Monday, May 11, 2009


(For travel in Asia, go to 11/2008-1/2009)

May 1st & 5th - Here we are in the time of swine flu, nobody knowing how it will play out and the way we’re addressing it at Agape is to triage patients at the door and send everyone with flu-like symptoms one way and everyone else through the waiting room and on into the clinic. Irma, Pat and I are seeing the patients in the fever, cough, etc. area. I’m thinking, well, here I am again.

But what prompts me to write (now that the swine flu crisis seems to have passed) is that I saw this photograph of a young woman named Thao (one of my favorite names) studying in her dorm room in medical school in Haiphong. Check out that desk, and the closet at the head of the bed, and how about the mattress (we're thinking the bottom bunk is the same). An Australian woman we know - Alison - created this extraordinary opportunity for Thao to go to medical school. Thao's family is very very poor (single mother, seriously ill, forages in trash to survive) and there is no chance she would have made it without Alison and you, Alison, are the salt of the earth.

As I think about being back in the mountains, looking at photos of the Beartooths and Wind Rivers, the swelling in my chest feels almost physical. What a great thing it is to contemplate the (likely) reality that I will again stand in the cold alpine wind in the high mountains, surrounded by raw and sublime beauty. What a thing to be here! Alone on a high mountain meadow in August; by icy tarn waters, looking up at the night sky with stars by the millions right here/now, sitting among a million tiny alpine flowers, scrambling across rocky domes, and here come the clouds and soon the snow – first flecks of sleet, more, now the snow – ahhh.

The things that helped me get going into the mountains again include:

  • The Sierra Club took me on my 1st return trip – Big Bend for a wonderful time.
  • The forum has been immensely helpful in giving me knowledge and inspiration. Hikerjer (words) and swimswithtrout (photos) show the true heart of the matter and I’m grateful to them.
  • Always, of course, Leslie, my beautiful understanding and supportive wife (and partner in the back roads and alleys of Southeast Asia).

Clarification on no “I” “to be” – not here, of course; and it’s incomprehensible to think that this “I” would endure beyond death. I mean, what a disappointment to still be regular old me with my weaknesses and faults and lies hopefully (even if still just barely) outweighed by my strengths and goods and truths. AND an infinitely higher I (and of course, thou) seems certain.

When you find out who you are, beautiful beyond your dreams.

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