Just hours outside of Taipei City, I stand in the middle of a small stream, a pile of wet rocks in my hands. Mountain-cooled water flees downstream, recklessly crashing right above my ankles. Wind, like soft breaths, plays with my hair as I crouch, searching the bottom of the stream. The stones, like slippery fish, effortlessly come free from my grasp and dunk into the stream, swimming several feet with the water before settling in a nice rock-sized hole. The ends of my skirt swish and pull in the stream, darkening and weighing down my dress. I’m looking for the perfect rock to bring home.
Half an hour ago when we arrived in the middle-of-nowhere, I was worried about the rocks at the bottom of the lake. Through the clear, window-like water, I could see jagged-looking rocks coating the bottom of the stream, shamelessly waiting to pierce my feet and taste blood. Hesitantly (following some form of peer-pressure from my cousin), I slipped into the stream. The rocks were smooth?
I was relieved and intrigued. Tossing my worries aside, I started to dance on the tenderly carved rocks, my feet ruining the perfect fish-scale-like patterns of the water rushing over hundreds of round stones, only to have the patterns created again by more water. Each scale pulsed with the movement of water and glistened in the light of the sun. Unlike the stinging cold of ice, the stones had a warmer, soothing cold. They were just the same temperature as the water – relieving but refreshing, cool but numbing.
Soon after my revelation, I excitedly picked one up, water dripping from my fingers, and showed my mom. “Can I keep it? Pleaaase?” “Okay, pick one.” I giddily spent the next hour sifting through the endless collection of rocks, their sharp edges softened by water.
Now, as I type this, halfway across the world, I wonder if I thought about the view, or the air, or the sky. What did the view of the ocean under the cliff nearby look like from the stream? Was it as picture-perfect as a stock photo? Or was it so breathtaking that not even a picture would capture its beauty? Did the air smell like the salty ocean water off the cliff? Or did it smell like nothing but pure, sweet oxygen? What did the sky look like? Was it a blue so bright it could be mistaken for cyan? Or was it a gray so dark it could throw an innocent witness into depression? Did the sky have cotton-candy clouds lounging in the sun? Or did it have stormy clouds scaring off small children? I wish I could have remembered more.
But looking at the rock sitting on my desk – albeit it being lighter now after the water has evaporated – I find a reason: I’m discovering this world one place, one story, one detail at a time.