Friday, June 1, 2012

Waiting for chiru, in the quiet

looking toward the hills

June 1, 2006--Day 15, 1:30 p.m. Beijing time

This morning I went for a walk toward the hills behind our campsite. I was sitting on a grassy area, feeling lonely, head down. When I lifted my head to look at the hills I saw 15 chiru walking across the sidehill. It was as if they were saying, "You came here to see chiru so take a look." They slowly walked across the sidehill and down onto the plain. They were behind a low rise for a while so I couldn't see them. But soon when I looked where I thought they would be they were looking right at me, like, "OK, how was that?" Then they walked across the plain, past our campsite and up toward the mountain again. It was really a wonderful sighting. Their curved horns are a little like exaggerated raised eyebrows so when they look directly at you they have a quizzical look, sort of, "well, what's up now?"  I do love just going out and sitting somewhere and waiting for them to show up.

"you came to see chiru"

"so take a look"

We don't have gas enough to go to the north end of Memar Tso [lake] so tomorrow we'll go to the south end, stay a couple of days and go to the SW side of Aru Tso. I'll be surely ready to leave on June 6. And I think cook, driver and guide will, too. 

4:00 p.m.  Jinpa and I took binoculars and camera this afternoon and went walking south. Very windy. As we turned to look north we saw six gazelles, two lying down. We walked slowly toward them but could not get close enough to take a picture. There's grit in the binoculars. It was my mistake not to bring the case. I'll have to get them cleaned when I get home.

This place like no other leaves a person solely on his or her own devices. You can sit and stare at the sky, sit and stare at the ground, listen to the wind, or the flies or the occasional bumblebee. But there's room, room for thought or no thought. There are no fillers here.

cook  tent (the largest tent) anchored between two Land Cruisers

7:55 p.m. Very windy tonight. Cook tent blew over twice yesterday. Now it's anchored to the land cruisers.

worth the loneliness

My greatest joy on this trip  has been just to go out to the middle of the basin and sit and wait for the chiru to appear. There are mountains on all sides. The basin is broad and the sky is huge. Thought, pettiness are blown away. It's just about sitting there, waiting for chiru. That is a new experience for me. And I'm beginning to think that might be worth the loneliness and the other unpleasantries. Heinrich and I had a good conversation at dinner tonight. I talked about how I missed my family. He said if he came again he would bring his wife.

Heinrich is a Park Director of the largest national park in Switzerland. He was on the trip to study the chiru population density. He had been there about ten years before 2006 and was keeping careful records of when and where he saw chiru. He also recorded sightings of other mammals and birds. He left either after breakfast  or earlier each day and returned usually for dinner. But he was a good trip companion who delighted in the place and the experience.

I write in this entry about "no fillers," "Fillers" is a term I learned from Rich, who learned it in Gretel Erlich's book The Solace of Open Spaces.  My normal world is filled with fillers, lists, e-mail to check, phone calls, small jobs, bigger jobs, Mah Jongg games, the tasks and frivolities that keep me from being focused. It was such an unusual experience to suddenly have these things stripped from my life--disorienting, but good. Going through this journal makes me want to try again to strip away what I can, to focus on what is really important--love and work.

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