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  • Sometimes, I wonder at the point of it all: Life, my life, what I am doing and where I am going. I don't even get into "why I am here," but it's enough.

    I am not married nor does it seem I ever will be. I am 37 going on spinster and my pool of dating potential seems to consist of men with whom it's already proven catastrophic and men behind bars. The men behind bars love me. At least three of them should be paroled by 2015 and only one is in for a violent crime. Stellar.

    I don't have a mate. I don't think I will ever have kids. I don't have a career track, a goal or a mission. I work a lot, volunteer regularly (thus the prisoners) and run away as often as I can. I tell stories. I write and take pictures. I love, laugh and live.

    I live.

    The only reason for any of it (from my point of view) seems to be living for the sake of life, to do and be good, and to really, fully and deeply live.

    At times (but not most), life can be hard. Living in the moment means that each and every moment carries the weight of the world. Here, on the trek, with asthma and loose joints, hyper mobile joints, I struggle to breathe. My knees strain toward popping, pulling with each step and they bruise with the effort. My ankles threaten to roll.

    At times (but not most), I am scared and uncertain, tired and uncomfortable. This is my vacation, my respite, my break. This is the way I chose to refresh my soul. I am alone, sweating, panting, and aching. I am overwhelmed, unable to process it all, and I am strangely happy. I wonder what the hell I am doing here.

    I have time for a full range of emotions as I hike alone, but once the climb stills, once I get to the old growth rhododendrons with undulating terrain and the blossoms raining down, I know my reason for living.

    It's this.

    This place and this moment. The sun glinting off snow-covered peaks above a tree line reddened and blushing with blossoms. The distant roar of a plane flying, like the clouds, lower than me. Waterfalls. Prayer flags. Lady bugs. The very ache in my knees that have brought me here and the certainty that I can keep going. I will keep going.

    There's a scent in the air that I cannot name, a scent made of sunshine and sweat, pine and flowers. It's the smell that Glade tries to capture but can never quite get because it can only be found hours into the woods, with effort, with time. I've smelled it before and I will smell again. It's as much me as the woods. I carry it deep in my soul.

    This trail, it is hard, but not impossibly so. (I feel guilt at how much I struggle in the moment even as the moments pass.) I doubt my body but know that what I lack in physical strength, I make up in conviction. I carry myself slowly and steadily toward the guesthouse where clouds will form and hail bounce off the corrugated metal roof under which we will play gin and drink tea, where we will choke on the smoke in the dining hall on stilts and laugh. We will laugh. I will laugh, and that's enough.

    On the way there, I will go down, down, down to the river, alone and somewhat afraid as I slip down steep trails in the mud. I will find peace in a sign pointing the way and with porters who whistle behind me, letting me know I am still on the path. I will sigh my way across the low swinging bridge before heading up, up, up in 45 minutes of cursing the name of the next guesthouse: Panorama Point.

    "Panorama means up," I will think and I will follow it, the name, the trail, up to the stilts and up to the clouds.

    Despite being the last, the very last, to the leave the guest house in Ghorepani, despite the fear that I won't make it at all, I will arrive second to Panorama Point. Second. Of everyone in all the groups. Before most of the porters. Before those who left hours before me. Bistari, bistari, slowly, slowly, I will find my pace and keep going.

    I will always keep going.

    Life is not easy. I don't need it to be. I don't need approval or permission or advice from people who feel they could live my life better because I know they can't. It's my life. The only one that I'll get. It's messy and hard, strange and beautiful, and I live for this, this moment in the woods, the easy breathing after struggling so hard and the struggling so hard, the pain in my knees, the blossoms raining down, the scent of sunshine and sweat, pine and flowers.

    In the morning, in a pair of short shorts and a thin, borrowed fleece, with feet bare in dusty, untied hiking boots and a hat on my head, my new yak wool, fleece-lined hat, I will watch the sun rise and I won't feel the cold. I won't feel anything but wonder and I will laugh with unbridled joy. This moment, this memory, will stay with me until the end of my days.

    This is everything.
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