Last year Lou Kasischke, author of finish #31, After the Wind, visited our public library to speak about his experiences on Mt. Everest during the 1996 tragedy that claimed several lives. His talk was incredibly moving, and I was anxious to read his book. Now, over a year later, I’ve finally done so.
I’ve got to say, I could hardly put the book down. I have a real fascination with Mt. Everest, and I don’t know why. I think part of it is that I know that climbing it is something that I will never be able to do for two reasons. Reason #1 – The cost of climbing the mountain is steep. (Was that a little pun-ny?) And it isn’t just “steep” in dollars. There’s also the fact that you just might die climbing it. Reason #2 – My circulatory system tends to go haywire at any temperature under 70 degrees. So, I could guarantee that I’d be coming home from Everest with a few less fingers and toes. (As a musician, I kind of need all ten fingers…though I did manage to use just nine once after I attempted, on my birthday no less, to slice of the side of my finger with a rotary cutter while cutting fabric during the season finale of Chicago Fire and ended up with three stitches through my finger and nail. I am now forbidden to use rotary cutters whilst watching Chicago Fire. And I also now consider any birthday where I don’t end up in the emergency room to be a good one!)
But, back to the book…This isn’t just a book about the technical aspects of climbing a mountain. Nor is it just about what went wrong and those that didn’t survive. Underlying it all is a love story that explains how one man made a decision that most likely led to him making it down the mountain alive.
And there was also a lesson in the story that should make every reader pause and think about how they are living their lives: Live a story you can tell.