the kinetic pen

wired by words

Death, Bhutan, and Beginning It

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I found out today that one of my piano students died.

She was in her late eighties and practiced an hour every day, even when she was sick. Well, not cancer sick. Once she got that, she had to stay on the couch, mostly. She knew something was wrong when she started having trouble breathing at the keyboard. Tests showed the cancer was everywhere.

When I got the news, I’d been waffling with my husband about whether to go to Bhutan next year. It’s a recent dilemma: For months we’ve been planning a trip to Italy next summer with our 8-year-old daughter to celebrate his 50th birthday. As a two-time cancer survivor, Patrick figured he deserved a ‘destination bash’ (my words), and I was totally on board. We even already paid for an apartment rental in Vernazza.

But last weekend, we learned that the outdoor adventure company we went to Kilimanjaro with in 2008 (and that my husband went to base camp Everest with in 2010) was leading a trip to Bhutan, and that the guide is going to be Rick, one of the most awesome people on the planet. (“These are very spiritual places,” he has said about the trips he plans, “and when you stand in them, if you’re open to it, you experience life on a different plane.” You see?)

I’ve been collecting articles about Bhutan for years, since finding out about its commitment to Gross National Happiness. I’ve always called it my ‘reach trip’ because of the cost, but the chance to go with Rick (who plans to retire in a few years) to this place of serene beauty and contemplation, seems too good to pass up. But what about the cost? What about the potential altitude sickness? I was collapsing on summit day in Tanzania, after all.

When I questioned whether I was being selfish (ah, first-world problems…), my friend Sue, who comes to my house once a week so we can work on our separate books together, said without hesitation, “Is it selfish to want to live, and experience new things, and grow? And you write about journeys. It’s a natural extension of the work you’re already doing.”

The moment I learned that Doris had died, I felt drawn even more to Bhutan. Yes, it’s a scary proposition. I’d wind up in debt, I could feel nauseous, I’d miss my daughter terribly. But something’s telling me it’s the right thing to do – and the right time to do it.

As I was starting to make our lunch, Sue walked in the kitchen with her computer and recited the famous Goethe quote: “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.” I turned around and pointed to the refrigerator, to a card that has the exact same quote on the cover that I’d given Patrick before we climbed Kilimanjaro.

There’s that serendipity I so love…

What dream do you plan to begin?

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Author: thekineticpen

Freelance journalist working on a narrative nonfiction book about a woman who, after the freak death of her husband, decides to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro to deal with her grief and finds a second chance at love.

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