I can’t remember when i met @renan_ozturk for the first time. it was somewhere idling at a red light near the intersection of beer, climbing, and nepal. we started sharing ideas that somehow led to a few actual creative projects and a friendship forged in the cold crucible of mountains and hardship, of art and honest exertion.
together we’ve crashed motorcycles and drones, counted stings from the largest bees on earth. we’ve puked, smoked, spooned, and drank ourselves dizzy on good tequila in the editing cave. last week we found ourselves hiding out with the largest whale f******n in new york. it’s always weird and exhausting and cut from that magic that comes when people simply get along well.
friends, go out and suffer and create. go today. tell the stories that you can’t tell alone.
To understand waterbury vermont you need to take one part ice cream, two parts foliage, a splash of craft beer and add it to a very healthy pour of aged state mental hospital.
i remember many years ago, in the part of my life that was defined by sawdust and longing, picking up a hitchhiker on main street, just outside of the mental hospital. he was ragged - a craggy man with thin hair that slid onto his shoulders and with wild, darting eyes. his arms were covered with jailhouse tattoos that all spelled out, in various fonts, “john lennon is god.” bad ideas only become obvious once it’s too late. this, of course, is the nature of adventure and blissful folly.
as i tried to drop him off at the edge of the highway, he refused to leave. it wasn’t a big car. i insisted. he stormed out of the car and onto the shoulder. gravel and garbage. the cold fall air pouring in through the open door. “story of my f*****g life.” he shouted at me and slammed the door.
i drove on then. into my own life. southward. then eastward. then further and nesting myself in the scrappy insanity of kathmandu. this was so many years ago.
now i’m heading westward, northward. back to vermont for a month. rooting around. airplane-tired and whining like a boeing engine. seat 15a. story of my f*****g life.
that which we walk away from always brings us back. this is the nature of gravity, of truth. imagine.
If you can imagine switzerland and nepal having a love child, you can start to get an idea of bhutan.
ancient dzongs peer over the thin but well-paved roads; tourists watch oxen turn circles on wide terraces, their faces pressed to the bus windows as the dark soil unfolds, again.
centuries of dharma and other riches locked in heavy fortresses, now lending themselves for photographs.
the blacktop sharp against the whitewashed sheets of tin sheltering the road workers, inside, cooking the tar.
the buddhas are watching as we prostrate. we stand, watching them back.
Bhutan. hard to put it into words, especially after only a few days. but beautiful. steep. spiritual. human. complicated and simple, in the way that pure light separates into layers when passed through a prism.
When i was a younger man, i acquired many acres in a forest in maine with a drafty and ancient house that i loved. the forest crawled with deer, including a legendary buck with a deformed left foot who left prints in the mud along the swampy lowlands. i wanted to chase that buck. i don’t know if i wanted to k**l it, but i think that i genuinely did. i convinced my grandfather to give me his dusty old deer rifle – a bolt action 30/30 that had killed a deer with the first bullet it ever fired. and then never succeeded again.
just walking through the woods with that rifle changed how i understood who i was. the half light in the early morning, the cutting cold, the way in which i was certain that if i heard the soft footfall of a deer’s left foot i would recognize it. i also realized how loud i was. how gangly and uncertain. a man between worlds, in the frost, without permits, believing i was ready to raise the rifle and fire. i never did.
when @renan_ozturk invited me to come with him to document a himalayan blue sheep hunt with @nomadic47ak and yeti hunting manager @benobrien i jumped at the chance. and there i was, a somewhat older man, in my world, shuddering in the cold. i worried about getting the focus right and not freezing my fingers in the deep himalayan snows. but the silence was the same. that same awareness of my footsteps. the same uncertainty that we all feel when facing death – which is also how we feel when facing truth.
excited to announce that our short film the hunt has hit the internets. hats off to @ansonfogel for finding the story in what was a real mess of footage and @patpatrol for helping with the wrestling.
link in bio. give it a watch and a think. it’s complicated, hopefully honest. worth commenting on at any rate – if you feel so moved.
Becoming friends with people who are totally different from who i am has taught me all the ways in which that they actually aren’t.
the world is shrinking so quickly. it’s time we all grew some to balance it out.
I have no idea why i packed up and left for nepal twenty years ago. i never really felt that i had a choice - there was just something deep in the gears of my being grinding away, eastward and uphill.
everyone who has been here, however, understands why i’ve stayed.
shout out to my amazing colleagues at @dzifoundation - 25 of the most talented, dedicated, and fun people on earth. thanks to y’all, i wake up every morning eager to get to work, to see how we can change the world together again.
the sun, afternoon-tired, angles low across the pine trees. chamlang himal lies lazy and white to the north. thirty-odd crows play together in the heavy air.
they have joined us with their dark intelligence. flirting, wheeling, diving over the steep valley, they return and alight in the straight pines.
crows are shadows come to life. pure black against the branches made more green by their presence. their shape is heavy like dreams. like all that our minds cannot know. bird-shaped holes in this human world, in that which we cling to so tightly.
black is every color combined.
Detail: mahindra bolero, en route to sotang.
the first time i came to the market center of sotang was immediately after the civil war in nepal ended. sotang was used as a remote base for the maoist guerrillas, and it had that strange sadness that comes when great suffering ends - the heavy way in which we can only truly understand, and somehow experience, trauma once it’s over.
the first time i came here, i walked for four days. today i rolled and rocked and bounced into sotang in a truck. clouds of dust and diesel engines growling like some young animals. the market throbbed with hindi hit songs.
i bought a spare iphone charger, and shared tea with old friends. we talked about the old days, how the new road cuts across the graves of those who died in the war.
the fastest way to move forward is to forget.
Winter in kathmandu is like running out of hot water in the shower - bracing, and while ultimately it’s not terrible, it definitely seems like it at the time.
the fog crawls in along the sacred bagmati and around the airport. flights are delayed. we wrap ourselves in sweaters and scarves, which we forget to take off when we crawl into bed.
it’s beautiful and important somehow - these small sufferings. waking up in the dark. coughing up to the valley edge on my mountainbike. sweating in the cold air.
maybe we are all plants somehow - in the cold water and the thin sun, we grow the most.
it’s early morning now, and i’m on a train to the airport. the sun is crawling up over london, grey and serious, plated with gold. the train cab is heavy with our silence and our luggage. we look down at our feet. we wonder if we will make our flights.
i’m having a hard time grasping that only two weeks ago, i was keeping company with giants - weary and entirely alive on the tail end of a month amongst the high, cold, and sacred himalayas.
i thought that maybe more if that place would have stayed with me. changed my skin or my gait somehow. but it hasn’t.
i’m just another commuter today. another man staring at his phone while the sunrise burns outside, ignored.
the only noticeable legacy i can claim is a lingering and occasionally serious cough. in the mornings it still leaves me doubled over, gasping for air. it breaks the silence on the train. people look at me without directly looking. i sound terrible. i’m not embarrassed.
there is some solace in knowing that perhaps a bit of that place is still in me. itching. fighting to be heard. irritating the square life i’m in. shaking it up. keeping me company until i’m once again back and healthy and free. #nepaliloveyou#cough#lookonthebrightside 📷 @climber.abiral
Today’s #givingtuesday ! @dzifoundation is almost halfway to finishing heman and lochan’s school in nepal through our $25,000 @mexicaliblues match - this is an amazing opportunity to give back to nepal. (link in bio for more info & to donate.)
Nepal is an extremely difficult place to describe. nature did something different here - something larger, craggier, more snowy. from such came a deep spirit and smoky quiet, monuments to peace and compassion.
but this alone doesn’t get at it. somehow nepal exists in contrast or even in conflict with the lives we know. the roaring of helicopters and the bright noise and chaos of kathmandu bring these places meaning. the truth is always oblique. the path to the summit is never direct. 📷 @climber.abiral#nepalnow#nepaliloveyou@dzifoundation