Say this city has ten million souls,
Some are living in mansions, some are living in holes…
— W.H. Auden
Auden may well have been describing Kaifeng with those words: a small city of some 10 million souls, east-central Henan Province, Yellow River country, P.R. C. One of seven ancient cities, once among the capitals of China, Kaifeng has its fair share of holes, of brokenness and poverty but also much of brightness and beauty. The provincial flower is the “ju gwaa” or Chrysanthemum, a flower native to Asia.
The annual Chrysanthemum Festival is one noticeable brightening of the yearly calendar. The streets are decked out with blooms of pink, yellow, purple and red. The businesses put out their potted specimens for display, and the city parks hold celebrations of floral cheer. There is much liveliness; less of the glum grey blocks and smoggy, sloping skies.
Here’s to a sustained absence– a year’s ‘holiday’ in which much was explored
Continents crossed, countries traveled and toured and remembered.
(Some half forgotten, to make space, shall we say).
,A series of photos spanning space and time, not the full truth
Nor a lie; neither a complete record, a far cry.
Snapshots of people moving in a far-from perfect world–
The smog of China; a rough-shod street in Rome–
But for all its imperfections, a perfect place of storm.
For all the impending doom, the threats of near disaster
There is still much of tranquility, beauty, repose.
Somewhere in South America, the deep-end of Patagonia
A wheel came unstuck; a back broke, the camera froze.
Back to bed, and back to the future–
I see slowly. The things once familiar, now new.
Around the last corner and the last car, lies the township itself. A pack of semi-feral dingo-like dogs follows my car. The footpaths are red dust. Houses have barred windows, and grubby children play in the street while a wild boar grubs about in the backyard. This place feels like grim poverty, yet the back-drop of the Musgrave Ranges lends it an air of rugged beauty.
I dream of exploring the ranges. But dream it shall remain for now, unaccustomed as I am to the sweltering heat and complete absence of water. Tap water here is obtained from wells, and has an unusual milky pallor and unpleasant taste. I admire the resilience of local anangu, the Pitjantjatjara people, who live and work in this remote desert country every day. And I appreciate the opportunity to visit this place.
Cars keep watch by this rough red road in the desert.