In search of susurrus #1

Chinese lanterns light up a dark sky
Chinese lanterns and karst peaks

Photos rarely tell the truth. Memories are even worse. But between the two, a sensory-saturated moment in time can be recalled in startling clarity. To organise your travel snaps is to head grinning with relish into a forgotten instant. What better task, then, for a dark and quiet January on a northerly island.

This series of photos is about China, where we lived for a few years. Some are quietly observed; others are snapped in haste. Travelling with a family meant learning to notice these instants, and to enjoy  – sometimes only fleetingly -the excitement, calm or bewildered curiosity they inspired.

The first photo was taken in southern China, in a region of limestone mountains of fantastical shapes near Yangshuo. The round, red lanterns seemed to glow like planets, with the karst outlines in the distance. This countryside was like a thousand Chinese paintings; mountains inked below a rice-paper sky.

That night we were staying in the Giggling Tree hostel, a bike ride from the nearest noisy and neon-lit town. The evening was cool but we ate outside and drank beer and talked nonsense and watched the children race around the old, stone courtyard with their visiting cousins. I snapped this picture on a trip to the loo, mesmerised by the light and taking a moment to enjoy the cool, jasmine-scented peace of dusk.

We had a full moon that trip too, and watched it slide into the circular frame of an eroded rock – a detail I’ve only just remembered.

KW Sundibanks, Shetland



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