Once, a long time ago when adventures involved a whole lot more than taking three young kids to the grocery store, I traveled to Darjeeling, India. Early one morning (and I mean early, around 3:30 AM), my two traveling companions and I dressed warmly and hopped into a Jeep-like vehicle with four or five strangers.
In the darkness, in the silence, in the cold, we sat with our hats pulled down and our scarves wrapped around as the Jeep climbed up, up, up to the top of a very high hill. When we arrived at our destination, which seemed fairly random and sure to be unknown, there were dozens of other cars and trucks. The place was buzzing in activity though it was completely bathed in darkness. I realized it was not random and it was pretty well known. We got out and strolled around an abandoned fort--we and more than two hundred Indian tourists and one or two dozen foreign tourists, so "strolling" was really more like "squeezing past way too many people." It was horribly crowded; I was getting the feeling that whatever my companions had in store for me was not going to be worth it.
After 30 minutes of un-fun shivering with all of these tourists, the skies began to get lighter. The loud banter you'd expect to hear from this many people slowed quickly. Silence fell as people's attention turned to the sky and their natural surroundings. Slowly, very slowly, the black turned to dark blue, which slowly turned a little lighter. We all waited, simultaneously knowing and not knowing what to expect.
And then, the man right next to me shouted loudly and emphatically a syllable or two in Hindi. I didn't know what he was saying, but I saw what he was pointing at with massive excitement: A sliver, a tiny slit of brilliant red, was peeking out over the mountains. There it was! The Sun! Over the Himalayas! There they were! The biggest mountains in the world!
The Sun-spotting man next to me and I were not the only two people who were excited to see the Sun pop up in the distance over the most majestic mountains in the world. The whole crowd erupted in cheers at the sight. Silence turned to celebration at the start of this sunrise.
And we all witnessed together the entire red ball of the Sun rise up from behind the mountains. Slowly at first, but with gathering momentum, the circle of red rose up from behind the mountains until it stood alone. The mountains reflected the sunrise; they were a brilliant pink-yellowish color.
Good morning, India!
It is with this same excitement that I start the new year. I'm grateful for 2013; though it was easily the most difficult year of my life, those emotional and mental struggles are mostly behind me. But all that stuff I waded through and got muddied in surely left an impression on me, and I know I am stronger and wiser because of it.