Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Sailing to Byzantium

Some time early last Saturday ...

Flying westward ahead of the dawn, a losing race. After three hours of Campari-induced sleep (I was good, Ma, I only had two. Oh OK, AND some bubbly), I wake to a darkened passenger cabin. And the glow of the moon through the porthole. I lean over and peer out.

Magic. Below us is a landscape of whipped cream swirls and chocolate streaks, a maelstrom formation of snow-shouldered mountains that run together, flatten, roll, a vast frozen carouse of the ice-giants. All the way to the horizon, even from 38,000 feet. Under a crystal moon, light seems to hang in the air, drawing strength from the ice below, a dance of cold and whiteness.

I don’t need to pull out the little screen that tracks the plane across the world. Only one region in the world can look like this. The Pamir Knot. The roof of the world. Magnifique.

I take in the picture in great lungfuls. What luck to wake up at this moment. And yet there is a smidgin of guilt because I’m seeing this the easy way, from an airliner floating far above. Sven Hedin comes to mind, and Younghusband crossing the Hindu Kush. Somewhere down there and away to the left under the belly of the craft, surely, is the pass where young Francis had to tie strips of cloth over his shoes to cross an ice-field.

But hey, why should I feel guilty? He chose his own road. The intrepid explorer. Onward to glory and all that. Besides, he was just 24 at the time. Me, I’m old and past it. Hedonism over Hedinism every time for me. Young lady, if you will NOT serve breakfast just yet, could I please have another Campari? Squeeze of lime, dash of soda, two ice. Thanks.

**** ****


Kaushik said...

Younghusband crossed the Hindukush as well? Thought it was Bhutan on to Tibet.

Falstaff said...

Love the title. That really is no country for old men.

Anonymous said...



Tabula Rasa said...

hedonism to hedinism -- perfect!

Ph said...

Liking it muchly.

Chronicus Skepticus said...

Very nice, Old Person.

You should fly by a lightning storm - it's a feast for the eyes (though not so great for the rest of the system).

Anonymous said...

The Pamir Knot -- been ages since I last heard of that. Brought back visions of geography lessons and black and white maps to be marked. Always thought the name had a wonderfully romantic ring to it.

Anonymous said...

Pamir knot, eh?

And here are some people who are saddled with the Gordian knot that is Bombay traffic. Now if only Bandra-Worli sea link was Alexander's sword.

But seriously, nice going, sir. The job change seems to be rocking !!

And agree about the lightning storm. Had the privilege twice. A surreal experience to say the least.