Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Lost Lake 

Left the lake behind us this afternoon. Hard to beat the serenity of the Cascades. There isn't anything like this in the Beijing area. But there sure is in western China. The difference, of course, is that China just has so very many people. But if you get up to the Tibetan Plateau, and you can find a place that isn't listed in every tourist book, you can really find some pretty peaceful areas. Another thing about China is that tourists generally go for the well known sites. So when they come through the little village where I often go in the summer, they go to the sky burial, or the monasteries. I don't. I get up early and hike up the canyon. In the evening, I hike up the ravine. There is no one up there, except the eagles overhead, and a few sheep grazing on the hillside. Once I met some local people picking berries, but that is about it.

Solitude. I guess it's not easy to find anywhere. The campground where we have been staying for the past few days could not really be called solitude, because we were surrounded by a lot of other folks. But you could get it here if you wanted to get up at the crack of dawn and hike around the lake, or something. But any way you look at it, the struggle for solitude is a challenge for anyone trying to live a modern life. So difficult is it to find sometimes, that many people have managed to learn how to live without it. They have come to think of it as a luxury, and some, I think, are even afraid of it. I don't know how many times I have been climbing the mountain out at Fragrant Hills, and someone will come walking along with a boom box strapped to his body filling the quiet air with relentless noise. Drives me nuts.

And it's not just Chinese young people, either. Here in Beijing, it is not unusual to meet foreign teachers who never go anywhere. They haven't taken time to learn the language, so they feel uncomfortable traveling. Their only experience of getting away from the daily grind is an evening of drinking or hanging out an an electrically charged atmosphere of loud talking and ear-splitting music. They never really get away. Beijing is an interesting city. But it is a city. Everybody needs to get out of the city once in awhile. It's not enough just to have free time. You need to find a place of repose "far from the madding crowd," as Hardy expressed it.

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