I’m going to be playing around with some different ideas for my blog, so let me know what you think. Dan and I just returned from 5 days in Zhangjiajie (for National Day). It was a spectacular trip, and there’s a lot to talk about. So I’m going to try breaking it into more digestible parts. That way, I can keep the complexity of the experience alive without going on quite so much. Leave a comment or send me a message to let me know your opinion!
A picture is worth a thousand words? Maybe. Sometimes. Photos are pretty, and we’re visual animals. They’re appealing. But they usually require a sort of specific context that words don’t. Images bring back memories, but only to those who remember. They can record a raw emotion, a sensation, that words can only replicate, but it’s just a narrow moment, and not the world that surrounds it. A photo needs context to deliver its most important message.
Sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Sometimes ten words are worth ten thousand pictures. Some things are just visual. Some things just aren’t. To be sure, a photo lacks a certain third dimension, while words just sit outside all dimensions and imitate them.
So when I show you these images, I show you only moments in two dimensions. What I show you is not Zhangjiajie as it truly is. Because these towers, these stairs, this stone landscape, are three dimensional in a way I have never seen. They refuse to be flat, they are enthusiastically non-planar. When you start at the bottom of a 1000-meter-high pillar, you may see one of its giant neighbors fading into the sky, but when you stand on top, that neighbor will have changed. And each tower seems so close, so huge, so immensely present, but so simultaneously distant, that your brain just…falters. You stand at the top of 4000-odd steps, ankles throbbing, you stand and you stare, and whole minutes later you realize you still don’t understand what is before you.
Then the sounds come rushing in.
This weekend: How to live in the world of Chinese tourism
Questions of the week:
Pictures? Words? Both? Where is your favorite place in the world? Leave a comment.
8 thoughts on “Zhangjiajie/National Day, Part 1: Spectacular Beauty”
Pix are beyond spectacular!
My favorite is the video of the blue dragonflies zooming above the moving water. As a child I loved the Monarch butterflies that inhabited an open prairie block near our house in Chicago, so I envy your living in a world with so many beautiful flyers around.
Good idea to break up the account of the trip into several parts — toom to swallow all at one gulp.
I just noticed a quote tacked up on my bulletin board that might apply; it’s from a novel I read maybe twenty years ago:
“The known years spent in a landscape never tie to us to it, the marked calendar from which we can stand back and reflect or think of change; we are bound to a place by the unconscious minutes and seconds lost there, which is not measurable time or experience and from which there is no release.”
Joseph Hone, The Private Sector, page 276.
I agree, the connection you have always just seems to build over time, regardless of specific moments or memories.
Digestible little bites of story work well.
My favorite place in the world is whatever mountaintop I’ve been on most recently. So I guess that would place me on the whole Cascade range. I think I would be happy to just wander there forever.
You write beautifully.
Thanks, and I agree. I think the cascades will always be my favorite mountains.
For me, drawing something I see records not only the image (crudely), but also the emotions I felt at the time, and the sounds and the sensations of the moment. As I read old journals, and see photos that I took in the past, I do not have the same depth of memories. Not sure why I’m adding this. I guess it is just an illustration of another way of thinking about how images can convey so much more than words. (Though in this case, others would not feel the same emotions, or remember the sounds and sensations).