I sit by the dirty window of the train that will take me back to Lanzhou. From there another long journey will start and, this time, Beijing will be the destination. For now, though, I am content sitting and watching in silence the desert and the red mountains around Dunhuang flow away in a smooth, endless line. My mind goes back to yesterday night, when Laura, Udita and I ended our evening walk (and our stay at Mogao Caves) on the top of the cliff, where centuries ago Buddhist caves were carved and finely painted.
The caves of Mogao, northern district.
Only then I could finally understand what “deafening silence” meant.
Nothing would have prepared me for such an experience. As the sky slowly lit up with trembling stars and the unforgiving darkness engulfed the dunes around me, my ears filled with an utter silence, so dreadful, so splendid that everything else paled in comparison. Suddenly, my friends were not there anymore. I was alone and helpless, standing in my dark spot under the black canopy of the universe above, alone and helpless in the paradigm of my perfect solitude. Its infinite nature overwhelmed me with the odd comfort of a too tight embrace.
Laura and the dunes.
As a person who’s prone to melancholy, I prefer wild untamed landscapes. I found myself in the desert, as I have always found myself in the deep recesses of the woods close to my hometown, in the grasslands covered by the moody sky, and in every sea and every ocean which I could cast my eyes upon.
Lake Kokonor in Qinghai province, China.
Grasslands around Xiahe in Gansu province, China.
Desert around Mogao Caves.
Somewhere within us, a bright sparkle calls to the wilderness around.