forty days. forty stories.
by Sharon Lahr
In 1995 Julie was working for Granite Angels (backpacking trips for women) and asked if I’d like to go on their trip to Nepal. Arriving in Kathmandu, we went to the hotel thru streets crowded with people, cows, cycle rickshaws, 3-wheeled gas powered vehicles spewing exhaust, bicycles, motorcycles, and cars. I found it a bit overwhelming, but Julie seemed to thrive on all the confusion and commotion. Just glimpsing her delight in the experience helped me to see the joy in it all, even the smells. It was an exhilarating trip that I would never have experienced without Julie: the sights in Kathmandu, the deafening helicopter ride into the Himalayas, suspension bridges with missing boards, the bazaar at Namche, prayer flags, a yeti skull, Buddha statues, petting a baby yak, our Sherpani’s Himalayan homes, the Mani Rimdu celebration, the sun setting on Mount Everest, night skies incredibly full of stars, and an amazing full moon in that clear air.
I even have fond memories of sleeping in tents that partially collapsed during a snow storm that caused avalanches in the mountains ahead of us and changed our plans. Julie’s ever-present smile reminded me that this was an adventure of a lifetime. The trip is a singular point in my life, a defining moment, and if Julie hadn’t thought me adventuresome enough to ask the simple question “Would you like to go?” it would never have happened for me.
On occasion as we trekked, I’d sing. “I love to go a-wandering along the mountain track, and as I go, I love to sing, my knapsack on my back.” or “The hills are alive with the sound of music, with songs they have sung for a thousand years.” As I watched Julie and her interaction with our group and those we met on the trail, I started singing one of the songs from The Sound of Music with a slight twist, “How do you solve a problem like Julie, how do you catch a cloud and pin it down.” It was the last line of the song that in my heart was written just for her – “How do you hold a moon beam in your hand?” Julie has shone a light for me into many places that I would never have discovered. For almost 20 years, I’ve followed her adventures and checked my atlas for the places she goes. Is there an adequate way to say “thank you” to a moon beam? Thanks, Julie.