4. “I looked out the patio door a moment later and saw Greg, standing barefoot in the snow, scooping up the fish with a shovel, and flipping it, like that was the most normal thing in the world. And I guess, to him, it was. That’s when I realized that he’s just not one of us. He’s his own species.” Lila Bishop
Mortenson’s mother-in-law makes this observation in Chapter 18. The family is grilling salmon in the winter time, and she has asked Mortenson to turn the fish. The event takes place during a time when Mortenson is undergoing a great deal of stress as he adjusts to his role as a public figure, and he has found a peaceful haven at Lila’s home, very near where he and Tara live. Mortenson spends time in the basement of the Bishop home, poring over the mountaineering library of Barry Bishop, Tara’s father, who died before Mortenson could meet him. As she comes to know Mortenson better, Lila grows to share her daughter’s admiration for him, agreeing that “there was something to this ‘Mr. Wonderful’ stuff.” Yet, like many others in the book, she realizes that Mortenson is so different from the average person that it is often hard to understand him.
Lila Bishop’s comment is important because it summarizes many of the feelings about Mortenson shared in this chapter, while also putting those feelings into perspective. We know that, during this period, long-time supporters Jennifer Wilson and Tom Vaughan distanced themselves from the CAI board because Mortenson would not agree to delegate responsibilities or account for his time. As Vaughan observes, it was no good trying to exert control over Mortenson because “Greg just does whatever he wants.” Tara expresses concern over Mortenson’s lack of regard for his health, which is apparent in his barefoot trip to flip fish in the snow. She is also unhappy about his lengthy absences from home. Although Mortenson himself recognizes some of these problems and tries to change his behavior, we know that he continues to live in his own reality to a great extent. Lila Bishop, in calling Mortenson a “different species,” recognizes just how unusual Mortenson is and why he finds it so difficult to conform.