Take a mental picture
You can't capture everything on camera.
Sometimes, it’s that I'm just not quick enough on the draw. Other times, it’s that my limited working knowledge of photography leaves me woefully unprepared to imprint the austere majesty of our surroundings onto a screen. And sometimes, amidst the breathtaking Himalayan vistas, I forget to even raise the viewfinder to my eye.
There’s just so much available to all of your senses when you’re out here, from the wind ripping at your parka to the scent of cedarwood and the glimmer of sun on snow. These things are the blood coursing through the veins of this experience and to simply take a photo is to burglarize the outline and leave behind the soul. The photo is never the entire picture.
I find myself driving by some of these scenes and rather than try, I simply smile at them and sigh.
We’re headed up into the Himalayas now by way of hired jeep, and the air is cooler and the landscape more arid. We pass by many monasteries buried in the rocky hillsides. Some are painted red and white and stand out like signal beacons while others are made of the same flat sandstone as the surrounding hills and are nearly completely obscured.
Here and there hundreds of people line the highways, collecting, breaking up, and stacking rocks. Intermittently, we come across their camps of temporary canvas yurts encircling sooty blackened firepits. These people are all much darker skinned and mostly covered up, head to toe. They look up as we drive by and you can see the weather-worn lines on their leathery faces.
I fancy the idea of getting a photo, and as I raise the camera I make eye contact with an older woman carrying a ragged basket on her head. Her eyes leap out from behind her shawl, two white hot pinpoints, and as we pass I freeze. I see the same look in her eyes that I’ve seen everywhere across India, that one of concrete determination as she labors under the banner of a promised future. A true fire burns within them, and that spark of light and humanity connects us for just one moment. India takes my breath away.
The jeep rattles on and I miss my shot.