Ne m’oubilez pas?
Our hike in the Himalayas last August was not defined by its birds, surprisingly enough. Rather, it was defined by its flowers.
I tend to avoid flowers, except when as an attraction for butterflies, as a photography subject: stationary plants seem too easy, too facile. But the sheer range we saw in the mountains made me a convert, at least for the duration of the trip. The sheer range! The colors! The fields upon fields of them! (The fact I had no birds to distract me only helped matters.) And I found myself taking my camera out more and more in an endeavor to capture them. Over the next few weeks(? Months? Years? Centuries?) I’m going to be sharing my photographs with you every other Wednesday.
First up: the Cutleaf Buttercup. Not having access to a field guide (or the Internet) for that week, however, made us have to make up our own names. Thus, we named this, instead, the Kashmir Sun-glory. It’s a much better name, I think. 😛
Considering the amount we saw it, we needed a name for it. Meadows were blanketed with them – endless stretches of yellow, forever and ever, brushing the horizon, varnishing the slopes in gold. They brought a humanity to the vistas we confronted every step we took – took it down to the level of a single bee, humming its way from plant to plant; formed the ranges in the microcosm of a single petal drifting to the ground.
I think I am in love with the mountains, in all their forms – the breathless immediacy of Himalayan forests, the desolate rocky crags of the Great Rift Valley, the blushing greenery of Japanese hills, and now the snow-capped peaks of the Pyrenees. It is hard to explain what it is about them. The snaking tendrils of snow, or the contrast between the white and the dark, or the green fields, the bite of cold, the footsteps of the animals before you, the picturesque villages, bare trees – it is hard not to love it.
(The unbelievable amounts of raptors, from kestrels to booted eagles, inhabiting their peaks don’t hurt either.)
The Benedictine monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat is old. The mountain it’s on – Montserrat (which means jagged peak) – has been of religious focus since pre-Christian times, home to a Roman Venus temple. It was by 880 the first monastery on the site was built, but it was in the 12th century the popularity of the mountain as a pilgrimage destination rocketed.
This was due to its Black Madonna, also known as the Virgin of Montserrat. It was known as a ‘miracle-worker’ and continues to draw millions a year, the reason we had to wait for almost half-an-hour to see it in a line stretching from the entrance to where it lay. But while most reaching the statue paid their homage and said their prayers, not taking their eyes off it for as long as possible, I decided to turn around and see the unparalleled view you have of the 16th century church from there. A breathless silence filled the air. The feeling was palpable: this was holy ground.