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October 7, 2019

Thus the blue undulates- Yiyi Wei, BFA Glass, 2019

by yiyiwei

Chang Tang: Tibetan for ‘the great flat plain of the north’ 

After light enters the atmosphere, the shorter wavelength of the spectrum is scattered into many directions by the air molecules. It dissimilates. It wanders. It travels together with the sublime, remains deep down and far away, making the sky, the ocean, the distant mountains, the melancholy longings or the cavities of our memory appear to be blue.  

I remember the blue

drawing a line between turquoise and sapphire

I remember the fresh smell of Kobresia mixed with animal droppings after that mid-summer hail. We were out on a hike to search for antelopes’ bite marks and to learn which kinds of vegetation they’d prefer. The ice hit us while we were on the ground, looking for the marks leaf by leaf

I remember watching the mountains far away turn foggy and white. The storm lasted probably twenty minutes in total. The blue sky slowly disappeared, re-appeared 

The clouds cast a foggy shadow beyond  and the coldness gave my exposed skin a prickly tingle

I also remember a different coldness emitted from the solemn Purogangri glacier, brushed against my skin 

And the sound from the melting ice gliding through the crevices of the rocks, harmonizing with a plastic flower that played chantings of buddhist prayers on loop 

I remember the feeling of thrill and fear when a male wild yak stood on the hill right next to the road. It was startled by our truck, flanking its tail and kicking its hooves, forcing us to back away. And the same thrill and fear I felt when encountering a family of Tibetan brown bear, a mother and two children, while we were on a motor bike 

And the tranquility of observing a big group of wild donkeys feasting, mating and an antelope sprinting around faster than any other being on this plateau

I remember our sorrow and apologies, for bringing disturbance and fear

And I remember the blue undulating between here and there

Casting a veil onto the mountains’ reflection and the defrosting land. The colorful vegetation looked like deep-ocean-creatures, but miniature in size, budding from Earth at places they never used to appear. And onto the roads that now are lost. 

Sometimes I imagined the lakes and rivers have a blue sheet of glass underneath, silvered by the sunlight at dusk. Reflecting onto the creatures that tread on this ancient soil

the fleeing hooves, the anxiety of a mother, the dry and sharp coldness from the highland moon and the rhythm of ravens’ love song 

I accidentally saw a pair of ravens practiced their mating dance in a village that we stayed overnight. At first I only heard them when I was on a walk. I looked around and searched for the source of the sound. It was foreign and beautiful. I was surprised that these large, scary-looking creatures can make such elegant, adorable sounds. I walked around the corner and there they were, in the middle of two mountains of trash disposals. The image was jagged but graceful. They didn’t care about my presence so I stood there along side with a pigeon, and watched them. Soon, I became self-conscious, feeling like an intruder to a private and sacred ceremony. So I slowly walked away. The pigeon stayed. 

I was lucky that I encountered this ritual and remembered it. There are many songs chanted on this highland, carried away by wind and devoured by the horizon, extending to infinity.

That I would never hear.

The Third Pole is silent  and that silence is the blueness of its soundscape A gift from the boundless flatland hovering over the evolution and extinction below, creating a tint of tranquility

The wildlife patrollers told us many stories of Chang Tang’s trespassers. Some came to conquer the land, some came to test their own limits and some came to seek for an end. In time the past will decay, becoming a part of the blue. Are they all trespassers? Or are some of them just souls pursuing the sublime and longing to be lost? That I do not know. 

Rebecca Solnit talked about losing oneself as a “voluptuous surrender, lost in your arms, lost to the world, utterly immersed in what is present so that its surroundings fade away.”

I stepped on this terrain with (I assumed) ideas and questions that I wanted to pursue. Yet my memories of the world I use to know dissolved a little bit more as more time we spent seeking on this mysterious highland with very little oxygen and traces of people. Without experiences and preparations, I stumbled upon this realm of lost and present and unknown by accident. Chang Tang made me chase the blue and eventually surrender to the present that is now was.

After we came back from Yingjiang with Cloud Mountain Conservation, I asked Liang a question. I wondered, if the population of Skywalker Gibbon is low and the conservators’ chance of reviving the species is minuscule, then what is the purpose of their effort? “I’m not sure” Liang told me at first. He paused for a second and added “but we’ve got to do something now, right? Who knows what will happen in the future. At least we did everything we could.” This very short conversation lingered in my mind while I was at Chang Tang plateau

facing the ancient yet young geography of this northern flatland and the species that will disappear someday or transform into something new

I now understand that he is also a fellow voyager to the far away blue

Purogangri Glacier from a distant

to the flora

and to the fauna

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