Autumn always makes me misty-wistful and full of random memories. Usually they are triggered by a sound or a smell, but today I mis-heard a word and that triggered a pretty bold memory. So I dug up some old video and put this together. My ears heard the word as “sansara” which is the Nepali word for world. It happens to be the first word in the song we sung on my Everest Highway environmental trip – the one I wrote the book about. When I wrote down the stories, I knew they were raw and unprocessed, that things would change and shift. Now when I look back and see a more complete picture. I watch a video like the one below and I could write an entire book just on this topic. The world is different, but it’s still hamro sansara – our world. The book I would write today is also much different. I knew that would be the case. If I wrote about the stories of this video today, more than three years later, the summary might look like this:
Just as we reached Namche at 11,500 feet, the musicians began to bond and get comfortable enough in their surroundings that they set themselves to writing a song about the purpose of our tour. The tour was meant to raise awareness about glaciers melting on Everest and other nearby Himalayan peaks, and also to include and engage the people living under them about their changing world. Inspired by poem lyrics which Dilli, our Kathmandu driver had scribbled in the margin of a newspaper, the musicians sat in an unheated lodge room and began hammering it out.
By the time we reached Deboche at nearly 15,000 feet, two days later, the song was taking shape, as were friendships among us. Along the way we danced and sang among the tombstones of Mt Everest’s victims. We encouraged each other up the path and shared silent, heartfelt moments in a famous monastery. We breathed heavily and endured elevation sickness in its many forms to reach the world’s highest concert venue.
The climax was meant to be a grand concert at Mt Everest Base Camp, to perform for all the climbers, but plans were thwarted by, well, the powers that be. Powers more formidable than the weather or the elevation kept us from performing at Base Camp proper. We performed anyway, but it was at 17,500 feet, above and away from Base Camp on a mountain called Kala Pattar, escorted by police, in the coming light of dawn, to our own cameras instead of a grand audience as envisioned.
The details of this same book might include the specifics of the political reasons we weren’t allowed to appear publicly at Base Camp, the military force that greeted us to make sure we complied, and perhaps stories about the kids who snuck backstage and huddled around DJ Tenzing and oogled the famous musicians during our rehearsal. Or maybe about the tag-along wannabe musician who was too strung-out to keep himself from energetically playing air guitar among the musicians… And it would probably recap the amazing concerts we did hold for a grand audience in Lukla, Salleri and Kathmandu.
It would include tiny wishes and memories, like the fact that I only recorded the first dry rehearsal of the song at the top, because that’s all the battery power I had. What I would have given for a fully charged camera battery. Tiny things. And grand things, like I’d include all of Everest in the shot, with the sun about to break behind it, lifting the mountain’s shadow from us. And I might use something other than a rock for a tripod. Tiny wishes.
And today’s book might include bits about the musicians returning to Kathmandu to record a CD version of the song. Ah, the talk of that prospect always made my heart soar. I’ve often imagined all of them together in a recording booth, in a music video, with a finished, professional recording of that song. I think it would be a beautiful song fully accompanied. Of course, I’ve also imagined them choosing someone with a great voice to sing my part in the finished version. For now, as the song says, the world is changing and it’s all in our hands, Everest, she is crying and united we must stand. Here’s a musical video summary of the creation of the Global Warming Song, produced and performed along the Everest Highway.