Beneath the Pine: Reflections from Huangshan’s Heights

The Dalai Lama once said, “Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.” Though the statement itself is quite straightforward, the idea behind it is not. When you travel, it’s not only your eyes that engulf the surroundings; your heart is in it, your mind wanders, and for some of us, it feels as though the million cells in our body are tingling and humming with happiness. In that moment, you are not just yourself; you become a part of that scene, a puzzle piece, if you will. To an onlooker, you are just a part of that scene, just as that tree under the mountain is for you. You try to take in as much as possible—every little detail: the soft blush of sun streaks, the way clouds jostle each other, the gentle breeze touching the leaves, making them dance. In that moment, what a traveler feels is nothing less than sheer joy.

As humans, we become acutely aware of our limited potential when we cannot retain every detail our heart longs for. If only we could store everything in the alcoves of our minds and revisit and replay them in our isolated moments.

People ask me whether I prefer the mountains or the sea. Having spent most of my life surrounded by mountains, I always opted for the beach—typical human nature, always craving what we don’t have. Yet, whenever I am among the mountains, a serenity takes over my heart. It’s as if those giant peaks are saying, “Hey little buddy, we’ve got you; you are okay.” The peace, the quiet, and the vastness that engulfs you are something you just cannot put into words.

For that very reason, I found myself 1,864 meters high among the Huangshan Mountains in China. Have you been there? If I were to use a cheesy metaphor, it would be where heaven meets earth. The weather is very unpredictable, but that’s the beauty of it; you could witness a dozen different shades of beauty in just a short span of time. As I ran my hands along the nature-carved rocks, it felt as though each stone had its own story. The smell of pine enriches the entire area—if you could bottle that and sell it as aftershave, then you’d be sitting on top of a pile of gold. The branches of these trees are almost as if someone has hand-painted those curves; you don’t normally see pine trees like these. I always wonder how trees, being just two main colors, can capture a million shades within them. You hike and hike until you find a nice spot and your legs are tired, and you make up your mind that this will be the last stop and you’ll head back, but then your mind is not in your possession. You are controlled by the haunting beauty of these peaks and you cannot retain your curiosity. By just telling yourself, “One more spot,” you keep moving ahead. That rush, that feeling of being surrounded by enormity, the mist kissing your skin—it’s like living a thousand lives in just one path. Squirrels run by you, picking nuts; enchanting bird sounds and the beckoning call for the mountain top just swing you along the way. They say that the journey is the most beautiful part, yet as sweet as this experience is, I must say the destination overpowers that. You sit atop, pull out your sketchbook, maybe write some words, capture the shots, and slowly you are paralyzed by the beauty of it all. An isolated tear rolls down your cheek. Is it real? Am I dreaming? How could so much be in just one frame… perhaps in that moment you can pull out your phone and tweet, “Life is indeed beautiful.” #HuangshanRetreat

An impulsive and impatient personality who has the most bizarre ideas related to this world and beyond. I sketch , paint and write to burn my thoughts, this is the only thing i feel peace at.I am an avid dreamer in the day, an aspiring novelist by the night, hopeless romantic & a certified bookworm. Books provide me an escape from this world , aside from that i am a boxer, who loves to knock out teeth for anger release. And yeah football is my passion!

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