It was my last day at the Wu Dang Shan Tai Chi Academy. I was leaving at four o’clock that afternoon. And the anticipation of my exit provided a new vibe to my remaining hours.
One thing I wanted to squeeze in that final day was to explore a creek that flowed in the valley below. Unseen but told to me by other students, I wanted to walk into the hillside forests and discover this creek for myself.
I did. And it was more beautiful than I had hoped. I drank from it; I walked along its length; I… Well, let me just show you.
And at the end, as there was for me, there’ll be a clan of monkeys waiting to greet you.
We started down late that morning—myself, my teacher, and the two boys:
And his two pupils:
The narrow, weaving trail wound down the mountain. Sometimes level, sometimes steep, sometimes along the cliff, we made our way.
At the bottom was a homestead. It reminded me of cabins my brothers and I used to explore on our deer hunting land back in Minnesota:
And like the woodsmen back home, I had to wonder how they built this structure way out in the middle of nowhere.
A look inside:
After this detour I had to catch up. Pacing toward my group, I found what they had already:
Gosh, it was pure and clean. A crisp, sharp vibrancy emanated. It was as much a calling to one’s own artistic and true self as it was a simple observation about its clarity and potability. There’s just so much one can say about the stream in the forest: lapping along the rocky creek bed, it’s an artery providing energy and life to the body of these lands. While everything around it is still and quiet, it’s moves and slaps. It’s a statement of the ever-flowing water vs. the never-moving stone, and the unique, but nonetheless effective, forces that they are.
The boys went back up the cliff after some time. I wasn’t keen on that return trip, so I opted to follow the creek out to the road.
The walk was beautiful:
As we know, but ought to be reminded, photos are just a square. Imagine these sights in the midst of the 360 degrees of nature around you, first filling your monitor, then filling your room. Your periphery frames these luscious sights within a context in their home on this vast planet.
At the base of this trickling falls was some strangely colored water:
At the end of the walk, a clearing:
It was through this final stretch that we met nature’s ambassadors to this valley:
A few quickly turned into a whole clan:
The stone path we were upon was populated with the macaques. They were wild–some more than others. And humans mean food. One lady nearby had a monkey go after her purse:
Another stared at me so I smiled back. Not sure why, and it was a mistake. In monkeyese, showing your teeth is threatening, I guess. He showed me his fangs and let out a nice yelp to go along with it.
Kinda freaky so I kept a-walking to the nearby road.
I left that afternoon back down the mountain to the town below. It was much warmer down there. I arrived back at the makeshift apartment/hotel that boarded me my first night in town. The next day I got on the train and said goodbye to Wu Dang Shan.
The nine days there were incredible, offering many lessons: patience and contentment, living without luxuries, discipline, being “in your body” rather than thinking all the time, and like so many other places in China, the beauty and power of nature. I know it sounds silly to say it “changed me”, but as I said when I introduced the place, I still practice the physical and mental routines that were established on this mountain.
This stay would be the last major event for me in China before returning home to Minnesota. But there were a couple more minor experiences. I’ll share those with you next time: ) For now, I hope you got a lot out of the wisdom I encountered and experienced on this mountaintop in Hubei province.
Regarding this post, I hope you see your world a little smaller as the woods in China sort of look like the woods anywhere. Sure, there are different plants and animals, but the differences between there and a Minnesota summer weren’t too drastic. And when you boil it all down prior to technology and even civilization, you realize the universal trait among all people: the appreciation and comfort with nature, the realm all our ancestors enjoyed.
’til next week,
p.s. Here’s a video compilation of the day…there’s monkeys, too: