Backpacking luxury item

In response to WordPress prompt luxury

a href=””>Luxury</a&gt;

The plan was a week long backpacking trip in the Rocky Mountains. The preparation and  planning consumed many days and sleepless nights. Each item carefully considered for its necessity and double if not triple function. 

 I read countless books on the subject and considered,  albeit briefly hollowing out my toothbrush to save weight. 

I took all food items out of their original packaging to save space and weight, marvelling at the volume of packaging rendered redundant. 

The pack weighed in at 45 lbs and only one last item remained, my personal luxury item. I chose my Olympus camera to record the journey.  I’ll never forget the freeing feeling of strapping my pack on my back and knowing that every item was necessary and I truly had all I needed. It’s odd, I felt light at that moment.  

During the trip I fantasized about any number of items that would have been nice to have, a luxury at the time. A glass of wine after a long hike, a warmer coat when it started to snow, a hamburger when I tired completely of dehydrated food and good old raisins and peanuts. 

Still, as I look at photos from that trip I know my choice was right. How blessed to hike in the back country surrounded by mountains, wildflowers, and cool mountain streams. What a luxury to be able to record the moment and freeze it in time where years later,  I am transported by those photographs and remember a cool breeze, the weight of my pack and how soothing the cool mountain stream was on my sore feet.  I remember the pine bough structure we built to keep busy during a cold, wet day, the alternative was feeling bitter and cold. How lovely our home was, warm, inviting complete with socks drying by the fire. At that moment I felt as though all my needs were met, luxury indeed!

Walking away from it all in Taiwan

Doc - Sep 24, 2015, 5-51 PM

Taiwan is an island and its wildness is always only moments away.  When the stimulus of the city becomes too much, you simply walk away and literally step back in time.  One hundred years ago all of Taipei was covered with rice fields, a quiet simple life, island style.  Its difficult to imagine that life, standing on the steps of the World Trade Center, dwarfed by the landscape.  The building effectively block out the sky as they rise from the earth.  In the distance, the mountains beckon.

Doc - Sep 24, 2015, 5-55 PM

A busy urban street leads to a quiet country road and terminates at the base of a mountain.  There are 1200 concrete steps, chiseled into this mountain-straight up, no switchbacks.  I begin my ascent.  People of every age pass me on the way.  Their faces are relaxed. The pace is slow.  Some twirl hoola hoops, others stretch their tired muscles.  We are all quiet as we concentrate on the effort.  Temples dot the landscape.  Graves are carved into the mountain.  Incense burns, the air is saturated with the lushness that surrounds us.  From this vantage point, I look down and observe the older women with the lampshade hats tending the rice fields and terrace gardens.  A river gently flows in between.  I need to see this up close.

I chart my course and walk to this place.  I get closer, and crawl down to be eye level with the river.  Trembling, he approaches.  His voice quakes and in halting English he states, “You take pictures.”  Nervous, I haltingly respond, “yes its all so beautiful.”  I search his eyes; passion looks back.  For what I wonder?  He gestures with his hands and encourages me to look closely at each individual plant and its individual struggle to survive.  I kneel down and gently touch a small fern.  I see its tenacity to survive.  It grows between the rocks that surround the river bed, framed by its ancestors, their trunks as large as trees.  I look at the bigger picture.  Every shade of green is represented.  Reflections create a mirror image.  The beauty is doubled.

Doc - Sep 24, 2015, 5-53 PM

He continues,, “Many years ago, the people here used concrete to stop erosion.  It did, but it also destroyed the plants that the river needed for survival.  The plants died, the river began to die too.  Its better now, the concrete was replaced by this natural rock, the plants came back, the river began to breathe again. I’m a Botanist.  I have an interest in the plants.  I come here to watch.”  He draws me in further–connects as he discovers my profession as a Respiratory Therapist.  Immediately, I understand the enormity of his task.  He says, “you watch the babies get sick, you help them breathe, they get better.  It is the same with the plants.  Our struggle is the same, the end result is the same, we both offer hope for the planet.”

Movement here is subtle.  A gentle breeze waves a palm tree.  Closer to the ground, its force is softer, a small plant stirs.  The river flows, bubbling over rocks, etching the landscape, creating a well-worn route.  The river, the plants and the rocks all rely on each other for balance.  The simple truth is we are all on a path to achieve the same harmony.  At this moment, everything is as clear as the river

Lost in Taiwan

Doc - Sep 24, 2015, 6-03 PM

Armed with my guide book, I board a local bus.  My calculations tell me that allowing for the return trip, and time to explore downtown, this entire trip should take about two hours.  The bus is jammed-packed with people.  Its difficult to see.  Being an Amazon woman in a sea of tiny compact people doesn’t help.  The bus is thick with bodies.  It stops; people file off.  I try to get my bearings, but the spaces are quickly filled by a rush of people.  I’m effectively blindfolded once again.  The bus jerks along, threatening to break apart.  I’m treated to snapshot pictures from the bus window-downtown seems to be everywhere, tall buildings, bright signs and crowds of people.  The bus turns around.  Dizzy and disorientated, I leave the safety of this bucket of bolts and embark on a day and then a night in the city.

The stimulus of the city engulfs me.  I cross the street and catch the bus home.  The trip ends.  The last few passengers disembark.  The bus driver checks her rear-view mirror, makes eye contact with me, and happily announces something in Chinese.  Frantic, I look outside.  This section of Taipei is dark, unknown-its the end of the line.  Seeing my look of horror, her expression softens and she asks, “where are you going?”  I start to tell her, then realize I’ve forgotten the English and Chinese equivalent of Glenda’s address.  I’ve forgotten her phone number.  I stammer, “I don’t know.”  Her face frowns.  Her brows knot in worry.  Still wearing a look of horror, I assure her I will be okay.  She studies my face-I study hers-she isn’t convinced.

I get off the bus, plunge into darkness and try to find a way out.  Aimlessly, I walk the streets trying to recognize something.  Landmarks based on size and color turn out to be chain stores.  Nothing is familiar.  I’m exhausted, my feet demand slippers, but they will have to wait.   I sit down in front of a 7-11 and study the map-seeing it for the first time.  Slowly, I realize I need to find the center of Taipei.  From there, I need to find the bus to Neihu, Glenda’s neighborhood.

A young Asian girl asks, “are you lost, can I help?”  I tell her my quest.  She says, “Come with me, I will help you find the way.” Together we walk to the train station.  Once there, she finds an English train schedule and map.  We ride together.  She uses the time to teach me map skills.  We get off at my stop.  She deciphers the Chinese bus schedules and tells me which exit to take to find the bus that will lead home.  I thank her profusely.  She wishes me well.  Following her direction, I board the correct bus.  Neihu comes into view.  Ecstatic, I vibrate with excitement, I found my way home.  I stumble into Glenda’s home.  Fourteen hours have elapsed.  It feels as though days have passed, not mere hours.  I look in the mirror.  A different person looks back