Out there in the Nether regions I also managed to experience sub zero temperatures for the first time in my life. A couple of nights ago it actually dropped down to minus 2 degrees Celsius. I don’t know what sort of morbid desires I have but even though I was freezing already I just wanted it to get colder and colder. I had on 2 shirts, a sweater, and a jacket but I was still chilled. And this was also the first time since I was a child that I have worn gloves. It may sound stupid to people who see weather like this every year but to me it is a real novelty, like when no one is looking I will pretend I am Rocky or play with the smoke that comes out of my mouth with every breath. I have never seen real snow before in my life and what can I say, I get cheap thrills. In this picture I am not just making silly face, I wanted a picture with smoke coming out of my mouth but I guess that does not come up in amateur photographs.
What I have found most inspiring over the last 2 weeks is the landscapes I have crossed. I flew over and drove through one of Chinas most popular mountain ranges. Unfortunately because of the weather they are brown and bare but still so rugged, lonely, and intimidating. I imagine millions of years ago how monstrous glaciers inched across the landscape tearing gashes into the planet’s surface, plucking up and dragging massive boulders that are stranded today as noble martyrs on the edges of solemn cliffs. I drove for miles across level farmland lined with stark trees reaching up to a pail, almost wanton sky. The rows of trees never seemed to end, and although each one had 10’s of branches spreading out from the trunk and hundreds of stems shooting off of each branch, they all looked identical. I remember reflecting that this is the sort of place I imagine when I think about Minnesota. I saw numerous sunsets from my seat in the aero plane, I watched patiently as the tangerine sun slowly dipped beneath the creamy line of clouds leaving the sky above them an eerie shade of green that blends into a light blue, then purple, before fading into twilight above us. Then I would see the sun reappear as the aircraft descended towards the lonesome airport. Early evening is equally awesome watching the harvest moon rise over the barren landscape, again silhouetted by the boney fingers of the trees. The sheer size of the moon dwarfs me makes any challenges I may be facing at the time feel so insignificant.
Early yesterday morning during another long drive I noticed the ground on the fields glistening as the sun was rising. I have read in numerous novels and poems about the morning frost but I had never witnessed any such thing till yesterday. The fields actually had a sparkling layer of ice over it. On the side of the road there were random stacks of hay that had probably been left out over night to be picked up. Dew had settled just over the top of the heap during the night and by morning had turned to ice. It looked as if each one had been sprinkled with silver dust. The sad part about all this is that I am usually in a bus or with a business associate so I can never really stop to appreciate these settings, or photograph the spectacles. For now I must be content to enjoy the view from behind a sheet of tempered glass. There was one area I could have spent hours where a long channel of still shallow water bordered a long row of trees as far as the naked eye could see, perfectly reflecting each one on its surface with the golden sunrise behind them. It was…. Inspirational.