mountains in china

Amne Machen: A Moment Uncaptured

Some time ago, I was in a different place, far away from where I am now.

I was in the far North East of the High Tibetan plateau in the back of a jeep with two of my best friends, a monk and a driver who sang when his heart demanded it which was quite often. We were travelling along a track towards the summit of Amne Machen, a mountain in the Chinese province of Qinghai.

We were climbing up to and eventually beyond 6000 metres. The air was painfully thin: nothing more than a whisper to aching lungs. It was another world up here. A moonscape bright beneath a bursting sun, icy tundras stretching as far as the eye could see. My brain was struggling to process the beauty around me; limited oxygen making each detail impossible to render, leaving just a tripped-out bliss of hazed and frayed shapes.

The driver has no choice but to let another flurry of prayer song leave his lips. From my seat in the back, I can feel my eyes filling with tears of giddying, skittish joy and the clipped wings of my sleeping soul start to slowly flap. I am touching a universe infinitely bigger than I can comprehend. So what did I do?

I pulled out my cheap digital camera, hit record with a half-frozen finger and allowed 33 seconds of bumping mountain jeep footage to fail in a trillion ways to capture a moment that I would forever wish to live again and knew would always be beyond me.

I found this footage in a folder, buried in an old laptop. For all its shortcomings, I watched it again and again and slowly felt something deep inside me twitch, a feather ruffled in a ribcage, a breeze blowing in another world.



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Tom Spooner

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