In life, we remember moments.
We may spend long hours at our work, in the library studying for school, or pouring over our computers. But these are not the things we remember when we look back on our lives. All of that drudgery fades with time, and we are left with only a few, golden moments. A relationship that is stressful and ugly becomes, in memory: a flash of a her smile; a moonlit night under under the stars in a deep mountain canyon; a shooting star; his unexpected ‘I love you.’ These are what stick, not the long, shut-down stretches of black, or the quiet evenings spent in your own head.
Suile holds the most beautiful moment of my life.
Long after the rest of the journey, the rest of the relationship, the rest of the emotions have faded from my memory, I will remember this moment. I will remember it, in crystal clear detail, until the day I die.
[Welcome to this series about travel and trekking in Nepal! It’s a serial feature. If you’d like to follow along, hit the follow button on the homepage, or sign up for e-mail updates. And by all means, check out the past entries on the Table of Contents. Hope you enjoy!]
As we sat in the teahouse common room, shivering against the early afternoon cold, an afternoon storm rolled across the valley. Rain and heavy winds caused the prayer flags outside to flutter madly. According to tradition, each flap of the flags sent blessings to the heavens. That made this a mighty and pious storm, tearing through the Himalayas.
In reality, it was small—no more than an afternoon squall. The storms that buffeted the summits of the 8,000 meter peaks around us must be unimaginably fierce—strong enough to trigger avalanches, sweep humans off their feet, and cast constant plumes of snow into the atmosphere.
But from a cold, trembling, trekking lodge in Suile, this storm seemed strong enough for me.
I waited it out inside the common room, drinking tea and looking wistfully out the windows.
As the storm raged on, someone sitting by the window said: “Double rainbow!”
The intense rain kept most people inside, but I ran outside to get a look. From the edge of the big circular lawn, being pelted with freezing rain, I saw the most beautiful sight of my life.
A complete, vivid rainbow stretched across the whole valley. Both ends were visible. One end emerged from a small, blue-roofed farm, down and to our left, set among some wide terraces. A beam of golden sunlight fell upon just this patch only, illuminating the modest structure, giving it a heavenly glow.
The rainbow then stretched across the entire valley, where it terminated in more sun-dappled, terraced farmland.
Underneath the rainbow, a massive glacial river carved its way down the valley, carrying snowmelt from the peaks. The roar of the water could be heard even above the sound of the storm, echoing off the sides of the mountains. Here and there, rogue beams of sunlight reflected off the river, giving it a milky-blue definition underneath the gray skies.
Above that first rainbow shone a second—fainter and lighter. Both arcs shimmered — literally shimmered — in the afternoon air. Light reflected off the moisture in the air as the storm slowed to a drizzle, then passed altogether.
The rainbow remained for a few moments, waving goodbye, before slowly dissipating.
I stood and watched all of this, the prayer flags blowing above me all the while.
Watching this, shivering in the freezing rain, I felt a spiritual presence. There are no other words for the sensation. I had never felt anything like it in my life. I was filled with emotion, a sense of oneness, beauty, and understanding. Tears came to my eyes, unbidden, and I thought without an ounce of hyperbole: This is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my life.
I tried to take a picture, but with raindrops splattering the screen, my phone quickly shut down due to cold. I put it in my pocket. I had no choice but to simply stand there and look out across the valley, committing the scene to memory.
I didn’t want to experience this through the small screen of an iPhone, anyways. To try and capture such a place, such a scene, such a feeling in a photograph was hubris of the highest order, I knew. I would never be able to properly share this feeling with anyone. This was a moment just for me.
As the clouds cleared, and the rainbow disappeared, sun suddenly returned to the valley. I was left alone, standing at the edge of the lawn, staring down the valley. There was a stone bench nearby. I availed myself of it for a few moments, sitting with the spiritual stirring in my chest. It was not a feeling I could put into words. I wasn’t sure that I needed to.
I had come to the mountains looking for something, and here, on the edge of this valley in Suile, I had found it.
My shivering soon became uncontrollable, and I regretfully bid goodbye to the bench at the edge of the lawn. I returned inside, where food was served and hot tea was flowing with conversation and everything suddenly seemed much warmer. Even the wifi was working.
I wrote a message to Holly: “I just witnessed the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my life.” I stared at it for a second, and then deleted it. It was just one more thing that would come between us. One more experience we could never share. One more reason for resentment in a relationship that had become rank with them.
That was the moment I knew, we would not survive.
The most beautiful moment of my life.