a mountainous farewell

I have a thing for mountains. it started way before my thing for dragons, probably back when I visited Colorado for the first time. when we moved to Hsinchu 3 years ago it was the closest I had ever lived to mountains and I was thrilled! but due to the often cloudy and hazy climate of Taiwan [and the nearby buildings] the mountains are rarely visible from my neighborhood.

there is a hill that I scoot over on my way to/from downtown. as you crest the hill you can see towards the mountains. so I developed a [very scientific and professional] rating system for the visibility based on how many "layers" of mountains you can see. sometimes it's zero. usually one or one and a half. I've seen it go as high as four or five on an amazingly clear day, but only a handful of times.

today was one of those days. so even though it was hot as heck and the light was harsh, I turned my scooter for the mountains.

in three years, I have yet to find the perfect vantage point for shooting mountain photos. part of this I blame on the weather - how am I supposed to figure out a good place to photograph on a day I can't see anything? but the other issue is that I know the best places are out closer to the mountains, past where we has our scooter crash. and I have avoided that area for two and a half years, ever since the crash.

but today was the most clear weather I've ever seen. and we are moving in less than two weeks. if I didn't go out and try today, it would never happen.

suddenly, this scoot became something more. not just about getting a great shot of the mountains or going on a quest for adventure. it was about overcoming that last bit of fear, crushing that lingering panic that settles in when I think of the day we crashed. and also - saying goodbye to Hsinchu and closing this chapter of our lives.

I had to go do this.

I thought about stopping at the place we crashed... but that just seemed like asking for trouble. so I kept driving. out past anywhere I'd gone before.

from time to time [when I found a nice wide shoulder] I pulled over and whipped out my camera. the roads back that far aren't crowded. there's not much around but farmland and rolling hills. and a few buildings - either gone dilapidated or managing to do that Taiwan trick where it only looks like it's about to fall over [yet has probably survived more earthquakes and typhoons than anything on the island.]

at one point, a middle-aged couple pulled off on the side of the road near where I was standing. as they got out of the car I wasn't sure what to expect. would they yell at me in indistinguishable Mandarin for being on their property? did they think I was lost? was this whole wandering-the-countryside-alone thing about to turn into a horror story?

come on guys, this is Taiwan.

they walked over and asked what I was looking at, in perfect English. I gestured towards the mountains and they seemed surprised. they thought I was looking at the water - the reservoir a few kilometers back. I said I thought the mountains were beautiful. they were unimpressed. "oh. well, goodbye!" and they got in their car in search of something else.

it was a perfect "Taiwan moment" to conclude my perfect Taiwan moment.

I almost didn't want to share these photos, because no matter how I tried to edit them, they just don't do it justice. but I think that happens sometimes when you are wrapped up emotionally - it looks better than it is, or maybe just better than you're able to describe. but I remember what it looked like in person, and what it felt like to be there. and that's what counts.

though these next few weeks will be crazy, I'm looking forward to Taipei and what comes next. I'm excited for a fresh start. there are things and people here that I'll miss, but I'm ready to go. and I'm so glad that Hsinchu decided to give me a beautiful send off.

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