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: 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!

Travel theme: Bark

Sometimes when I’m trying to teach my 2 year old daughter different vocabulary, I’m a little stumped on how to teach her homonyms – those words that sound/are spelled the same but have completely different meanings! Ugh! Isn’t that kind of confusing for non-native English speakers? It’s something that I take for granted so when I’m called on to explain weird English quirks I just throw up my hands – that’s just how it is!

Bark is one of those words – are we talking about trees or dogs here?! Ah, the English language and all its weird foibles.

dsc04068Here’s the sweetest little farm dog that came up to me as I was sitting, heavily pregnant, waiting for my husband to come back from a corn maze with my daughter. She kept me company and gave me the most adorable smiles and let me pet and cuddle her. She also had the most quaint name – Dora Mae!

dsc05644Perhaps this is actually the absence of bark? I love look of wood after it has been worn down by the elements, it has a wonderfully sculptural quality to it, doesn’t it?

dsc06702Here’s my friend’s dog Millie! She’s so patient, even when she has a bunch of little kids crawling all over her! Big dogs are my favorite!

dsc08559I love how the light strikes the bark of this tree and really highlights all the grooves and patterns that make each tree unique!

dsc08616This adorable dog Cream is always mistaken as a girl because of his innate cuteness! He can’t help it if he’s so damn good looking! And if we’re talking about barks, this one has a huge one!

dsc09927Lastly, I love how this fairy door seems to be inset into the bark of the tree somewhat naturally! Maybe it leads to a secret fairy world to discover? Love Trust and Pixie Dust! (sorry that’s a Tinker Bell references lol).

Travel theme: Turquoise

Turquoise is one of my favorite colors, as well as its close cousin aqua. In fact, it was one of my wedding colors! So I had a great time going through my photos and finding different shades of turquoise to share!

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I loved my friend’s turquoise nails as she made her french press coffee! Yes, I am that annoying person at brunch who is always taking pictures…!

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Just looking at these clear turquoise waters brings me back to vacation! Check out my matching toenails also!

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This very cool street art in Brick Lane in London really caught my eye. Her turquoise skin an piercing eyes are so striking!

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It’s tea time at the Orangery at the Kensingon Palace in London. These lovely, floral-festooned turquoise teacups were almost too pretty to drink tea out of!

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One of my favorite parks near us has a beautiful turquoise lake- in fact, it’s famous for these vibrantly colored waters. The lake is meromictic, meaning the layers of the lake don’t mix and therefore it retains this amazing color!

 

Travel theme: Delicate

For me, there’s nothing quite so delicate and ephemeral as cherry blossom season! The flowers have a short bloom time so it’s easy to miss them in all their fluffy pink glory. It’s also rather hard to predict exactly when the flowers will blossom, so you may find yourself booking a trip to Washington DC in hopes of catching them in full bloom and find that you’ve come a week early. Le sigh.

Still, I have been able to catch a few glimpses of gorgeously flowering cherry blossoms, so I count myself lucky! There’s something so romantic about cherry trees and the fluttery pink hail they send down with each breeze…

Sakura Mankai

“Cherry Blossoms in Full Bloom”

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The sad sad scene that greeted me in Washington DC this year! The buds were just ready to pop, and actually started blooming the day we left! But wait, there’s more…

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Fluffy pink blossoms on a beautiful clear day at Cornell. There’s a line of cherry trees right by Olin Library that’s absolutely breathtaking when they’re flowering! So nostalgic!

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One of my favorite places to go during cherry blossom season is the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which has an awesome festival called Sakura Matsuri with different events and festivals. But even without the festival, the flowers are still a spectacle to behold.

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Although I love pink cherry blossoms, white flowers are beautiful as well!

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Last but not least, cherry blossoms in Shanghai. It was an unexpected but lovely surprise to come upon a stand of flowering cherry blossom trees in the middle of the city!

This post is in response to the weekly Travel Theme at Where’s my backpack?, check out Ailsa’s great pics!

Travel theme: Stone

This week’s travel theme made me do some extra research – are rocks and stones the same thing? Apparently the consensus is that stone is rock which has been worked with  – hewn, polished, chiseled, etc. So perhaps I am cheating a bit here… since my post is going to be about the gorgeous red rocks of Sedona! Which have only been worked on by Mother Nature, except in the case of the Chapel of the Holy Cross. Sedona is so gorgeous – it brought out the dormant hiker in me, which is pretty tough! The red rock landscape was almost Martian in feel, and totally different from the forested greenery of the Northeast. I would love to go back someday, but until then, rock out to these pictures!

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Getting up close and personal with some really red rocks.

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We took a Pink Jeep tour of the Inner Rim in Sedona, where we saw several very cool formations! Each one had a descriptive name… but this one escapes me.

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Red rock formations and even more hills and mountains in the distance.

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Chapel of the Holy Cross, set into the mountain itself. What an amazing location for a church – the view from the top is beautiful!

This post is in response to the weekly Travel Theme at Where’s my backpack?, check out Ailsa’s great pics!