, clear with piercing blue skies.

Nearing our destination, we were treated to another array of stunning mountains, Numbur Mt. being the most outstanding. It seemed to follow us for the next few days.

At 6 PM we arrived in Phaplu in the Solukhumbu region, and stayed at The Everest Hotel.

Our traveling companion was a young woman, Passang, who had come to fill out the necessary documents for a student visa to study in the U.S. She was hoping to receive a scholarship to Knox college in Illinois. Passang spoke excellent English and had a knowledge of government and history not unlike so many other young people we’d met in Nepal and India. She also knew a lot about our election and was concerned about our new president and his impact on the world stage. She wondered, also, how she would be accepted in the United States, as a foreigner.

Tomorrow our trek would begin. But tonight it’s a hearty meal and a very comfortable bed!

THE UPSIDE OF TRAVEL

Complaints! Complaints! Complaints! That’s all we seem to hear about travel these days. No longer the rush of excitement as the plane revs up before lifting off and heading for 30,000 feet, or the cloud banks stretching below like cotton batting blanketing the earth, or the deserted mountain ranges that conjure up the beginning of time.

It’s just constant bellyaching  about long security lines, too many people, invasive searches, and delayed flights. And I was right there with everyone else in the Seattle airport in a line that seemed to stretch all the way to Tacoma, when I began to notice little acts of love and kindness that are also a part of the mix…

A grandfather calling his little grandson over for a final hug (“Aren’t  they wonderful?” he said as he saw me smiling. “Oh, yes they are!”), a security person who apologized after the third pat down (could my body lotion have set off an alarm?) and a waitress in a bar, where I had asked for water because I couldn’t find a fountain. She directed me to a fountain but it was too far, and my plane was boarding. As I stood in line, she rushed over with a giant cup of water and a straw and said, “M’am, you forgot your water.” “You are an angel,” I said. She had been concerned and chased me down. How sweet was that!

During the flight I was sitting next to two loquacious ladies who were unaware that I had gotten up at 3:30 AM to make my airport shuttle and desperately needed my sleep. An hour into the flight they were still talking. Sleep was impossible. I made my way to the steward’s station and explained my predicament, asking if any single seat was available. Eureka! An aisle seat was found next to two sleeping passengers. The remainder of the trip was spent in heavenly silence.

One last gesture of kindness came my way as I was trudging between gates in Philadelphia, hurrying to make a close connection. A gentleman in a motorized cart stopped and offered me a ride, taking me what seemed like 2 miles to my gate, and waving any gratuity. Just being kind. It seemed to please him and it sure pleased me!

This is what I took away from my cross country flight from Seattle to Manchester, New Hampshire. And now, as I sit on the dock looking out at the islands and enjoying the serenity of Lake Winnipesaukee, I temper my upset at the turmoil and incivility rampant in my country, and think of those little kindnesses that jumped out at me when I least expected them. And I am filled with appreciation and hope.

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MT. BAKER, THE DEFINING JEWEL OF THE CASCADES

P1100548No matter how many times I return to this majestic peak, I find subtle nuances I had overlooked before. Walking around our campsites, deep in the woods, I found hidden trails, shady alcoves blanketed in pine needles, varied ground cover, and ferns—some delicate, some enormous, each with its individual, intricate pattern. At night I would sit on the outskirts and watch the waning sun cast its brilliance through the branches, covering everything in a mystical glow. No photo can possibly substitute for nature’s real colors, but I tried.

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The North Cascades are a wilderness defined by giant fir trees and native woody cousins whose lateral branches slope downwards, pulled by masses of bright green moss. Sometimes the burden is round, sometimes tubular, but always magical to me as I wander through the untouched forest. To be sure, some of the larger blow-downs are sliced in half by volunteer repair groups to let the hikers by, but most of the woods are left in a natural state.

My camp partner as usual was Jon Pollack, whom I met trekking on the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal in 1999. Our usual campsite in the Cascades over the years has been Silver Fir, which we visited in 2015 and 2013, but this year we chose one about 30 minutes off the beaten track deep in the wilderness, not far from Cascade Pass—Mineral Creek Campground—recommended by Steve Austin, the most charming, helpful camp host we’ve encountered. The fact that I offered my kingdom for a campsite might have helped. He was curious as to what my kingdom might comprise!

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Near the campsite was a roaring river, one of several we would encounter over the next ten days.

P1100377And hovering above us was the ever-present Mt. Shuksun.  Here it is as seen from the south side.

Bears are a big topic in the Cascades. Here I am conversing with one at the North Cascades Visitors Center on our way to Washington Pass.

And, of course, we were surrounded by views on every side. Too bad I don’t know how to upload the video I took of the entire panorama. Still cameras just can’t do the job, although I tried!

The next ten days were filled with hikes, swimming in Baker Lake, and relaxing at our new campsite, Panorama Point. We were incredibly lucky to find the last unreserved site and, we think, the largest and the most beautiful. From now on we’re going to reserve a long way ahead of time! Fishing was a big sport at the lake, but it did nothing to disturb the peaceful area surrounding our favorite swimming hole.

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Here are a few slide shows of our hikes. Pictures tell the story far better than my attempts to describe the Northwest wilderness—from old growth to temperate rain forest—mountain ridges too numerous to name, and the ever-present mountain streams and waterfalls, forded by bridges of varying quality.

Through Washington Pass to Diablo Lake trailhead, down to Ross Dam and Ross Lake.

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Our campsite was on the unpaved road not far from Cascade Pass, which we had climbed a few years ago. This time we only went to the pass after getting a late start. It wasn’t difficult for me to forego going up and over Sahale Arm.

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Our most strenuous hike was to Park Butte, reached by driving nine miles over an unpaved road. The trail was varied—winding switchbacks with lumber-reinforced banks (a bit too much exposure for me), trenches of white rocks that looked like abandoned river beds, steep rocky sections reminiscent of the White Mountains, and stretches of scree, making downhills slippery and challenging. And who could forget the variety of rustic bridges along the way? We reached a fire tower with panoramic views, but getting there really freaked me out, since we had to scale sheer rock to reach the steps. I think I’ve had it with fire towers!

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One final hurrah was the Anderson Butte trail.

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A farewell gift from the master fire builder….P1100695

 

THOSE LAZY-HAZY-CRAZY DAYS OF SUMMER….

Oh, yes, Nat King Cole, there was a time when that song warmed and thrilled me. That is, until I realized that living on Whidbey Island in the summer is anything but lazy or hazy. Crazy is the only thing that fits! Shakespeare in repertory graces our open-air theater, the wind blows over Puget Sound, and I don my polar fleece watching the sun set from my deck. And there is enough music and dancing to wear out the most avid teenager on any night of the week.  Given our demographic, however, you can be sure that a lot of healthy adults are also gracing the streets, halls, and fields where the revelry takes place. Choose your poison: bluegrass, country, folk, jazz, classical, Baroque. And before the evening begins, wander through endless art exhibits from Greenbank to Langley. There’s no time to be lazy!

I do bless this weather when I hear from friends in St. Louis, Florida, or Texas, who are sweltering, while we look up at a blue sky with whipped cream clouds, and enjoy cool breezes that make us forget the dark, damp days of January and February.

orchids mom june 2016I arrived home from my three-week sojourn on the East Coast to find my orchids waiting to embrace me and the gardens in peak production, giving me the fresh produce I had so missed while away. And I looked forward to the frequent strolls I take along the shore at dusk. langley sea view june2016

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The very next day was the annual Maxwelton 4th of July parade with outrageous costumes and themes ranging from children riding red, white and blue decorated tricycles to politicians campaigning to local non-profits promoting their cause and locals just promoting a cause… my daughter Cary was distributing snap peas on behalf of the School Farm and Garden Program, and son Tom was part of a group bringing awareness to climate change, with humor.

New construction is going on all around Langley, and the utility company is having a ball in front of my apartment, where a small lake has been growing for two weeks, the result of a major glitch in the stormwater system.  I told the engineers that I wouldn’t swim in it until they removed the mosquitoes. (Actually, I have yet to see one out here, but something is germinating!). If I were six year old, I’d really love to watch dozens of burly men digging up the street and painting patterns on the pavement where an underground labyrinth waits to be discovered, thus reducing my lake to a mere duck pond. Yes, there’s activity everywhere!

Upper Langley, the new affordable housing community started by daughter, Cary, and three like-minded friends, is now in full swing, with builders digging foundations and homes arising right in front of our eyes. There’s excitement and anticipation in the air—an understatement to be sure.

My trip to the East Coast was divided into the New Jersey/New York City experience, the Pennsylvania rustic Mt. Laurel Autoharp Gathering (MLAG), and a visit to family, ending at our summer cottage on Lake Winnipesaukee near Wolfeboro, NH. Driving a rental car for seven hours, two days in a row, flanked by trucks going 70 mph or more, is quite a change from my quiet island. Even Seattle traffic takes a back seat to the highways of New York and Pennsylvania and New England. But I lived to tell the tale. It’s one of those “adventures” I don’t care to repeat anytime soon.

I was able to overlap, briefly, with daughter Martha, in Maplewood, NJ, at the home of a dear friend, Cheryl Galante, the world’s most hospitable human being. Martha sold her home a year ago and is now relocating in Denver, CO. She started her cross-country drive the next day, and shortly after arriving in Denver, headed for Australia and a full teaching schedule (website: www.essentialsomatics.com).  But not, I hasten to add, before visiting her grandson and MY great grandson.

This trip, rich in the rekindling of old friendships, started with a visit to my grandson, Adam Bixler, who lives in a charming community in the East Village. The rest of the week I stayed in the West Village apartment of James Wilson, with whom I had traveled to Myanmar and Ladakh, and, happily, I did not swelter as I had last year. Wonder of wonders! The weather was marvelous. I got lucky before the “heat dome” moved in! And just picture me walking down the quaint streets past small historic houses and courtyards with Barry Hamilton, an actor and theater director, and his wife, Ruth Klukoff, a violin teacher in New York and Connecticut, to be treated to fabulous Middle Eastern cuisine and an afternoon by the Hudson looking across the water at the old Lackawanna terminal. Yes, New York has its pastoral settings, its park benches, and its flowering trees, and we enjoyed them all. I will not enumerate all the friends I enjoyed, nor the great restaurants I experienced, but I will grace you with a list of the superb plays and musicals I attended. Give the addict her due!

I took the family to An American in Paris. It was a repeat, since I had been wowed by it last year. Next came a special evening with Phyllis Bitow and Terri Pedone at the Tony Award musical Fun Home, and a reunion with Paul Sharar at The Father, to be mesmerized by the Tony Award winning performance of Frank Langella. James and I indulged in Something Rotten and the superb revival of She Loves Me, and Phyllis returned for the ABT production of Prokoviev’s ballet, Romeo and Juliet at Lincoln Center.

It was a heady visit and the next week at MLAG just kept the ball rolling with more superb musicianship, concerts, and visits with old friends, masters of the autoharp. The days were packed with workshops and performances by small group ensembles and headliners such as the laid back Tom Chapin, who brings an audience together in the spirit of Pete Seeger. Thanks so much to the new director, Gregg Averett, and the program directors, Neal and Coleen Walters. And thanks to George Orthey for the use of his lovely home away from home!

On my last week in the East, the three Noble sisters, of whom I am the middle, met in Peterborough, NH, and traveled on to our cottage, where nothing, except actual icebergs, keeps me from the water. Within a week I had defrosted and felt like a million dollars. I just can’t get enough of the spectacular sunsets over Lake Winnipesaukee.cottage sunset 2016b cottage sunset 2016a

mt washington 2016aAnd I never miss the opportunity to return to Wolfeboro and enjoy watching the “Old Mount” pull up to the dock as I indulge in a double dip ice cream from Bailey’s Bubble.

It was with lots of great feelings that I returned to Whidbey Island, to then head off to another cold lake at the base of Mt. Baker, as Jon Pollack and I start our annual ten-day hiking trip into the Cascades.

This will be a total escape from the craziness, which is not just summer, but which has spread throughout this nation for almost two years during the most unusual, deeply disturbing presidential campaign of my long life. Gird your loins, folks.

VOLUNTEERS HELP NEPALESE FAMILIES REBUILD THEIR HOMES

Just over a year has passed since the devastating earthquake in Nepal, and though the world has moved on to other tragedies, there are still thousands of Nepalis who are without homes and working tirelessly to put their lives back together.

I just talked with Pam Perry, who is the director of operations for Grand Asian Journeys, the sister company of Crystal Mountain Treks, managed by Jwalant Gurung in Nepal. I’ve written about the many projects Jwalant has been involved in and the fund raising he is doing in Nepal through Three Summits. Here is a brief report of the work Pam has spearheaded, recently, in Junbesi. This beautiful Sherpa village is on the classic Everest Base Camp Trek route. All Everest treks passed through it until the airport in Lukla was built.

Pam and a team of nine people, made up of Bainbridge Island Rotarians and representatives of the Northwest Ecobuilding Guild, helped rebuild a home for a family, Sheba and Vishnu, and their three young children. The family was not considered a landowner, so would not have qualified for government assistance (which is not going well for anyone, yet).

Mom (Sheba) and Dad (Vishnu) with Bridget Young of Poulsbo Rotary (in orange) and Pam Perry of Bainbridge Island Rotary (in purple)

Mom (Sheba) and Dad (Vishnu) with Bridget Young of Poulsbo Rotary (in orange) and Pam Perry of Bainbridge Island Rotary (in purple)

The home was built with rocks that were quarried about 1/4 mile away from the site and had to be carried to the site by hand! When the team arrived, the rocks had been brought to within 100 feet of the site and it was their job to make a human chain to transfer the rocks to the site for stacking. They also did some rock breaking, getting them to appropriate sizes…even gravel…and helped the family with some other tasks on the site as well. It was a wonderful task! You can see from the photo that there was a great amount of camaraderie and fun as everyone worked together on a challenging and very satisfying project.

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junbesi house framing

Kudos to you, Pam, and all our fellow Northwesterners, for a great job!

This home is one of 15 that Jwalant and his crew have built so far, and there are more rebuilding trips planned through next spring. Click HERE for more information about the Rebuilding Nepal trips that Grand Asian Journeys is organizing. It’s important to note that these houses have all been built to government approved earthquake-resistant standards.

I have been rather lazy since I returned from my 70 th class reunion (ouch!) at Emma Willard School in Troy, NY, two weeks ago. It’s so heavenly to have warm sunshine here on Whidbey that a bit of basking is excusable. I also had another fabulous (forgive me, I’m an honorary New Yorker) birthday party at Talking Circle and am so grateful for the many friends who celebrated without once mentioning my astronomical age. This is one caring, accepting community. I love it!

Nepal will be back on my blog, as I attempt to finish the story of my trek, after I return from my annual East Coast binge of theater, family, friends, Autoharp Festival in Pennsylvania, and sojourn with my sisters to our cottage on Lake Winnipesaukee in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

There will be more surprises, but if I tell you, they won’t be surprises. Have a great summer and watch out for the whales!

HAPPY MAY DAY and EARTH DAY ONE AND ALL!

Here’s a little upbeat news from the isle of milk and honey to counteract the present negative energy pervading our country. And this negativity is not just confined to our borders. Sometimes it’s difficult to be philosophical or even optimistic when so much destruction, death, and hatred is rampant in the world. What can I do about it? Forget it, it’s hopeless, you say.

But is it? So you’re just one person. You can choose to be depressed and discouraged and a naysayer or you can find what makes you and others happy and throw yourself into it. Like a pebble in the lake, your ripple, a small ripple to be sure, will eventually reach the shore, and added to all the others, make a sizeable difference. Look around at your neighbor, or find people who are working one-to-one with young people in one of a hundred ways to add excitement, meaning, and color to their lives. All it takes is one person over a period of time to make a child feel acknowledged, loved, and special. And sometimes that’s all it takes for us.

Then there are the hundreds of people on South Whidbey Island involved in the care and feeding of the homeless and those families who are having a struggle economically.

I had an opportunity to observe two exciting projects right in my own backyard over the weekend.

P1100280One was the May Day Celebration at the Good Cheer Garden, an organic garden that provides fresh produce for the Good Cheer Food Bank. It is run by young people who are dedicated to community-based sustainable agriculture. They have now expanded to a second garden where the celebration was held. For the occasion they added a maypole, face painting, rock painting, music, and lots of fresh food. I loved it! Finally somebody painted a goatee over my chin and I looked thirty, again. Well, maybe more like sixty.

Here are a few pictures as we waltz around the maypole. Click a picture to start slide show.


P1100015The week before, April 22nd, I witnessed 500 students celebrating Earth Day at the South Whidbey School Farm started three years ago by my daughter, Cary Peterson. What a success it has been! Elementary School youngsters get to grow the vegetables that are now served for lunch in the school cafeteria (Michael Moore take notice!), and stuff themselves with home-grown veggie tacos, which they make on the spot using kale leaves and filling them with assorted fresh vegetables they pick from the garden. This not only gives young people an appreciation of fresh food and how it is produced, but gives them a chance to learn about soil, garden insects, and how healthy food is produced. earth day cucumber pesto nibble P1100010

Oh, and you can’t imagine how great the pea shoot pesto was, grown and made by the children. There was also spinach pesto and kale pesto. All so delicious! And the children had a contest to see which was the favorite.

There were many activities from planting plants that attracted pollinators, to making garden flags, bugs, spirals, fairy houses, and rock friends. The boys, especially, enjoyed digging ditches and spearheading trench composting, and everybody got into planting winter squash.

The School Farm website has many photos of this delightful event… click HERE to see them!

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To read more about the School Farm, click HERE for a report on King 5 news. The Facebook site has over 47,000 views as of May 15th!

ONLY IN LANGLEY, THE NORTHWEST RABBIT CAPITOL

I take a small detour from my Nepalese journey to tell you that I just returned from a beautiful week in sunny Denver, CO, to visit my granddaughter, her husband, and my first GREAT grandchild. And great he is, cheeks and all! What a family they are, and what a delightful visit, which included a huge blizzard over one weekend, another of which, I understand, is predicted for this coming weekend. There seems to be no end to the weather variations in the Rocky Mountains. I was also able to see my Autoharp buddy, Bonnie Phipps from Boulder, and my nephew, David Magill, from Denver.

bunny photo mom 30april16aThe day after I returned I had a jolting experience. It was the first time I had ever hit an animal on the road, and, although Langley-ites have varying opinions regarding what to do about the proliferation of the rabbit population as a result of the summer festivities at the Fairgrounds, killing them by car is not one of the options.

I looked in my rearview mirror and saw a struggling animal. OMIGOD, it’s dying, I thought. What shall I do? I hesitated. I couldn’t bear to go back and finish it off…squish a rabbit on purpose? Nor could I bear to see it suffer. I slowly pulled away and with a heavy heart made my way home.

As I dragged myself up the stairs to my apartment, my neighbor said, consolingly, “Call the police. They will check on it.”

“Oh, do you really think so?” What a brilliant idea!

“Hello, my name is Meg Peterson, and I think I just hit a bunny rabbit on Edgecliff Rd. near Furman, and it may be dying. I wanted you to know, in case you can help.”

A very pleasant officer, Marge, assured me that she would send an officer to check on it, and, if it was suffering, “dispatch” it. She took my name, and assured me that this was not a felony and it was nice of me to report the incident.

An hour later I received a call from an Officer Patrick, who said that another policeman had gone to the location I specified, but found no bunny there.

“It’s a mystery,” he said, “but maybe it was not badly injured and just hopped away. I’ll go back and check it out.”

“Oh, thank you so much,” I gushed.

“Well, we appreciate when citizens take an interest in the wildlife and cleanliness of their community. I hope this will give you peace of mind, M’am. Again, if the rabbit is injured we will not let it suffer.”

This congenial conversation went on for a few more sentences, after which I gave my name and address, again, and was assured that I would not go on any list and had not done anything wrong.

I put the phone down and breathed a sign of relief. I love New York and New Jersey, but I cannot imagine having a chat with the local police department about the possible death of one furry creature on a side road. I’m really getting to like this place….

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THE MAJESTY OF THE SACRED MOUNTAIN

Early in the morning we repacked for a two-night stay on the plateau below the summit of Ama Yangri, and headed up several banks of stairs leading to the trail.

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P1080863Melamchi plateau in the distance
We continued up the steep trail, through rhododendron forests and out onto rocky cliffs, for about three hours. Views of Upper Melamchi above the valley gave us an idea of what was ahead. One peak, Dorje Lakpa, reminded me of Ama Dablam, my favorite peak on my first trip to Everest Base Camp so long ago. P1080869What a wonderful sight to greet us as we arrived in camp!

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By the time we arrived, our porters had already fashioned a stone fireplace for cooking, and within an hour served us a huge lunch…dal bhat and rice, of course, after the altitude-soothing garlic noodle/mustard green soup. Buddhi fashioned a wooden stirrer for the lentils and gathered wood from a large open area.  After all the guests were fed, the porters finally ate. This is a tradition in climbing circles, but not one we wanted to follow.

mom resting1_0599Post lunch I lay on a pad under the bright sun. What better reward for my efforts?

Entering camp after a late afternoon wander, we heard chopping in the direction of Buddhi’s tent. The men were making themselves mattresses of dried stalks of weeds. Hey, almost like the good ole’ days! This is what our counselors did with pine boughs in the White Mountains when I camped as a child…in the days before therma-rest mattresses and fancy sleeping bags.

P1080895Onto the boughs they placed a thin foam pad and their blankets. Regardless of the disparity in age, they had a camaraderie with one another that is a pleasure to watch. And they dance and sing, especially Buddhi, who is a natural clown! At night we can hear them talking a blue streak, animatedly, laughing and, occasionally, breaking into song. I asked Buddhi why all the hilarity. He said it is to keep us safe. If they make a lot of noise, nobody will bother us. I had to laugh. In this wilderness? It’s not as if we’ll have a yak attack as we did in the Kangchenjunga, or have to ward off marauding treasure hunters. But they must have known something that we didn’t.

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While Cary and I had been exploring, our tent and toilet had been set up. And get a load of the special trash can, the first I’d ever seen in the mountains of Nepal.

P1080907a fire photoA monk had dropped by and left some small carrots and cabbage as a thank you for tea that Buddhi had offered him. So there was fresh variety for dinner, along with the spinach/garlic soup.

What better way to end the day than sitting by the fire and watching the stars appear.

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In the morning there was frost on the tent and a clear blue sky.

We said goodbye to our campsite and headed toward the summit.IMG_0606

As we climbed, we came upon whole sections of the trail that had been washed out by the earthquake, making it slow going. A huge white boulder had been displaced and crashed down the hillside causing devastation in its wake. And there were many wide “stairs” of wooden or stone interspersed with sections of boulder and rock, with more exposure than I like! The forest was beautiful and deep, moving from gnarled, moss-enveloped trees to dense rhododendron woods with their pink roots. And all along the trail tiny daisies and delicate wildflowers greeted us.

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Geronimo! We made it. Sadly, directly in front of us was a huge destroyed stupa. Buddhi (Bon), Brabin (Buddhist), and Cary immediately walked around it through the rubble. Together they lit juniper as an offering. What a glorious smell.

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Large slanting rocks were on the ample summit and I lay down, immediately, vowing that this was my fitting swan song. I would walk around the stupa later. Right now I just wanted to lie on a smooth rock and search the sky. Fog came and went, allowing spectacular glimpses of the mountains that surrounded Ama Yangri. Tiny patches of snow were visible, but when the sun came out we felt warm and very content.

After an hour it was time to leave.

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P1080938 P1080941  We fairly flew down the mountain in less than two hours. What a feeling of accomplishment!

As dusk settled upon us, three men came through our campsite with thirteen yaks. After the obligatory tea, they headed into the dark with no flashlights. Good grief! It yaks at Ama Yangri2was all I could do stay upright on the rocky trail in broad daylight, and for them, even in the pitch black, it seemed like a walk in the park. The next day we sighted the animals grazing on a high pasture above Tarkyegang.

More fire-watching brought the day to a close. I doubt that I will ever experience a more peaceful, totally quiet place in my lifetime….

AN UNRELENTING TRAIL OF DESTRUCTION SURROUNDED BY NATURAL BEAUTY

P1080745We started up the steep steps from our guesthouse in Sermathang, looking down at the terraces once again, and walked past a field of prayer flags. Interspersed with the tranquil countryside were constant reminders of the earthquake in the form of landslides, yawning cracks in the earth, and washed-out trails.

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By late afternoon we had reached Ghangyul, which had been nearly flattened. The large temple was no more. Just vertical prayer flags marked where it had been. P1080778On the terraces, people had built wooden shacks, their stone homes now gone.

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IMG_0427We walked past a destroyed stupa and guesthouse, the Dolmo, whose owner, Kaga Lama, lost his wife, daughter, and eleven-month-old granddaughter as they were trying to escape the falling building. They were the only villagers killed. We stopped to talk with him and his two German guests, Elizabeth and Joachin Labinsky, who were helping their friend and former guide, as he worked on plans to rebuild his home.

I had been fighting a bad head and chest cold, and the day had been long enough, so we decided to stay at Ghangyul for the night. The terraces, once solely used for growing crops, were now where the villagers build their temporary homes and guesthouses from wood, tarps and tin, and where we were able to pitch our sleeping tent, and toilet tent.

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Even in the rebuilt guesthouses, the kitchen is elaborate and well-stocked. At dinner we met two energetic Sherpas, guides in the Everest area who needed jobs, since the tourist rate had sunk by 30% as a result of the earthquake. One of them, Lakpa, was 24-years-old and had climbed to the summit of Everest five times. The other, Bardan Rei, was also a guide, but said he wanted to start a mountain biking business. They were now working for the United Nations World Food Program to supervise Nepali workers in repairing the damaged trails. The workers were paid in food, which was coming from member nations. We walked on many of these trails in the next few days and discovered, later, that much of the food owed the workers was being delayed because of the Indian blockade. You really wondered just how much more these people could endure.

The young Sherpas (one of whom was Buddhist and the other Hindu) were very idealistic and felt that Nepal would be stronger as a result of this catastrophe. We covered many subjects, but one parting phrase I will never forget: “Nepalis are true fighters. We fight to the end!”

The next morning we headed for Tarkyegang. All along the way, there were signs of the earthquake, either landslides in the distance, or cracks on the trail. Mani stones were abundant along the trail, with their various mantras. OM MANI PADME HUM being the most common. We passed over a charming bridge, far sturdier than most, enjoyed some lovely forest walks, and even passed by a stupa that was undamaged.

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Just before we arrived at our destination we spotted a large white tent with the imprint “Canada” on the top.  It turned out to be the temporary school for elementary children, which was going to be rebuilt by the Swiss NGO, Caritas.  There were presently only twenty students. The older children had been sent to Kathmandu to continue their studies until the new school was built.

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IMG_0539We were invited by the teacher to visit and sit in on some of the lessons and activities. Here was an opportunity to donate some of the supplies generously provided by a good friend and internationally known storyteller, writer, and teacher, Lynn Rubright from St. Louis, MO.  The teacher distributed pencils, one of several gifts. The children were overjoyed and thanked us with singing.

IMG_0556We had arrived at the school just in the nick of time. Soon after we had distributed the school supplies, the day was over, and the children scampered up the hillside for the 10 minute walk to Tarkyegang. One of the children carried her small brother up the steep slope.

P1080817Following the children, we entered Tarkyegang. We met none other than Dan Maurer and his Nepali companion about whom I wrote in the previous blog post, heading out for Thimpu. They had just climbed Ama Yangri, starting at 7 AM and returning by noon (an amazing feat!) and were standing in front of the ruins of the beautiful guesthouse where we had stayed last year.

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Nepal post_earthquake 2016 keynote copy.050Last year we had a spacious room on the second floor of the two-story guesthouse. Now it is all rubble.  The sign was all that remained the same as we walked across the bridge to the guesthouse area.

P1080824The hostess from last year greeted us.  She was very upbeat and showed us a large tent and a partially rebuilt cottage where we could stay.

That afternoon we met two New Zealanders, Dr. Stanley Mulvaney from Invercargill (originally from Ireland!), and Bryan Scott from Dunellen.

“We are kiwis,” they announced, having just climbed with their guide over the 18,000 ft. ridge from Langtang to Ama Yangri to Tarkyegang. They had run out of both food and water and were melting snow as a last resort. Exhausted would have been an understatement of their condition when we met them.

P1080854Stanley and Bryan were here in Nepal surveying the earthquake damage and planning a service project to help the Nepali people.

They bounced back quickly from their grueling hike. Both men were full of ideas and a lot of fun in the bargain.

During the afternoon we wandered around town finding it difficult to cope with the condition of this once-beautiful community.

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Tomorrow would be an early day, so we said goodnight to the mountains and collapsed into bed.

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