If we are open to the experience of life, accidental wonderment abounds. Many of us are closed off and living in fear that we miss the marrow and good part.
Everyone has a right to protect themselves and their loved ones. It’s what you do after you realize that the threat is unwarranted that matters.
Many of my days and nights are spent in the mountains all around Turkey, living out of an air-cooled VW Van with my girlfriend Aysegul and dog Gezi. The summer weather is usually cooler, the views spectacular and a lot of the time the people I meet are the salt of the Earth.
One thing to understand about me is that my Turkish is limited to about 30 words. So when Aysegul goes off on her own for a bit, I am left to my own lack of communication devices.
Last week was Bayram, the Muslim equivalent of Easter and we headed off to the center of the country to run up and down some mountains. Our first few days were chock filled with mountain peaks, quiet vistas and silent nights.
Then we headed down the mountain to a canyon with flowing snow melt and soaked our weary legs only to find the day brutally hot. What to do? Head back up to altitude, of course.
We picked a peak to run the next and headed on up. We ascended through a river bed and a village only to find ourselves on a road that felt more like an open drawbridge. That’s the limit of Mavi Mantar, the van. Up and down, hot and cold, dirt and paved are fine. Super steep, not so much. She runs out of power and very quickly gets close to overheating.
So after we rolled through the village and climbed a steep ascent, we needed to quickly find a resting spot for the night. We made a right turn and parked in a flattish spot between two poplar trees with a view of the mountain range under the behemoth I planned to summit the following day. Win and win. Oh, and potable water.
Aysegul decided on a run and I decided to take a rest day. She went off, and I video chatted with my mom in NY. As we chatted, an old Turkish woman with a cane passed my way. I quickly disconnected the call and tried to converse with the woman, only to have her start talking louder and louder to convey her meaning.
I smiled. I nodded. I tried to explain that I did not understand.
Eventually she passed and scurried up into the field above. A few minutes later the water began to flow rapidly, and the woman emerged from the field. We tried to speak again and then she was off.
An hour later Aysegul returned from her run just as the woman reappeared to present to us the best corn I have ever eaten. Aysegul and the Turkish woman chatted for a while and she offered us the space to camp for as long as we needed. Where we had parked was a farm owned by her.
She went off again only to return again with her son, his wife and his shotgun. They had all come to see the couple who had decided to camp above their farm. The stream of people was constant for about an hour.
We all became friends despite our differences and the shotgun son left only to return with the makings of Turkish Cay(Tea). We spent the rest of the evening drinking Cay under the stars with our new friends.
They found it hysterical that our dog sleeps in the van in our bed. I found it hysterical that the son and his wife sat, leaving the 80-year-old matriarch to water the fields and stand. Turns out it is just their way and she never sits.
I will be frank, I am not a gun person. I think they have one purpose. The son brought the gun to make sure we were not there to do harm. Once we got over that obstacle, he was a gracious and generous host whom I will remember fondly as I do right now writing this story.
We don’t all have to be friends, but it would be an easier world to navigate if we treated more people like neighbors with whom we want to share tea.
DM for collaboration – thanks Dylan