Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I Am Made Of What Mountains Are Made Of

"The reality we can put into words is never reality itself." — Werner Heisenberg

—A young boy flying over the heads of a crowd, jumping from rock to rock, teetering on the abyssal edge
—One dozen people sleeping in a bedbunked room; a huddled pair, middle cot
—Lotus Peak, the Highest Point, awarded medals, celebrate with Dr. Pepper, picture with old woman
—solitary-ish morning walk through a dense mistvapor shroud
—16 hours total of up-and-down stairs
—sharp granite fingers thrusting up through the crust of the earth, reaching through the clouds for a gossamered sun, crumbling fingernails with crawling, four-limbed miniatures sliding down the face

In Huangshan, one can be bring keys and padlocks to secure to the protective ropes and railings at the higher points of the range. Thousands cover the barricades, some rusted, some shiny and new, some seemingly about to fall apart. The old story goes that if one fastens their lock to the top railings of the mountain, makes a wish for the health of family or a loved one and throws the key into the chasm, their wish will come true. A hailstorm of lightweight keys constantly peppers the beat-cut bushes of the sudden-drop valleys, dotting the landscape with bits of invisible common earths. Thousands, millions(?) should have good health; thousands, millions are loved.

—Calves hard as rock, tired, though not as large and stony as the calves of workers who climb the steps each day
—Impossible views of mountains emerging darkfaced from the mist
—stealthing through a half-lit hotel for the rich in search of warmth and privacy
—the Mass Tourism of a UNESCO World Heritage Site swarmed by uncountable visitors dropping peanut shells at the feet of trees and half-empty water bottles at the tops of mountains
—"The mountain is inspecting your behavior while you are appreciating its beauty"
—the state of being a tourist and knowing the surreality of your visits, hoping that knowing grants something more

Taking notes on Huangshan while climbing Huangshan and sleeping on Huangshan and thinking about Huangshan for days and days post-Huangshan isn't a bad way to find yourself unable to write about what it really meant to go to and see Huangshan because at least you still have the notes. What I remember thinking is that these mountains were made somehow, and it couldn't have been from a fault line because I remember how that works from Geology 101. They definitely weren't volcanic. Only later did I find out that these sharp granite peaks were formed beneath the waters of a great sea that drained millions of years ago, and these stalagmitic juts from the earth were once covered in mesozoic seaweed. What's more, glaciers came through and cut all this up, sharpening the tallest of the teeth. And this granite, these pine trees, they share with me the base ingredients of everything. Make of that what can be made.

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