Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Giving Thanks

As Thanksgiving approached I kept thinking of how grateful I am for so many things. My brand new baby granddaughter, Riley Arico, comes to mind. The amazing trip that I got to take with Paige is still uppermost in my mind. Thankful for living in California with all of the comfort trappings of a wealthy country with toilets ranks way up there. Friends are always surrounding my mind when a warm call from Ginger kept me smiling for hours. Ginger and I went to Peru together six years ago, which led to my ability to visit third world countries.

As I stirred in my room I was looking out onto the patio to see what the morning had brought. And on the ground was a hummingbird lying still on his back with two little claws curled up to his chest. He’d hit the window during the morning and ended his life right at my door. A sadness befell me and I paused prior to picking him up for a proper burial. I remember saying a quiet prayer as to way couldn’t he just get up and fly away. Just this once, please.

Before I could say amen the precious little critter was in the air. One swoosh and he was five feet of the ground and looking back momentarily to see what had happened to him. Then with a flick of the neck he took off toward the sun. Soon thereafter he returned to his perch and forgot it ever happened. I’m thankful.

Janice Held

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Prayer Flags are blowing in the wind!

The prayer flags that began in Tibet, took a boat to America, purchased in Hermosa, swayed for ten year, signed by friends, flown to Nepal and now back over it's own soil.

These flags reminded me everyday that I needed to go to Nepal. I did, now I think everyday of those flags hanging in Nepal. We always leave a part of ourselves in any place that we have ever been. Nothing will ever eclipse this for me.

Go to the 'Nepal Photos" on the right panel and see the new album - 'Prayer Flags.'

I thank and love everyone who took the journey with us.

Janice and Paige

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Second Day Heading Down.

There is a daily routine even when you are constantly moving. The blue light of dawn means wake-up and immediately put on five layers of to conserve every molecule of heat that you had stored under the blankets. The thoughts of fear always filled my body at dawn. My right knee always hurt more than the left knee with the lacerations. The doctor at the Kunde Hospital was quite surprised that my leg did not break above the knee as that bone took the majority of the brunt fall. So waking up meant getting dressed, having tea and pancakes then start climbing another day. Climbing up or down didn’t make any difference on my knees, just pain and gratitude. The alternate would have been to have been carried or airlifted out by helicopter.

That wasn’t an option in my mind, “You got yourself there and if at all possible you will get yourself out.” And as the final bite of sugar pancake was consumed and one last trip to the outhouse was experienced we would start out. That morning it was decided that Paige could just ‘go’, and off she went. It would be the first day that we would be separated by more that a few moments at a time. As she rounded a trail peak she turned around once again to wave good-bye. I marched on with my ‘right arm’ with Pumpkin carrying both backpacks and slugged along at a turtles pace.

I knew that during this leg of the journey had been a waterfall with a cottage in a modest glen. That image kept me going as on the climb up the hill I had already been wounded and could not stop to ”take a photo moment.” After about three hours and two changes of clothing we stumbled upon my wonderland cottage. We took the time to rest and explore the view. Lhukpa agreed to be my filming crew as I filmed a four-minute video from my new home. All who watched were invited in for tea and the offer of a warm fire was open to all.

Meanwhile, trekking were both coming and go up or down the mountain. Of course it was easy to tell that people who were passing you were going up the mountain and people who were passing you were going down the mountain. Everything passed me; people, dogs, porters, climbers, and the beasts of burden. It was a daily game of tag. The French passed me but as they stopped to tea, I passed them. Thirty minutes later they would pass me again as I paused for a coke.

The day would proceed like that until I saw Paige again sitting out in the sun with a soda open and ready for her mom. The duffle bags were put into our rooms and the porters hung around with us and Lhukpa was in charge. We moved to the sunny side of the street to watch the hardened trekkers who would make that climb in one day. There were only two other climbers staying at our lodge that evening and conversation was inevitable. The evening passed like a firecracker. One of the men was interested in the fact that we were from California as in January he would be beginning his teachings at USC as a professor of Quantum Physics. Yikes, Eureka, Brilliant Blessings, a person to talk to about science. Oops, my science mind was gone. I promised him that with two Mexican cocktails, a sunny day at sea level, I actually understood Maxwell’s Equations. The night around the potbelly stove that night was about anything but climbing – bravo. Paige stepped up to the discussion and the other male from Torino, Italy had fun with the discussion of Formula 1 car racing and martial arts. Full darkness and cold sent us all to our private quarters and the night.

The next morning I found the traveling physicist and said, “Give me your name.” I handed him my email address and he wrote down his name, Paolo Zanardi. Boy did I have a treat to bring back to my husband and to my brother. My brother, James Norman Johnson, is a newly retired physicist from Los Alamos and my husband taught me everything I knew about mathematics, I mean everything.

Today was going to be a good day of descending on foot, as it was our final day. The end of this day would be rougher than expected and I’ll fill in the details in my next message.
Janice Held

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A splash of psyco-trauma :-#

Janice Held Video Blog
The other night I got three sentences into the story of the second day down the mountain. As I pulled back from my mind the images of the first dawn I began feeling ill, nausea, weak knees, chills, fear and extreme light-headedness. I closed out the word document and headed straight for the refrigerator ‘it must be a sugar drop,” the lightheadedness took me to bed, with the tuna and Triscuit’s, “it must be exhaustion.” It’s only 7 P.M.; I can’t go to bed yet, “I must be sick.” Ask my husband to just touch my shoulder, “I might be really sick!”

Calming down ever so slightly I had one final thought before falling into a deep sleep. “Sh*t, I’m having an anxiety attack!” I felt all of the same feeling that I was feeling that cold morning in Mozul. In bringing back the pictures and words from my mind I also brought back the feelings. That should be of NO surprise - yet it was. Anxiety is always new all over again.

Secondly, I do have Bronchitis and I’m in lock down. And that will give me plenty of time to catch up on my writing – albeit more objectively than last Tuesday night.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The photographs have arrived!

Janice Held Video Blog

See all about it, see all about it!

I have just published my first iWeb application at .Mac with the amazing Apple computer. I sent one email and made one phone call to tech support at .Mac, and immediately I was able to publish over 400 photos for the whole world to see. I'm still in the titling phase however I couldn't wait any long to show the 1st draft.

To all who worked on the iWeb and the all new .Mac - stand and salute yourselves. +++ Our very own RogerConnelly is my tech support at Apple and modestly helped with the .Mac implimentation - way to go Raj! +++

To see our photos (sans titles) go to:

The story of day two, downhill, will follow tomorrow night.


Janice Held

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Ascending the Mountain Day One

Janice Held Video Blog

The flashing memories are winding back through my mind. (BTW – my brain is back!) In Kathmandu, where the streets, air and sidewalks were drab and somewhat filthy according to our western standards, the women wore bright colors daily. From my point of view their wrapped and flowing clothing was brilliant blues, pinks, orange and all in clothing that would be suitable for a fine spring or summer wedding.

By contrast, up in the Himalayan mountain region, the vividly splendid earthly colors of the sky, mountains, cottages, floral bloom and finely clean fine air the people wore drab clothing. That was partly due to the surroundings and mainly due to the constant and heavy work. During our climbing instructions there were few spoken words about the climb and the etiquette of the trail. The primary concern was that when you heard the clinging bells hanging around the necks of the pack animals – always stand to the high side of the trail as they passed. Standing on the cliff side was obviously a good position for a possible bad mishap.

As my journaling story took pause several days ago we had just secured our precious prayer flags to the highest wooden bridge. Paige took off with full ability at her own pace heading for our next declared stopping point. Lhakpa and I traveled at my normal fifty percent of Paige. I waved goodbye to her as she was rounding a corner several hundred feet above my slow and lower position. My right knee was still a problem and I was yet fully able to lift my body weight upon anything but my wounded left leg. Slow was just fine for me. Lhakpa’s left arm was my guardrail and he put a new real meaning into my mind about ‘a right-hand man.’

Just after getting to the downside of the bridge I again stopped to catch my breath, drink some water, from the backpack that Lhakpa was carrying along with his own pack, and to dry the tears still modestly streaming down my cheeks. At that breathing stop I began a conversation with a woman my age and her daughter. They were also descending and she carried herself with a broad smile and an abundance of spunk and spirit. The first question is always, “Where are you from?” and “Where are your travels taking you today?” She was one of fifty-some people who looked at my struggles and pace and applauded the efforts of just being there – ‘good girl.’

We all heading down the trail and this is a trail that you must not take you eyes off. No steps or well-trodden earthen paths, but boulders and steps down well over an 18-inch drop and the boulders weren’t always stable. Stopping to catch your breath was also the time to look up. The deep blue sky was the ever-awesome sight as that brought your eyes down to the snow capped towering mountains that formed the surroundings of the valley trails that we were winding among.

Waterfalls and gold painted cliffs adorned the walls of our canyon. The dwellings were either old worn wooden huts or brightly painted with colored tea houses supporting the brilliant flowers from the natural growth of the flat land or planted beauties that were potting in any possible container. Nothing was wasted in this high country.

The travelers, real and want-to-be trekkers, were a constant flow for both the ascending and descending mountaineers. Also on the trail were human porters carrying anywhere up to eighty pounds of goods in handmade wicker baskets designed for maximum weight and load balance. All of these porters leading up the hill were stooped over with a wide woven headband to support the bulk of the top weight of their load. In one hand was a short doubled headed walking stick that served both to help the up a step incline an also to be used as a slight stool to sit upon without having to remove their load. Our courteous position was to clear the path for them to proceed without having to stop their momentum. The reverse was also true for porters with an empty load to be running down the trail to get back to Lukla to pick up another load. These people were the equivalent of a one-man moving van. They were paid about 400 rp ( $1.35 USD) for their efforts up to Namche Bazaar.

Lhakpa and I wandered down to the Mount Kailash Lodge and Restaurant in Monzo. Paige was sitting beautifully tall, blonde and secure outside in the sun sipping a coke. She had already showered and had secured our rooms. She would have been one of the many who could have done my three-day trip in the one-day that most trekkers were assigned to traverse. I joined her in the sun and watched the constant stream of climbers, animals of burden and porters. We all looked like ants walking to and from our ant mound. Since none of us were ever able to veer off the trail we were very well contained.

That night we stayed in a little cottage with a bathroom and real toilet. Since I had been on “The Toilette Tour” all of the way down the mountain a real flushable sit-down potty was well worth the 30 USD per night charge. Wherever your travels are taking you in is real important to secure lodging before the sun sneaks behind the mountain to the west. As soon as the sun is off the trail darkness is soon to follow and the chill becomes a mighty cold.

Our dinner was anything white. Paige had a good plan all-along, I deviated from the white plan and paid the price. White meant pancakes, crepes, potatoes and pasta. Plain pancake, with sugar, was my dinner choice. Yak butter was ruled out from the first bite on the first day. Black hot tea was for warming the hands before warming my belly.

The dining rooms had benches around the walls with narrow high tables just in front of us with easy access for the servers. Talking to fellow travelers and sitting around the big potbelly stove was what you did while waiting the hour required to fill your order. Lhakpa was running back and forth to the kitchen making sure that our order was done properly. Rarely did he eat with us and never did so once he hired two porters to carry our load. When he had employees he took his full stance as guide and protector. As we finished dinner and talking and making calls outside with our satellite phone he would bring our nalgene trekking water bottles to our room full of boiling hot water. These bottles were real hot water bottles to heat our chest and our feet. We drifted off to sleep after going through our ABC verbal gratitude list. ‘L’ always stood for Lhakpa.

At first light we got up as we had probably gone to sleep around 8 P.M. and the dawn always meant get up, get packed and be ready to leave as soon as the sun as about to blaze the trail. We were once again ascending for another full day of trekking. Little did I know that before nightfall of that brilliant day I would have an intellectual gift at our next sleeping quarters. That story will follow.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Adjusting to high-oxygen levels!

The necessity to report on the three days of climbing down the mountain haunts me. After going through 408 photographs makes any verbal story too short. The story will come with the pictorial assist and we’ll prove that a picture is worth at least 352 words. In fact, I’d post all of the pictures from my iPhoto file if I knew how to do it. I trust the Roger, CivilTongue and WebMistress Ginger will tell me how – No, show me – No, do it for me [:-}

Yesterday I felt and acted like a 5 year-old child with a head cold. (Or mildly drunk adult.) Just being outside of the house caused jumpiness and over-stimulation. The head cold is part of what feels like a swollen brain. Even though Paige and I joked constantly about ABD, it is real. Brain trauma and swelling in high altitudes. Hmmmmm. One example of ABD was today when I had a little talk with myself about taking a package up to Kinko’s where they have Netflix pick-up.

I am aware that changing emotional symptoms following a trauma could take up to 90 days for the sharp edges of shock to melt down to something smoother. What formerly was fear is now intrigue. Why can’t I remember the word for hat? The belief that everything will settle down and my body will return to normal calms to worried mind, most of the time. Denial, lack of knowledge and wishful thinking all mandate the statement above.

This morning I ventured out on to the roadway for a nail appointment. I knew that I had enough strength for a nail appointment. Emmiline asked me, “Do you know that you are rocking back and forth.” Nope. Self-soothing is a funny thing.

I will now self-sooth myself by going to bed. There is something about ‘Jeopardy’ that soothes my mind to sleep.

Note to Paige: Honey, I got taken aside again during the security check from SFO to LAX. I checked every pocket in my pants, took out my hair clips and offered to remove the zipper to my pants. During my “ side-stance” in a clear plastic room, in the middle of the security checkpoint, someone shouted out ‘BREACH!” Everything came to a sudden halt. “Don’t move, everyone – Don’t move.” That lasted for about 6 very quiet still and tense moments. I was finally cleared when the female ATF agent found a tin can of Wintergreen Altoid gum. Where you say? The same place that they found my reading glasses in Toyko.

Good Night and Namaste,
Jh (mom)