In the next part of the journal, the traveler told of his continued efforts to find the red-head woman. When he realized that those efforts were in vain, he decided that it was his time to make his way up the river and find whatever it was his destiny to find. In that context, he was like many visitors to this village, ready to undertake a journey from which there was the possibility of no returning to the world they knew. The geography of the effort, Mt. Shivling shining like a god to his right, the slowly ascending trail in front of him, or the pack on his pack—none of these things, which identified him merely as one of many taking this dusty path, counted as the real environment of his passage. His inner world, which he described in his journal, was the landscape that mattered. During several passages, the traveler questioned whether he actually needed to make this trek at all. His inquiry was simple and included everything one might cognize through mind or sense, so why did he need to come to the other side of the world to get to the question? Was there someone like the red-head woman back home who could have challenged his worldly ideas and beliefs?
Eventually, he hardly noticed the passage of the landscape, which to most travelers on this path became more spectacular as higher Himalayan peaks came into view. The traveler’s inner world raced with new thoughts which were searching desperately for something familiar from his old life to hang on to. His inner landscape was melting away, as if an inner sun were purging him of a mind which seemed now to always have been frozen into set patterns of thinking and, therefore, into set patterns of living.
He often sat down just off the path to write. He wrote mostly about the sadhu and the red-head woman, realizing eventually that their reality lay not in memories but in the moment-to-moment thoughts passing through his nearly empty mind. It did not matter to him whether they existed as tangible people; they were now a mental matrix that kept his mind capable of processing his immediate experience, which was becoming more incomprehensible with every step. Eventually, he felt that what was left of his mind was condensing into the inquiry which had driven all his life experiences but which he still could not articulate into language. Often he rambled on for pages, making up conversations with the red-head woman or playing with the idea that this sadhu could be real. He even wrote about writing and its efficacy at probing more deeply into why he was here. In very act of writing, he was becoming increasingly desperate to find the elusive purpose for his journey, or indeed for living at all.
Not that he was afraid of death. The thought of getting lost once he got onto the glacier and never finding his way back became a metaphor for what he knew was happening to his mind. The towering Mt. Shivling now loomed over him like a god wrapped in snow. The trail continued to move into higher altitudes, and the streaming of the river became narrower.
At this point in the storyteller’s narrative, I stirred and the story stopped. Feeling the need to relieve myself, I pushed down the sleeping bag and stepped briskly toward the door. No one else moved. The silence in the room was like a cavern within which all those present were finding shelter from the storm of the outside world. I picked up a water bottle and stepped into the night.
The cars in front of the cabin were like an alien presence. They were not only empty of their passengers, they were also empty of life and validity. Within my mind they could find no natural place among my thoughts, which were threadbare except for the immediate need to send a stream of warm liquid into the bushes a few yards away from the cabin.
Being alone seemed the only possible truth. Above, the stars shimmered in the cloudless night sky, each infinitely alone though seemingly clustered together in the sweep of my sight across their glitter. Standing there, I felt the absolute beauty of silence, stirred into life by the joining of the stars and the sound of the liquid splashing on the ground near the innocent bush. To know the stars was to know the bush and the cabin and the dead cars and the shadow of a world lost in the illusions that defined it and which, within the context of my gathering sense of realness, was just as valid in its chaos as were the silent, steadfast stars floating in the infinite.
As I poured water over my hands to clean them, I felt as if I were still inside the cabin listening to the story. The simple movement of hands and fingers and the sound of the water flowing over them were as much a part of the story as were the storyteller and the few of us listening to the words flow out of the silence. Closing the door behind me as I re-entered the room, I saw that the candles had burned lower since the storyteller’s narrative had begun, but even with the opening and closing of the door and the passage of my body across the room, the flames did not flicker.