5 a.m. in Pokhara
An hour I’d call ungodly, if not for two godly things.
5 a.m. in Pokhara is an hour I’d call ungodly, if not for two godly things.
The first is the silence punctuated only by my breaths huffing against the cold — breaths that remind me I am gloriously, marvellously alive.
The second is a fishtail mountain.
But let me back up a bit.
It is 5 in the morning, and I am hiking up a steep hillock outside the small city of Pokhara in Nepal. My guide is a few feet ahead, and the city sprawls behind us, still coated in darkness. There is a silence I know will last only for a few hours, a silence to be broken by the rumble of scooters and the squawking of chickens and the chattering of Nepalis going about their day. But for now, the silence is replete.
As I walk, I wonder where the guide is leading me. He told me I’d have an experience the likes of which I’d never have again, and while that statement could swing one way or another, I choose to have faith in the possibility of good.
After what felt like hours to my trembling legs, but was only 30 minutes, we slow to a halt at the peak of the hillock, looking out towards the general direction of the Himalayas. A thick, cottony blanket of clouds renders the peaks invisible, making me wonder if all this climbing was for nought. But my guide has a knowing smile on his face, clearly privy to a great secret. And so I stand next to him, stamping occasionally and puffing into my hands to keep warm.
“Keep looking in that direction, didi,” my guide instructs, finger pointed north. I comply. I keep looking. And looking. And looking. And just as I’m about to shift my gaze for want of something to see, it happens.
The clouds part as though pulled back by an invisible rope, and there stands a fishtail peak stained peach by dawn sunlight. Its twin fins and notched summit are alone against the sky, inviolate and holy, framed by clouds and dwarfing the peaks around by miles. It is primaeval, untouchable — a towering witness to my humbling smallness.
With a sudden animal need, I stare at this behemoth that the locals call the home of Shiva, a god much like this mountain, benevolent and untamed. I vaguely register that my body is growing numb, but making more than a half-hearted attempt at a shuffle feels disrespectful.
Within the span of a few heartbeats, the clouds fall back into place, obscuring the peak from sight. Yet I stand still. What keeps me rooted, staring slack-jawed at a vision no longer there?
It is the realisation of a bestowed blessing. It is the cut-crystal clarity that there was a world before me, and there will be a world after me, and I am merely a pebble in the dirt. It is the root-taking, perception-bending experience of an absolute being.
This is a piece I submitted to a favourite publication that, sadly, got rejected. I thought I’d give it a foster home here, anyway.
A note from me
Hello dear reader. I hope this November, for all her gloominess, has been treating you well. I realise it’s been a little quiet in this neck of the woods. I am still writing, but all the writing I have been doing has fit better in my other homes on the internet than here. I am still led by curiosity, only this time, for other topics. For the rest of the year, I plan to chase that curiosity, see where it leads me.
That said, I am hoping to resuscitate this newsletter in 2023 with fresh writing that touches hearts. This archive remains where it is on kindredspirits.substack.com. And if you’d like to see what else I’ve been up to—some of it very intellectually stimulating—please head to my digital garden.
I hope to see you afresh in the new year.