When hiking through the town of Yubeng, one cannot help but marvel at the vast and powerful nature of the world. The sun peeks out each morning from behind snow-capped peaks and tree-covered mountains encircled by puffy white clouds which have never seemed closer; glaciers give way to the deafening roar of waterfalls and, in turn, rapidly churning rivers, which promise to swallow anything thrown their way; and I stand in the midst of all of these wonders, craning my neck even to see the tops of the trees before me. And yet, this natural beauty is not all which catches the eye.
As one ascends the mountain path leading to Yubeng, there is a clear human presence visible at every turn. Workers in hard hats have erected the steel frame of a water treatment plant at the base of the trail, and construction takes place on the path as well, a simple pulley system allowing for the transport of materials up the mountain. Litter from past travelers and Tibetan Buddhist pilgrims piles up every few hundred meters, overflowing from green trashcans onto the dusty road, and horses and mules follow men and women who call out greetings and words of encouragement as they pass by in the opposite direction. Still, beauty remains, even within the manmade trail of this well beaten path.
Humans and nature are entwined on the rocky trail to Yubeng. Colorful prayer flags wave in the wind from lines strung across valleys and woven through trees, and the scriptures imprinted on each piece of cloth mix with shimmering gold designs which reveal themselves upon closer inspection. As I sit on the wooden bridge above one river with the reds and greens and blues and yellows of the flags waving before me and the cool mist of a powerful waterfall wetting my face, I become nothing. A fallen tree stands firmly within the foaming waters, but like a single leaf, I would surely be consumed by the force of the falls and disappear into the river’s abyss. My life dissolves into the frothy water and returns with the flow of the stream.
At each river bed, people have built up cairns–piles of rocks constructed in the shape of a Stupa–around which one must tread lightly. Placed in most every available space, each stack represents a different person’s prayers and wishes. I wish as well, and my fellow Dragons and I form a tower in hopes of meeting each other once again in our next lives.
Although I am not quite sure yet what I believe in within this world, I feel at ease in this space once we have finished building our tower. Here, with water rushing before us and the fresh air of new beginnings calling, I am empowered by the world. I do not know what to expect in these next nine months or even in these coming days or weeks, but for now, I am simply trying to take in each breathtaking experience with both an open heart and mind.