Tribute Photos to a Year of Tea and Mountains – 3

More of the valued faces, moments, and impacts of the year. Many more existed that are shown here but these few are worthy in so many ways.

"Why have you come all this way to these lands. How did you arrive"? Our little team burrowed into this warm woman's home that she shared with her ailing husband near Yading in western Sichuan Province. Within minutes this family who had little shared everything they had, and this woman Kersang proceeded to ask questions as though she knew that many outside mysteries would be revealed in this fleeting moment. She laughed and apologized for the acrid smoke being puffed out by her little stove and she spoke about the land. "It is all we have so we must care for it. It is family". I'd never heard this reference before, but imagine a world where her logic of the land being family prevailed.

“Why have you come all this way to these lands. How did you arrive”? Our little team burrowed into this warm woman’s home that she shared with her ailing husband near Yading in western Sichuan Province. Within minutes this family who had little shared everything they had, and this woman Kersang proceeded to ask questions as though she knew that many outside mysteries would be revealed in this fleeting moment. She laughed and apologized for the acrid smoke being puffed out by her little stove and she spoke about the land. “It is all we have so we must care for it. It is family”. I’d never heard this reference before, but imagine a world where her logic of the land being family prevailed.

Faces and their own landscapes gave way to spaces of stone and snow.

Dusk comes in cold, golden rays near our camp on the Bara Shigri glacier in October. One of Asia's longest glaciers, it is a boulder-strewn landscape of steep ascents rather than simply a space of graceful ice flows and brilliantine blue. It is a brutal landscape that is morphing in the present tense. Ice here is gigantic, rubble covered and in perpetual flow rather than anything crystalline and delicate. It is a body in decay that is liquefying and morphing from something solid into something vital yet temporary; ice into water. Behind me as I watch this day's closure, Karma tinkers with dinner and an 'aperitif' of tea, while layers of down warmth are applied. Cold arrives from everywhere at once when the sun disappears. Mountains remain one of Nature's perfect editors and tutors.

Dusk comes in cold, golden rays near our camp on the Bara Shigri glacier in October. One of Asia’s longest glaciers, it is a boulder-strewn landscape of steep ascents rather than simply a space of graceful ice flows and brilliantine blue. It is a brutal landscape that is morphing in the present tense. Ice here is gigantic, rubble covered and in perpetual flow rather than anything crystalline and delicate. It is a body in decay that is liquefying and morphing from something solid into something vital yet temporary; ice into water. Behind me as I watch this day’s closure, Karma tinkers with dinner and an ‘aperitif’ of tea, while layers of down warmth are applied. Cold arrives from everywhere at once when the sun disappears. Mountains remain one of Nature’s perfect editors and tutors.

And spaces of stone and snow gave way to the face and hands

Day 8 of Tributes: The Incense Maker. In the walled city of Lo Mantang, Nepal this woman could be found in any number of places sitting on a folded rug pounding herbs with a stone into the basics of incense. Mornings she pounded, afternoons she pounded...as though her task would never end. Sitting, oblivious to the cold, she would spread out the intact herbs, place some into a centuries' old recess in the stone and ground the elements with a worn stone. Smells would waft up and be passed around by the winds, so that we would know that she was close before we would see her. Though incense can be found in any shop, it was as though she was proving that the old ways were the only ways. Her hands were stained, powerful, and pieces of beauty.

The Incense Maker. In the walled city of Lo Mantang, Nepal this woman could be found in any number of places sitting on a folded rug pounding herbs with a stone into the basics of incense. Mornings she pounded, afternoons she pounded…as though her task would never end. Sitting, oblivious to the cold, she would spread out the intact herbs, place some into a centuries’ old recess in the stone and ground the elements with a worn stone. Smells would waft up and be passed around by the winds, so that we would know that she was close before we would see her. Though incense can be found in any shop, it was as though she was proving that the old ways were the only ways. Her hands were stained, powerful, and pieces of beauty.

And to ice which disappears…something solid into water

A magnificent wall of ice that rises like a vertical patterned sketchbook on our 'Glacier's Breath' expedition. Sitting just scanning its mass, one could make out the tinkling sound of water and as the day's sun rose that tinkle became torrents. That sound became one of the most ominous noises in my head as it is the solid ice become liquid. That liquid would in turn become part of the Chandra River, which by extension would exit into Bay of Bengal. It would become what comes out of pipes and faucets downstream. Friend and mountain guide Kamal and I sat watching this mass with its ever-increasing rivulets plunging downward. Kamal said in his quiet way, "I understand what you are worried about. Once it is gone, it is gone". Indeed.

A magnificent wall of ice that rises like a vertical patterned sketchbook on our ‘Glacier’s Breath’ expedition. Sitting just scanning its mass, one could make out the tinkling sound of water and as the day’s sun rose that tinkle became torrents. That sound became one of the most ominous noises in my head as it is the solid ice become liquid. That liquid would in turn become part of the Chandra River, which by extension would exit into Bay of Bengal. It would become what comes out of pipes and faucets downstream. Friend and mountain guide Kamal and I sat watching this mass with its ever-increasing rivulets plunging downward. Kamal said in his quiet way, “I understand what you are worried about. Once it is gone, it is gone”. Indeed.

About JeffFuchs

Bio Having lived for most of the past decade in Asia, Fuchs’ work has centered on indigenous mountain cultures, oral histories with an obsessive interest in tea. His photos and stories have appeared on three continents in award-winning publications Kyoto Journal, TRVL, and Outpost Magazine, as well as The Spanish Expedition Society, The Earth, Silkroad Foundation, The China Post Newspaper, The Toronto Star, The South China Morning Post and Traveler amongst others. Various pieces of his work are part of private collections in Europe, North America and Asia and he serves as the Asian Editor at Large for Canada’s award-winning Outpost magazine. Fuchs is the Wild China Explorer of the Year for 2011 for sustainable exploration of the Himalayan Trade Routes. He recently completed a month long expedition a previously undocumented ancient nomadic salt route at 4,000 metres becoming the first westerner to travel the Tsa’lam ‘salt road’ through Qinghai. Fuchs has written on indigenous perspectives for UNESCO, and has having consulted for National Geographic. Fuchs is a member of the fabled Explorers Club, which supports sustainable exploration and research. Jeff has worked with schools and universities, giving talks on both the importance of oral traditions, tea and mountain cultures. He has spoken to the prestigious Spanish Geographic Society in Madrid on culture and trade through the Himalayas and his sold out talk at the Museum of Nature in Canada focused on the enduring importance of oral narratives and the Himalayan trade routes. His recently released book ‘The Ancient Tea Horse Road’ (Penguin-Viking Publishers) details his 8-month groundbreaking journey traveling and chronicling one of the world’s great trade routes, The Tea Horse Road. Fuchs is the first westerner to have completed the entire route stretching almost six thousand kilometers through the Himalayas a dozen cultures. He makes his home in ‘Shangrila’, northwestern Yunnan upon the eastern extension of the Himalayan range where tea and mountains abound; and where he leads expeditions the award winning ‘Tea Horse Road Journey’ with Wild China along portions of the Ancient Tea Horse Road. To keep fueled up for life Fuchs co-founded JalamTeas which keeps him deep in the green while high in the hills.
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