Tuesday, August 20, 2013

"Climbing Mountain" Overlooking Beijing

The trail behind the Sinopec Center just outside Beijing starts with a koi pond with a small waterfall at the end. Water splashes from sharp, slabbed rocks. White foam churns up from the base of the waterfall, and koi school at the outer edge of the bubbles and foam. Orange and red carp rise to the surface, gulp then belch air with their large, vaguely gross mouths. Large white, orange, red, and black-speckled koi, some 5 times larger than the smaller ones, lurk along the bottom. They rise up, gulp air, belch, then slowly descend.

There are 400 steps to the first stop on the climbing mountain. I hear only the sound of my own breathing and the wind whispering through the fir trees. The sun is bright. The fruit trees are flowering with white and the shade of hot pink that was my favorite for many years, along with neon green. The cedars in front of me are a dark, brownish green. The new leaves on the deciduous trees are chartreuse.

And that reminds me -- chartreuse is a fascinating color, too, halfway between yellow and green, but it does not have that intensity of the hot pink or neon green.

I am reminded of how coal tar dyes revolutionized fashion when they came onto the scene during late Victorian times. Before, colors were muted, and tended to fade. With coal tar dyes, they popped and they held that optic sizzle. No wonder fashion suddenly became ablaze with colors, patterns, and fabrics, all dizzyingly and discordantly stitched together.

Here in the foothills outside Beijing, the colors are muted, especially with the haze in the air that is white, almost cottony in appearance.

A small pagoda is at the top, at the end of the steps. An elderly couple is seated there, and I’m impressed that they made it up the mountain. Of course, you never know their age, but they seem about 80 to me. I wonder if they’ve ever walked the “Chong Chun” / “Long Wall” (Great Wall of China).

Going down is harder than going up. There is something in my brain that seeks to flatten out the steps and make them appear on a level plane, which of course they aren’t. I have to look up and out across the valley to reset my brain so it perceives depth again. I proceed, ever gingerly, and my legs tremble.

The sound of screaming startles me. I look downhill, toward the sound and expect to see a woman being attacked by a man, perhaps being stabbed. I smile realize the screams are from peacocks, and I think of author Flannery O’Connor, who kept peacocks and wrote about them in her collections of essays. I also think of Rucker’s farm east of Norman, Oklahoma, where my dad owned an interest in oil and gas fields.  I see a large wire fenced pen at the base of the mountain, and wonder if the peacocks long to be free.

Next to the peacocks are three large, black and gray German Shepherds.

I wonder if the trees are lychees. At the afternoon break, we had fragrant peeled Asian fruits and nuts. I tried two types of lychees, choosing to peel them myself. The larger one had a reddish peel, leathery and thick. The fruit was sour and the seeds were large.

I also tried “dragon’s eye” which had white, transparent flesh through which a firm, black seed was visible, which gave it a definite “eyeball” look. It was firm, juicy, not too sweet, but very fragrant. I thought of rose, peony, honeysuckle.

The wind is ageless here.

It’s warm in the sun.

There is a cool sharpness along the edges of the afternoon and the ground is very dry. The trees are dusty, and a dry pine needle carpet makes me think of the forests of New Mexico or Colorado.

All living things eventually hug the dust of forgetfulness.

I wonder how hot it gets in the summer. Right now, during the end of April, it is chilly, even cold at times.