If you are ready to take risks, accept the unexpected, and commit to a dramatically altered life, you will be inspired by Caryl Sherpa’s memoir, I TASTE FIRE, EARTH, RAIN: Elements of a Life with a Sherpa. Her story, set in the United States and in a Nepal that has since changed dramatically, takes place over a three-year time period from March 1991 until May 1994.
CARYL is a thirty eight year old architectural project manager, who is unhappy with her life in Los Angeles and leaves for an around the world tour, alone.
NIMA is a twenty seven year old Sherpa guide with limited education, but has the wisdom of one who lives close to the land.
MONTEGO, Caryl’s trekking guide and Nima’s friend, tries to be the voice of reason while their relationship unfolds.
PAUL, a trekker, becomes their friend, and witnesses both the beginning and the culmination of Caryl’s and Nima’s relationship.
JULES, Nima’s friend, is an older man who knows the Sherpa and their culture, and both Caryl and Nima look to him for support.
PALA, Nima’s bitter and angry father during his childhood, is the dark side that Nima struggles to balance against with compassion and forgiveness.
HOLLYWOOD SONAM SHERPA becomes Nima’s mentor and friend, as he navigates his new life in the United States.
BOB and ALICE, Caryl’s parents, are cautious of Nima, but eventually learn to accept him.
CINDA, Caryl’s sister and a world traveler, provides Caryl with the support she seeks from her family.
MARK, Caryl’s work colleague and a renegade himself, becomes Nima’s first fan in America and believes in their relationship.
PASANG, Nima’s younger brother who has been to America before and returns, becomes the person against whom Nima will gauge his transformation.
HIS HOLINESS THE XIV DALAI LAMA, LAMA GESHE, GELEK RINPOCHE, LAMA NAWANG, AND UNCLE LAMA ZEPA, all Buddhist practitioners, each contribute to Caryl’s and Nima’s transformation and their journey inward towards a true self.
Frustrated by the hollowness of her career and disappointed by her relationships, Caryl realizes that something has to change. To spark her transformation, Caryl Sherpa leaves Los Angeles and begins her journey around the world, open to the new and ready for adventure. As she treks around the Annapurna Mountains of Nepal, she finds herself attracted to her Sherpa trekking guide, Nima. She denies her feelings for Nima, but as she comes to know the land and the Sherpas, she falls in love with Nima, his country, his people, and their joy. Together, Caryl and Nima struggle to find balance in Los Angeles and Ann Arbor, but it is on their return to Nima’s homeland near Mount Everest that they both come to terms with who they have now become. This is an inspiring story of love, cultural exploration the importance of place, finding one’s faith, and the revelation that in the Himalaya, anything is possible.
Fire, earth, and rain represent the triumvirate of three of the five elements of Tibetan Buddhist astrology that sustains life. Fire is heat, light, and passion; earth is our foundation; rain purifies and sustains. Together, Caryl and Nima welcome the elements of fire, earth, rain, which allow them to grow, flourish, and transform.
The elements of fire, earth, rain are essential to all life, however, as we disengage from the natural world and the wild places, like the Himalaya, we are losing touch with their most elemental meaning, the interconnectedness of all things. The Tibetan Buddhists speak of yab/yum, the male/female duality. All life depends on these opposite forces for its existence. Like Kali, the goddess of creation and destruction, the play of these forces is cyclical, and so eternal.
All journeys are a migration of sort, a reincarnation of self, influenced by elements that intrude, reshape, release, redistribute, and expose revelations that impact our own personal landscape. Like the wind-horse blown from prayer flags, Caryl and Nima are spirits who migrate towards a new self. Caryl learns to better accept the world as it is, develops an appreciation for intuitive knowledge, and begins to acknowledge the power and possibilities of the unseen. She is softer. Nima leans that dreams and reality can be disparate, loses his home and gains a new one, and discovers a knowledge that balances his intuition. He becomes harder. Together, both begin to reach a center that will hold them.
Like Caryl and Nima, we are all on an endless journey, alone. But how much better if we can find someone to share it with as we accept the power of the elements, their duality, and open up to learn from one and other—and the world.
Additional elements: Maps of Nepal & the Kathmandu Valley, Annapurna Trekking Route, Mount Everest Trekking Route, a Glossary, References and Reading List.