We absorb the view.
The earth is swaddled in grey wool. It is soft and warm and snugly tucked in. The wool obscures what lies beneath.
Occasionally, knees and elbow jut through. “Little Ararat,” or Küçük Ağrı, as it is known locally, is the nearest of these. It is a perfectly symmetrical volcanic cone rising from the shoulder of Ağrı Dağı. Despite the name, it is hardly “little.” It swells upwards to nearly 13,000 feet. Now, I have to reach down to touch it.
I turn in another direction. Here, the blanket thins and the mottled greens of Eastern Anatolia are sensed. In the morning light she is fertile, rugged and wild.
There is an unbroken line that separates the protected from the unprotected, the covered from the uncovered. It is true, as if drawn by a ruler. I follow its edge round and round, rotating under the pole of Ağrı’s head. In this atmosphere of harsh blue—above and beyond that woolly cover—I am staggered by my own exposure. I am the oddity now. I am not where I belong. I am alive, but only with the help of many others. I am alive, but only because of my technology. I am alive, but only for a moment. I am alive, but living the most unnatural existence.
Such thoughts come slowly in the thin air. My lungs pull. I am exhilarated and humbled at the same time. I must return to the blanket.
We take pictures. Tanner fools around with the GoPro camera.
Tanner wants one more picture. He hands me the camera and poses.
“What are you doing?” I yell.
He is stretched out, face down on the summit. His legs extend beyond the scarp. He is “planking.” Maybe it is the lack of oxygen, maybe it is my age. I don’t understand. Apparently such behavior gets traction in the humor category somewhere. Stretched out stiff and cold in his black and white kaffiyah, he makes me think of a hostage situation gone bad.
Celîl makes the rounds, checking each of us in turn. We shake hands, slap backs, hug, grin.
“OK. Lit’s gooo.”
We need to get down before the weather turns.
I turn around one last time to burn the image into my memory. It is beautiful. It is savage.
Then I follow the others. We pole our way downslope in the direction of the backpacks. I see them resting in a cluster on the apron of ice. Another cloud sweeps by and I can see nothing.