Saturday, July 18, 2020

Inner Mongolia (part 1): A piece of the endless sky...


I was born on the prairies where the wind blew free and there was nothing to break the light of the sun. I was born where there were no enclosures.   --Geronimo

On the prairie one can see the color of the air. --Emily Murphy

Being in Hulun Buir, Inner Mongolia (on the border of China, Mongolia, and Russia) is both a reminder and recognition of the senses. Going out on the endless grassland prairie opens your soul and mind. There are no walls or barriers to obstruct views and perspectives. It is an invitation to nourish the senses: to see the vastness of open skies, to hear and feel the wind blow, to feel the warmth of the sun on your back, and view infinite stars. It is a "geography of hope," as Wallace Stegner said of beautiful landscapes that feed your spirit--begging to be preserved and loved. 

As space and views on the prairie seem magnanimous and neverending, it reminds us as humans to be generous, forgiving with our own little territories. As my dear Muslim friend asked me when she initiated our friendship when I lived in Qatar, she said, "Please don't make boundaries with me." Prairies remind us to be open and see the whole expansive view of not only land but in people too. 

To be out in the open on a prairie with no hindrance or disguises is liberating. As I gazed up at the falcons and eagles gliding above me, I almost felt like I could jump on their tail and fly with them. The landscape reminded me of my husband's native Wyoming or Montana in the United States. The sound of horses galloping could be heard for a long while or the sound of wind could whip or gently nudge you. An unending sky seems to embrace the entire horizon. Boundless prairie hills revive any disillusionment there is no hope or we live with limits. Everything seems possible with the open sky and grasses merged together--rolling onwards for seemingly forever. 


   Inner Mongolia is the place of Genghis Khan 1162-1227--the man who was responsible for uniting nomadic tribes in Northeast China. He is probably known for being the world's biggest conquered with his Mongol armies disseminating much of Eurasia. 

                                                                       
                                  The Prairie of Hulun Buir



You can see the yurts (the Mongolian "tent") in the background. These rolling hills are in Hulun Buir--Old Barag. 

                                                                          

You can see the Heilong River that twists along the China-Russia border for many miles...

Rediscovering the prairie again...

        The Mongolian stampede of horses echoed across the grasslands. The billowing dirt around their thundering hooves made some excitement for the day...



You can't drive too fast in Inner Mongolia because you might hit someone's horse, cow, sheep, goat, or dog. 

                                                            
      Practicing some Genghis Khan archery/army skills... 

           Mongolian or Lamist Buddhist temples that are about 50 feet high... These structures are on the top of hillsides and have been here for centuries so people can come and pray--especially during the harvest time. It is popular, even requisite, for young couples before they marry to climb up the hill together to pray and talk about their life together--under the expansive sky and grasslands that surround them. 

  This truckload of rolled-up hay could have been anywhere in the world. Since we helped bail hay in                                               Idaho last summer, this sight was familiar and beautiful.


     You can't put two saddles on one horse.  --Mongolian proverb 


Having the grassland to our selves on our horses...


                                             


Some small Inner Mongolia communities

A kind man in a very small village that was the owner of a small store. He then showed us his beautiful garden in the back. He was most proud of his potatoes, rabbits, and chickens. I couldn't help but be reminded that simplicity of life can bring so much happiness.

I loved seeing the different styles and colors of yurts 



           On the hillside it reads in Chinese: Here is a village where have built friendship and peace. 

       Most Inner Mongolian people who live in small, remote villages stay here only in the summer now. It is too harsh in the winter. They migrate to the cities in the winter and come back to tend their homes in the summer. One of my best memories is of the gardens they were cultivating and working in--everywhere we went.

Firewood when it starts to get cold...

Everyone proudly wants to share their gardens with you...

Fresh mushrooms hanging from a store window... You can tell mushrooms are very precious up in the far north.

I was so impressed with our ten-year-old waitress. She looked and acted like she owned the place, but actually, her grandpa did. 😀



 I took a picture of this heirloom tomato--to remind of the best-tasting tomatoes of my life. 


Homemade blueberry jam. Inner Mongolia is famous for its blueberries...



     Argun Birch Forest

          There are many who walk through the woods and see no trees.  --Mongolian proverb




The Birch forests take your breath away...



People come to take pictures in the birch forest to show their connections and roots together--just like the symbiotic nature of the birch roots underneath them. 


Birth trees growing together--resembling family bonds. 


When people come to these birch forests, they tie a wish on them--this one is asking for good wishes for their child on a school test. 
   
Rolling Grasslands 

The distance between heaven and the earth is no more than just one thought.--Mongolian proverb


Russia is just beyond the river--almost on the border of Russia, Mongolia, and China.


The Heilong River--dividing Russia and China...


Joseph feeling a little Neo-lithic with the Inner Mongolia Stone Henge...

Some Stonehenge-like sculptures along the road. 

The sculptures up close--so pristine on the grasslands...

More yurts in the grasslands...


A taste of Mongolian culture

Inner Mongolian dress with yurts in the background. We ate some lamb and lots of their organic produce. 


           Yurts and sheep--quintessential Inner Mongolia and Mongolia.                          



Just in case you want to try on some Mongolian clothes...


Some creativity that was born up in Inner Mongolia

Joseph, getting back to his creative self in the last few months... He loves to sketch and watercolor. When I took this picture of him, he was in another world.😀 


One of the pictures Joseph drew in the Inner Mongolian grasslands. He prefers watercolor pencils and then filling his picture in with a small brush. 



An abstract by Elias when we got home from Inner Mongolia. It was supposed to be the background for a still-life with apples, but Joseph wants it to keep as a present for his birthday. Imagine yourself as a little ladybug in the middle of that grass. 😀



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