‘End of tourist season…end of tourist season’ echoes through my brain as I sit alone in my ger. Mongolia, the land of extremes – geographically, socially, emotionally. Minute by minute struggling to adapt to the quiet, the isolation, the barrenness of the Mongolian wilderness.
Yet I am not alone, of course. I only feel this isolation because I am not sharing the new experience with anyone, and the language barrier along with cultural differences make it difficult if not impossible for me to confide in anyone here. I hate to say it, when surrounded by such jaw-dropping scenery, but I think that if it weren’t for internet access and my ipod, I would go insane.
The lonesome feeling is a strange one. I feel bereft, as though something has been ripped from me, as though I am being deprived of something essential to my happiness – to my survival, even. I have been observing the Takhi, riding, walking, preparing English lessons… I have been relatively busy, but it is the moments when there is nothing to do that are the painful ones. Trying to refrain from reading, because I have only one and a half books left(!), collecting stones and pressing plants for mum to see, sketching, writing…
I have realised that this pitiable, pathetic, lonely feeling won’t be leaving any time soon – and I shall have to absorb it, assimilate it into my being somehow. So very strange. In some ways this is heaven – an expanse, a landscape I have always dreamt of. Something to be absorbed into; to become nothing, insignificant, in its presence. In other, more surprising, more revealing ways, it is also hell. So strange, so confusing, so perplexing. I feel that I should be happy here. I thought I was an independent being, satisfied with my own company, content with being alone. Perhaps I am not the girl I used to be. Perhaps I was never that girl?
When we strip back the skin, the sinews, the complications, the human being is essentially a sociable animal, and apart from a few anomalies to the rule, we all need companionship (or at least the option of companionship) for happiness.
‘The silence is deafening’ – such an overused phrase, and yet so precisely relevant, here. When I am alone in this Mongolian desertscape, and the deer have momentarily ceased their desperate, yearning cries, I listen, and I hear nothing. And yet my ears seem to buzz deafeningly loudly. It is almost as though my senses cannot comprehend this silence, this soundlessness, and in a panic-stricken way they over-compensate.
Panic. It is what I have felt time and again, when I begin to dwell on the solitude. Utter, animal panic. If it wasn’t so excruciating I would call it intriguing.
The grass rustles and rattles as the wind passes through. It sounds like fire.