Weekly Photo Challenge: Atop

Gazing At Mount Tai

How to describe Tai mountain?
Its green towers above all of Qi and Lu!
Here the Creator concentrated divine beauty;
Its north and south sides split dark from dawn.
Chest pounding, you reach the birthplace of clouds;
Bursting eyes fill with birds returning to nest.
Someday I must climb to the very top,
Look down on all of the little mountains at once.

– Du Fu

In 2013 my husband and I visited his hometown of Jinan, the provincial capital of Shandong in northern China. One of my favorite day trips from the area was to Mount Tai, a sacred mountain to the south of Jinan where emperors would journey to meditate and make sacrifices.

We cheated because we took a bus up to the halfway point, and then started our trek from there. Even then, it took us probably 3-4 hours to make the ascent, although we aren’t the most athletic people and we were taking it pretty slow. It was crazy to think of the porters who carry supplies and goods by foot from the bottom of the mountain all the way to the top! They must be in amazing shape!

On the way up the mountain there are various temples, vendors, and most amazingly inscriptions carved into the distant side of the mountain. How did they get up there to carve that?!

After all the sweat and sore muscles, you’re rewarded with views from up on high, and looking back at the winding, steep stairs that you climbed up you get a sense of accomplishment. I did that! I am amazing!

Climbing up the mountain is a popular activity for visiting tourists. A good walking stick is a must!

I don’t approve of graffiti at historical and natural sites but I thought this was kind of funny. It says “累死我了” – I’m damn tired!

I love this photo with the peaks disappearing into the mist (or pollution…. take your pick 😱). The winding staircase keeps on going and going….

Atop a sacred mountain, you can’t help but pause and reflect about the millions of people who have ascended these peaks before you, from ancient times on. I’m sure they saw different things from the top but the sole act of climbing this mountain makes me feel connected with them. It’s an experience that can’t be replaced and I hope that even after I’m gone this mountain will live on and on.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Wish

Star light, star bright,
First star I see tonight.
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish, I wish tonight.
We’ll make a wish
And do as dreamers do
And all our wishes
Will come true.

There was a time when I was young enough to believe these last few lines- make a wish and if you wish hard enough your wish will come true! That time of childish belief didn’t last long, since I soon discovered no matter how I wished, a puppy didn’t appear, my little brother continued to bite me all the time, and I still had to go to school every day! Sigh, how quickly the innocence of youth is shattered.

Before I had children, my wishes were pretty straightforward and rather selfish. World peace? Nope, I was wishing for a trip to a far-flung locale or maybe to win the lottery… to fund my trips to some far-flung locale. Hehe! Not that I don’t want to travel anymore, but now that I have kids I find that my wishes tend to center around them – for their health, their happiness, their success in life.

DSC07017I wish that my babies will have long, loving lives filled with happiness and prosperity! I wish that they will grow into kind, caring adults who can also stand up for themselves and for what’s right. I wish that they can make a positive difference in the world, and that wherever they end up, I wish they will always remember that their mother loves them!

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Road Taken

I’ve been lucky to take many different roads in life, especially when traveling. One of my favorite trips was to Japan, a place that I would love to re-visit now that I’m older, have a better camera, somewhat more disposable income (no more living off of convenience store nigiri!), and have some kids to hopefully share the joy of traveling with.

One of the things I found most fascinating about Japan was the attention to detail. Something that might be considered rather mundane and pedestrian is suddenly elevated to art when you pay attention to it. Such as… manhole covers!

Tell me the truth now, do you normally pay attention to what you’re stepping on when you’re walking on the road? It amazed me that the cities would do something like decorative manhole covers, which seems like something that no one would even notice on a regular basis. I thought it was a random occurrence, but as I visited different cities throughout Japan it looked like each district in each city had their own representative cover. Pretty cool, I thought!

DSCF6492This cherry blossom (sakura) manhole cover was in Asakusa neighborhood of Tokyo. Notice also my shiny flats, which were at the HEIGHT of fashion back in the day, I swear.

DSCF7735Isn’t this pretty? This is from the Fukushima district of Osaka. I’m guessing it’s Osaka castle?

DSCF7833If you’ve ever been to Nara, you know that they’re famous for their deer!

DSCF8063Lastly, this cover is from Himeji, famous for the Himeji Castle. They say the white castle resembles a white heron in flight, so that theme is represented in the white birds on the cover. Pretty cool, eh?

Travel theme: Paths

There’s nothing quite so beckoning or mysterious as a path that winds out of view. It always makes me wonder – where does it go? What’s at the end of that path?

Or as Disney’s Pocahontas would say-

What’s around the river bend!
Waiting just around the river bend!

Sorry, I’ve been on a Disney movie kick recently!

Anyway, the meandering nature of paths has always fascinated me and therefore I have too many pictures to choose from! So I decided to narrow it down to a trip I made a few years back to the Lake District in England, a gorgeously verdant area with so much natural beauty you can almost become immune to it… almost. Here there were paths galore, surrounded by some of the most beautiful nature as well!

DSC03472This path was marked with the cutest wooden sign that designated it as a public footpath. It cut through several meadows dotted with fluffy white sheep and their adorable lambs actually frolicking next to them. It was the literal embodiment of pastoral tranquility and melted my cynical city girl’s heart.

DSC03506This gloriously wooded road lead to an amazing waterfall! I’m glad that I got a chance to walk along this road and savor it, rather than drive through it in a hurry.

DSC03556The park with the waterfall afforded us more lovely paths. What’s better than a meandering path? A meandering path with steps!

DSC03883This was the road leading from the Honister Slate Mine, so dramatically cutting through the hills!DSC03981I forget what this road was called, but the bus driver I believe claimed it was the narrowest and most rambly road in the Lake District? It doesn’t look too bad but he did make a big deal out of it, hehe. I do like the way it cuts through the green!