I never thought the day would come when I would be forced to flee the mountain. It has always been my home. It was here that I tended to the needs of my husband, with his gruff voice and genial manner, until I lost him just last year. Beneath the shadow of the great peak, tucked away in a warm cavern, I raised three sons, and set them off into the world to find their own paths.
This mountain is much more than a home. Sagarmatha, Goddess of the Sky. Chomolungma, Mother Goddess of the Universe. The mountain shelters, offers food for the mind, body and soul, and if she demands a sacrifice, I bow to her omnipotence. When Graeppel fell, it was with pounding fist, pursed lips, and angry brow, yet it was also with acceptance. It was a cunning black bear that ended his life, but it was the mountain that embraced his remains. For an entire season, I passed his lifeless body, tilted back against the rock, sculpted in ice. His long, white beard became a milky stalactite crystal, like the ones formed in the depths of our cave. Finally he melded into the mountain, only a dim shadow left to remind me of his presence beneath the surface.
Now I bid goodbye to that shadow, and to the cave. My gaze turns west, toward Nepal, and then north, to Tibet. Shrieking wind fills my ears as I climb higher, savoring one last view of my surroundings. The arctic beauty of the mountain fills me with a sense of wonder. A ring of ethereal smoke circles, caressing the curves of the summit. I have crested that ridge on many a morning and danced within the clouds like a God. The morning after my youngest son left the cave, I simply stood there, fat tears freezing to my cheeks. There is no other place where the world can be viewed at such an angle. In the distance, other mountains graze the sky, barely reaching the midriff of this one. Enormous cliffs of brittle rock and frozen tundra jut from every angle. The brilliant blue sky reflects off the snow, creating the illusion of watery patches on distant plateaus.
The true beauty of the Goddess Mountain can be found in her fickle nature. The harshness of the climate is tempered by the diversity of the atmosphere. No blizzard has ever blocked my travels between the ever changing paths. No avalanche could dispatch me from the comfort of it’s crevices and cracks. I thrive in the uppermost parts of the mountain, where no blossom is brave enough to peek from beneath the snow, where the wind cuts a bitter swath across the terrain, leaving the icy edges slightly bent, like the ruffled feathers of a bird.
My sons felt the call of the alpine forest, the river, and the more temperate warmth of the lower plains. I could visit them now, if I chose to. I could follow the line of green in the distance, as I’ve done many times, tromping across the ice covered surface, watching it grow ever thinner as I made my descent. Patches of shrubbery, lichen and moss begin to break through in the high altitude meadows. In the scrublands, I would search for a blue poppy, a rare but reliable beauty that signals the approach of the grasslands. Then the timberline, where birch, juniper, blue pines, bamboo and rhododendron begin to grow. There, I could search for my sons. By now, one of them may have become a father, to a child that resembles him, or perhaps Graeppel. I would rock the bushy haired infant in my arms, crooning the melodies that have been passed down in our family for generations.
But I will not make that journey, not yet. When I leave this place, I will travel down the other face of the mountain. Instead of crossing into the verdant warmth of the forested foothills, I will follow a rugged path, one that few are familiar with. Steep, cut by glaciers, and offering little cover from the constant snowfall, this path will eventually lead to the shelter of another mountain, and then another. I will make a new home somewhere betwixt the Himalayas, always within view of my beloved Mother Goddess.
Until today, the thought of leaving had never occurred to me. Too soon, it has turned from a thought into a reality. I am being hunted. I cannot lead these relentless pursuers to my offspring. My dreams of becoming a grandmother could be just that; the improbable yearnings of a surviving elder. My three sons may be the last remaining of our species in this world. I must flee, as scores of my descendents did before me, finding safety under the cover of the blinding flurries, in the frozen roof of the Earth.
Farewell, Everest. Sagarmatha. Chomolungma. No longer home to my kind, the gentle Yeti.
Short Fiction, by Leah Wilcox