Written, styled and photographed by CC TRUBiAK
Once upon a time,there lived a tribe of nomads who called the treacherous WHiTE MOUNTAiNS home. They were few in population, but what they lacked in numbers, they made up for in sheer determination. They braved the dangerous terrain, the frigid temperatures and the blinding blizzards for one reason alone: they were on a quest. Not a quest for gold, or land, or power. This was a great spiritual quest to find a mythical creature, a beautiful being known as the SNOW PANTHER.
The story of the GREAT QUEST begins many hundred years ago, when a young nomad left his sedentary tribe on a search for better hunting and farming grounds. For many months, he searched valleys, forests and wetlands, most of which offering locations that would have been suitable. But his adventurous spirit wouldn’t allow him to return just yet with the good news. During his journey, he had ventured north and had reached the foothills of the massive White Mountains. He had never seen them before, and their enormity was beautiful and awe-inspiring. The elders in his tribe had always warned against trying to travel these snow-covered slopes, for they presented many obstacles and dangers even to the bravest and experienced WARRiORS. None who had ventured in the mountains had ever returned. This, however, did not stop him. Something deep inside urged him to go on, to brave the mountains and discover its secrets. And so he did.
For a month he traveled the rough territory in search of something. He did not know what he was searching for, but his instincts had told him there was something to be found, thus compelling him to continue. However, in the harsh conditions, he had grown cold, hungry and disoriented. Blizzards had left his senses stunned, and he could not find his way back to the foothills. He had practically given up on his search. He was too cold and desperate to pay heed to his instincts. He wanted to leave the White Mountains and never return. But all of that was about to change.
As the cold was worsening and the feelings of hopelessness were settling, he whispered a prayer to the spirit of his ancestors to show him the way out. With the little strength he had left, he once again began walking, his feet sinking in cold snow with each step. Through the blizzard storm he could barely make out a figure in the distance. He could see something, or someone huddled in a snow cave, and at first he thought it was one of his own lost people. However, upon closer inspection through the storm he could see it was anything but one of his own. It was then, when the nomad’s eyes glimpsed the beautiful pale creature for the first time, that he would come to see the SNOW PANTHER. The being had all the characteristics of a human: eyes, ears, nose, mouth, hands, feet, fingers, and toes. And it had the silkiest white skin the nomad had ever seen, despite his disorientation. Yet there was something different.
Once his initial shock subsided, and he knew this was no mirage – the nomad cautiously approached the beautiful being. Nearing it, the nomad could see that whatever this creature was, and however unfamiliar and awe-inspiring, it was of no great threat to him. Not alone. Not in its weakened state. The creature appeared to be weaker and more frightened than the nomad, as it cowered deep down in the snow. Blizzard winds whirled about the SNOW PANTHER as it shivered like the most fragile of nature’s animals. Yet something beckoned the nomad to approach. Normally the nomad would never rush to the aid of any wild animal, and certainly not on the deceitful White Mountains. But this was no normal circumstance, and he knew.
At the SNOW PANTHER’s side the nomad looked down at it quivering on the cold ground. He was in sheer wonder and overwhelmed with a great sense of bewilderment and tenderness. For looking back up at him, was as close to any reflection of HiMSELF as he had ever seen in his own short life. Their eyes fixed on each others, silently taking the other in. Although no words could be spoken, SNOW PANTHER’s eyes beckoned the nomad to have mercy.
Reaching into his satchel the nomad handed the SNOW PANTHER what little bit of food he had left. First looking at the nomads offering, and then back to the nomad’s eyes, the SNOW PANTHER accepted the gift, plucking it quickly from the nomads hand before putting it in his mouth. The wild winds blew all around the nomad and SNOW PANTHER. It was in this instant something purely mystical happened. The moment itself had an indescribable tenderness among the snowy chaos.
SNOW PANTHER looked deep into the nomads eyes, and as he did, tears of great joy and pain welled. The nomad did not know what to make of it, only that the feeling being exchanged in that moment was unlike any moment before. Despite himself he was frozen in awe. The SNOW PANTHER slowly rose on its hind legs, reaching out to the nomad for balance. The tiny scrap of food was enough to give the SNOW PANTHER strength to rise. And he seemed to want to communicate something to the nomad.
Never again would the nomad be able to describe to another human being exactly what was about to happen next. He would go on to wonder if what he saw was actually real and not illusion. For all at once this weak and frightened SNOW PANTHER lifted its hand up to the face of the nomad. Peering into the nomad’s eyes it was almost as if he were trying to ensure the nomad would hear his message. Although the snow was blowing all about them, the world seemed to stop. The SNOW PANTHER touched the nomad’s cheek and embraced his reflection in the nomad. In this exchange the nomad had never felt closer to a HiGHER BEiNG.
Gently letting go of the nomad, SNOW PANTHER began to move around on its hind legs in the most graceful manner. It appeared he was dancing, for his arms were rising and falling. In a way it seemed he was performing for the nomad, and in doing so he was telling his story. His physical beauty kept the nomads eyes locked. Rising up, then down, extending his long arms, and arching his back – the SNOW PANTHER was all at once full of elation and gratitude. The nomad could feel great loneliness coming from him, almost like a child who found his long lost friend. His dance was exquisite, and the more he moved the stronger the blizzard winds blew.
The SNOW PANTHERS tears began to fall from his eyes again, only this time as they fell they would turn into SNOWFLAKES. One by one the snowflakes fell and the storm grew stronger all around them. Unafraid, the nomad knew all at once that the SNOW PANTHER was the reason he was drawn to those White Mountains. He knew that SNOW PANTHER had an important message for him and his people. And as SNOW PANTHER danced delicately in the blizzard winds, he gave the nomad this gift. He continued to shed tears that became intricate snowflakes as they rolled off his cheeks. Tear by tear, snowflake by snowflake, the SNOW PANTHER began to fade away into a swirl of white until all at once, he was gone. Without a trace. The nomad stood there very still for quite some time before starting his journey back home. This time he was homeward bound, with a rejuvenation and energy that would alone, feed him for days.
Upon that nomads return home, and after that fateful experience of tenderness with the SNOW PANTHER, he shared with his tribe the sense of higher connection. Along with him they believed, with such a sense of conviction, that if they could return to the White Mountains they may be able to uncover more to this mystery. They even believed they could help the SNOW PANTHER and his kind, by teaching them the secrets they need to know to survive love and life. For hundreds of years this nomad’s tribe searched the snowy mountains for the SNOW PANTHER. But never again this they ever come to find one.