“Forecast says there’s a calm ahead. Mild days and sunny rain. Mountain breeze, days at ease. Clear skies overhead.” -Todd Scheaffer
A hot and sunny Saturday. Barely a breeze and clouds were sparse. It was to be our most distant hike yet. Orkhon, nestled in its valley between rolling hills and far-off mountains we often picked a hilltop not yet explored by our American eyes and set out every weekend. We branched out hiking to farther peaks and crests, eager to experience a new view. We headed out one sunny Saturday. Five of us, armed with water bottles and backpacks. Past Orkhon’s rickety haashas and wooden houses. Over gentle slopes and through dried up creek beds. Into forgotten fields of Orkhon’s discarded relics. Weaving around herds of grazing goats and wandering sheep. Orkhon became a distant speck at our backs. The sun was hot, eagles circled overhead, and a breeze rustled through the wild grasses. With each pace of our sandaled feet sent a flurry of grasshoppers and insects jumping about. Hopping alongside our toes with each step. Like dolphins chasing the bow of a ship. The elevation steepened. Up the slope we went. The Orkhon River snaked its way into our peripheral vision. Lazily flowing through grassy plains and alongside mountains. We skirted past a forest of boulders. A few resting at awkward impossible angles. Tossed aside by some ancient glacier. It was all so peaceful. The breeze picked up, billowing our shirts and accelerating clouds over head. As we neared the summit we were met with quite a view.
A colorful ovoo,
A rocky slope,
and a sky divided.
I lie awake in bed. Candle light flickering off the metal of my stove pipe. My power is out. It’s been out for hours. The candle light is usually therapeutic, relaxing. Not tonight. Wind billows outside. Gusts sending the stove pipe clanging against the opening at the roof of my ger. It stormed all day, now temperatures plummeted, that same rain has turned to snow. My ger ceiling, made of sheep felt and wool has soaked through. I don’t have enough pots and pans for all the places it is dripping. It streaks the walls and puddles on the floor. Every so often a drop hits my stove. Still hot with the evening’s fire it lets out a hiss and a puff of steam. I scrunch my feet aside in my blankets to avoid getting dripped on. Once again I’m at the mercy of nature.
I lean over and blow out the candle.
Close my eyes.
Drift back to that day in Orkhon on the hill.