We rolled into the bus station at the south end of this town nestled beneath Sichuan's highest mountains, the rain drizzling and gathering into droplets that streamed down our faces. Everyone was ready after 8+ hours, to get off and stretch their legs. As much as I had worked to avoid any high expectations from this trip, knowing the variables of weather, children, timing, etc, I still felt a wave of disappointment that the skies were so ominous.
Our rooms at the quaint, Tibetan style hostel had been re-arranged and took some sorting out to get right. There was a discussion about where to get dinner. Yet here we are, frustrations and all, and the air freshens with each passing hour.
I woke this morning to a layer of light, luminous through a strip of clouds, warming the early horizon to a muted lavender, and a surge of hope rushed in. Also, kindness. Toward one another. It is always needed. Small gestures to begin the day, harrowing it may be. A sweet good morning, the offer of coffee, a conversation rather than minutes spent on devices and technology. And quiet. A stillness before Creator and creation. These moments of smelling sweet air and looking out upon grandeur are not lost on me. They are a gift as simple as an offering of Daily Bread but as reverent and personal to me as kiss from a King.
I can see patches of blue now, and hear the river tumbling below with a continuous roar. My window is open and I breathe deeply, wondering how to be hopeful without expectation. That both the clouds and the clear skies are from a gentle Hand, and yes, " the Lord will give what is good" (psalm 85).
Is there anything so glorious as a sunrise? It is by far one of my favorite acts of creation to witness. This morning the clouds hang about most of the surrounding peaks, except where they cleared and separated right at the vortex of two ridge lines, making a sort of V where, aflame, the sky tells of a golden furnace raging beyond the veil of grey. The smell of smoke and woodfire is in the air. I am utterly filled, reading "In your heavens you establish your faithfulness."
This morning, after the glow of yesterday's accomplishment of completing perhaps the hardest climb any of these kids have experienced, a night tucked dry and safe in our tents, surrounding by jagged, staggering peaks, we woke to total whiteout and steady, though light rain. Eventually we were able to pack up and walk out, and the rain let up just a bit it seemed to let us do so. Spirits were slightly dampened, but thankful we had made it up there and had stayed dry as we slept. And the hot meals that filled us all as we soaked in the view we had worked so hard to achieve felt like the best food we had tasted in our whole lives.
We left early, the road climbing steadily, winding it's way like a silver ribbon through ridges and valleys that opened into vistas of endless fields and low lying hills. The man we met at the roadside stop said, "there is no government here. It is just us, the Tibetans." And the road takes us deeper and deeper, past what seem like ghost towns and higher still as the elevation continues to climb.
Not surprisingly, we meet with roadblocks, literally. The road taking us to our drop-off point, where we begin hiking several hours further into the grasslands to find our nomad hosts, is being worked on and the wet concrete being laid stops us in our tracks. We have 10 km to go. A new plan slowly gets worked out; we re route, adding some distance to our walking. I'm trying not to worry about the littlest legs in our group. We will just take it slow, see how it goes, hope that the snacks I hastily packed will carry us through. The sky is endless, and lined with clouds that spell rain but the weather changes here so quickly, and no one else seems worried.
Another glory packed morning; sun spilling over the horizon, lighting up the fields and illuminating everything in its path. After a night under piles of blankets and skins, warm as could be in frigid temperatures at 14,000 feet, we are all basking in the light. The kids run around following Soko as she gathers the mama yaks for the morning milking. Josh saddles the horse for another round of rides for the kids. We hunch around the fire while Soko serves sampa and milk tea which we knead slowly into a paste and hungrily gulp down. The kids are surprisingly satisfied with this breakfast and don't complain. I am relieved, and on my fourth cup of tea.
We head out later this morning, without our guide, Dorje this time, hoping to remember which ridge to turn at and which valley leads back to our pickup point. I couldn't feel more remote, and am thankful for only mild struggles with altitude and no injuries, and a world of stories and sweet memories at our backs.