The Abyss and a New Year Renaissance

Mt. Kyaiktiyo Myanmar Burma New Year-1

The long and winding road of this past year has finally reached its end. I feel broken. Exhausted. Started the year as a kid, climbing mountains ready to attack the world, and now I’m an old goat with barely the energy to take another step.

Standing here on the precipice of the Lunar New Year, staring across the dark chasm leading into the Year of the Monkey, my heart is filled part with relief – part with dread.

Mt. Kyaiktiyo Myanmar Burma New Year-2

How can I cross it, I wonder? I’ve arrived with the waning crescent moon on the doorstep of the Lunar New Year. My skin etched in wrinkles deeper than in years past, looking the worse for wear.

Tonight I meet the Queen of the Night ~ another of Mother Nature’s incredible daughters, and I have nothing left to give.

Mt. Kyaiktiyo Myanmar Burma New Year-3

She is one of the sacred mountains of Buddhism, resting in southeast Myanmar.

A serene and peaceful lady ~ she carries a pulse of life coursing through her veins like I’ve seldom witnessed.

Mt. Kyaiktiyo Myanmar Burma New Year-4

“A pulse of life…seldom witnessed” a perfect way to bring in the year, and my thoughts drift back to my girl Ellinor in the Skokomish Wilderness; guilt pounds in my heart as this year I stand enchanted with her distant cousin here in Southeast Asia.

A glimmer captures my attention. Her eyes, those dark, deep pools of mystery, draw me closer while her name leaves my tongue in knots… Mt. Kyaiktiyo, it is an honor.

Mt. Kyaiktiyo Myanmar Burma New Year-5

I pause at the entrance of her summit and wonder, “Where is the quiet solitude I expected?” and I collapse on the nearest boulder thinking “…just what have I gotten myself into?”

My last breath of the Year of the Goat is a sigh. I look around at the controlled chaos. Ms. Kyai is treating me to a scene I can barely comprehend.

Mt. Kyaiktiyo Myanmar Burma New Year-6

Every bump and bruise I’ve experienced over this past year begin to throb, and I turn to watch others arrive. Farmers bent over and exhausted from the past year, they too struggle to the summit arriving in the waiting arms of Kyai, surrendering to the year.

I close my eyes and wish I could sleep, to forever rest these aching bones. A cool hand assures me I am not alone, and Kyai begins pressing on my weary body amplifying my pain, checking to see if I am still alive.

Mt. Kyaiktiyo Myanmar Burma New Year-7

I look into her eyes and see a smirk. With kindness, she caresses my spirit, washes her hands over me as she mutters softly “those beautiful wrinkles of life…”.

She winks at me, “create some more…” understanding the aches and wrinkles of a year well lived is a badge of honor, and she rushes off to another.

Mt. Kyaiktiyo Myanmar Burma New Year-8

My broken body experiences a sense of enlightenment watching her float away, her perfume leaves a scent of desire drifting through the night air.

My eyes land on a couple of poor workers I met a few days earlier in the hills of Northern Myanmar, but it is impossible…how could they have travelled here?!?

I watch them pass by, their soundless smiles interrupted by the unmistakable whisper of Kyai, who turns their silence into poetry, “Even when you have very little, you can still have so much…”

Mt. Kyaiktiyo Myanmar Burma New Year-9

My romanticized ideal of Mt. Kyaiktiyo as an isolated, mystical Buddhist mountain wrapped in silence and fog has been twisted into a raucous Buddhist pilgrimage. Surrounding me, an aura of electricity powerful enough to ignite any soul.

This is why we set out on adventures…

Already, I see the deep wrinkles of my skin fade. My stooped body is straightening. My stagnate blood beginning to flow freely once again.

Mt. Kyaiktiyo Myanmar Burma New Year-20

My eyes faded to the point of blindness are now refocusing on the wild dreams of young ones and the belief I can do it all.

This is the way it should be. Finishing a year in pain, broken down and dying…only to notice a young soul on the other side of the abyss coercing me from the darkness to deliver me into another yearlong journey.

I look at the spirit and youth in envy. It fills me with pride.

Mt. Kyaiktiyo Myanmar Burma New Year-10

I hear conversations around me. I taste the excitement that fills the night.

Kyai softly whispers to me, “the Year of the Fire Monkey has arrived…make it yours,” her words adding to the ecstasy of the past year and her kiss, a balm for my weary mind.

Her deep eyes are now filled with flames, and I am engulfed. The transformation has begun.

Mt. Kyaiktiyo Myanmar Burma New Year-11

The heat. The evening chill has vanished and I enter into the deeper parts of the night. Hope sheds away the skin and pain of the past year.

The flame flickers along with the ticklish words of Kyai, and together they cloak me up in the festive spirit of the final night. Within her eyes, I see what I came here for – a reflection of a young man, born again.

Mt. Kyaiktiyo Myanmar Burma New Year-13

Mt. Kyaiktiyo Myanmar Burma New Year-14

The glow of happiness is evident in the smiles of strangers, all who feel like family.

Seeing the New Year through young eyes, a sensation so rare it makes me question if it is even possible.

A curiosity feeds my soul to pursue life again, with new mistakes lying ahead ready to teach and guide me along the way.

Mt. Kyaiktiyo Myanmar Burma New Year-15

A faint trail of words brush over my neck singing, “Smile, adapt and move forward with courage… three simple thoughts and the Year of the Monkey is yours.” Kyai coos, sending a ripple of new blood flowing throughout my body.

Smile, adapt and move forward with courage. I can do that.

Mt. Kyaiktiyo Myanmar Burma New Year-16

Stretching my young body off the rock I am resting, I walk past a couple in silence, their unspoken words ring loud. Tonight is where possibilities transform into reality. Another chance at renewal and happiness in life; in the words of Benjamin Button:

“We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”  – Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Mt. Kyaiktiyo Myanmar Burma New Year-17

Throughout the year, Christmas, the Lunar New Year, Diwali, Ramadan and other celebrations give us all the opportunity to renew and free the spirit from the broken down old thoughts of the past ~ the contradictions, biases and jealousies of old, angry men.

We are allowed to return to our purer form, the mind of a child ~ refreshed with the freedoms to pursue happiness and “… the courage to start all over again.” 

Mt. Kyaiktiyo Myanmar Burma New Year-19

I think back to just a few short hours ago, the feeling of a wrinkled, broken down soul fully spent in the Year of the Goat, now renewed and back into a form I can recognize once again.

The renaissance of a soul and the words of Dr. Seuss prepare me for another twelve-month journey to explore, signalling the end of a brilliant year with the promise of a perfect day.

“You’re off to Great Places!  Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting, so…get on your way!”

– Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Mt. Kyaiktiyo Myanmar Burma New Year-21

Wish you great health and luck in the Year of the Monkey ~ 预祝猴年大吉!

Mt. Kyaiktiyo Myanmar Burma New Year-22

314 Comments on “The Abyss and a New Year Renaissance

  1. Hey Dalo!

    I’m really impressed by your work (your photos are fantastic!), and I would really be interested in connecting, and perhaps collaborating down the road!

    What would be the best way to get in touch with you?



  2. Randall… Thank you for taking me through the end of the year of the Goat into the wonderful energy of the Fire Goddess and into the year of the Monkey

    “Smile, adapt and move forward with courage. I can do that.” you said..

    What greater inspiration to give us.. As we embrace any New Year.. Embracing Change, Keeping faith and adapting oneself to move forward without fear, holding courage in each step taken forward..
    Many are now stepping out, in Unity, holding hands in silent vigil..

    We need not wealth to survive, as your many beautiful photo’s testify.. But each of those wrinkled smiles hold courage, and Inner strength… as they show us the smiles behind their eyes..
    Your photography is always stunning Randall.. and they take me to many places I know I will never set foot within their shores..

    But more than that.. You take me to the Heart of the People.. as you share your own heart so descriptively in the dialogue.. I feel I am there climbing the mountain and giving thanks for all that I have..

    Love and Blessings my friend..
    Sue 🙂

    • There is something to be said about keeping it simple, and “smile, adapt and move forward with courage…” is similar to a deep breath for me. Thank you very much, Sue, for your words and thoughts ~ and wish you the best as you explore 2016 yourself. Cheers.

      • It is always my pleasure and delight Randall to visit your posts.. I dwell within them long as I savour your words and look deep into those Beings whose lives of simplicity to us seems so much harsher.. Yet their weather beaten smiles tell a story we all could learn from.. 🙂 Thank YOU!

      • Nothing quite like a “weather beaten smile…” Enjoy the week ahead.

  3. Goon Hay Fat Choi to you Randall and here’s to many more stories in 2016. As always your words and photography are poetic, innovative and inspiring. It’s rare that I’m touched and captivated by stories I read nowadays but you have a rare gift that warms me to my core. I can drift off to sleep happily knowing that there will be a new wrinkle in the morning that marks ‘a badge of honour’!
    Thank you for sharing.

    • 恭喜发财 Anna, thank you and best wishes to you as you continue your adventures (and collection of wrinkles for 2016). It is always surprising to me how much there is to see and experience out there. Take care ~

  4. Pingback: The Abyss and a New Year Renaissance – Dalo Collis | Daily Echo

  5. Happy new year, Randall, amazing read and so nicely illustrated with your photos! Remember taxi-ing past Kyaiktiyo to Hpa-an, cuz I heard from people how busy it is, but it looks magical nonetheless, like most of Myanmar!
    Happy travels for 2016, greetz, Ron

    • Thank you, Ron. Yes, I originally had not planned to visit Mt. Kyaiktiyo because of the possibility of large crowds…but then for NYE I had nothing else planned (and a NYE party at the hotel in Yangon did not feel right), so it ended up working out. A serendipitous bit of timing. Agree, Myanmar hold a stunning amount of magic. Cheers.

  6. We all need some encouragements to fully wake up. You definitely are doing it for us through your extremely inspirational posts. So glad for this monthly dose of viewing masterpieces and gaining wisdom as we do so. You are a gift in the blog world.

    • As you know Rommel, there is nothing quite like travel to a new place/culture to wake up a soul. Hope you are doing well with your travels now, and best to a great 2016.

  7. Dear Dalo,

    Over the last couple of months, I had opened and read all your posts many a times over, but, failed to post even a single comment …

    I wanted even our comments should do justice to the incredible posts that you presents us, month after month.

    You are truly an inspiration, with your stunning images and words of wisdom.

    Once again, you have given me the right ‘Tonic’ with words like, “Smile, adapt and move forward with courage” 🙂

    Following an year of ‘Uncertainty’, ‘Great struggle’ and finally the much awaited ‘Self Discovery’, I really wish, I am back on track.

    Now, I need to Smile, Adapt and Mover Forward with Courage….

    I will do that.

    I have started doing that 🙂

    Thank you so much for being an inspiration and a great supporter of my humble works 🙂

    Have a beautiful day ahead 🙂

    • Sreejith, this is such a nice and humbling comment ~ a smile would more than suffice from you (or anyone). This past year (the Goat) was a great one for me, as it moved me from the struggle/uncertainty you mention above into discovery and appreciation…so while I am a bit sad for the Goat to end, the Year of the Monkey looks to be a good one for us both. We’re back on track and all we need to do every day is smile, adapt and move forward with courage. Best to you and your family.

  8. Sage advice awaits amidst the amorous atmosphere surrounding the stone-grown glory,
    which glows amongst the mountainous splendor of well-worn wonders wandering hither and thither quite freely.

    Good to see! Randall, always good to see your relation to relativity, which gives way to the weight of the moment with one click.
    Nobody does it better, bro. Thanks again for the trip! Peace and luvz and best wishes from ol’ Uncle Tree. HaPPy NeW YeaR! 🙂

  9. This is such an amazing post! Wow. I am going to re-read it again as the words and the photos are so incredibly beautiful. Thank you for this. 🙂

    • Thank you very much ~ the story was formed right along when I was shooting these scenes, a great experience and way to spend the night entering a new year. Safe travels and enjoy Nicaragua.

  10. Pingback: The Abyss and a New Year Renaissance – Engineer Marine Skipper

  11. Ahhhh– I see you’ve been making magic again … colors that sparkle, words that captivate and a lens that captures whispering mysteries and soulful expressions that I like to imagine mimic your own. Beautiful.

    • Your comment makes my weekend (yet again!)… I think you describe how it felt to be at the summit of Mt. Kyaiktiyo better than I ever could “a lens that captures whispering mysteries and soulful expressions that…mimic your own” It was a magical feeling being up there and seeing such great people in high spirits simply loving life. Thank you W., here’s to a great year ahead 🙂

      • So happy to have given you a smile!! “…I think you describe how it felt to be at the summit of Mt. Kyaiktiyo better than I ever could…”
        I dont think so ~ I’d take your expressions (words and images) over mine anyday …and just be satisfied to ride along in your backpack or look through your lens every once in a while. 🙂 Wishing you a joyous New Year!!

      • Yes, a big smile and it’d be great one day to catch up on a mountain somewhere ~ seeing the world through a lens and enjoying the sunrise. Cheers to a great year.

      • Sounds fantstic ~ you bring out the sun and I’ll handle the coffee. 🙂

  12. You see so much grace around you wherever you go, and photograph it so well. Love the liveliness in these photos, the colors are incredible! So many wonderful thoughts for the year of the Monkey, thank you Randall! Wishing you strength for your new adventures!

    • I like how you put this Elina ~ seeing grace around wherever I go. I think this can be the magic of engaging in a culture when traveling to a new place, new ideas and thoughts which then make it possible to see the grace of the people and life they live. Well said ~ and wishing you a great year ahead.

  13. Although the Year of the Monkey started with a great adventure, it already threw a challenge on my path too. The sage advice of Ms. Kyai “Smile, adapt and move forward with courage” rings in my ears as I finish this wonderful post, Randall. Enjoyable and comforting, with masterful captures of life.

    • Thank you, Tiny, and I hope you are doing better and holding onto the great memories of Bumble. There is nothing more admirable than moving forward with courage to expand on the life and memories you’ve made. Wish you a great weekend.

  14. A very beautiful post – pictures and words. Really liked how you start as a kid, then old goat and transition into the monkey. The photographs are just as poetic as your words.

    • Thank you very much. The transformation from kid, to old-goat and into my current iteration of a young monkey was a fun one to write about ~ wishing you a great spring ahead and to more adventures and learning.

  15. Wonderful colors and well captured emotions! The thoughts are deep and Wish you a very Happy New year too 🙂

  16. This piece is more than sensational – it creates a mix feelings of life with good and bad experiences we have. Life can be filled with tears, pain and sweat but it is what makes life unique and leads us to appreciate life even more. 😉 The wrinkles we have is what reminds us to appreciate each precious memory that we have and strive for we wanted in life. I honestly got so much attached to this brilliant piece of writing along with all your stunning photos. Your words are filled with emotions that trigger people with deep thoughts. Also, your photos are more than just colorful. There are so many different layers to it which makes it very different from what I usually see. The smiles, the youth, the emotions are very well captured by you – it fits perfectly with your contents. Well done Randall! 🙂

    • What a wonderful compliment Khloe ~ and you’ve got some great insight into the story and what lies behind the photos; life can beat you up pretty bad at times, but it is this very experience that allows us evolve and experience a greater level of happiness. There is nothing quite like an experience to give us the feeling of a rebirth ~ to connect more with life and allows for us to develop greater dreams ~ wrinkles and all 🙂 Wishing you a great start to the spring and an exciting year ahead.

      • You deserved my compliment as always. 😉 Seriously, I just can’t get enough of this. Everything in the post is just perfection. Well, I guess I’m able to get some great insight into the story simply because I experienced it and I have so much to relate to. 😛 Yes, I couldn’t agree more with you. It is something that “allows us evolve and experience a greater level of happiness. 🙂 Very true – rebirth is exactly the word to describe such a feeling! hahahaha I love when you said “wrinkles and all” 😀 – it’s part of the process really 😛 Thank you very much and wish the same to you!!! 😉 Cheers!

  17. Hey! Such a beautiful journey you’ve had! And amazing photos to tell the story. I’m really eager to go and explore China now 😀

    • It was one of those treks that will stay in my mind & heart forever…always great to get out into the world. Thank you ~ enjoy the day.

    • This is a perfect way to see the world ~ it is all right outside our door. Cheers Charlie, and hope the Seattle spring is a great one for you.

  18. The old man at the top of the page with his leathered skin, detailing his life in every crease, is contrasted by the toddler in the last photo, whose face is so smooth, a clean slate, yet to be engraved. Your colors are so vivid.

    • It is great for you to see this ~ I originally wanted to have the old man lead the post and the child with the candle end the post for the very reason you mention 🙂 Thank you and cheers to a great week ahead.

  19. A beautiful post Randall, the colour in these photos is amazing. Wishing you a happy and peaceful Year of the Monkey.

  20. Fantastic post, Randall. Hoping this new Year of the Monkey is a peaceful, fulfilling, and joyous one for you.

    • The year is off to a good start so far, K’Lee, thank you and wish you a great one as well.

  21. Great, great, great !!!!!!!!! Your pics and reports are fantastic. What a blaze of color and beautiful faces ………

  22. “A faint trail of words brush over my neck singing, “Smile, adapt and move forward with courage… three simple thoughts and the Year of the Monkey is yours.” Kyai coos, sending a ripple of new blood flowing throughout my body.”…..

    Sweet Photographer Philosopher Extraordinaire. ..You’ve left me wishing for this moment of yours. Perfect, as if feeling the breath of these words could put me right where I belong. I’ve found my courage, Dear Dalo. Thank you for the Dr. Seuss reference. Just one more thing to adore about you. Best wishes for one hell of a Monkey year. Lovely to see you, my friend. I’ve missed you.

    P.S. Your photos: my favorite is the first one. Race you to the top! I may never come down.

    I find so much inspiration from the photo of the “spirited young”…I want their smiles on my face. Would suit me.

    • Thank you very much, Aud, so great to see you understanding this feeling too. It is always nice when sitting back somewhere and taking in what is out there that things seem pretty straightforward, and moving forward with courage is a great option. Wishing you a great weekend ahead.

  23. The prayer of so many at a place like this can give an impulse for a refreshment of one’s own spirituality. An enduring spiritual development, however, lies always in solitude and in one’s own heart.

    • A wonderful comment and I think it speaks to everyone there who gave off such a peaceful feeling originating in the depths of their own heart. Such peace and an appreciation for life. Thank you.

  24. I was interested to read in your post about Mt. Kyaiktiyo and the atmosphere there. I took a look on the Lonely Planet site to find out a little bit more about it. The Golden Rock looks amazing and a fascinating place to visit. It also looked a little precariously balanced, so I think I might be careful not to stand directly underneath it. 🙂

    • The atmosphere up there was something to see and experience. Golden Rock is fascinating, supposedly perched precariously on the cliff by a strand of the Buddha’s hair – so I believe all is safe…but still, I agree. Enjoy the week ahead.

      • It looks like a wonderful place to visit. I’m glad you had the chance to experience it. Perhaps one day I will too. 🙂

  25. I was reading up on the Chinese Zodiac the other day. I never even knew the Zodiac mean a circle of animals?! I was apparently born in the Year of the Rabbit.

    As always, I love your graceful and thoughtful writing and the colorful portraiture and evocative scenes. Really makes me want to either travel and see other things or expand my own local view photographically. There is so much all around us of color and light and life.

    • Thank you, Judy ~ the Chinese zodiac is a pretty cool thing, the Year of the Monkey has treated me well in the past and so far it been great this year too. Isn’t it amazing how photography makes us see opportunities of beauty everywhere…especially right outside our door. Wish you a great weekend and great shooting ahead.

  26. Simply – perfect! I have to say Dalo, you are really talented and your blog is between my favorite! Bye. Kamila

    • It is such a pleasure to trade stories, photos and thoughts with you via our blogs ~ to see and experience the places you’ve traveled as well. Thank you Kamila, wish you a nice spring.

  27. wandering for a bit this morning and thought I would drop in to say Hello …
    Hope you are doing okay in your neck of the woods….
    Take Care…Be Safe…You Matter

    • Thank you, Maryrose. Traveling in non-WordPress accessible areas, but now a few days back in Hong Kong to refresh the batteries. Wishing you a great weekend.

  28. A beautiful article!! You surely have a knack for a narration with gorgeous photographs!! I completely agree with you when you say, you have to move beyond old broken thoughts and embrace new ones!!! Have an amazing year ahead!!

    Chaitanya Haram 🙂

    • Thank you, Chaitanya ~ it is sometimes quite difficult to move onto new thoughts and new ideas, but once done it can open a whole new spectrum of light and life. Wishing you a great spring ahead.

  29. Each nation, each people celebrates the new year in its own way, but you have truly captured the humanity and the essence of it in this post, and I want to thank you for sharing these beautiful photos of a region of the world that I haven’t seen in so many years.

  30. I love your blog, and the story-telling that accompanies the photographs.

  31. The depth of beauty within those faces is remarkable. 🙂

  32. Your ability to turn each photo into a toucing tale never ceases to amaze me, nor your ability to capture the essence of expression in your photography, Randall.

    • I’ve been surprised almost everywhere I go at the beauty and excitement each place holds and the people as well. Makes the photography so much easier 🙂

  33. Randall, as always, your photos, your prose rattle our souls. You give us reminders that time is passing, that our lives our passing. Get out of our mundane existence and see, touch, reach out and embrace the beauty in all the world. I stand humble and believe that from time to time humbleness is a tonic that can open our eyes and our hearts. Thank you my friend. Léa

    • I like the way you view the life and the world around us. There is a new world that opens up when one is humble ~ with so much to see, learn and experience in life. Things simply not possible without humility… Cheers.

      • Thank you for your kindness Randall. I take no credit but I do believe it was part of the basic equipment package I was born with? After many years of being repeatedly asked to write it, I am working on my story for other survivors and those who care for and support them. Perhaps someone would find it worthy of publishing? Alas, I am not one to ‘market myself’ and from what I read, that makes it unlikely. C’est la vie.
        I believe that we are in agreement that life, our mere existence on this beautiful planet, the smiles of those who appear to have so little but are still warm and loving but most of all accepting of others. We can also see those among us with so much who value little if anything. I still prefer to surround myself with the former and leave the later to… Peace my friend.

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