Cover Photo: Grandmother of White Mountain. All photos courtesy of author.
Grandmother of White Mountain. All photos courtesy of author.

The Woman Who Lives on a Disappearing Mountain

She told me that if I took her picture my camera would break, but I smiled and asked to try. Two weeks later my camera broke.

Although Phnom Sor is small, that doesn’t make it inconsequential. These limestone peaks dotting the region—called karsts—are unique ecosystems. Their isolation and geology provide a home for specialized flora and fauna. The porosity of the outcroppings protect and provide unique environments for a variety of plants. These karsts rarely get as much water as the land below, resulting in many species of cactus-like plants evolved from tropical flora. Andrew McDonald, a professor of botany at the University of Texas Rio Grande studies these karsts, and recently, in one short trip, identified several new species. McDonald believes there are many more waiting to be discovered.

Ben Valentine has been working as an independent writer for the last ten years and is currently based in Cambodia. Ben has published with Salon, Art Asia Pacific, The New Inquiry, and the Los Angeles Review of Books, to name a few. He also worked as a staff writer for Hyperallergic, and the San Francisco Arts Quarterly, and has presented visual culture around the world, including with the Museum of the Moving Image in NYC, the de Young Museum in San Francisco, SAIC, and YBCA. Follow Ben on twitter @bennnyv or