28 December, 2003

Holidays in the South

My brothers and I woke up at six, dressed, and were out the door heading toward the farm by six-thirty. On arrival at five after seven we realized that the gate was locked and wondered how anyone would have gotten in before us, since we were a little late. But we pulled up to the trailer and there sat Matt, Jamison, and the Cooper brothers. My half-brother Dibble pulled in right behind us. We all started pulling on waders and organizing shotguns as the sun was already bright red in the east. We were a small group, about ten guns is all. Before we headed down the the duckponds a bottle of Hot Damn went around a few times to make sure we all stayed a little warm.

The ponds were quite and still. The corn has never looked so puny and pathetic. We all spread out in twos through the adjacent ponds. Not a duck was in the air. As Matt and I started making our way through the water, mud, and corn to the middle of "the Refuge" as we call it, we jumped woodies and teal. It wasn't an auspicious beginning. I am used to great outpouring of ducks in the early morning. Nothing. As we approached a narrow strip of small box elders in the middle of the thirty-acre pond I finally decided it was time to shoot. I dropped a woodie hen that flew over my left shoulder.

With that shot, the air started to shudder. From the flooded timber and corn ducks by the thousand rose up, quacking and whistling. We stopped shooting a moment to simply watch. They flew around, not wanting to leave. Despite the glaring blue skies, despite the lack of guns, the ducks circled around and around all morning. Woodies, teal, ringnecks, mallards, a good mixed bag.

After a few hours Matt and I turned back to the truck. We lined our birds proudly on the tailgate and cracked the first beers of the morning. We walked up to the corner of the new pond where Dibble and the Cooper brothers were still hunting. The shot sporadically at the late, still-flying ducks. We drank a few beers before Dibble and the rest met us with grins and cheers.

Everyone had a good hunt. We killed lots of greenwing teal which are beautiful small birds with a cinnamon head with a dark green stripe across their eye. Dibble whipped out the bottle of Hot Damn. We told some jokes were slow to leave the ponds.

My brother Will and Jamison had a dove hunt and bar-b-que to attend, so were the first to leave. Dibble and his friend Kim discussed how the hell they were going to get home in such a drunken state. Matt and I decided to take the beer and drive around the farm to see how things have changed in the time since we were last out here.

We drove all over, looking at fallow fields and the sad new clear cut down on the Level. The farm looked quiet and solitary, more so than I have seen it in many years. My brothers and I used to spend so much time here. But our stomachs began to gnaw at us around one, so we drove off the farm toward the Waffle House, the old high-school tradition.

For me, if was just refreshing to spend so much time with an old friend, to ride around property that I loved, places I have known for so long, and now were often so distant from me. But this sort of activity has always entailed alcohol and I was maintaining a buzz, fighting getting drunk, but fearing letting the buzz dwindle to a tiredness.

Matt decided that I needed to ride with him to the other side of Columbia to my Uncle Burwell's farm. Matt was meeting Author out there to deer hunt. I didn't have any plans. Matt thought we could just ride around and look for deer. That was about as good a thing as I could think to do with a day. I used to work out at Burwell’s when I was a teenager. I haven't ridden around there in years.

We stopped at a gas station to get more beer.

We spent the day creeping around corners and walking down deer trails looking at deer rubs. I climbed a big sweetgum because I figured it needed to be climbed. The day passed in a long moment and the sun dropped out of the sky as we sat in the grass and clay at the edge of wheat field. The air felt like the air of the morning we had started the day with. I had spent the whole day gong inside only twice. No deer came out and we walked to the truck, drank another beer, and then Matt took me home.

Not until I reached the kitchen door did I realize how damned tired I was. I wasn't sure what to do first: shower, dig dinner out of the fridge, or simple drink water. I took off my dirty carhearts, drank some water and hopped in the steamy hot shower for a long time. I took some Aleve and made a whoping plate of leftover Chinese food Will and I had bought with Pop's money the night before. It was a luscious meal. I felt rejuvenated and turned on the Bond: 007 Days of Christmas. I read an article in the Utne Reader'about living in the Now.

I wanted to write about this day because I think it typifies something about the South for me, my South, the South of my youth. I lived here for many fun years with some great friends and family. I love the land still. All the good and the bad are here in this story, however brief and skeletal.

I hope the holidays are great for everybody, amazing how different they all will be: Nepal to Boston, New Zealand to the Keys, France, Spain, and Cuba. Today it was sixty degrees in Columbia. What was it like today in Missoula? The sun is so bright here it hurts my eyes. People live such different worlds. ...anyway. I need to go home and eat more leftovers and watch another movie: the "Extended Edition" of the secong Lord of the Rings. I can hardly wait. Vacations can be good for the soul...


19 December, 2003

A Brief Encounter

I was running with Widge down the street when, from a car coming up behind me, I hear a voice:
"Stuu, like Tuube, only Diferent..."
Then I see Crystal's big head hanging out the window of some old Crysler like a dog in the wind. It was great. She just drove on by without saying anything else. Perfect!! Simply Perfect!!

A good quote from Megs:
"Happiness is when what you think, what you say,
and what you do are in harmony."
Mahatma Gandhi

18 December, 2003

School is through.
I am happy and sad. That work and those experiences are now only memories, they can't be experienced in their full vigor and vitality ever again. That is the way of things, but the effort I put into the Nag Hammadi, my passion and addiction; the love I felt for Wendy, and the desire I had to make things work; my devotion to my classes, my perseverance through illness, injury, and doggy dispute; I worked as hard as I could. I can't remember ever in my life where I have more often felt grumpy, disgruntled, more frustrated, baffled - or simply curious as to if I was actually losing my mind. Seriously, I understand schizophrenia in a whole new way now.

It has truly been a wild ride like none I have ever embarked upon before. So I am a little reminiscent; I wonder if I learned what was there to be learned? I wonder if I have missed something in my delirium that I should take with me? What mistakes and missteps have I made? Maybe it all is still to near to see with any perception?

I don't want to do it all over againby any means. I hope, and I am trying to make, my next semester, my last semester, a bit more pleasant to work through. I can hardly explain how excited I am to soon be home with family and old friends. When was the last time? It was so brief, a year ago, it doesn't seem to carry any weight at all. I feel years have past, ages of experience and change. Yet I don't fear that I have grown away from anyone, not at all. Perhaps I should; it is an inevitability of life and growth. But Columbia is more like a family to me than a destination. I care little for what or who people become with their age and choices. My family and friends first reflect where it is that I am from, what my roots are, the foundation of who I am; but second, they personally influenced me, changed me by their own intrigue and ability. I am "me" because of the effect of those around me. If I love who I am, I must love those who taught me to myself, who raised me, challenged me, brought my dreams alive, believed in me, encouraged me, scolded me, toughened me, didn't take shit from me, and wouldn't let me take the easy road. I feel like the world is my teacher and Columbia was long my world, long my home and haven, and you all have always been there for me. I was never let down, never disapointed. I feel like I had the greatest mom in the world.

So if any of you are out there: I love you very much. I hope to see some old faces in the coming weeks.

Now it is to house cleaning and celebration, good food and drink, a little skiing perhaps. I am doing a little coaching for the Special Olympics - this should be an adventure.

17 December, 2003

Oh I am through.
My Blake paper - in Bigley's box.
My Non-fiction portfolio - in ten minutes it will be gone.

I don't know how I pulled through.
The hardest semester I have ever had ended with the two easiest and most peaceful weeks.
December has been such a joy. I can't ever remember feeling the Christmas spirit so strongly.
Okay, this is entirely to mushy.
I'm damned cheerful - how's that?

15 December, 2003

Today is the day. In a little less than twelve hours I get to do my presentation. I am damned excited, pretty funny. I feel good. It is early but I’m up and at it, listening to a little Willy and Waylon, “A good hearted woman in love with a good timen’ man.”

Well that’s about it I guess. I’m just so stoked I wanted to write about it.

Well it went good and bad. People enjoyed it and stayed after to here me speak, but my organization floundered. I couldn’t use my notes at all. I have to just wing it. Which I did but I was scattered and inarticulate. But I got through and people were impressed. Wilson said he really wanted to take another class with me. I want to sign up for the Dante/Joyce graduate seminar as opposed to the Joyce class I am now in. I may ask but that will be a lot of work – so what!

SO I am happy and cheerful; I went to the bar and had a Baily’s and won a game of pool. Life is good. Now back to work.

It is hard to know what to believe about this, but last night Widge was ill. He was liking his lips constantly. I went to give him a little food around two am and went back to bed. When he came back, he walked into the living room then walked past the door again, and then when he realized that I was in bed he started coming to get in the bed, but something seemed to distract him. He whined and started to snap at something invisible that moved from the foot of the bed to the head. As this happened I heard a loud wine, remenesent of the ”dying rabbit” sound. I jumped out, “what the hell?” I assumed immediately that there must have been a mouse, regardless that I have no mice. Widge seemed to limp and fell over into bed and began to whimper and tremble through every muscle, powerful shivers of what seemed to me to be fear.

I jumped out of bed and turned on the lights thinking there was something terribly wrong with my dog. He was freaking out. I tried to comfort him and think about what had happened. It was then I realized that as he was snapping he wasn’t looking down, but about 12-16 inches about the ground. Plus, my mattress is on the ground? And what was that whine? I swear I heard it move past me. After five minutes or more Widge stopped shaking. We went in the kitchen for a little bit. It was then I started to realize the possibility that Widge saw something that I couldn’t see.

I need to write so that I can try and capture an emotion. Tonight has been one of those rare nights, a night where you look into someone’s face and see years and experiences juxtaposed with their smiles. So many things past before my heart and eyes tonight, but then again, so much was just me, my emotion, what was up welling and isolated to my life, my times.

Jamie Rinker called. It is a rare day when she calls, but always welcomed. I love to know she is thinking about me. Sometimes she seems to far away. But she and I and Libby go all the way back to my first days in Missoula, my first summer, living in the back of my truck with Widge, playing pool games for beer money. That was almost five years ago.

So much has changed. I see so little of those girls that used to be such a part of my life. What did we ever do really? Pot lucks mostly, lots of good talks; I flirted with Libby to little avail. Recently those days have felt awfully far away.

But Jamie called this afternoon. She was still in bed, having had a rather consumptuous evening the night before, Friday night. Next week is exams week, so lots of us are finishing up and have a lot to celebrate. Jamie has only one exam and is graduating. We I have only one paper and a story, both of which are well in hand. We decided that we should have a dinner and catch up before Winter Break sweeps us off in different directions.

“Should we go cheap or expensive?” I ask. After a bit of deliberation we decide to “go big,” and eat sushi at Sushi Hanna’s, my favorite restaurant. I haven’t dined in a while so I got out my nice shoes and a cashmere sweater. I stopped into Warden’s Market and picked up a bottle of sake—a celebratory energy was rising in me. Jamie can be counted on to get dressed up for diner, and she is such an attractive girl. She arrived, casually late of course, wearing a suede sailor’s cap and a nice wool overcoat. I bought dinner; it is the Christmas season and all, and that way I could order a two-person platter I wanted.

Everything we talked about was personal: failed relationships, best relationships, “knights in Shining Armor” vs. “Prince Charming,” why I date crazy women (no offense, I love you all), and on and on. We closed the restaurant. But the conversation was overflowing, so she offered to buy a round of drinks at Charlie’s. I wasn’t planning on going out, I’m not a goin’ out kind of guy these days. But there was something about catching up, being close again to a girl I haven’t seen in a long while, and also it is Christmas, the fall has been so difficult and exhausting. Now things are winding down; the pressure is off; I am enjoying the work that remains; time is on my side. So we finished the sake and went arm in arm to Chuck’s.

We sat at the bar and the bartenders were taking shots together in a ring. The music was loud and had a lot of bass. We ordered a Baily’s for me and a Jamison’s for her and the conversation continued as before. “Easterners can’t kiss” she said, “I mean Northeasterners—Southerners are fine,” she continued. I saw Ed and Nick, Bradley came and talked for a bit, Wendy walked by without a smile, without stopping. Dustin just got back in town and he told us about Alaska, his new job, his new love. We never really get to talk. He is a good man.

Even Chris Simpson showed up. We had a few more rounds. I kept looking over my shoulder to the end of the bar to where “the Cambodian” and Wendy were drinking. It was nice to see her, strange not to talk to her. Looking at the clock on her phone, Jamie says, “Tonight is Libby’s birthday, we’ve got to go meet up with her when she gets off work.” The days have flown by and I didn’t realize that today had been the thirteenth, a midnight it would be the fourteenth. I’d get to see Libby; I haven’t seen Libby in such a long time.

We drink more. We meet some nice new folks, friends of Scott and Ed’s. We grab our coats and make out for the Rhino to meet Libby. I can’t help but stop and say “Hi” and “Merry Christmas” to Wendy and Bradley. She didn’t say much. Dustin walks with us to the next bar.

Jamie races in the back; Dustin and I mosey in the front. Libby was by the door and greeted us with a big smile. Little Erin was with her and a bunch of friends I didn’t know. We all hugged and I sang a verse of the birthday song in her ear. She told me I was a good singer which I overwhelmingly am not. Jamie came rushing up from the back, now clearly drunk, but seemingly overwhelmed with emotion. She was exuberant. She hugged everyone and then decided to by shots, trying not to cry. She doesn’t get to see anyone anymore either. As Jamie scampered off I talked with Libby about some old postcards I had mailed her this summer from India. She didn’t get them, thought they were lost in the mail, only to find them at her mother’s house over Thanksgiving holidays. I told her I had just this week found another one I had never mailed. Jamie came back with the drinks. I took a stool and sat back and looked at this group. I had virtually lived with Jamie and Libby when I had first come to town. I had suffered through the death of Corey with them. But, god, it seems like it has been such a long time, seeing these girls together laughing, Jamie was now crying, all together. They are so beautiful, all of them. They are my friends, my first here. I care about them so much and I know they love me though it is easy to forget.

Last call passed and the lights came on. Some were gathering for after hours, but it was now way “after” my curfew. Now drunk myself, I just stared at them. Jamie was still crying when I decided to say goodbye. I’m a hugger by nature, and when Jamie said goodbye she told me she wanted a good “serious” hug, and reminded me of a hug we shared years ago: “it went on for hours,” she said. I had almost forgotten; I can’t believe it.

Feeling loved by old friends is a joy. This is Christmas. The act of remembering, reawakening the relationships that have been dormant, the act of remembering whom is important, the act of allowing yourself to remember maybe is what is important. I don’t know; it doesn’t matter—I am just telling a story about a night when I spent time with old friends. I saw them in an old light on a new day. We are older, better people, different then before, but our hearts are the same, our compassion the same, the reason I loved them in the beginning is the same. So why let it go.

10 December, 2003

So here is my journal backlog. I didn't write any of this for mass consumption. But this all happened so I will throw it out there - but I am not proud of it. I will be more articulate from here on out. (I hope) I am in a state of literary flux.

And by the way.....
I love you guys. It feels so good to be supported. You all really encourage me. It really means a lot. There is so much going on in my life, so much to digest and mull over. This is the beginning for some much and it can be scary as hell.

So I love ya and thanks



Ah, a new month. Halloween was great. Wendy is fine. All is well. I did a lot of studying today. I am going to bed.

I am concerned still about my body. So many aches and pains, nagging injuries without seeming cause. Why?


So much is happening and I have had so little time for my journal, alas… I am recovering from a cold, but that is not at issue. I have talked to Robin and he is excited about my proposal for a ship. Sail-mountaineering is what he is after. Sail – mountaineering! Can I really believe it? It is hard to imagine such a life. There is so much to think on and I have so little time right now. But the time is quickly coming. I need to get healthy.

It is also time to sit down and rewrite these stories. I am psyched. Everything is coming to a head. This is the time. I am so excited for the world, for life again.

What to do about Wendy? What there?

Remember the Marathon Monks of Mt. Hiei in Japan. Remember their seven and a half days of fasting, meditation, no water, no sleep. Remember 52 miles a day for 100 days. Seven years, a thousand marathons, five day fire meditation. Truly anything is possible they go beyond the real.


I broke up with Wendy this morning… then went and had three cavities filled at the dentists. So obviously it was a great day.
Actually I have done a fair share of writing this evening. But the twenty-four hour sebaticle was large.
Oh but the venison steak for dinner…. Uum yes.

I have been dreaming so vividly the last few days. I have seen the boat and imagined the Antarctic. I want to get a bike and pedal around countries I visit.

I am ready. I am ready to work and to fear, to be alone and to achieve my far flung dream. It will go. I don’t want to live the life of everyone else here. Sometimes, I am scared for them more than I am afraid for myself.


Oh I just had the most beautiful talk with Wendy. We reminisced old times and our feelings and our hopes. It was really superb. We get along so well when we are broken up. I am sad that things went the way they did. God, I am so thankful.

She said that I was looking for a mother figure in my life.
I would love a Bootsie figure in my life.
She thinks Bootsie is coming to see me soon.
What does that mean?.......

The word is bionic. That is how Nicole describes it. So that is how I have been feeling.
I stayed up until seven am last night. I got lots done. But it is that overall, I feel great, alive. My mind is working so clearly. I can see the future and its setbacks. I am resolving potential problems with creativity. My writing is growing. My relationships are maturing. I am relaxed in the face of a fare deal of pressure and challenge. None of it seems so terrible right now. I am learning what I want and I am looking to the future to see what I will need.

I have had very little time for journaling. SO sad. One can’t do it all I reckon.


I learned a lot of lessons today—too many. What I have learned is that I am vulnerable, in my honesty, to people that choose to pry the truth from me, noting my deflections and deducing the truth, if not knowing it certainly. I have a right to my own privacy and I couldn’t protect it. (I am single now by the way.)

So how can I protect myself. This isn’t the first time: Genny did it to me as well. How can I stop it? I need a poker face. I need for all answers to be given in similar manner. I need to stop the questions from coming. How? How could this have been stopped?

Strangely though, I feel free. Today was the belly of he whale. I am not attracted to anyone—I don’t even feel crushes. Perhaps I will be more free to pursue them. I don’t know but, again, I feel that this relationship is at last behind me. There is nothing left to be destroyed; it’s all gone now. I feel nothing anymore. Strange that I felt this coming all day long. Why did it have to end this way I wonder? Why did she have to dig until she found what she feared, self-manifested? I am not tied to her. I am both pissed and numb.

Lots of questions, old questions. What a huge autumn. Has it really been the best I could do? What has been gained? I have learned to write; I have suffered; I have started to move into my future; I have loved; I have fought; I have been challenged; I have found seclusion; I have slept. All in all I’d say it has not been overwhelmingly positive. So there is plenty of material to learn from. Is there a story in it anywhere? How could I ever write Wendy’s dialogue?


Fucking cool day. I haven’t said a word since 12:05. I’m going a full 24 hours without talking to anyone – no vocal communication, not even Widge, who likely will be a bit confused because he won’t be able to read my notepad.

Well, I haven’t meant to say a word. They slip out from time to times. See ..\Quietude2.doc This link may change when I change the final name, but it shouldn’t be hard to find. It is a non-fiction piece about not talking for a day; it’s called “Say What?”
I had a good semi-talk with – oh my god, I can’t believe I forgot her name. . . . . Heidi. Welcome to my world of amnesia.


The last day of a tough month. But oh how it has ended well. The trip I took to the cabin with Linda, Greg, Cory, Loren, Soren, Caroline, Rose, and Daron was great. The ski in to the cabin made the whole weekend worth while. It was an awakening.
Last night we talked about fairies, near death, dreams, Jung, destiny and on andonandon…. Caroline was staring at something that felt special and a friend walked up behind her and felt it too. He took three pictures of the tree they were staring at. On developing the pictures he found a fairy was walking there in the picture. HOW COOL IS THAT!!!
[see thanksgiving pix in Fall’03]

I feel so much better after the turmoil of the last few weeks. I talked to Jamie B for an hour which was great. Loren Linda, and I had great talks in the car and we listened to Jean Houston on the way home. Highway 2 was a beautiful drive, so much snow and the Northern Rockies like teeth hemming us in. My favorite, though, was walking alone at night. I sneaked away from a group and then hid and watched them pass. It felt so good. I thought about Blake and the Gnostics. We played a great game called scategories—I love it. It is my new favorite game. Me and Linda won. We kicked ass, but we had some fine, my-T strong competition.


It is 3 AM and I am rocking. The last few days I have been on fire, working my tail off, in the zone. I am on task, and I feel like I am doing good work. I had a great talk with Judy tonight which also made me feel uplifted. Life is back on track. I just need to see it through. Everything is flying by. Eternity is now. I can see it all around me. I hope everyone else is okay. Wendy? Linda is hurting like I have never seen before. I am scared for her, but so wrapped in my world that there is little I can do or even think about doing.

Always exciting to have a new journal. I don’t have as much energy to put in my journals these days as I would like. But I am doing plenty of writing all the same. I need to decide what to write for next semester. Pokhara and A.T? Maybe Bootsie’s death? A version of Bouda or “The Dogs are Bodhisattvas” Oh—“The Shepherd’s Hut” I want to write that one.

I just got reunited with Megs – like from the Lemon Megs, Crystal and Megs, hop in the bed at two in the morning Megs, the grey area between all talk and no action Megs. She is married and living in Fargo. How strange. She goes completely with the wind. Megan Sunshine Turner. It was a fun talk. I needed a break from the computer.

Work is coming along. I had a workout today and it felt lively and fresh – whatever that is supposed to mean. I could feel it, I could feel the life in my muscles what seems like the first time. I am tired of looking at the computer.

Today is the day. In a little less than twelve hours I get to do my presentation. I am damned excited, pretty funny. I feel good. It is early but I’m up and at it, listening to a little Willy and Waylon, “A good hearted woman in love with a good timen’ man.”

Well that’s about it I guess. I’m just so stoked I wanted to write about it.

Well it went good and bad. People enjoyed it and stayed after to here me speak, but my organization floundered. I couldn’t use my notes at all. I have to just wing it. Which I did but I was scattered and inarticulate. But I got through and people were impressed. Wilson said he really wanted to take another class with me. I want to sign up for the Dante/Joyce graduate seminar as opposed to the Joyce class I am now in. I may ask but that will be a lot of work – so what!

SO I am happy and cheerful; I went to the bar and had a Baily’s and won a game of pool. Life is good. Now back to work.

09 December, 2003

I have been neglectful - I'm sorry.
This semester has been Maddening, like a scary rollercoaster on rusted tracks that you are never quite sure
will hold.
Today, I have my BIG Blake / St. Thomas / John / Gnostic / Early Christian / Mysticism presentation - and now I only have thirty minutes to get it all in. No Problem!

I've got class in a few minutes. I just wanted to "re-install" my self into this site.

++++++This winter I am actually going to build a website - Yeahhhhh

Megan - thanks for the support, I really appreciate it.

I will start telling stories again.......

04 December, 2003

Say What?

Monday, 12:05 pm__________________
It’s done. I left a message on my voicemail: “sorry, can’t answer my phone today. If you need something come and see me personally. I will answer all calls tomorrow.” I feel strangely excited. I don’t know what to expect. This is something new, hopefully challenging. Am I going to stay home and hide, or am I going to go out and do things, interact with people?
I just realized I forgot to call a friend of mine to tell her I need the paper back she borrowed. Too late now. The goal is to not speak a word until this time, 12:05 tomorrow—everything is off until then.

12:18 pm__________________________
Within fifteen minutes, I’ve already slipped up. Widge, my chocolate lab, was looking at me pleadingly, and I said, “Widge, you want to go out? Okay.” I didn’t even realize what I was doing.
Talking to Widge is like internal monologue; how do you shut that off?

12:46 pm_________________________
My first interaction. Coming back from walking Widge, I ran into Bob, my neighbor. “Snowbowl is open,” he said putting his skis in his trunk, “I’m going to get ‘um all waxed up.”
I just looked at him and made funny gestures. I was totally at a loss. I mouthed some things then pointed at myself, did the “talking” gesture with my hand and nodded my head “no.”
“Whaddya do, lose it all?” I just held my arms out with my palms up. He started brushing snow off his car, and I ran in and grabbed my pad and scribbled a note to him. He nodded but didn’t say anything, as if he couldn’t talk either.
It was awkward. I wasn’t ready. Communication is so naturally vocal, doing it any other way takes a bit of conscious effort.

Walking Widge, I tried to cross as few roads as possible. He doesn’t walk on a leash; he heals as we cross, but I normally use voice commands like, “heal,” and “good boy.” Today when we came to our first street crossing, I patted the side of my leg and he came and healed. We crossed the street and when we reached the other side, I raised my arm forward from my side, as if throwing a frisbee, which is the signal for “break,” and he ran off sniffing trees. He did well—I was proud. But once, only once, he stepped into a one way street; it didn’t look much like a street all covered in snow, but I had to groan at him, and he ran back to the sidewalk.
Am I allowed to groan? I don’t think so. Groaning and whistling are out, I think. No vocal communication. So now I have flubbed up twice, but I am getting into the swing of it. I think I’ll pack up some things and go run some errands on campus—without Widge.

1:19 pm_________________________
I just made myself a notecard that says “Yes” on one side and “No” on the other. I want props. Everything is more fun with props. I’ve got the highlighter out and I’m going to town. My little notebook is ready to go, also highlighted and underlined.

1:22 pm_________________________
My first missed call. It’s exciting, I guess—a whole day without my cell phone (the only phone I have). This day is the antithesis of the cell phone revolution. Anyone can talk to anyone at nearly anytime, anywhere on Earth. And can talk to nobody, not my friend down the street to see if she can give me my paper back, not my family on the East Coast. I’m cut off. How unusual in this day and age. Remember beepers? In my house I grew up without an answering machine. I love getting phone calls—I hope they leave a message.
Yep, there’s the voicemail: beepbeepbeep, beepbeepbeep. I feel loved.

1:28 pm__________________________
Not talking is turning into a pain in the ass. (I checked my voicemail.) How am I supposed to manage my life? I have an independent study to arrange and some girl is trying to change it; I need to call the professor—but I can’t. Ahhh!
Nothing will be lost in a day. Patience, my friend. Honestly, I need the break. I have had the most stressful few days. Now I understand the path to mental breakdown. Nothing has made much sense recently; everything I thought was true was somehow skewed if not an outright lie. (Mind the absolutes.) So, will this day of silence be calming—a step back from my beleaguering stresses—or will it be a magnification and intensification of them?

2:51 pm__________________________
I am getting ready to venture out into the world. I am a homebody and am loath to leave, but this won’t be all that interesting if I don’t. So here goes.

4:20 pm__________________________ I have made it to the computer lab on campus without interaction. In fact I am hiding here. I was nervous that the bus driver was going to say “hello” to me. I was ready to smile and nod, but he said nothing.
I hate being rude to people. I can’t say, “hey, how are ya?” I’ll just smile and nod, smile and nod. If they stare at me strangely I reckon I will pull out my highlighted notepad and notecard and explain that I can’t talk: “You see, I’m doing this project because I talk to much. . .“

4:46 pm__________________________
My first good interactions. Can I use the word “exciting” to describe a conversation with a notepad and a cashier / coffee maker? Whatever!—it was fun. I went to the University Center, a quasi-mall on my campus where I go to school. It is an easy place to run into folks you know. Since I’ve had a hard few days and still felt a bit low, so I thought I would buy a soft drink to treat myself. So I went in the Market and thought, why don’t I ask how much a chai costs? I love chai. So I took a deep breath and went to the counter, made eye contact with the girl there who walked up to me. I scribbled a quick note: “How much for an iced chai?” I was expecting a one line numeric answer—a simple interaction.
“Do you want a ‘something-something’ or a Tipu’s chai?” she said.
I didn’t hear the first part, but I wanted a Tipu’s, so I made a letter T with my hands. She understood, and then she asked what size I wanted. I didn’t want to buy a chai; I only wanted to know how much one costs. Again I went to the pad. I underlined the “how much” part of the question and circled the question mark.
“Yeah, but what size?” she asked.
I wrote twelve.
“And what kind of milk?”
Soy, I wrote.
“$1.75. You get twenty-five cents off for happy-hour,” she said.
Ah, at last an answer. I smiled and nodded my head “no thanks.” The “thanks part I added with my smile. I think she got it because she smiled back as I walked over to the fountain drinks to make a suicide.
I left the U. C. and decided to walk over to the Writing Center where Janie, a friend of mine, may be tutoring students on how to write an essay. Perhaps I could go and “communicate” with her for a little while. It was dead quiet, no students and no Janie. There was a man I didn’t know working behind a computer and he looked up at me. I didn’t have my notebook handy so I did the “point at myself and zip my mouth” charade. Just like Bob, he nodded, smiled, but didn’t say a word, and went back to the computer. Being mute, you seem to mute those around you as well.
I looked at the board where the tutors make their appointments and wrote my name down to see Janie tomorrow. Before walking out, I took my notebook from my pocket and showed the guy my highlighted page explaining that I wasn’t talking for a day and why.
He smiled. “I thought that might be what was going on. I did something like that for a project I had once.”
I nodded and smiled and walked out satisfied. I’m kicking ass, I thought. I don’t even know what that means really.

Now I am in the library, another social Mecca—as strange as it may seem. I hop from computer to computer, home, computer lab, library, hiding behind the screen, plotting and hiding. I haven’t seen anyone yet, and I am no longer afraid.

6:11 pm__________________________
My first long conversation. A girl named Zeta came up to me. She wasn’t put off at all, and we’ve never talked much in the past. She told me once she had gone a whole day with ear plugs in her ears. That is intense: I know what I am not saying, but she couldn’t know what she wasn’t hearing, for instance, someone screaming, truck horns honking as you’re walking across the road. Imagine going blindfolded for a day.
Zeta was great. She kept asking me question after question. I started writing in my pad, but since I was working on a computer, I figured I’d type instead.

“Do you have to do ‘something-something?’” She talks really softly.
“I am just making it up as I go—just no talking. I talk so much; I’m trying to become more introverted, so today I am taking it to the extreme. I thought it would be a fun thing, a change and a new point-of-view. How was your weekend?”
“I went skiing.”
“Where?” I typed.
“Up at Lolo. How was your weekend?”
“Long story…” I am glad not to have to talk about it. People don’t expect you to write out long stories and probably wouldn’t want to read them anyway.
I won’t dictate the whole conversation. It would be boring and superficial. But to me, at the time, I was loving it. I don’t know why she bothered. I’m a novelty for a day, come get it.

It’s about time to catch the bus back home. It’s dark and Widge is sitting on the porch, probably a bit pissed off. It’s dinnertime, and it’s snowing out. I must remember—Don’t talk to the Dog. Don’t talk to the Dog. Don’t talk to the Dog.

7:27 pm__________________________
The silence has been broken, again, and this time with intent. It wasn’t talking to Widge either. When I got home I stayed composed, received kisses and gave belly rubs and head scratches without any “good boy” or “hello Mr. Widge” or anything of that sort. No, it was on the way home. I missed the bus so I went and found my bike which just happened to be on campus. I remembered what I had forgotten this morning: That I had tentative dinner plans with Jeddie, an old friend. He had called and left me a voicemail, basically saying I was “a weirdo” for not answering my phone today and that he may stop by later if he could get his car running. His apartment wasn’t far off, so I thought I’d stop in and explain, with my notepad, why I was being a “weirdo.”
As I left campus, going through a crosswalk, a car paid me no attention as he turned right onto the road I was crossing. If I were really mute I would have been smacked. But I am not mute; I am voluntarily silent—so I yelled a loud “WOA!” breaking my bike halfway across. It worked; he stopped, and I went on down to Jeddie’s. What if I had been mute, would I really have been hit? What if I were blind and walking across the street? What then? I guess these are the risks one then takes.

9:25 pm__________________________
A quiet evening. I came home, fed Widge, broke a plastic cup, my favorite, while juggling behind my back. “Shit Widge, I finally killed it.” Another slip up, but I super-glued the cup back together. I got a National Geographic Explorer in the mail and spent the last hour reading it while eating dinner: peanut curry and rice. No phone calls really, only one. Jeddie never called or came by. Everyone’s avoiding me since I’m no fun if I can’t talk. Life is lonely.
I think I may go to bed seeing how I actually need to wake up early for a change. I hope I don’t talk in my sleep, but I’ll never know anyway.

Tuesday, 9:05 am___________________
At eight o’clock this morning, I had a doctor’s appointment—I have a long enduring strain in my hip-flexor. There is no way I wasn’t going to talk to the doc and explain clearly and articulately where it hurts. Pictionary sketches wouldn’t cut it. The vocal fast had to come to an end. Though, I might add that it was hardly worth it—the doctor didn’t say anything all that interesting. A disappointing, anticlimactic finish—I was expecting to get healed due to my precise descriptions of theP injury.
Now I am waiting for a class I have in half an hour. I want to sit through it silent, I want to observe and listen, I want to reinstate the fast.

12:39 pm__________________________
I’m free—but it’s not really all that exciting. No kidding! You say. I guess I was never that deprived. It felt great to be an observer, no pressure to express myself or alter anyone else’s ideas with my own. I never got frustrated. I never had to say anything. I guess that is a lie since I broke the fast intentionally a couple of times: the car and the doctor. It was a good escape. I’m calm and more relaxed than I’ve been in weeks.

I think my next project will be to try and turn off the internal monologue as well as the external dialogue—that would be something.

13 October, 2003

Ch. 2. - "To the Dark Tower Came"

For, looking up, aware I somehow grew,
'Spite of the dusk, the plain had given place
All round to mountains - with such name to grace
Mere ugly heights and heaps now stolen in view.
How thus they had surprised me - solve it, you!
How to get from them was no clearer case.
- Browning

* * *
My days in Kathmandu were coming to a close, two months gone in a blur. I had been volunteering as an English teacher in a monastery at Boudanath Stupa, Friday was my last day. Tenzin, the administrator, offered me heart-felt blessings for the time I had spent with them and for my trip still to come. He and my young Tibetan monks draped silk scarves over my neck thanking me – the Tibetan ritual for blessing. I was so overwhelmed by the ceremony of the Tibetan goodbyes - far less clumsy and awkward than our own western goodbyes. This culture in its vast differences offers so many wonderful alternatives to the world and lives of the west.

I walked into the Double Dorjee for dinner garbed like some sort of star. I didn’t want to take the bulk of scarves off – I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to. I didn’t want to spoil their wishes for my safe travel. I felt I might need them. I had only three weeks before my flight back to the U.S. – not much time to get anything done. Also, because of the monsoon, it was difficult to trek or climb anywhere. In fact, I hadn’t climbed once since I arrived in Nepal. Olaf, a German friend, had told me about a place in northwestern India called Ladakh. It is known as “Little Tibet.”

Ladakh is quietly situated in the Jammu – Kashmir region, nestled between Pakistan and Tibetan China. Southern mountains around Manali block the monsoon rains from moving any farther to the northwest. Ladakh is Himalayan high desert, the western extension of the Tibetan Plateau. It is completely dry except for the ancient Indus River and its tributaries which flow through its heart. A trek called the Zanskar Traverse stitches its way from Manali toward Leh, the capital. This trek is famous; I had read about it years before. I thought I might try and do a short section of it. I left for Ladakh on Saturday. I estimated a seven day journey before I would see Leh. I packed only a super-light bag: a few books, socks, toothbrush, rainjacket – no silk prayer scarves; I left them with the rest of my things that I stored in Kathmandu.

Friday. I bused south out of Kathmandu. The dry, dusty urban sprawl, the horns and screeches of traffic all faded behind trees and rising mountains. Sixteen hours of beautiful rice patties, moist air, streams, up and around the treacherous high roads of Nepal. Landslides were a constant danger as well as head on collisions with the multitude of trucks networking goods across Nepal and India. I had never seen India, a land of such legend and color. All summer I had studied Ayurvedic medicine and yoga, had learned Hindu gods and the cosmology of Buddhism and the Vedas. But the land itself was still a mystery.

I love the road. Two months of rigorous study with a new and dear friend, a brilliant schizophrenic, had rekindled that urge for adventure and travel. India for the first time – at once I was riveted and anxious, but also calm and detached. The wind whistled through the open door of the bus. My mind wandered freely, unhindered. As we reached the lowlands, the color and cleanliness of the drive were striking and invigorating. We stopped in random villages delivering satchels of mail.

In late afternoon, hours after I thought I had crossed into India, I finally came to the bordertown of Somnali. Everything had been so clean and lush. In Kathmandu I had become used to filth and garbage strewn across all open ground, cows eating rotting matter out of the sewers. Here, everything was flat for miles around, reminiscent of the Llanos of Venezuela or Florida, lakes and water everywhere, everything green and vibrant. No large towns, little traffic.

Sunday I caught the afternoon train to Delhi. It was an eighteen hour ride, an overnight trip. I had been well warned of the dangers of Indian trains. Night trains were a favorite for pickpockets, targeting sleeping tourists with loose or open bags. I even heard of a lady who kept her wallet strapped to her leg. She woke up with her pant leg cut up the seam and her wallet gone. There are stories about water bottles spiked with sleeping narcotics. So I brought plenty of water and put tiny padlocks on my pack.

The people in my car were playful and friendly. We joked and had long political discussions about the growth of India as a power into the world economy. But I spent most of my time by the door. I could open the car door and sit, swing, or hang outside the train, watching all the world wiz by and change color. We would cross over great rivers and seeing the river between my toes, hundreds of feet below, was a rush. On the floor behind me lay a woman wrapped like a leper, white and bandaged. She had been badly burned when her cook-stove exploded. She and her husband were going to Delhi for treatment they couldn’t afford. I gave them a meager donation.

At many stops along the way, vendors would sell chai tea and the Indian varieties of fast food: fry bread and chutney; spicy, grease-fried chicken; fried rice. This is all that is available to eat while traveling by train.

At night, I huddled my bags together as I slept. Once, sleeping in a park in Pamplona, I had been robbed of a snickers bar and five bucks as I slept. I was outraged, and I was determined never to have it happen again. When I arrived on Monday morning, I still had all my possessions. I hadn't been drugged, not that I could remember. I left the train with a plethora of email addresses and walked into the swarm of taxis and tuk-tuks (motor rickshaws). This was Delhi. The market district is adjacent to the railway station. I walked south as Olaf had told me and found a hotel in a spot that I hoped would be hard to lose. It was 10:15 am. I went directly to bed and slept until early afternoon.

I woke up in Delhi in the afternoon and walked around. India reputedly has the most amazing traffic in the world, and Delhi was supposedly a fine example of it. But I didn’t think so. It’s just that it barely moves, only slow, like a glacier. I thought Kathmandu was more amazing because of the cowboy style of driving; no lanes, no lights, no rules. Everything was fast, dangerous, and damn exciting. Here it was just a crawl, boring.

I learned the bus to Manali is in the evening - only night buses go to Manali. Since I didn’t want to spend the whole next day in Delhi, I needed to hurry and catch the one today. I only had two hours to find an ATM, collect my pack, and get back to the bus. I got a tuk-tuk and ran to the bank. We were heading out toward Old Delhi and the traffic was moving well. It only took about five to ten minutes. But heading back into town, back to my hotel, it took a solid hour or more. But I made it. I will not go into my difficulties with the bus people. Straight answers never come in this part of the world. That evening, a couple of hours later than expected, from a different spot than expected, on a different bus than expected, I did finally depart for Manali.

It was on this leg of the trip that my karma would come around, that mistakes made would be paid for. I ate something, I don’t know what or where, but my stomach started to fester; it turned to glass shards and granite. It would have been, and was still, an amazing drive. The conductor was a madman, taking the bus into every corner like Davie Allison. He passed buses on blind corners, speeding up as he went, just avoid oncoming traffic as it appeared. I didn’t know any sane man would drive a bus like that. I had been in Nepal for long enough to understand bus drivers, but this was truly spectacular– I loved him. What a ride! But stomach pains on a night bus trip are no good, especially a drive as animated as this one was. I didn’t sleep, but by morning I was feeling better. I felt so fortunate to have not vomited or otherwise lost control of my functions. The Buddhist prayers must have been with me.

Tuesday. I was in Manali, touted as the “hippie hangout” of India. The understory of the forest was basically a monoculture of marijuana. The town was small, relaxed and cool, even quaint. Everything seemed muted. A breeze always blew. The trees were dense and tall, entwined like a tropical jungle.

A guy fetched me right off the bus and took me to his hotel. I usually ignore such people; I was tired. His place turned out to be stunning, by far the best place I’d stayed in Asia. It looked down over Manali from the western hills. My room was spacious and clean, a corner room with a balcony. Air blustered through my windows. I had room service - I ordered a pot of chai. The waiter gave me a bit of hashish as a sample.

It was 10 a.m. I felt rejuvenated from the torture of the night before. I wanted to sit and read as the light streamed in with the gusts of air. I thought I could sit, read, and write for the next two weeks without ever going to Ladakh.

To sit and relax was a good idea. I felt alive again, but my stomach still wasn’t right. Because of the vast altitude gain, it is recommended to spend two days in Manali for acclimatization. Oh, but I only had about two weeks to play, and I had a plan… I wanted to climb a mountain. There was no monsoon, no rain. It was fine climbing season. In Ladakh there are nothing but high climbable mountains, all in the six thousand meter range. I’d never climbed a mountain near that high. (I’ve never been to the Himalaya!) Of course, I didn’t bring any gear. I had only planned to go trekking. I do some incredibly foolish things sometimes. I don’t plan. Tuesday would be my last day in Manali.

That night I had the most intense visions. I had been practicing yoga and meditation all summer, trying to improve my mental control and my physical flexibility and strength. That night I smoked some of the local hashish. I had never smoked before meditating. I flew over cities and galaxies. I drifted from one vision to the next, each crisp and unforced. I was relaxed and calm. Meditation had never been so successful or easy. I took this as a very good omen.

Wednesday. The bus for Leh would leave at seven the next morning. I awoke at five. I don’t like sitting around when I have somewhere to be. So the bus left by nine and it was a two day drive into Ladakh.

The bus ride went straight up. How we weren’t already above six thousand meters I couldn’t fathom, but we were only starting. Slowly the lush valley fell away to juniper, dry rock, sand, and dust. The landscape went from green to tan-brown limestone, loess and gravels, still and stone quiet.

Great trucks growled as they passed. Road workers sat under boulders playing cards. There were shepherds up here, but what did the sheep eat? Farmers grew potatoes up here. Was this Ladakh?

It was majestic. The peaks were mighty, dripping glaciers in torrents down into grey rivers. This wasn’t Ladakh. But I was already thinking this might be the greatest bus journey of my life. Epic visual drama.

I had some great guys with me for the journey. We were all joyful for the trip and friendly to meet each other. I sat next to a thirty year old raft guide, Sorbeer, who was married at fifteen. Behind me was Shankar with a group of friends from Calcutta. Shankar was thirty-five, unmarried and still living at home with his father. He said he didn’t want to marry yet, but would be married within the year; his father and brother were arranging it. He said he had finally given in to the family pressure. This was India.

The first day was short but geographically stunning. So dry above the lush mountains of Manali, high, desolate, empty - like the nature of Buddhism itself stripped down and bare. We stayed in a high village for the night before the first “great’ pass the next day.

Before the sun set, I thought I would jaunt up the mountain behind me to get a view of the sunset, and the valley, and the patties, gompas, and villages beyond. I needed the exercise, and I wanted to breathe the fresh thin air. I was surprised by the difficulty of the trail, much more difficult than I had expected taking into account the conditions. This startled me a little – scared me too. But the view was worth all the cost. The wind was blowing through the potato plants as the sun blackened the north facing slopes. The breeze picked up and the sun dropped in the gap between two crests and melted into the shadowed glacier falling from the saddle.

I found Sorbeer my seatmate in the little restaurant beneath our room. (We split a room. $.75 each.) I ordered a plate of what he was having – spicy chicken strips and wings. I deferred on a bottle of the local vodka, but he poured me half a glass anyway, the bastard. So I drank the vodka. I don’t like most liquor, but for that it wasn’t bad. It tasted something like schnapps. We told dramatic stories about climbing or boating. I enjoyed his animation. He could get worked up like a child, so happy about the water and paddling. He was completely in love with his sport, like my love for climbing. We found the same love in different worlds.

I took my mattress to the roof and fell asleep watching the big dipper spin around across the horizon. We had to be up at three o’clock in the morning, Thursday, for the last leg, the long leg. I slept lightly, people and things were always stirring about me. Around two, someone started vomiting off the roof next to mine. I saw no shooting stars, only what I could guess was a great bat. I could see him clearly, flying over and over again, with a remarkable wingspan for a bat. There was no moon, no light at all. I’m not sure what lit him well enough for me to see his silhouette.

I don’t think our wakeup call ever came. I was awake somewhat – lost in the phantasmagoria of semi-consciousness; I was conscious enough to look at my watch several times. Sitting up, I realized I felt terrible. It must have been the vodka. I hate vodka. I hadn’t drank in a long time. I must be real sensitive. With the altitude and taking only one day to rest in Manali, this could be dreadful. But there was “nothing to be done.”

I sat in the bus for thirty minutes, delirious, before we finally pulled away at four. I had the first seat on the bus but the door railing was too close to do anything comfortable with my legs. The road was rough, slow and long. It was never straight or constantly paved, always winding up or down, always dusty and single laned. The sun always seemed to be glaring through my window as we wined along ridges and over passes. Pot holes and slow jarring turns decreased any chance of sleep, even if I hadn’t been feeling sick. I hummed and put myself in a sort of trance. It worked intermittently. But the sun burnt down on my head. The dust came in and crusted my nose, lips, and throat. My legs became mysteriously sore, and my knees ached immutably. And, of course, my head throbbed like a heart pulsing.

Midday crept slowly passed and it dawned on me that this wasn’t a vodka induced problem. It must be altitude sickness. This was logical. In fact, I had never been so high in my life. We were over sixteen thousand feet – we were driving over Mt. Rainer. And I felt like a veritable hell-storm was raging through my body. I must be altitude sick; I didn’t take that extra day in Manali. Now there was “nothing to be done.” (As Samuel Beckett would say.) I wasn't climbing; I couldn't turn around. So I hummed my gibberish mantras, closed my eyes, covered my head and tried to think of nothing, Beckett’s nothingness. I sang every song I knew, all three, over and over again.

We were continually stopping at checkpoints, and since I was the only non-Indian on the bus, I had to get out alone to show my passport. I have a penchant for local buses. I was getting so weak, my nerves were no longer communicating. My body felt like dead clay, but still it could suffer. My joints and bones ached. I stopped sweating. Getting up and walking took concentration and energy. If we stopped for a break, even with my now agonizing knees and quads, I would stay on the bus in my comatose meditation, humming. It was amazing.

Sixteen hours. We had a flat tire - though it would have been amazing if we hadn’t. We entered Ladakh at last, but I couldn’t notice. In moments of clarity I would gaze up in awe at the rough-edged, chipped-raw mountains. I’d never seen any like them. I would have liked to have thought about climbing them. But I really hadn’t the imagination. We followed the Indus river valley north through dusk and cool moist air. At eight we came into Leh. There were trees and green things. Leh is at an elevation of about 12000 ft. This scared me. This was the bottom. Altitude sickness can turn into a more dangerous, indeed deadly, condition called cerebral (or pulmonary) edema. In this condition, the first and essential step is to go to a low, oxygen-rich elevation. But there was no such elevation here. Could this really happen from a bus ride? Doesn’t there need to be some physical exertion involved? I'm a climber; it’s embarrassing to suffer altitude problems on a mere bus ride.

I staggered off the bus, hoisted my pack. I saw a hotel across the road, walked to it, and weakly asked how much rooms cost. I chuckled at my question - why ask? I would pay a thousand rupees for a hay pile in donkey stable. I wrote my name and some visa numbers, struggled up the stairs and into my meager “shared” accommodations. It was shared because also in the room was a community of roaches, always crawling over my pack. I could hear them scratching in the dark. Luckily, I was too drained to care more than superficially. I just left the light off. I couldn’t be bothered with them.

I laid there in a state of meditative delirium for some eighteen hours. I didn’t sweat; I didn’t eat; I didn’t sleep. I sipped water. I could feel my own fever. Time stopped. Occasionally, to take a reckoning, I would struggle to sit up, but only for half a moment. The world would spin wobbly; I had no equilibrium. If I looked down I might vomit or pass out. I wished I hadn’t left those silk scarves in Kathmandu.

As Friday afternoon passed I started to accept that I wasn’t getting better, in fact, I was getting worse. Altitude sickness usually abates or lessens within a couple of days. Or this is what I thought at least. I certainly had never heard of anything like this.

I was weakening. My will was fading. I was becoming restless and nervous. I could no longer focus. The possibly that I might die passed through my mind. I smiled. Had it come to that? Was I so ill that I could envision death? The thought of dying in a hotel room in Ladakh seemed so rich an irony: the adventurer dying in a bed instead of on a mountain or the sea. I imagined waking up from a coma in a hospital room in Delhi to family and friends. I said, “hey, welcome to India!”

Only then, with the thought of death, did reason finally overcome my sense of rigor and self-mortification. If I can conceive death as even a remote possibility, then it is certainly time to go to the hospital.” I could hear every one of my family cheer with this revelation, thinking, “it’s about bloody time.” I’m a little slow sometimes. I should have brought the scarves. Sorry. So I summoned what strength I had and hobbled, two feet per step, down to the reception desk.

I murmured to them that it was time to go the doctor, and if they could please explain how to get to the emergency room. They said they would go get the manager. It figured! They can’t even give directions to the hospital. They couldn’t think themselves to the toilet. My mode reflected my wellbeing. Going to the hospital is like being defeated.

The hotel owner, a Kashmiri man named Ashok, said he would help me get a cab. I was grateful. My analytic thinking was absent. He found me a cab and told me that everything was in order, only to pay the cabbie 40 rupees. I thanked him. Then he said that in about thirty minutes he would come down to the emergency room himself and make sure everything was fine. Wow. I was shocked, as shocked as a delusional man can be, which isn’t saying much. More, I was relieved. I needed help. I needed a break. In fact, I didn’t even know what hotel I was staying at or where it was. I had no card or anything to help me back there. Brilliant! But this is what traveling is all about. How else can you find yourself in an unfamiliar city, delirious, without any clue of where you are or where your possessions are – and no way of asking? That’s living.

The wind of the cab ride rejuvenated me slightly. I was out of bed for the first time in two days. But when I saw the hospital, something changed. I erupted with tears. I sobbed with exhaustion. I had to laugh at myself. How strange! I hadn’t cried like this when my mother died. It was so unexpected. I didn’t know where it was coming from at first. Only then did I realize how much pain I had been tolerating, how much I had really suffered, that the sight of help and relief could trigger such a rare emotional outpouring.

In the hospital a woman greeted me calmly. I tried to speak; I mumbled, “please. . . help,” and then I broke out sobbing again, interspersed with self-accusatory laughter.

She didn’t understand English and gestured to me to sit on the bench and wait. This I thought was mildly amusing, being so distraught as I was, and then I started bawling again. A nurse came and asked for my name and three rupees, six cents. An Israeli came in with a girl with two broken toes, cursed at everyone, and then carried her out again. He said he was a medic and was disgusted. After fifteen minutes a nice, calm, young doctor called me as he unlocked a seemingly unused room. The Israeli girl told me the name of the medication for altitude sickness, so I asked the doctor for some.

The doctor did some of the standard things, checked my pulse and blood pressure, my tongue and eyes. He asked me about my stomach. I told him I had had a stomach problem before, the pain had gone, but I still had a bit of diarrhea. I don’t really know how much of this he really understood. I was only paying a minimum of attention anyhow.

I didn’t have altitude sickness at all. My blood-oxygen level was normal. I contracted a severe viral infection which caused the stomach problems I had in Manali. I began to dehydrate. The infection then spread to my head, causing a high fever. I think he said this. I really can’t remember for sure. He said my pulse was atrocious and that I was dehydrated as hell. I was shocked. I didn’t know whether I believed him but so long as I got some sort of pain medication I would be relieved.

Of course I couldn’t read the prescription, he didn’t tell me dosages or anything. The nurse gave me a few pain killers which were all I really wanted anyway. All this for six cents.

So where was my Kashmiri hotel manager? I didn’t know. I didn’t know how to go home, and I didn’t have the energy to try. I laid down on a bench outside exhausted. After a bit, a nurse came out with a packet of hydrating salts and told me to put it in my water bottle. I looked up and there was Ashok, my Kashmiri friend. It looked like he had walked right out of the sun. I wanted to hug him - no, but I sort of felt that way. We went to his van, and I explained how I didn’t even know the name of the hotel. He took me to a pharmacy where everything got sorted out.

I took only a morsel of food that night, but the painkillers eased me into the best sleep I’d had, despite the roaches. I woke up Saturday morning feeling so much better. I chugged water all day. I started to sweat again. I could sit up. I went down to the restaurant and ate, but only a little. I would have eaten more but the food was terrible. I took a cold shower.

The delirium faded.

I needed to heal and recover so I could still salvage a trip into the mountains. Sunday I took my first walk into town. This is a moving place, a place of collision, movement, and erosion. But it has a quiet that is unusual, deeper than sound. I had a surreal day. I looked at Kashmiri silk rugs with a Muslim. We talked politics and religion over chai for an hour and a half. I heard one lone monk doing solitary pujas in an empty unfurnished temple. Today was one of those days when these things happen. Perhaps the prayers were with me all along. I am changed in ways that I don’t understand but feel. I found a coin with the date of 1616, East India Company written on it, one-half ana. Possibly most exciting is that I moved rooms. The new room has a milder community of roaches, just a couple. Life is good.

- I think the beginning and end are the weakest parts of this story. How could I do better or do more?

- Did you get any sense of my themes? First was supposed to be optimism in the face of despair; and second, was the presence or absence of the Buddhist blessings I received in Boudanath. What else could be a good theme in this work?

- What would you like to see more of in this piece? Would you like it to be more or less personal, ie – sentences like, ”I’m an idiot sometimes?”
CH 3. - Reflecting Moonshadows

From the roof of my hotel I could see Stok monastery across the Indus. Behind the Indus Valley the Zanskar Mountains rippled the southern horizon as far as I could see. Faintly I could trace the road I had come in on winding with the river below. I remembered my illness and the mad journey upon that road that had brought me here. I felt changed and was unsure whether it was due to the severity of the illness or some innate power buried in these hills. Behind me the North road winded up through the crevices and gouges as it made its way into the Nubra region and beyond into Tibet. Anything seemed possible from this spot atop the Siachen Hotel. Everything was in my sight.

The Siachen wasn’t a palace, but I stayed because of loyalty to Ashok, the manager, who had helped me through my illness. I had recovered my strength and was eating well. I read a lot and dallied around town. I meandered out and scurried up and along the bouldery ridges west of Leh. Even these high dangerous places were decorated and empowered by prayerflags, blowing “Om Mani Padme Hum” (and other mantras) to the wellbeing of all sentient beings. Amazing how all the land is a shrine to the Buddhists! Ladakh is one great temple and each mountain a prayerwheel, each river hums sutras as it flows. It really feels that way here.

The lushness of the valleys contrasted against the dry mountains flashing dark shadows – they reminded my why I climb. Even their shadows were frightening and there is something in the fear of them that is uplifting and vital, humbling and empowering. But my climbing ability had grown dusty and suspect with disuse.

Behind the Indus River and Stok Monastery, Stok Kangri rose above the surrounding ridges and neighboring peaks, dripping ice and snow from its dished north face. It was elegant but not conspicuous, tall in a land of six-thousand meter ridges and summits. I had never climbed in the vacant airs over six-thousand feet, though I had dreamed it and feared it. The base camp for Stok Kangri lay only two days out of Stok village, a steep hike. From base camp it was one push, 5-16 hours to the top and back to camp. The route was not too technical, well within my abilities. But it would be exhausting and being on a mountain alone is always dangerous, even if you were in top shape.

When I left Kathmandu, and when I left Montana two months before, I knew that I must climb. It was my time. I would be in the Himalaya, the dream of all mountaineers. But was I really a mountaineer? Had I earned such a title? I had been climbing for many years. I learned quickly, I had the passion, I felt a sense of calling. But I hadn’t pushed myself since before I moved to Montana. I didn’t have any partners anymore. I was too busy to be a serious mountaineer. My education was more important. I climbed just enough to maintain what skill I had, nourishing that inextinguishable craving and need for high places and fear.

In Leh, a localized Aussi had given me the name of a hotel in Stok where I could acquire some ponies to carry my supplies up into the mountains with me. The next day I missed the morning bus which seemed to have left an hour early for Stok – my mistake. The next bus wasn’t until two which felt like a waste of the day, so I paid a cabbie a whopping 500 rupees ($10) to drive me across the valley to Stok Village at the base of the Zanskar Mountains.

The sky was cobalt blue and the desert rocks shone and twinkled. The sunlight had its own weight, its own gravity upon my shoulders, like thoughts on the mind; it was so bare and powerful I wouldn’t look toward it – only at its shadows. I wore a thin white and black Moroccan shawl under my hat and wrapped it over my ears and around my neck. Sunglasses dulled the glow of road. Looking east and west as the valley runs, it seemed I could see to the ends of the earth – where I had come, and where I would go. The land fell away without a sense of fading or obscurity. The valley drooped below the most jagged-sharp ridges I had ever imagined. They were beige and steep, with turrets and pillars, but splintering with fractal-like sub-ridges. The ridges were fluted, creating great chimneys and giving the rock intense texture to the eye. As we crossed the great expansion bridge over the Indus, thousands of prayer flags waved between the spreaders and wires, so thick they obscured the bridge itself, becoming a blur of colors, a rainbow over water, as we passed to the south side of the valley.

There are only two hotels in Stok and neither was the one I was looking for. No one knew the man that reputedly had mules I could take up with me to Stok Kangri if I chose to climb. The cabbie asked everyone around. We drove to the trailhead and then turned back toward Leh.

10:15 a.m. Back in Leh without a worthy plan, feeling a bit miffed, I felt a meal was the best course of action. The Tash Deley was close to my hotel and was always a quiet spot. Some chai would quell my doubts. On the way I stopped at a bakery to grab some coconut cookies and a pastry for breakfast, wondering. I would eat these as I drank a lassi in the restaurant. Curd is a national staple here. They taste like milkshakes.

The Tash Deley is upstairs in a building on the main street. The cement staircase has no rail on the way up to the one-room restaurant. The streetside wall is all windows, facing south, casting light over the room. The old varnish of the wood floor shines white with the glare. The waitress’ name is Tserring, a Ladakhi, maybe twenty-three or four. She’s cute and thin and dresses in a western sort of style like many young Ladakhis do. Her jeans were always a bit baggie and accentuated her hips. Thicksoled shoes made her appear a bit taller. Her tee-shirts always seemed random, as if gifts from foreign tourists, but they fit her well, always showing her flat stomach as she smiled.
“Tserring, Jullay...”
“Jo-nah, jullay! How are you?” in soft unconfident English.
“Lovely. May I have a banana lassi and a chai? Oh, and can I have buff momos as soon as they are ready. No hurry though. I know it is early for buff momos. Early lunch.”
“Of course, Jo-nah”
“Dhanyabād.” (thankyou.)

It was only ten-thirty in the morning, my cookies would pass the time. I was hungry, and I figured I would eat breakfast and lunch in quick succession. The momos wouldn’t be ready for a while. The cook likely still had to run to the market to buy the buffalo.

Letting my chai cool, sipping my lassi, my mind wandered back to my lack of progress. What was I doing? This mountain was important. Or was it? I didn’t want to head to the U.S. without doing some Himalayan climbing. I would be ashamed at missing such a rare opportunity. I had been dying to climb here for years and now my time was dwindling to a glimmer. But I couldn’t find a plan. Did I want to find a plan? Something didn’t feel right.

My mind turned away and, looking at the t.v. buzzing in the corner, I thought how I never have gotten used to the intermingling of these two foreign worlds: the American consumerism and the Tibetan Buddhist. In Leh, there is a great monastery built like the Acropolis on a high limestone escarpment overlooking the valleys. There are prayer wheels the size of Volkswagens; there are monks in saffron robes, prayer beads in their hands and portraits of the Dalai Lama in every house, business, and restaurant. But the young people wear bluejeans and chains, walkmen and Beavis and Butt-head tee-shirts. Kids sing rock ‘n roll songs, meanwhile the Ladakhi folk music is forgotten. Tourists flood the streets buying bus tours, treks, stickers, and Kashmiri rugs. The bookstore sells Harry Potter right next to Thich Nat Han. The mountains hold less awe for them then they once did.

I opened up and started back into the book I have been reading (the fifth Harry Potter; I had already read Thich Nat Han), shutting my mind off – I didn’t want to think about anything. I hated to see the erosion of such an amazing culture. I hated to be so confused about my life. I snacked on my cookie and sipped my lassi. The sun draped my shadow across the dull wood floor and warmed my shoulders. When my momos arrived I realized more than an hour had passed. I picked up the small buffalo filled pastry-looking morsel and dipped it into some hot sauce. I thought:

- Shouldn’t I be deriving a plan to climb this mountain, this formidable beast of a thing, alone? Why am I being so cavalier about the whole thing, like it isn’t important?
- What if I don’t want to climb it? This is my vacation; I can do whatever the hell I want to do, and right now I want to read.
- I don’t want to read? What the hell are you talking about? Deep down I want to climb that damn mountain. So why am I pussyfooting like I have never climbed a mountain before?
- Well, for starters, I never have climbed a mountain like this before. This ain’t the Canadian Rockies. And second, the energy is not so good. I’m nervous; it feels funny. Think about the rock that pulled off on me the other day, that’s never happened before. Not auspicious I tell you.
- These are not bad omens; You know better. Remember, in Venezuela when I didn’t go on that climbing trip. Remember the energy then; remember how that felt? That was bad omen energy, and that climb was a disaster from what I heard later. This is different; it feels different. This is timing and laziness – that’s all. I have been sick, as sick as I’ve ever been in my life maybe – that was five days ago. And now I think I can go up to twenty-thousand feet. I don’t even have a good map!
- Timing, yes. I have only six days to do a four to five day climb. Is that realistic? And I am sitting in a restaurant reading. Maybe I’m scared because it isn’t bloody possible now? Maybe I am too weak to climb?
- Of course there is fear; there is always fear. Climbing mountains is about fear. That is why I love climbing; its not a reason not to climb. What lies beyond the fear? Timing is another thing. I might have time. I have the strength. Get off your ass.
- Time is not the problem.

I opened my book again as I started on my momos. “Hajur, may I have a chai, Tserring, please.”
“For you, Jo-nah, of course.”
“Danyabād.” The time and pages started blowing by unnoticed as the shadows slowly crawled west to east around the room. The pages had no effect on me. I didn’t tire; I was rapt, occasionally bursting out in laughter - to my embarrassment – though the restaurant was mostly empty. Some monks would come and go, drinking butter tea, smiling peacefully, untroubled.

Each time I put the book down, I thought about thinking again: “I’m not afraid; my fear is justified” – the thoughts wouldn’t last. I was totally given to the story, to the distraction. I picked it back up, unresolved, and flipped page after page, chapter after chapter. It was two-thirty; it was four.

“Will you pack me in your suitcase and take me back to America with you?”
“You’re pretty small; you just might fit. But what would I tell to immigration? I don’t think customs would approve.”
“But I want to see America…”
“Is it difficult for an Indian to get a visa? Even so, America is very expensive to visit, very expensive plane ticket too. It would make you love Ladakh even more. Travel always makes you appreciate home.”

The room changed hue, darkening. As the sun started to set, it fell below the roof of the building across the street, casting its shadows the windows. I could hear an increased clamoring of Ladakhi laborers and truck drivers, now lounging on the steps of shops and on the curb of the street. People were out buying fresh fruits and vegetables from the women on the sidewalk. Two cows were tussling over who had the rights to the garbage pile beneath the Tash Deley. I realized I had been sitting here for nearly ten hours. I read some two-hundred and fifty pages, I don’t know, but I was relaxed and mellow, peaceful – even if I was hiding a bit.

Now it was getting hard to see. Tserring still hadn’t turned the lights on yet and shadows were taking over the floor and tables. I thought perhaps it was time for my bill. My eyes were still not sore, but I was at a good stopping place – a lull in the action, a redoubling for the next climax. I was starting to squirm around a bit much. My mind wasn’t complete mush, but that sort of empty feeling where thought can not simply force its own will upon you. “La cuenta – I mean, ah – Kati ho?” (How much?) It is ridiculous how often I fall into speaking Spanish here. My bill came to one-hundred and ten rupees, about two dollars. I tipped Tserring well, about half as much as my total. I sat in here all day after all.

I used the toilet, only a porcelain hole in the ground and a spigot, and then thought I would stroll through town, stretch the legs out, see people; I needed to do something. Something was swelling, tingling in my pores. I smiled at the feeling; it felt good.

I went down and past the cows now grazing together and started walking north through the center of town. I knew all the shops and things well enough by now. I love the colors of the produce as it was lined along the streets. The women and their striped Tibetan aprons could be found in faded National Geographic magazines – they haven’t changed; they have resisted time with weathered faces and wool cloaks. Still they smile. Still they laugh as they balance out their fruits against lead weights. They sell for next to nothing. I passed by the luring venders – not quite as sharp as usual - “I’m not shopping; I’m not buying, no thank you, Jullay! Then, passing another old bakery and a new cybercafé, I took a north road I had only ever been up briefly.

The poplars lining the road looked black silhouetted against the sky. The western horizon was that aqua-marine color when there are no clouds in the sky to catch the falling light. The air is always so nice at this time day! Everything felt fresh, the creek flowed down the right side of the street, gurgling and rumbling. It felt good to be walking, breathing moist, cool air – just to be moving again after a day spent in an imagined world.

I was gently going north up valley. I was now in the residential area. The barren desert rocks jutted out in the distance. I thought, “instead of turning back, I could just keep on going.” The way home was as simple as walking downhill. I had never been up to the head of the Leh valley. I didn’t know what to expect. I looked east over my shoulder and saw the moon rising over the southern mountains. It lit up everything, shining through the silica rock. Light danced off the pavement, the water twinkled, and the mountains cast great ghostly shadows at their feet. The moon would be full in a few days. “Where would I be? What would I have to show for this time, this experience, these chances? So much is at stake.”

The houses ceased into fields and rocky desert. The trucks and jeeps coming down from the northern passes slowly petered out. Lights crept behind me. The world welled up with sound; the gurgling creek swelled in my veins, vibrating intensely.

The road rose up, up above the creek, and the hum and intensity quelled with the elevation. The darkness rose. A sign came toward me in the twilight. It said that this road was the highest road in the world. I smiled with recognition: this was the North Road that crosses the supposed “highest motorible pass in the world.” Ha! And I was walking it - alone and at night. Where was I going? Anything seemed possible.

The sun had now long rid the sky of any last traces, but the moon was coming up like a fresh lamp over my right shoulder. The air was crisp, not cold, hardly cool. I almost ran into two black cows, ominous in the night. They were a bit frightened as well and spooked, almost slipping into the gorge below.

As the road steepened into switchbacks, the sound of the creek had been replaced by a soft gusting breeze. I noticed a dirt track heading off east into a nice open valley. It was wide and smooth. Getting lost would not be a concern. The North Star and Big Dipper were hovering in front of me, and the moon was making its predictable trip in the south. I headed off into the sand and gravel alone with the breeze before me.

My legs craved the movement. The day’s leisure pealed away. Up, up, gradually. All I could hear were my sandals as they crunched through the gravel and sand, and the wind trickling down from the east. Large boulders on the hillsides glowed, slightly illuminated in the lunar rays. The track winded around knolls and dipped into shadowy ravines. If I stopped the silence was eerie. My mind was hushed, still quiet from the reading meditation. Whatever was rising was still pacing itself, still remained beneath the surface.

Then the wind buzzed in my ear a bit, re-instilling a sense of equilibrium. Was that Mars rising pale over the eastern ridge? Was that Venus crossing the zenith overhead? I didn’t know. I wanted to know their names. I wanted them to be familiar. An hour passed without thought, then another and more.

On a knoll above me, I spied a flat bulging outcropping of rock. It was the time and spot for a cigarette, a break, a stare at the stars and a little quiet contemplation. My rolling papers were the worst papers in the world I’m sure. I have gone to using a small rolled piece of card as a makeshift filter - a European trick. The cigarette came together, but there was little art in it, I’m afraid. I tended the flame against the wind.

When I smoke it is a personal ritual, a sanctified act. I puff, not inhaling fully, making smoke billow all around my face in thick creamy plumes. I watch the embers burn and breath and fade. I like holding in the smoke as “good medicine,” like something sacred. If the wind is elsewhere I like blowing rings, cupping my lips and dropping my jaw, but the wind always comes when I smoke.

It is a time when my mind dialectically reverses on itself, like a mirror turned toward an introspective light, self-illumiated. I am able to see layers of trivialities, weaknesses, fears and peel them away. I dig down undistracted until I reach the bottom, the shadowy and hidden depths where my truths lie. Once found, once remembered, I take them and bring them up, back to the surface, and the light.

The stars to the north twinkled as if in a dance with themselves, as if they were not stationary at all, but were circling or twirling. I took off my sandals and sat on them. I pulled my jug of water out, took a pull, and another. I took out my now old black and white Moroccan shawl and put it beneath my ankles so I could sit cross-legged in comfort. The rock was noticeably warm from the day’s sun. I rolled the cigarette around between my fingers.

With the smoke exhaled any questions, troubles, doubts. These mountains have a poignancy that I learned years ago. Had I forgotten, or doubted it? Strange how memories fade beneath the dullness of daily routines. Strange how fear can warp the mind and distract it.

The last bit of tobacco I extinguished between my fingers tips with a twist. With a breath, I gave it to the wind. It was for my humility. This was my ceremony, my thanks and offering to the world for what life I have. I was in the Himalaya, in Ladakh, the old Tibetan Buddhist world, a world of cold simplicity, mantras, and invasion. There were no jeeps going by, no Kashmiris selling things I didn’t need; the mountains were crystal clear; the stars danced; the moonshadows had a form and shape, like the arched back of a woman, or the shape of a dolphin in the surf. Is life not worth the risks we take to live it?

I thought how soon I would be back home, back in the Montana Rockies with Widge and Wendy, talking to Paddy, Nicci, and Linda. I would see Willy and hear some good ol’ stories. I would be busy again. Again I would throw myself into life there. But today I was sitting high on a rock in the night, the moon gloating over me. It was hard to turn back even though I could now see the way.

I walked farther on, defiantly, until my path closed in around me with steep walls and a deep ravine. Reluctantly I turned back and down. The shadows had grown longer, stretching toward me from the southern mountains like teeth, the moon arcing over them. The slight downhill grade was taking me home, back to Montana too quickly. All I wanted was more time or for time to stop. I felt I could live in this moment awhile.

I saw a light not too far off in the distance. It appeared to be working its way up the track. The time was near midnight and I stood alone in the star-shine. The Indian highlands seemed an apt place to practice a little stealth. What good would come from being seen? - A ride home I didn’t want? I scrambled up on a small prow, and there was a shelf of rock with a fine shadow beneath it. I was glad for a reason to stop again. I didn’t see what happened to the light, but the rock was far too suitable for stargazing. I crawled back into the light and laid there dead for another fifteen minutes before moving on again. I had nowhere else to be.

I took it slow, seeing how quiet my feet would work. I crept around corners. I even got my heart rate jumping just a bit. I smiled; what fun! I felt like a little child. I remembered when I used to slip out of the house late at night and dodge car lights with Michael Pippin, running shadow to shadow, tree to tree. But soon I could see the black tar of the North Road winding along beneath me. My legs rolled me softly down the now silent and vacant streets.

The silence faded to the hum of the creek and te clatter of leaves. The road was hard to make out under the blanket of darkness falling from the tall poplars along the creek. All lights were out. A pack of dogs was sleeping by the square and didn’t notice me as I eased passed. A baker was at work preparing the morning’s cakes, and I managed some more cookies and a slice of pie from the man. The cows sat together outside the Tash Deley in the gutters. To the south the moon hung like a pendulum over Stok Kangri, still cold, cradling ice and whipped snows.



I am weary of illness. I have been weak and lethargic, slow to most anything, sloth and ornery. I thought it was the medication; I thought it was being ill.

My body is emaciated. I am frail and light. How we never notice the slight, slow changes our bodies make until we take account. Yesterday I weighed myself on a scale, just out of curiosity. I thought I was reading someone else’s numbers: 136 pounds – with clothes.

At that moment I realized, I realized I hadn’t fully understood what it meant to be sick, to have a significant illness, in my case, Giardia. I am not weak because I am sick – but because the sickness has eroded my body to a shell, sucked the water out of it and weakened it. Only now do I see how unhealthy it has made me. Now I see it impact.


Today is a day of endings and long awaited begins. I said goodbye to Wendy and regained my old life back. I feel once again like myself, unrestrained and free to function unhindered. I am breathing a sigh of relief with this passage.

But I have learned so much. I have made many mistakes unaware. We went so fast and became such daily fixtures, giving so much of our time to one another. I couldn’t see it. I knew, but couldn’t understand.

No wonder I have been so sick and slow to recover. No wonder my eczema has flared up again. No wonder I have been slow and failing to accomplish my tasks – my days have been shorter, my energy has been taxed, and my nerves have been stretched taught.

It wore me so to fight like that, to be misunderstood and to have no recourse. I could see the inevitability of this day long ago; did I need to walk it? I think so.

What an experience. I have learned what it means to share a life, to be intoxicated by a woman, to find such seductive comforts in her hold. There is joy there I will miss. I accept loneliness. But my health is priceless and was endangered. God bless you Wendy. Where do we go from here.


Wendy says that I am manipulative and defensive – but, that these aren’t bad things, just natural. She doesn’t want me to change. She only wants to be able to call me out on it when she sees it so I will stop hurting her without an argument ensuing. What does this mean?

I don’t think I am being manipulative when I say, “You always leave the lid to the Oreos off.” All I mean to say is that I don’t like stale Oreos and that I would like it if she would learn to be more responsible, more aware of cause and effect. But to her this is some sort of subversion; I am trying to break her to my will and this is not okay with her. But what about my Oreos?

What about me? What if I am not manipulative? What if she is wrong? Then I am the one being hurt; I am the one being accused wrongly, and how will this effect me? I am trying to believe her. I almost want her to be right so we can carry on – I don’t want to lose her. I love her after all.

If she were right I would change if I could see it. Why can’t I see? I’ve asked all my friends. They don’t see it. They can’t imagine me being defensive or manipulative? But do they know me like she does? They’ve known me longer and better – but differently, not like she does. Is it possible that I only manipulate her? What if she uses language differently? After all she seems to believe this is normal and fine.

To me it is not normal, not fine. I am troubled and have found little to learn. I had a troubling dream last night about my dog, Widge, my best friend was shot by an ignorant man; the best of me was destroyed by innocence, a man who couldn’t see the meaning or ramifications of his actions. Yet I blamed the murder on a man who was a religious fraud, who was seemingly unconnected.

What does this mean? Is the best of me dying because I am submitting myself to believing something that simply isn’t true? Or am I the one who is wrong and there killing myself?

I love Wendy. I don’t want her to go but I can’t understand; I can’t find her meaning. I won’t lie and say I do and apologize nor will I continue to be reprimanded for something that is imaginative fallacy.

So what remains…

SEPT 28.

I am so busy writing stories, I have little for the writing journal. What I need to do is vent in a non-literary way. So here goes…

Me and Wendy are floundering. My life is otherwise coming together. I am worried though for Wendy and her health. She scares me.

My writing is coming along. Nicole likes my story. What’s more, I like my story. Tonight I went to Second Wind and heard some non-fiction that I really enjoyed and taught me a lot. I can research stuff to add to my writing. Hearing this lady read, I heard myself in her story and voice. It was like hearing my calling. I know I can do that. I feel I can do it well, even greatly. But she showed me a side of nonfiction that I hadn’t thought of, mainly research. I always thought so spiritually and viscerally, adding objective facts and information never occurred to me, or certainly information that I didn’t have before the writing – learning for the sake of the piece – I never really considered it.

I am excited. I am sad about fictionalizing this piece. I want to make it a serious nonfiction piece now. What to do? I think I like the idea of writing both, a fiction and a nonfiction story with the same subject. It will be interesting certainly. I may learn truly which medium best serves me.

Where is the rest of my life? Where am I? I feel a strange sense of loss, like I am lost somehow. I have gotten so turned around, my life flipped upside down. I have been angry, I have been frustrated and hurt. All this for me is uncommon. It feels sort of surreal. It is almost exciting if I didn’t see a bit of foreshadowed doom in it.

I want to do well – I must do well. I refuse to be torn away from my goals. All else can fall away. To hell with it. I must write; I must get the grades. It is my passion; I am addicted. And I love it. I am feeling good. I feel better. I am encouraged.

My house is clean. My work is getting done. I am catching up. Things are turning around. Wendy is growing too. But still I am scared. But as time passes I acclimate and become capable of handling my burden. Soon it will be time to start planning for essays. Soon things will start to buckle down. Can I do the work and love Wendy simultaneously? Will Wendy help me?


My story is now ready. At last, but how gratifying.


A somber day after a long night. I came home to find gifts, once given, taken back. A tapestry given to me as welcome home present. A candle for Christmas. A picture for my birthday just a few weeks ago. I came home and they were gone.

They were gone along with all of her plants and things, a few dishes, soap, some pillows. But the tapestry, it was black with gold elephants and embroidery. It must have been Nepalese. The tapestry reminded me of my trip to Nepal and our long correspondence. It reminded me of her and our love. But it was also beautiful and looked beautiful on my futon bed.

The picture, the candle. They were mine and I loved them. They were pieces of me and symbols of her. They were mine and they are gone. And I won’t fight for them.

I miss Wendy. I left her yesterday. We were at an end. There was nowhere left to go. Of course it is never so simple. I am hurt and she is hurt. She wasn’t ready; she had more to give; she had more to risk.

In a way I cheated her. I won’t let her continue. I won’t let her win. She wants it to work so badly. It hurts me to think about it. She may hate me now.

She took an indelible marker and inked out a picture of us I had laminated on my desk. That was my picture, my desk – why did she have to destroy it? What need? How does it serve her, how does it help? I feel it is to hurt me, to take what ever she can from me. But why, as if I don’t hurt enough?

I take the blame. I am sorry. But I love Wendy and I’m not going to through any of it away. I love what we had and shared. She can’t take my memories.

It hurts for someone to try and destroy something you love. I want to love her still. How can I? How can I respect her now? She has come into my house without me, stolen things I love. She has destroyed things, any sign of her. She left behind a necklace I gave her. Red coral, I bought it for her in Nepal this summer.

I didn’t want us to be so different. I didn’t want to fight. I wanted to love her and get along. But fights make loving more difficult. Loss of trust make loving near impossible. It isn’t my fault that we couldn’t hold things together. It isn’t her fault either – it wasn’t meant to be. I love her still. I am hurt, but I think her pain, her hurt made her angry enough to lash out at me. I don’t want to believe it was her.

Maybe tomorrow she will be sorry. Maybe tomorrow will change things. How can we be friends; how can we go on? What happened to respect? It seems with pain all else has fallen away.

I feel so violated. I have been robbed and vandalized by someone I love. I feel the need to lock my doors now, like I have something to be afraid of. Why? Have I done something so wrong that now I am in fear? I have hurt someone so deeply that now they are exacting a vengeance on me? I have lost some sort of innocence.

But this is not so. It shall pass. What is new? People get hurt even if we love them. Love can turn to hate and I must bare it if it is true. It will pass. What will remain of my love then? Perhaps that is what she wishes to destroy. Love is not invincible. Tapestries can be stolen. Pictures can be erased. That is life. But my memories are mine and I will cherish them. Why would I do otherwise? Why would I want to destroy them?

I have abandoned her. I have left her alone, hurt, and yearning. I let myself become valuable, become loved and then yesterday I walked away. I called and end. I’m sorry. I have been so afraid. I could let it go on. I hope you can forgive me.

You know why? You know that it wasn’t working. I know you can understand. You too have been to the very edge. You left me only a week ago before redoubling your strength. Through your pain you must understand? Don’t forget our love, don’t destroy our past. Please.

I don’t understand. I hope tomorrow teaches. I hope this sorrow lifts. Wendy, I hope you don’t destroy all that once was. What a waste of something that once was a joy.


Genny is here, the Genny of legend, but now she is new, changed, empowered. She has a foreign look to her dark eyes.
She talks about healthy things and has gained healthy weight. She laughs and talks with a vigor she never had.

I can futilely express the joy I found today. Something is renewed, something old and cherished. I find a dusty joy in seeing her smile and glances. My love must still be with me, dormant. What every I feel is welcome.

She also made me miss Wendy all the more. We spoke about the science and style of sex. It reminded me of how I love it and that it is now lost from me. Must it be this way?


Genevieve is here. We walked up the waterworks trail and watched the sunset. We took pictures and laughed and told old stories.
We have never been as close as we are now. We have both changed, both of us. She is outgoing and communicative in a way she never has been before. I am less domineering and pushy, more easygoing. We can both relax more in our company.

Dinner with her dad was pleasant, Macenzie River and Saw Wa Dee. Tonight we walked down the railroad track and she sang me some jazz tunes. We talk about John Caesar. We talked about our hopes and dreams, and our fears.

It feels so good to be close again. Why does this girl mean so much to me? I have never known. It is so mysterious and elegant somehow. I don’t understand it. She is the only woman I have ever thought I could marry. Why? She was the first woman I loved, but is that why?

Even now I love her, not like before, but I want to please her, her happiness is important to me. We have spent a part of the evening talking about sex. It makes me miss Wendy, but also it is intimate talk and makes me feel closer to Genevieve as well.

What now? It is two-thirty a.m. She is leaving me soon and I will go back to my writing missing Wendy.


Again I have sat in the womb of my home, the tub, and pondered and muddled over the direction of things. I dug and dug, focused on going deeper, going to the point. There were so many tangential issues, so many problems that seemed to me balanced and equal. I had to resolve them. I had to build a hierarchy, a causal chain until I reached some end.

What is at stake? What have I to gain, this way or that? What is fear, what is distraction? For once does fear reside with pleasure? What a rare case!

I remember back to when I was last befuddled as I am today. I remember that what seemed like a mistake, when I said “what the fuck” and pledged; it was only a mistake in the narrow-minded sense. At the time it caused pain and problems. But in the end it sent me to Jackson, to the A.T., and to Montana. Some mistake that was. Today I am back; I am confused. I want to shout, “What the fuck,” and go with my love, my passions. But then I calm myself and remember all that I have at risk. I have so much to lose by being with Wendy: good grades, education, time, health. I am afraid of losing them. Isn’t that why I should go with her, risk it? But also I am afraid to lose her, give her up when we are so new together, before I have learned from her and of her. What about that fear? It doesn’t feel as convincing.

I feel I am not respecting my fears. Perhaps this is so. I love the gamble, but this time I am gambling large. I could end up with a child or depressed, or hurting someone, missing opportunities.

But what an opportunity this is. So we are different, so we have problems. I am learning patience and sacrifice, I am humbling myself toward someone who, at present, I don’t see as my equal.

Is there good in this? Am I turning hypocrite, am I selling all for sex and pleasure? Perhaps! But life is living what we find in it. I need experience, not knowledge – wisdom is not found in books but in scars, battle, and love.

So I will follow, tentatively. I will build greater boundaries for myself; I will learn the nature of vulnerability. I will suffer perhaps. Maybe this is the path of greatest suffering – though I thought it was the other.


I feel rejuvenated, alive and hopeful. I have Wendy back in my life. I am not in despair. I am feeling well, though my ankle and groin have been sore to over stretching. Strange injuries though, I don’t remember hurting either.

Things have run smoothly. I handed in another story – and will hand in yet another on this coming Wednesday. The progress is exciting. I am pleased with my work. I am slightly obsessed right now. I am working hard and putting off all else. My reading is a bit behind. But soon I will only have revision. I owe Debra our assignments as well. Everything seems to have a purpose and is invigorating.


Bed time. Stories on my mind. How to begin? What is my real theme – and how do I weave it. What could supplement; what more can I do, a parallel maybe? Fear and Dzogchen reflection are elemental. I would like to talk about the Melong. What else is being reflected in the story. Light reflects everywhere. The cows overcome there differences. I fight with myself, but find ease in the mountains. They show me what I had forgotten. I had lost my courage, I had forgotten my love. **This is not written so far.** By facing my fears in the mountains, I learn about myself. Write this!! How?


I wanna go home. . .bom bom bom
I’m tired and I wanna go to bed
I had a drink a couple of hours ago
And its gone right to my head

No matter where I might roam
By land, sea or foam
. . .

Need I say more.
Tonight Wendy and I went and had dinner with Derek and Erin. We played scrabble for hours before eating a grand spaggetti squash. I left early to head home and do some writing. Before leaving, we sat in the park and talked and talked. It was lovely. We have really developed a good friendship. I am comfortable and happy. She tried to lull me into coming to her house, but I thought it better if I refrain – since we have spent a lot of time together this weekend already.

I really wanted to go into the woods with Pat and Peter – but it wasn’t to be. I have so much work. I have gone out nearly everynight – no every one! How did that happen? It’s been good, but I have so much work. My stories need work as well. Hopefully I can dream a good beginning to Moonshadows walking. This paper is not coming along so well. I have a difficult topic, but I am learning a lot. I hope I can turn it into something.

I need to start working on my 310 assignments.


A cool Autumn day. A Montana day. The wind is blustering down the street and around the corner. Light peaks out behind deep clouds, but only for a second, even though the day is still reasonably bright and cheerful.

The trees are preparing, rattling there leaves like a push out the door. They litter the town yellow. Color fades from the grass and is covered by leaves. Even the sky is grey. Hats and scarves come out of the closet. Hot water is on the stove throwing steam in the air. Gloves are worn again on bicycle rides into the breeze scattering leaves across the road as you peddle.

Next week will be the end of the farmer’s market. Saturday I saw wreaths and pumpkins, squash and sunflowers – all fall colors and dry. Everything seems quiet and dry.

The mountains are still brown, a relief to those without a joyful anticipation of what lies ahead. Each morning I look up to see if that time is near, if the dusty snow has moved back into Missoula for the season.

[I only left the house once all day – to run. Great day!]