On this 42nd day since my brother’s passing, I’m with the deaths on Mount Everest and the photos of people lined up in a traffic jam to get to the top.
When I was in the area, twenty-five years ago, we bypassed Everest base camp because even then it was a garbage dump. My sense of my trip there, my four weeks in the mountains of Khumbu, was it was a spiritual journey, a quest to know myself and my direction. I’m stunned to see what it’s become.
In my book Airing Out the Fairy Tale, I write about Mount Everest. I say:
On May 6, 2015, Jan Morris published an article in the New Statesman that was reprinted in The New Republic May 16, 2015. Morris, a former male, now female, had welcomed Ed Hillary and Tenzing Norgay down from the first ascent of its summit on May 29, 1953.
In the article, Morris requested that Mount Everest, Chomolungma to the Sherpas, “Goddess Mother of the World,” be closed to climbing, violation,and greed, and honored as a World Heritage Site and as a “universally recognized Site of Holiness.” She suggested calling Mount Everest The Peak of Kindness.
Like Jan Morris, I knew Everest had something to teach. With distance, I’ve come to understand more of what Mount Everest represented for me. She was elusive, like the deeply complex, receptive feminine. She is sacred, and in her sacredness, brings us to our knees. What frightened or stunned me when I first saw her in person was that although she was part of a mountain range, she appeared to stand alone. She was center stage. I turned away and wanted to hide. I was struggling to claim my own life, my own center stage. She was too much for me, too dominant in her apparent ability to stand alone.
Everest represents strength and majesty. I claim that visibility now, that majestic mountain around which we all circle as we die, that mountain representing the central earth spine. I also claim my full power, male and female, as I balance strength and tenderness, wild and tame.
I suggest, like Jan Morris, that we honor our teacher, Mount Everest, and allow her to be a preserve, a place of respect—not something to conquer. Instead of placing flags representing division on her slopes, let’s leave her alone, untrampled. In allowing her to rest, we do the same for ourselves. We, too, stand, as peaks of kindness, havens, witnessed, witnessing, blessings, blessed.
The prayer flags that wave in Nepal and Tibet, often strung along Himalayan mountain ridges, are arranged in five colors. Blue symbolizes sky and space. White symbolizes air and wind. Red symbolizes fire. Green symbolizes water. Yellow symbolizes earth. Each of us is made of the five elements. To heal is to be made whole. My work now is to harmonize the elements within me as I breathe mindfully in and out, and in that, to live, exhilarate, and celebrate the joy in knowing enough. In my opinion, we don’t need to climb Everest to prove something to ourselves. We need to look within at the nature we are and climb into a deeper knowing of reverence for this earth we share.
I chose to put Ama Dablam on the cover of my book not Everest. Ama Dablam means Mother’s Necklace. Her grace invites me to step with care and look with awe from afar. Her slopes, like the slopes of Everest, are meant to uplift, not be the place of tragedy and death.