Postcards and Pearls

Ticket to Ride

An adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered.
Gilbert Keith Chesterton

In northern Thailand, I strained my knee at the beginning of what was to be a four-hour trek from the Karen Tribe village of Meuang Phem to the Red Lisu village of Phamon. Plan B? My guide arranged for my transport with the local mahout.

Phasador, a three-year-old elephant, took me for a bone-jangling, breath-holding, muscle-tensing ride. When he descended into rivers, I used every muscle group to keep from falling out of the chair on his back. When he climbed mountains, gravity pushed my lower back against a knot in the wood. The front raised rim of the chair dampened the circulation in my legs, which I slapped every so often to awaken. This had the added benefit of keeping at bay every species of insect that had decided to join me for the ride.

Tree branches that ordinarily swung far above my head now posed threats to my eyes and skull. For four hours, my gaze never strayed from in front of me, and my arms motored like wipers without a windshield. Though I hadn’t taken a step, by the time we reached the village I was exhausted.

But my physical discomfort had yielded to an awareness of an animal who could crush me with his foot yet shrieked and reared at the sight of a butterfly; a creature who despite his mass, walked without making a sound; a gift of nature who moved trees with a swat of his trunk yet shrank from horses, frightened by the clopping of their hooves.

This was a ride I wish never to repeat, and a memory I will cherish until my last days.

When actors encounter a mishap during a stage performance, they transform it for good purpose by employing a technique called “use the difficulty. How can you “use the difficulty” in your life?