Everyone warned me about China - 'they eat anything that moves', 'they won't understand a word you say and vice versa', 'they don't care about human or animal rights', 'they are big cheats, check everything you buy, and bargain down by 10 times the quote'.
All of it was true and all of it was false. I loved China, Chinese people, Chinese food, and most of all, Chinese flora. From the breathtaking beautiful peach blossoms and magnolia to the four hundred year old cypress and pine trees in the Forbidden City, my lasting unforgettable impression of China won't be that of the glass and concrete jungles in Shanghai or of the expanse of Beijing, but rather of these images below:
Two ancient cypress trees entwined into one - celebrating the union of everlasting love.
A sheep dog herding his family in a pine forest within the suburbs of Beijing....a strange mixture of rural living in urban confines.
Patchi line up against a backdrop of forests grown by man around the artificial Kuoming lake built three hundred years ago in the Q'ing dynasty's Summer Palace.
Magnolia (?) in our apartment building foyer.
Pine and peach in the Forbidden City, where someone told us there were "no trees".
Ancient leafless trees in the rock garden in the Forbidden City.
At last......a bird's nest, yes they do live here, they haven't all been culled off.
And the most beautiful one among them all ....a cypress in the gardens around the excavated Ming tombs. A place to leave one's soul behind.
Someday soon, San Francisco.........my patron saint must surely be waiting there for me.