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Hwang Shan 3Hwang Shan Again
In a Buick through a tunnel I go back in time to a mountain I climbed half a life ago. Hwang Shan, in China’s Anhui Province, waits at the end of the freeway as I return to a spot where I struggled to become a whole person after

_ATH2783loosing love and innocence. A time of fog and stone stairs leading I knew not where but only up more into the clouds where the peaks poked out. Now the bamboo leans off the mountain towards me as a different man returns to see and paint stone. Last time I vomited on the local bus. This time a driver with toll roads. Before I had a strong body and weak heart.

Today this is

 

Hiking in Hwang Shan with new Friends

reversed. But I still have the greed to see what nature breeds. “Life is precious- follow traffic rules” repeats fresh green signs along the road. Life is this precious moment and fully appreciating all the ones we experience makes for a life well lived. Now, on top of Hwang Shan (Yellow Mountain),

IMG_6828I sit in a chair with a stone railing for a table and paint the view of where I climbed two decades ago on this steep expanse of rock. Others now hike up to the tops of the peaks while I sit down below capturing the effort needed to go up against the odds. To push up from below with strength fueled by an almost

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blind quest to go higher. To touch the tops of all we are. Later, all is anything but quiet on the Western front.

_ATH2785Eating in the Yu Ping Lo canteen, I am surrounded by loud drinking hikers and I can not hear myself write. Smoke fills my nose as I finish my tofu and eggs. But I am not fazed as I once was. I think I have changed. I see we are all the same- seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. Even while painting in a crowd today I talked and laughed with them and it was all a good game.

But sleeping in a

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IMG_6809dorm room with six strangers is not a good idea and my enthusiasm dissipated as the man next to me snored until it was time to clear his throat and watch the sunrise at 5am. I had slept not a minute and wanted to leave but little did I know my status on the mountain would soon change. A reporter from the

Hwang Shan Daily had arrived to interview me. As soon as the hotel manager heard that there was a Paralympian on his watch, the first to ever climb the mountain, I was treated like royalty. A lavish lunch was spread before us as I was handed keys to the VIP suite.

Hwang Shan 1Suddenly the world is upside down and that night I was between clean starched sheets with a view of the mountains to die for. The wheels of life had turned, merging Yin with Yang, and the universe was again laughing. In my suite I paint views and feelings from a new vantage point. With swallows darting in and out of the vista I stretch towards the distant finger-like peaks. These stones so slender and strong- not unlike my fingers. The hands that walk, paint and live for me resemble the stone

_ATH2835spires that reach towards the heavens.Returning to these mountains brings me full circle. From my initial excursions as a stranger into a developing China to this place where I am treated with respect by these curious and industrious people who begin taking their baby steps towards a future world that will be determined very much by their actions. I feel fortunate to be ‘in’ with the soon to be ‘in crowd’.

 

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Text by Gregory Burns, Photographs by Angie Tan Burns, All Rights Reserved.
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