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My first exhibit at the RHS Botanical Art show in London, and thrilled to be awarded a Silver Gilt medal! Rewarded for all those many hours painting, missing the wonderful spring sunshine. I had two 2m panels and set up the six paintings on Wednesday 9 April – what a way to spend a birthday! – then the preview Thursday evening and open to the public Friday and Saturday. We found out the results of the judging on Friday morning when we had a critique from the judges which was very helpful, although I’d pretty much figured out the weak areas of my work so no surprises there.

RHS April 2014 CFK Panel 1 RHS April 2014 CFK Panel 2

Amazingly, I sold three of the paintings.

RHS Silver Gilt sm1

Silver Gilt at RHS Botanical Art Show April 2014

The weekend wasn’t without its drama – after having had a lingering dinner on Saturday, I was so exhausted I left my portfolio in the back of a London cab! That sense of utter desolation and bewilderment as midnight approached and all that work was gone. It was surreal. And the sense of elation when the cabbie found the business card I’d put inside and phoned me – I think I declared undying love! An hour later, reunited, we caught the last-but-one train home and collapsed into bed around 2am.

I had an amazing time and made many friends – just got to figure out what I’m going to do for 2015…

When the weather bites like this, I wonder why I always feel that my home is in England.

The hunger to travel is growing stronger in me again, yet I must stay here for a while.

Tiny white snow flakes drifted sporadically across the kitchen window this morning. Not my kitchen window – I’m house-sitting for friends who have escaped this chill for a jaunt abroad. But a kitchen window that looks out over a small garden and the resident chickens. Over the wall the land drops down into an old quarry, now with mature beech trees, which has become a wildlife haven.

At least for blackbirds, that are up well before dawn and making sure that I am too.

I’ve always been interested in foraging, so today I dropped down into the valley and gathered handful after handful of wild garlic leaves – ramsons – from the woodland just 10 minutes walk from my friends’ house. I washed the leaves in cold water and used a blender to mix them with pine nuts, parmesan cheese, and a good organic olive oil. I now have jars full of fresh wild garlic pesto in the fridge, and small 2-portion tubs in the freezer to be used later in the year. Or, most likely, given away to friends!

I’ve wanted to make this for a while, but just never got round to it. So glad I have. It was just a couple of hours work and a small investment in good ingredients. But what a result! Tiny portions of the taste of Spring.

A small gift to my friends, in return for their chickens’ wonderful fresh eggs.

And here it is, flowering just a few hundred miles away in the Cambridge University Botanic Gardens! They’ve waited some 30 years to see it; I travelled some 6,000 miles to find it.

And if you want to know more about that, you’ll have to go all the way back to the beginning of this Blog!

I’m talking of course about Emmenopterys henryi, a tree native to China which is now rare in the wild. Although in arboretums and collections across the world, back in 2009 it had only been recorded as flowering outside China less than a dozen times, and only a couple of times in England. How things have changed this year!

After one of the wettest summers on record in England, there are no fewer than four recorded flowerings of E henryi – the one at Cambridge, two in Sussex at Borde Hill  Garden (amazingly for the second year running) and one on the Isle of Wight at Ventnor Botanic Garden.

Little is know about what prompts this tree to flower, but after such a spectacularly “successful” year there’s no doubt that scientists will be looking into it.

As soon as I hear it’s in flower I book some cheap overnight accommodation through “airbnb” (a brilliant site for alternative home-stays) and shoot straight up to Cambridge. I’m greeted by the Director and led straight away to see this spectacle.

The Chinese tree in Flower

It’s a well-formed, very healthy tree, some 30ft high with dark green glossy leaves. The sprays of flowers start at the top, spreading diagonally downwards and stop about a third of the way from the lower branches. Extending from each spray of flowers is a similarly coloured “leaf” on a long stalk which flutters with the slightest breeze.

Flowers with bracts

Flowers with bracts

I certainly can’t reach them and am wondering just how close I can get when they happily climb a ladder, ask me which bit I want, cut off a sizeable chunk of flowering material and hand it to me.

Reaching some of the lower flowers

Reaching some of the lower flowers

I’m astounded – I seriously had visions of sitting on a camping stool underneath the tree trying to do field studies in the wind and rain, with fingerless gloves and a thermos by my side!

Now, holding these small star-shaped flowers in my hand for the first time seeing how fragile they are, breathing in their Gardenia scent, I know this is an extraordinary moment.  And I let it linger.

Things get even better when they offer me a room in their offices at The Lodge in which to paint.

Then things take an unexpected turn – all my amateur enthusiasm comes crashing down into a crisis of confidence as I’m introduced to the professional Botanical Illustrator ensconced at The Lodge. No prizes for guessing what she’s painting.

She’s charming and helpful and has 17 years’ professional experience painting for Kew. And she’s half-way through an exquisite drawing of E henryi for Curtis’s Botanical Magazine – the quarterly publication of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

I find it hard to even sharpen my pencil after that, but concentrate on doing some studies so that when the flowers have died I’ll still be able to understand their form from different angles. I realise it also has a very complex branching structure and a specific pattern as to where the wonderful elongated bracts occur. There’s a lot of rubbing out.

I manage some colour referencing, then, as my departure time approaches, panic really sets in. But I’ve brought a nice big plastic box “just in case” and wrap each cut stem with wet kitchen paper and cling film to keep it fresh – and place them all gently into the box, which fits perfectly into my backpack.

The material’s lasted well in my fridge for several weeks. I raised the temperature as I feared the flowers would go brown and had to throw away milk on several occasions – oh, the hazards of being an artist!

They put an article in the local paper – don’t know how long this link will work, but if you catch it quick, you might just be able to see it:

http://www.thisisbath.co.uk/Painter-finds-subject-closer-home/story-17110735-detail/story.html

If you want to see what Cambridge or Borde Hill Gardens have to say about the tree, check out:

Cambridge University Botanic Gardens: http://www.botanic.cam.ac.uk/Botanic/TrailPlace.aspx?p=27&ix=423&pid=0&prcid=0&ppid=0

Dr Upson preparing a herbarium specimen

Borde Hill Garden: http://www.bordehill.co.uk/press-emmenopterys

I find it so hard to believe that the last time I posted anything here was shortly after I returned from China – almost a year ago!

It would be facile of me to surmise that I’ve been “living” more, and have had less time to reflect or put my thoughts and experiences into words. There have been written words, but they haven’t been here. There has been a lot of “living” but a great deal of this I have chosen to keep more closely to myself.

And now, coming back to my blog, I realise that I have really missed sharing those experience that have meant so much to me, with others. So I will try to be more conscientious about my postings.

I’ve already updated my Illustrations page, so you’ll see more of my Chinese botanical illustrations there. And I’m planning on a whole new website where my artworks can be better displayed – but please be patient as that’ll take a few months.

In the meantime, I’m exhibiting five paintings with the Bath Society of Botanical Artists’ “Plants in the Park” Exhibition at BRLSI in Bath from 10 June – 4 Aug, which commemorates 125 years of the Bath Botanical Gardens. Just as soon as I have scans back of the paintings I’ll be submitting, I’ll post them here. But do check out the BSBA link: http://www.bsba.co.uk/exhib.htm

How did I forget to mention that four of my larger floral botanical paintings are currently in an exhibition in Central, Hong Kong? Sadly I couldn’t make the preview – bit of a long way to go for an evening’s schmoozing…

But they sent me a photo, so this’ll give you an idea of the kind of work I was developing with them.

Hong Kong Exhibition paintings Spring 2012

They are floated over glorious gold reflective backgrounds, with tight, white frames – very difficult to photograph…

I also recently had a large graphite drawing installed in a prestigious hotel in Guangzhou, China – here’s how it displayed in the room:

Artwork in Hotel in Guangzhou

My next major venture is an exhibition of my Chinese botanical illustrations in Bath in 2013. Lots of work there then…

 

 

 

 

I fly into Heathrow along with the dawn that has grown beautifully bold outside my window, slow hour after hour, as we course our way over the top of the world.

It is not a comfortable flight. I had made the mistake of selecting a window seat – great during the day when you can gaze out over extraordinary vistas, but a bad choice at night. The window is a freezing bed-pillow, and I can’t get out to pee. Easily. Without waking other people. Which isn’t what I want to do.

So, as I said. A bad choice.

We land early, just after 6am, and already it’s full-on day. China already feels a million miles away. And then the absolute wonder of driving through the fresh green English countryside where the Ox-eye daisies along the motorway verges, like a froth of Victorian relatives waving their white handkerchiefs to speed you on your way, is a home-coming like nothing else.

I stay on the outskirts of London and see family and friends I have missed for a year.

But there's still a sunset in England

As with any adventure – for coming back home can be just as much a voyage of discovery as going away – there are moments which are “captured” emotionally, as much as they might have been by a camera: holding my great-nephew just two days after his birth; hearing a cuckoo; glimpsing the very last of the early bluebells. Or the night the fox got the chickens…

And the excitement of small boys as they unwrap their presents and find blow-pipes inside! Of course we play with them in the garden and, as far as I know, no-one has lost an eye yet…

All too soon, it seems, it’s time move on. To pick up the pieces of a family that the last year has ridden roughshod over, and to figure out where we all go from here.

I hit Bath at the beginning of the Music Festival, Fringe Festival, and various other cultural events which make me realise that my cultural experience in China is one of how people live their lives, rather than what they do – a more anthropological view than academic. And I feel like I’m jonesing! I pore over the programmes, soaking up the delight in going to live music events that I can better relate to, art shows, street theatre and just hanging out in my old pub haunts catching up a year’s worth of gossip and several pints of real ale.

I hadn’t realised, until I left China, that just being there was such hard work. But having said that, I am aware that there are many more opportunities there for someone with initiative, than there are in England. The middle class is growing exponentially: they are conspicuous in their consumption and they are investing heavily in art.

My arrival “back home” is made all the easier by an invitation to stay with friends, as I’d given up my rented country cottage and put everything in storage when I first went to China in 2009. However, their wholesome farm-house cooking is forcing me to consider gym membership. And none of this is helped by my discovery that if you leave your clothes in storage for a year, the waists shrink.

But that hasty visit to the lock-up supplies me with the necessary “winter” clothing now that I’ve missed the scorcher of spring. The brolly is coming in handy almost daily, but I haven’t needed the wellies yet. But then, I’m not planning on going to Glasto this year. Rock on!

Saturday 8 January 2011

Sleep in – as much as I can. HK apartments, however luxurious, have limited space and privacy. This is one of the most densely populated places in the world (after Lijiang, perhaps, during high season?) at 6480 people per km2.

The last few days have been quite chilly, so today’s sunshine is a bonus. Yet certainly not warm enough for that cossie.

The pool...

It’s nice to be lazy after the traumas of the last few days.

We take down the Christmas decorations – what a tree!

I skim through the extensive library of art books – Tom Friedman – and head out the back of the tower block and up the hill in the late afternoon sunshine.

It’s an interesting walk…

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Ghosts in the sky

 

Friday 7 January 2011

Oh of course things couldn’t be that easy…

There’s a visa office near my friend’s place, which she assures me can process my request. After standing in line for a while – no information in English – I’m informed that I have to go to the main office on the island.

The MTR is a new experience, but I navigate buying an Octopus card, finding the right trains (three of them) and getting to the office shortly after 11am. I fill out the forms and wait for my number to come up.

The fun starts here. First, I don’t have all the right papers for a Business Visa even though I have all the right papers listed on their website. Second, they will only issue a 30-day visa, Tourist or Business, to foreigners, irrespective of their nationality.

I try to phone to get the new document faxed through, but the phone won’t take my credit card. And they are closing the Visa office for lunch at 12. If I go ahead with the Tourist visa it is, again, a very expensive trip to Hong Kong just for 30 days in China. If I delay applying to appeal somehow to a “higher authority” – if it’s possible to find one – for a 90-day visa, I might jeopardise being able to get a visa at all before my flight back midday Tuesday

I go ahead and apply.

I have to go back to my friend near New Territories, about 90 mins by public transport, to be able to communicate this change of events back to Rhizome: my HK mobile won’t allow international calls – HK being a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China has a great deal of autonomy along with its own currency and phone network. So it’s skype.

But despite all efforts at the Lijiang end, it’s now a fait accompli and we can but learn from this.

I make my way back into “town” for a chiropractic appointment which partially sorts things out, make a second appointment for Monday afternoon, and meet Helen at her office. They’re planning a spring exhibition with a floral theme and there’s a possibility of my work being included. I haven’t had a chance to show her my recent explorations with Dongba paper so I’m a little nervous about this…

Central Street Market

Her office is right next to the bustling market in Central – stall upon stall of ripe and exotic fruits, fresh vegetables and mushrooms. Then the fish market – a vast array of fresh and salt-water fish, and seafood: oysters, prawns, clams, winkles, mussels, razor-fish and crab. We select huge prawns, eel and a fish that’s fed on broad beans, apparently giving it a delicate and slightly bouncy texture.

We’re having steamboat, or hot pot as it’s commonly called in China.

Fresh prawns

And it’s absolutely delicious washed down with a fine glass of white… Something in very short supply in Lijiang. Most Chinese wines are pretty foul, and imports very expensive so I pretty much abstain.

10:30pm. It’s been an exhausting and trying day – so glad to slip into bed with a hottie.

Dawn over Kunming. Light seeps between the tower blocks but in the still-dark streets I trudge north: seeking the Golden Arches. It’s the 6th of January and my visa expires today. I’m off to Hong Kong to get a new one.

I had been apprehensive about catching the overnight train from Lijiang, regaled with stories in the ‘hard sleeper’ of drunken Russians and ferocious snoring. These horror stories confirmed my fears that I would not get any sleep at all, despite reassurances from others that they are lulled into blissful dreams by the gentle rocking motion.

The taxi draws up outside the parking barrier of Lijiang train station – some 8 minutes and 30 RMB from Rhizome.  It is an austere landscape, reminiscent of war movies: thousands of people pouring through one small security entrance; an endless flight of stairs; a plethora of impeccably uniformed officials without a hint of a smile; and the platform, mysteriously empty… A vast concrete expanse abruptly halts at a rising grey wall of train: two stories high, faceless and flat.

The platform

The compartments are compact, but only four-berth: this is a modern sleeper. On other routes the bunk beds are three-deep. The entrance to each compartment is open – only “soft sleepers” have doors for privacy. There is a wide bay for ablutions and the toilets are, well, OK at the moment – at least they’re close-by. After three days of an upset stomach I had been dreading this journey for more reasons than simply lack of sleep…

The train is full of nice, quiet, young people, not drunken Russians, and I pull the cotton-padded quilt over my head hoping for those blissful dreams. What I actually get is a very disturbed night: the sometimes-violent, sideways, rocking motion creates nausea; insomniacs keep the smoking area outside the cabin in constant use, and the term ‘hard sleeper’ is exactly that. With my back in its current status – badly out of sorts after a rather physical massage some weeks ago – there is no comfortable position. Then the lights come on at 6:15am with gentle but insistent music: some 45 minutes shy of the station.

There’s a general scrum along the platform, down the stairs and into a vast reception hall where we all squeeze out of three pinch-points where our tickets are checked. I can’t imagine what would happen if someone couldn’t find theirs – the building pressure behind would probably just force them through.

Then it’s out into the bustle and my search for a haven and a cup of coffee – hence the Golden Arches. Which is quite extraordinary, as I never normally go there. But the sense of relief I feel when I see the familiar sign is palpable – and quite bewildering.

The coffee is good. Outside two women bat shuttle-cocks with some precision – exercise restricted primarily to the right arm, and obviously well practiced. I remember my first attempts at badminton – I was exhausted within minutes, running backwards and forwards, while my opponent remained quite stationary.

Another ‘sportsman’ in a suit exercises a ball on a rubber string with his tennis racket.

More people arrive at McDonalds – some on their way to work, some obviously on their way elsewhere after a good night out.

I make my way to the airport – sadly not being able to see Matthias who is also in Kunming, but working at the Institute to wrap up his China part of the MSc before he returns to Germany in a couple of weeks.

Suddenly I get a call from Shirley from the HorsePen, Shaxi. She’s in Lijiang to meet me for breakfast. Yikes! I don’t remember that arrangement… But no, she’s teasing. She’s at Cloudland hostel in Kunming, hoping we can get together there – she and Matthias were quite surprised to meet each other in the washroom at 7am, neither having told the other their arrangements. But it’s now 9am, and I’m about to check in for my flight to Hong Kong and I can’t see how it can happen.

Waiting...

Departure lounge – 10:45. Only an hour and a half to take-off. Hazy outside, thin sunlight splashing through. It was colder this morning than I thought, but it might have warmed up. It’ll certainly be more pleasant in Hong Kong: double figures, some higher than low. I’ve brought my cossie just in case there’s a chance over the weekend to go to one of the islands – and just remembered that where I’m staying there’s a pool.

I’ve got all my papers for my Business Visa – which is a bit of an anomaly as it doesn’t entitle you to work, but act as a consultant through invitation by a business. And I’ve set up a chiropractic appointment which is gaspingly costly – but now an absolute necessity. I didn’t make time when I was in HK in October, and it seemed to settle, there were bouts of discomfort lasting weeks. I’m only hopeful that it can be sorted in one go – and if not, there’s only time for two. Back on the mainland, there’s no chance of finding a chiropractor who uses the same Sacro Occipital Technique as Giles. There it will have to be acupuncture.

More waiting...

Later. It’s now nearly 3pm and I’m getting a little sick of the repeated announcements: “Ladies and Gentlemen. May I have your attention. We regret to announce that flight number (various and numerous) to (wherever) cannot leave as scheduled. Would you please stay in the waiting area and wait for further information.”

Some flights are leaving, but mine is not even on the board, and the flights are being scheduling up to 16:45. That’s a delay, so far, of nearly five hours. At least they fed us lunch…

I’m exhausted, too tired to sleep, to work on the computer, and I’ve nothing to read. Just wait. Lots of that in China.

I try to get onto another flight to Shenzhen, but there are no seats available. I ask about transferring to Guangzhou and there’s a possibility I can get on a flight at 6.30pm, and agree to meet the China Southern rep closer to the time.

Everyone’s trying to contact with people who are expecting them: their business, relatives or friends. There’s a relay on charging mobile phones…

Charging phones...

Dusk over Kunming – There’s a fracas in the corner – the China Eastern rep has just

announced that we can board the plane soon. It’s nearly 7pm. He told me just before he made his official announcement and I gave him a spontaneous hug. I was simply so pleased that the mechanical problem had been fixed and that we were actually leaving. I hadn’t wanted to fly to Guangzhou – the airport is 173k outside the city, and a hell of a trek over to Shenzhen and the border crossing. I’d probably arrive at midnight, in unfamiliar territory.

The fracas

The fracas has turned mean. Frustrated passengers are furious that China Southern is only offering 100 Yuan compensation. Frankly, I was glad to accept it and get on the plane – I’d rather they took their time fixing the mechanical problem than not…

More people are now joining in the lively discussion, but since it’s all in Chinese, not much point in my involvement.

Keep my energy for the long journey still ahead of me: 3hrs to Shenzhen with a short stopover somewhere, 45 minutes to the border, then another 40 to Helens. All being well.

Later – All is not well.

Angry passengers refuse to board the plane until the compensation is increased – and Police assistance has been called. Two of us have now been sitting on the aircraft for over half an hour while negotiations proceed. We finally depart just after 8pm with double the compensation: 200 RMB, the equivalent of £20. We’re now some eight hours late. I’m still worried about getting to the border before midnight, when my visa expires, but there’s nothing I can about that.

We finally disembark at Shenzhen airport at 11:20pm and I catch a taxi to the border crossing. The taxi driver doesn’t speak English, and I’m bewildered by the dark, empty building. It’s supposed to be a busy train station and customs post. The concierge at the nearby Sheraton, who does speak English, explains that it’s now closed. We can drive to another, 24-hour, border crossing or wait for this one to open at 6am. We drive.

165 RMB lighter, I finally haul myself up to the customs window at about 12:20am. The official checks my passport, studies me closely, and calls over a colleague. There’s a bit of a discussion which I studiously ignore. The look on my exhausted face convinces them to overlook the fact that my visa has technically expired. They stamp my passport and I’m in.

There are no trains at this border crossing. I wander through the desolate area and, pointing at my map, find a bus that will take me somewhere near where I want to go. I’m so glad I held onto my HK dollars from my trip here last October…

Shortly after I settle down for a 40 minute ride, bus stops and everyone disappears down a walkway and into another building. I’m very confused – I thought I was going to the HK suburbs and the comfort of a waiting bed.

I slowly realise that when I thought I was “in”, I was actually just “out”. I now have to enter Hong Kong. I chase after the crowd and end up at another customs window. Finally I have my entry to Hong Kong.

I wait for another bus on the Hong Kong side in a large, dark, deserted terminal. It’s bitterly cold. Thirty minutes later I’m deposited somewhere near where I want to be. I fork out yet another fare, stumble out of the taxi and I’m punching the access code into the security gate. It’s 2am, it’s been one hell of a journey, and the compensation for one mode of travel has been immediately absorbed by others.

The live-in has waited up and dishes up hot beef soup. I’m almost too tired to eat. But there’s a hot-water bottle in my bed. Bliss. Tomorrow should be easy. Just go to the visa office and apply for my 3-month business visa. Piece of cake…

November 2010

Walking down the old street into the square the other night, I glanced up and saw a tiny light glide past the stars and away to the North. Not a week ago I had sat on a guest house balcony, open to the night sky, and watched as one satellite faded into the South, and four headed North – all in less than half an hour. It left me wondering how many satellites there are up there. And what they’re all doing…

It doesn’t seem like it was over a month ago I was in Hong Kong. And already I’ve been to Lijiang to extend my visa.

That was an interesting trip. I was given a lift by one of the partners of my hostel, Horse Pen 46, and we took what felt like a “short cut” over the mountain road – most of which was under construction and congested with huge trucks transporting aggregate. But once we started the descent through pine forests, we caught a glimpse of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, the backdrop to the once-ancient city of Lijiang.

I say “once-ancient” as it has a rich and varied past, well written up in Peter Goullart’s book Forgotten Kingdom. He spent eight years there, managing to escape during the final stages of the Chinese Civil War in 1949. The city was an important trading post on the Tea and Horse Caravan Trail – as was Shaxi – but has since been turned into a theme park, despite its designation by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

I have been to Lijiang several times before and always disliked its commercialisation, even while it can look attractive, with its maze of narrow streets and stone bridges crossing the network of streams that run through old town.

This time I warmed to it – partly because I chanced upon some old acquaintances, and made new ones, and partly because I hiked up over Elephant Hill and down into Black Dragon Pool Park: up through the forest, passing teams of horses carrying rocks for road-building, stumbling upon gentians, and discovering that nature was still very much in the raw, just a stone’s throw from the city.

I also met a French couple who have recently set up an Arts Centre on the edge of Lijiang, and run arts residencies.

I very much want to develop a new art-style, and was wondering what I would do after Shaxi!

19 November 2010

Matthias took us on one of his hikes. “No longer than three hours up” was my stipulation. It’s taken me a long time to admit that my spirit is much more willing…

We met at 8am, bought a few provisions and caught a local taxi to save a half-hour walk down the main road to the start of the trek.

High Mountain Path

Maping Guan was a strategic customs post on the Tea and Horse Caravan Trail – the nearby salt mines were an important currency along the route, and being a customs post provided a vital income for the area. The trade has long-since passed by, but this small hill-town is still only reachable by foot.

Local traffic

The trail was pretty clear to start with – up a deep-cut, thickly wooded gully, and into sparse pines. We were following horse-hooves: all goods are transported still by horse of mule. But they split off of along a ridge, and we could have followed any number of paths.

I guess we did.

Cyananthus sp

We arrived at the hill-town at about 3:30, with barely half an hour to take it in, before having to make a decision on whether to stay the night, or head back.

The mountain village

If we stayed, we would be asking someone to give up their bed for us – there are no guest-houses here: like most places in the mountains, people will provide hospitality to travellers. It would probably also mean an extremely cold night and little sleep. There are times that I would like to feel more adventurous than I actually do – I read about other’s adventures and think that if I was as outgoing as them, as prepared to take risks – or perhaps it is just trusting that things will work out – I might have similar experiences.

We never do, of course, but there is something about the trusting.

Poplars in pines

In Germany, they still have the tradition of the journeyman years, or brotherhood – Waltzing, or the “auf der Walz sein” – where a carpenter travels, indeed must travel after completing an apprenticeship, before he can become accepted as a craftsman and enter a guild, or become a master of the trade. He can accept no money for his work, and relies on the generosity of

people for transport, food and lodging.

The tradition declined under the Naxi regime. When Germany started to find it’s feet again, reviving such traditions was not one of the areas it considered a priority in terms of economic development.

 

But these traditions, thanks to Spirit-of-Life, are here within us, still.

So we didn’t stay overnight in the village, but hare-footed it back.

It was moonlight over Shaxi. As the

Quercus sp

sun bleached behind us darkness cast vast chasms.

Shadows have their own stories to tell. And it was hard to determine mere darkness from ditch. Having little choice but to head straight down the hill, we navigated field edges and sodden paths towards the valley floor.

We limped into town and headed straight for hot-pot, muddy boots and all. And boy, was I thankful for my own bed!