Wednesday, August 25, 2010
It's Three Word Wednesday. No humor this week.
A dog yelped from far off. Below us, the mountainside was shrouded in fog. I imagined the dog picking its way through the rocks and trees, stumbling. I sipped my coffee and waited for our guide to tell us it was time to move again.
We were walking the Trail of the Tiger, also called Bravery, also called The Evening Swallows. It depended on who you talked to. An old man in the village who smiled and packed rice into bowls with his dirty bare hands for hungry travelers had given me my bowl and said, "Luck for your walk on the Path of Sorrowful Words." At least, this is how I translated it. The pamphlet in the travel agent's office had called it the Trail of the Tiger: A Spiritual Hike Into The Mountains of Tibet.
In preparation, I had walked miles each day with my husband. The bottoms of his sneakers wore out, as did mine. We never held hands while walking. We sometimes talked.
I had gone raw, eating only organic vegetables and fruits, prepared in a dizzying amount of ways for the first six weeks, then dipping suddenly into predictable salads for the last two. Dan ate seafood as well, and I swear I smelled chocolate croissant on his breath one afternoon.
I had tested how long I could go without a shower. Two days in Michigan. Four, here in Tibet. It was no longer a test.
I had abstained from everything I previously took pleasure in: sugar, weekly dinners at La Cucina, hair dye, sex. Disappointingly, my hair did not turn a regal, steel-shot gray. It looked faded and dull and had wiry white hairs sticking out from unfortunate places. Dan did not seem to notice that I was abstaining from sex.
The guide announced that breakfast was finished. Wearily, we gathered up our packs. The sky was turning rosy and gold, another stunning dawn. As I stretched my arms and shoulders, I watched the guide go to the edge of the trail and say some words, head nodding. With a snap, he tossed something into the fog below.
"What was that? That you just did? What did you do?" I asked, bowed slightly under the weight of my pack.
"I say a prayer." He tilted his head. "You say one too."
"Um..." I never prayed. There were no words readily available on my tongue. "Our Father..."
"No. You say this."
"You say: to the spirit of this mountain, if it pleases you--"
"To the spiriti of this mountain, if it pleases you--" I obediently repeated.
"May we pass in peace. May no one be harmed."
"May we pass in peace. May no one be harmed. Will the spirit understand this if I'm saying it in English?"
He smiled. "And if they lose their footing, may we find them down the mountain so we may give them a proper burial."
"And if... What?"
He laughed. "Now throw something that is valuable to you."
I thought for a moment. What did I have on me that was valuable? I couldn't give up my shoes. I had some coins in my pack. I hadn't bought any souvenirs.
I touched an ear. Dan had given them to me for Christmas twenty-one years ago, this pair of diamonds. No more than tiny chips. We'd been so poor then.
I undid one earring and held it between my fingers, showing it to the rising sun. It caught the glow, a halo of light as I turned it.
He whispered in my ear. "And now you say, thank you."
I tossed the little earring over the trail's edge. "Thank you," I said quietly. I couldn't see where it went.
"Ah, good." He patted my arm. "Now, maybe if you fall, the dogs won't eat your bones."
"That's... wonderful. I sincerely hope so." I followed him, a throb in my one naked ear.
Down in the fog, the dog yipped again. I wished Dan could be here to hear it.
Thank you for reading. As always, critique welcome. I had wanted to add a line about how she thought she was on a pilgrimage, but she didn't know to where. I couldn't find where it would naturally be, so I left it out. Ah, well.