Friday, February 3, 2012

February Journey to America and Back Again...

On Tuesday I'm off to the States on Etihad.  There's my usual hotel room at the airport in Abu Dhabi, then the four movie, fourteen hour stretch to JFK.  I arrive in NYC on Wednesday, February 1st where I'll go to stay at Eileen's that evening.  Then on Thursday I'll move to Lee Wilson's home in NJ as we have a 7 am flight on Thursday to Bozeman, MT.  

From the 3rd to the 10th, I'm with Lee, Gary Giorgi and a few other Amherst friends x-c skiing in Yellowstone NP.   From Bozeman, we'll drive to West Yellowstone, spend a night, then Yellowstone Expeditions will take us i into the park by their strange snow-guzzling catamarans.  We'll stay in their winter yurts for six nights taking daily xc ski trips around the park.  

Of course, since I haven't xc skied since a day trip in the Jura in 1978, I've order the latest translation of 'War and Peace' (EML's recommendation).  I can spend my days with a cast of thousands if my legs, body or mind don't wish to over-indulge myself out in the winter mischief.

To be honest, I'm rather apprehensive about going into the heart of winter cold-turkey.  Ok, in Kathmandu we have no central heating, see our breath inside the home during winter nights, and 14 hours/day of electricity load-shedding -- but, at least, it's warm and toasty outside during the daytime (given our southern latitude...), plus we now have our own sauna on the roof.

I seriously can't imagine LIVING in a yurt immersed by snow for a week.  

I mean not just snow, but surrounded by the stuff w/ only a pair skis to power one's escape, and what an escape: out into MORE snow, everywhere snow, essential snow, white-washed snow, primordial snow, essential snow, dramatic snow, frigid snow, frightening snow, fresh snow, global warming snow, national park snow, reindeer snow, elk snow, bear snow, rabbit snow, bald eagle snow,,, freezing cold snow...

Am I obsessing?

At least, that's my image of what our six days in the park will be like.  

I've been taking advice from Lee and Gary on my appropriate attire.  I've bought from an outfitter, Campmor, which has more categories of sports clothing than I thought possible.  It's that Nepal-US divide again...  Here in Kathmandu choice is much more limited (to say the least...).  Then, when I get on-line and start to look at the winter, light-weight, polypropylene, waffled, breathable, synthetic under-armour, it's like stepping into a parallel post-modern universe of skin-tight, earth-colored polyester Star Trek outfits -- missing only the heroic Star Command badges.  


Fortunately,  Gary will be my main outfitter for my xc ski 'gear'.  He's bringing my boots, skis and poles, as he lives in Wisconsin which does snow the way that Kathmandu does g-ds.  I think his garage is a used ski store that he is waiting to open when he retires from clinical medicine.  Although, actually, from the time he seems to spend up north (can you go further north than Wisconsin...) at his cabin, I think he really retired a few years ago but hasn't quite gotten up the courage to let the rest of us know the truth.

I've also been exercising.  I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but it happens to be true...

I actually frightened myself thinking of being like Commander Perry lost on the north pole of Yellowstone, blinding Russian snowstorm whipping through the fir forests, wolves howling in the distance, tracks lost in the sweeping gusts of wind across the open fields, a moose staring mutely at me as I pass by lost in translation.  Making a small fire under a tree to keep my warmth and strength until the snow on the tree above melts and buries my last hope as the darkness settles in and I realize that I will never see the sun again.  

Or, something like that...

For the past six weeks, our Budhanilkantha neighbors have been treated to the sight of that grey-haired Western guy they thought had a real job and true status in Nepali society dressed in his leopard pattern pajamas and a SOAS sweatshirt with a pashmina cap and scarf wrapped around his neck.  They've seen him jogging down past the Sleeping Vishnu temple, around the front of the extensive B'kantha School compound, across the Vishnumati stream, and then back uphill on the dirt track toward the Hari Krishna center toward the backside of the school to our home.  

I'm not sure my adventuresome friends will be impressed.  I think I'm off with those American exercise types, I fear, who run five miles before breakfast or spend an hour on exercise machines (man against machine?) for an hour before bedtime.  

When I started running I couldn't make it all the way around the school without walking part of the way.  Now, however, I've gone around the school compound twice the past two days, which takes me about 50 minutes.  It feels good and, hopefully, on those days when I am trailing my friends, eating the snow dust kicked up by their effortless gliding through those miles of wintry forests, these weeks of exercise will pay their dividends and I will feel the ease of gliding on my own skis while chasing my own dreams of the American wilderness.

Then, after our week in Yellowstone, we each head back to our own lives, this snow-filled mini-Amherst, Class of '76 reunion over.  We drive back to Bozeman, then catch early morning flights to our various directions.

For me, I'll go to Seattle to see my dear friend, Matthew, who's made a new life in Seattle after nine years in Vietnam.  We worked together in Nepal in the early '90s, then became even closer friends through our mutual Save the Children lives while we raised sons, directed staff and programs and pursued our dreams.  We've been close over the years from visits to our home in Kathmandu and their home in Lagrasse, France to his mother watching over Joshua from her book-filled home in Georgetown during his first two years in DC and us doing the same for Jeremy, Matthew's oldest.  

Jeremy, who was born right before Matthew and Laura came to Nepal in '91, spent four months in Nepal this past fall on a high school program studying Nepali language, Nepali culture and Buddhism.  He's a serious teenage soul, forever questioning the nature and purpose of life and living, meditating, exercising and observing.  It'll be a joy to see him again, soon after he left Nepal, in the American life from which he was parachuted after spending his whole childhood and youth overseas.

If I'm lucky, I'll also see Bill Green of youthful JD and Cazenovia fame who has made a full life and career in Seattle for decades and my beloved friend and travelling companion, Dave Ellenberg, who may come up with his endearing daughter, Iris, from Portland for the day on Saturday.

Much to look forward to in a mere 48 hours in Seattle!

Then, after that weekend with close friends facing the Pacific, relaxing in Matthew's backyard hot tub to ease my sore and stretched muscles, swirling some enchanted bottles of his fine wines, after reaching the westernmost point of my first 2012 journey in America, I'll turn around and fly to see Mom in Florida.

From the wilderness of the American West to the warm, tony gated hamlets around West Palm Beach.

Enough of winter!  

I'll have a week with the essential Priscilla Rose of our family's shared existence, bearer of the original Rose-Marie Rose transmission, the Muse of 57th Street, and the heritage we all share, closely bound up in our parents' 20th C. lives, their early professional struggles to create a family around we four children, our suburban homes and, no less, the expectations and love we felt from them.  

This was the 1950s/60s version of 'Modern Family' in which we were raised with all the hopes, humor and challenges of our own youthful times -- long before we, too, knew what it meant to be a parent raising our own children... and could see our own parents' lives with more clarity, sensitivity, empathy and understanding of what these complex adult roles and responsibilities mean.

In this way, too, it's right that it is my last stop in the US before returning home to my life in Nepal.  Right that at this latest interregnum of my professional life, the space between my recent UNDP constitutional work and what will come next, to return to the comfort, peace and ease of being in Mom's home, her excellent home cooking, the talks on our lives, my kids, her grandchildren, their futures, our past, the continuity of our lives, the circling back to the source...

The Alpha and Omega of our deepest personal existence, the cycle of the seasons, the ending that seeks its own beginning, the inner life that animates our external life, the emotional balance that creates the physical setting of our lives, the beauty and trauma blended so closely that it is impossible to untangle them, but breathe, adore and stand in amazement before them...

This is us.  This is here.  This is where.  This is source, the origin, the first flight, the first journey, the first steps that have created the distance and time from which to reflect, deeply, while there is still time, time enough, to appreciate the wonder of it all and the value of each person and moment and passing...

Then, departure again.  'Beam me aboard, Scotty!'  These departures that have been rehearsed a hundred times in a short lifetime.  Always coming and going, being and becoming, traveling between worlds and always ready to enter a new one.  'To bravely go where no man has gone before...'  

Such has been the nature of our private worlds, as well.  Always one foot in the past, another on the cusp of the unknown, the future, the next adventure in time.

So, even a month ahead I can perceive another JetBlue flight up the East Coast from the warmth of Florida to my last of vision of winter in NYC.  A long afternoon in the Etihad lounge at JFK before my night flight on Etihad back to Abu Dhabi.

My global town and a hotel room when traversing continents.  

Then three weeks after leaving, back to the darkness of Kathmandu, no doubt sixteen hours of load-shedding by then, however, where spring will have arrived (even today I saw peach blossoms on trees in the backyard), new bamboo shoots will have begun to peek above ground and I'll have to start thinking a bit more seriously about the next stages of my later life, as well.  

From winter to summer to spring, it seems, during three weeks to America and back again.


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