I found myself in Nepal the month following September 11. With my flight originally scheduled for that day, instead of heading to Asia, I spent the month rearranging visas, sleeping on my couch (I had sublet my apartment), and volunteering with the Salvation Army at a recovery center in NYC. A month later I left the chaos of the city for the pristine mountains of Nepal, where our only traffic jams involved goats and the only human interaction we had was with the people of the Himalaya.
I couldn’t have been in a more completely different environment, spending four weeks hiking the Annapurna Circuit. With every twist in the trail and turn of the corner I saw new views that took my breath away – from the green rice paddies of the lowlands to the barren desert-like terrain of the highlands, with the pristine white mountaintops of the Himalaya greeting us along the way.
The photo that inspired my very first Mandala was taken during the final part of our trek. Having spent the first two-thirds of the hike slowly ascending the trail so as to avoid altitude sickness, our descent was much faster and hurried – we barely had time to look up and enjoy the scenery in front of us. On this particular day it began to rain and hail for a short period of time.
As we took refuge under some trees, I was able to pause and admire the view in front of me. Looking out through the bright pink blossoms of the cherry trees that protected us I could see a varied spectrum of green in the rice paddies, whose colors took on a glistening affect because of the rain. It was such a beautiful moment during an otherwise uncomfortable period.
And in a way that summed up what my experience in Nepal meant to me – an incredibly beautiful experience during a time in which there was much turmoil and pain back at home. Nepal was my peaceful reprieve from the devastating events of September 11.