• Jef Fuchs

Tribute Photos to a Year of Tea and Mountains – 3

More of the valued faces, moments, and impacts of the year. Many more existed that are shown here but these few are worthy in so many ways.

“Why have you come all this way to these lands. How did you arrive”? Our little team burrowed into this warm woman’s home that she shared with her ailing husband near Yading in western Sichuan Province. Within minutes this family who had little shared everything they had, and this woman Kersang proceeded to ask questions as though she knew that many outside mysteries would be revealed in this fleeting moment. She laughed and apologized for the acrid smoke being puffed out by her little stove and she spoke about the land. “It is all we have so we must care for it. It is family”. I’d never heard this reference before, but imagine a world where her logic of the land being family prevailed.

Faces and their own landscapes gave way to spaces of stone and snow.

Dusk comes in cold, golden rays near our camp on the Bara Shigri glacier in October. One of Asia’s longest glaciers, it is a boulder-strewn landscape of steep ascents rather than simply a space of graceful ice flows and brilliantine blue. It is a brutal landscape that is morphing in the present tense. Ice here is gigantic, rubble covered and in perpetual flow rather than anything crystalline and delicate. It is a body in decay that is liquefying and morphing from something solid into something vital yet temporary; ice into water. Behind me as I watch this day’s closure, Karma tinkers with dinner and an ‘aperitif’ of tea, while layers of down warmth are applied. Cold arrives from everywhere at once when the sun disappears. Mountains remain one of Nature’s perfect editors and tutors.

And spaces of stone and snow gave way to the face and hands

The Incense Maker. In the walled city of Lo Mantang, Nepal this woman could be found in any number of places sitting on a folded rug pounding herbs with a stone into the basics of incense. Mornings she pounded, afternoons she pounded…as though her task would never end. Sitting, oblivious to the cold, she would spread out the intact herbs, place some into a centuries’ old recess in the stone and ground the elements with a worn stone. Smells would waft up and be passed around by the winds, so that we would know that she was close before we would see her. Though incense can be found in any shop, it was as though she was proving that the old ways were the only ways. Her hands were stained, powerful, and pieces of beauty.

And to ice which disappears…something solid into water

A magnificent wall of ice that rises like a vertical patterned sketchbook on our ‘Glacier’s Breath’ expedition. Sitting just scanning its mass, one could make out the tinkling sound of water and as the day’s sun rose that tinkle became torrents. That sound became one of the most ominous noises in my head as it is the solid ice become liquid. That liquid would in turn become part of the Chandra River, which by extension would exit into Bay of Bengal. It would become what comes out of pipes and faucets downstream. Friend and mountain guide Kamal and I sat watching this mass with its ever-increasing rivulets plunging downward. Kamal said in his quiet way, “I understand what you are worried about. Once it is gone, it is gone”. Indeed.

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