Even though time ticks away in a constant tempo, sometimes it seems to accelerate. One moment I was teaching a willful teenager who was angry at everything, the next moment she is a young lady, sweet, graceful, graduating from high school.
We have certificates to show that she has indeed learned something from me, that I have taught her more than just counting one-and-two-and. In our last lesson she told me she has started a new piece, J.S. Bach’s Cappriccio in C minor. All through the years she has hated playing Bach, to the point that she managed to lose the book of Two-Part Inventions. I don’t know what happened, but I know it is not a change but an opening of the mind. It’s what gives me the greatest pleasure as a teacher.
A young saint sits beneath a ceremonial umbrella
I met a saint. She wore white for purity. She hugged me and whispered in my ear. She was large and soft. A multi-tasker, she conducted her business with several assistants while blessing the mortals. She was in fact CEO in action. One person nursed her with a bottle of water. Another fanning behind her.
Many were blessed that day. Some cried. Some swooned. Some whirled about in the airy room, exotic in their layers of translucent white, lost in ecstasy.
The property was given to the saint by her devotee. It was a ranch with animals and a lotus pond. It had a cafeteria to accommodate hundreds.
Moral: It is better to love a living saint than to love a dead one.
Image from himalayanacademy.com.
Here is Klimey who belongs to the proletariat, who has earned her way into the hearts of her parents by climbing the fence in the animal shelter where they met her, who nearly got kicked out of the house because she preferred to pee on their wood floor, who regained favor and respect when she scaled the shower door and defied reeducation.
She grows into a solid mass, lacks elegance and grace; but her eyes are bright and her tail is bushy. Her good nature earns her points over and over, even though she still occasionally finds places to leak: into a beautiful Moroccan bowl and on the stove. Since her companion Petey died, Klimey has been a bit out of sort.
On Memorial Day she brought home a mouse—something that Petey was an expert on. But instead of severing the body she batted it back and forth with her paws, until the poor mouse was rescued and taken back into the garden.
She finished her dried food and scratched the carpet on the stairs. She seems content now, maybe, just for now.
A cup of English tea. Two cubes of sugar and a bit of cream. Never pour more than two-third full in a cup. Take the spoon out. DO NOT hold the cup handle with pinkie sticking out, but it must tilt slightly upward for balance. Sip, sip with elegance.
A cup of Oolong or pu-erh tea. Pour. Drink. Pour. Drink. The idea is to wash down the greasy food. Or a small cup of Chaozhou Cha (Chinese espresso), thick, dark, bitter liquid that is Brillo for the guts. Slurp and savor the sweet aftertaste.
Then come the bastards: Hong Kong milk tea thickened with condensed milk; and bubble tea that comes in all colors—drink with a straw, include chewing.
My sister said it’s uncivilized to drink tea in a “to go” cup. She lives in Australia. Things are a little different there. But I’m sure the bastards have made their way down under much faster than the Styrofoam cups.
“A word that exists joyfully through creation, that alleviates every pain and sorrow, that absolves all guilt and humanity…”
“What word is that?” asked the Devil.
The angel pointed his sword toward the Devil. His radiance slowly consumed the Devil and the screen.
Faust, the 1926 movie directed by F.W. Murnau granted salvation to Faust and his beloved Gretchen. They were burned at the stake, but their souls rose to heaven. Love transcended morality and age. When Gretchen gazed at Faust, who had caused the death of her brother and mother, and appeared as an old man, she saw only her young lover.
Is morality the devil then? There is no judgment in love.
“Each stretch of the body leads into a movement. Each movement leads into another. The arms, the torso, the feet, the head are in constant conversation. There is not one motion that is isolated.
A tai chi master once said our bodies are little universes within the big universe. Imagine you are the sun, Saturn, Jupiter, air, cloud, dust; rotating, circulating, fluttering in relation to the big universe. Push is pull as the chi moves. Your maneuver from one position to another is a dialogue in space. Some people think exercises are mechanical and we do them because we have to strengthen our body. They don’t know exercises slowly stretch into dance.”
Kaiwen You, China Dance School.
What am I gonna wear? Would I recognize him? Would he recognize me?? What do we say to each other? Do we hug? Do we kiss? Do we shake hands?
Francis and I have not seen each other for thirty-eight years. We were church and school friends in Hong Kong. Then I came to the United States and Francis immigrated to Canada. We lost touch until tonight, when he flew in from Toronto.
I recognized Francis instantly (we hugged). Life has been treating us well. We have aged, but not terribly. It was lovely to drive to a restaurant, talk about our past, look at our children’s photos, etc.
Only when he mentioned church did the conversation became uneasy. I stopped going many years ago. He wanted to lead the black sheep back. I said Baaaa.
And realized that we were no longer playing in the same box, that time has taken me to a different place, and what we have of each other are only memories.
Graphic by Rockwell Kent.
Going into a bookstore to hear a famous poet, coming out depressed. Was this all that I got from the reading? The words came and went but sadness stayed, like a fully soaked sponge.
Was it the skill of the poet that put me into such a depressed state, or was it something else? Most poetry readings are like social gatherings. There are the good, the bad, and the ugly. The variety brings highs and lows into the realm as the audience tune in and out; and by the end of the evening, after everyone has his/her share of fame, we go home semi-drunk.
The person sitting next to me was fully engaged with the poet’s delivery. nodding, making agreeable utterances now and then. I carried something else. Maybe the poet’s burden.
Photo by Sharat Ganapati.
“Talking about the way” is the Chinese equivalent to the word “sermon”. Two uncles on my father’s side were church ministers. They talked about the way every Sunday until the day they retired, and I always wondered how come they had so much to talk about. Were they really experts on “the way”?
My sister wished she had listened to their sermons more attentively when she was young, instead of dozing in the choir loft or thinking about boys. Our uncles had both passed away. Their “talks” went with them.
With or without wisdom, we have walked more than half way through life already. Maybe it is our turn to pick up the staff and talk about the way, to whoever wants to listen.
image taken from divinecrash.com
When I was a child I learned to color within the line. The line is the boundary that must be observed. It is true in life too. When I step out of line I invariably violate someone, some things, some laws. The funny thing is that it is also most exhilarating to go beyond what is comfortable, expected, and even respected.
In the creative process there is no line and the canvas has no edge. There is no comfort zone but a determination to move forward. Among all the yes, I’ve done it’s there has to be many more, no, but there’s more.
The challenge is finding ways to break the line and keep breaking it.
“Can you go past your dreams to the pure light of dreaming?” James Broughton.