I’ve heard before that smell is the sense tied strongest to memory. I believe sight is the sense connected most commonly to the future. When I imagined what Nepal and Kathmandu and the hike to Mount Everest base camp would be like, I simply envisioned what it would look like. I didn’t take into account the smells and the sounds and the taste and the feeling. Now that I’m here, typing this from above 11,000 feet with the Himalayas outside my window, I don’t know how I possibly could’ve.

My eyes have set themselves on more beauty in the two days on this trek than in any other time in my 26 years or in any of the 30-some countries on five continents I’ve been fortunate to travel throughout. The past 48 hours I’ve seen peaks that poke through the clouds and watched waterfalls freeze to the sides of mountains, clinging on for dear life until the thaw. I’ve gazed at turquoise rivers streaming down from Tibet and the glaciers we head for and flowers blooming on trees as we pass. Puppies and children stare with curious eyes and yaks and donkeys carry equipment and bridges appear as if they are there for scenery until you discover those are the ones you must cross.

I’ve witnessed 14 cancer survivors from Iowa fly halfway around the earth, pull their bags from the plane and begin up the world’s tallest mountain with smiles, tears, hugs and dropped jaws. And those are simply the sights.

The smells of pines and yak droppings, the sounds of donkey bells and languages that rarely get heard outside these mountains, the tastes of yak butter and salty sweat from your hard work, the feelings of aches and shakes, companionship and accomplishment that makes people cry which in turn makes you cry – those senses are now our present and we know them well. So well they’ve grabbed hold of our emotions and our precious little lives and taken control. There’s nothing we can do to stop it. We belong to the universe, and we’re fine with that.

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