And on the other hand...

Click here for The Yin Side where the other half of me holds forth!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

LIFE PIVOTS

Two-and-a-half years ago I thought I had written my last post here (a little uneasy because I just stopped--would my readers think I just vanished or perished?)  and yet such changes have occurred, oddly undocumented (except obliquely on Facebook), they are beginning to demand description.

Life was chugging along through middle age, my career in its mature years, moving toward eventual retirement, having navigated menopause and survived the Bush administration, a Hawaii condo mortgage paid off, vague plans to remodel the unit for sale and move back to the Mainland near our son in the Northwest US, weird Portland, to be precise.  I occupied myself in the empty nest years with work, play, taking courses and occasional overseas retreats in China.

One ordinary Hawaii winter night, just on the eve of Year of Horse 2014,  I came home from a Chinese painting class to hear news that my son, on the eve of his 40th birthday, had been hospitalized an ocean away, as a result of a stroke.  Ironically, in my class,  I had been painting horses, learning calligraphy for ma nian (horse year), but never expected such a kick in the head.

Next day, I tearfully, apprehensively, cleared up some details at work and booked a flight to Portland that evening.  The next two years -- Horse and Goat-- challenged me in ways no other life milestone (deaths of parents, marriage, career building, raising that child) ever did. It has been the worst--and best--two years of my life, now completely different, in activity, residence, relationships.
This seemed so wrong--shouldn't it have been the other way 'round?  The next day, in a state of shock, I put things in order in my office and flew to Portland reading the kindle version of Jill Bolton's book, "My Stroke of Insight", recommended by a biology professor and friend. I had heard of her, scoffed a bit at her YouTube video, which made the effects of a devastating cerebral event like an embolism or hemorrhage sound a little like a desirable kind of sudden enlightenment.

In some ways that has proven true, but only after we began learning new vocabulary: hemiparesis, aphasia, neuroplasticity (my new favorite word).  To say nothing of participating in tough activities like rehabilitation, support groups, physical, occupational and speech therapy, home care, and a kind of discipline I hadn't enforced since my son was three years old, all the while needing to remind myself that I was not the victim here. He was the one who, in hospital, appeared to be speaking Hindi, had to be moved from his bed in a sling, and whose right arm was like dead meat hanging from his shoulder.

After a three-week hospital stay and a similar period in a fine rehab center, he came home to a new apartment without stairs (and clutter).  I returned to Hawaii, his Dad took over intensive language drilling and PT for four months until I joined him in retirement (almost as good as joining him in matrimony).  The very day after my last day on the job, July 1, 2014, I left Hawaii, more or less for good, swapped places and roles with my husband and began a new chapter of six months of recovery--not just for my son, but for me in a way.

In December 2014, we concluded a deal on a house in Oregon, I returned to Hawaii for six weeks to oversee the move and to ready the condo for sale.  After a full year of chaos, I came back to Oregon with our two cats and a container of 31 years' worth of accumulated "stuff"--a somewhat embarrassing load--I had had only three days to prepare for the movers, who took another three to load a container for overseas shipping.  I regret leaving some things behind; I am puzzled by some of what I retained.  At the last moment, I realized there was room for TAO 61, my precious vintage Miata, in the shipping container, but her clutch had failed just days before the shipping date. I donated her along with the cat car, my husband's 20-year-old XJ-6 that was in a constant pricey state of restoration. They have been replaced by a rough and ready old Mazda 626, a ubiquitous car with longevity rivaling TAO 61's, purchased for $1,500 as a temporary vehicle in lieu of a rental, and a sturdy red Ford Ranger, almost a necessity for home-owning--and image--in the Northwest. All of the cars, the donated, and the new, each have clocked more than 250,000 miles on their respective odometers!

Today my son is well into a good recovery: his wit has returned with a surprising Zen master attitude (the bit about enlightenment may be true), though he still is a little wobbly and is working on his right arm with a therapist for whom he would do anything. We are well settled into a home that has easily absorbed our "stuff"--moving from a 1,200 SF high rise apartment in the woods, into a three-story, 3,000  SF house with yards and forest, a deck and a hot tub--for $10,000 more than what we got for the condo--has been like living in a mansion.  Space to move about! Storage! A studio for me! An office for him! A fireplace! A kitchen we both can cook in at the same time!  And yet, by mainland standards, this is still a small house.

So here we are.  Each sentence in the preceding narrative could be expanded with detail to several blog entires, with photos.  I may actually do that.  It would be called a book.  I think this is the beginning.  I might call it "The Long Slow Pivot."   All is changed, but the human factors, the spiritual factors, have not. The brain can break, but the spirit need not follow. Who we really are persists despite what happens to us, despite what things are acquired and discarded.  It is to honor my son's perseverance, my husband and his father's strength and wisdom, and my many friends' support,  that I even share these thoughts.

LIFE PIVOTS

Two-and-a-half years ago I thought I had written my last post here (a little uneasy because I just stopped--would my readers think I just vanished or perished?)  and yet such changes have occurred, oddly undocumented (except obliquely on Facebook), they are beginning to demand description.

Life was chugging along through middle age, my career in its mature years, moving toward eventual retirement, having navigated menopause and survived the Bush administration, a Hawaii condo mortgage paid off, vague plans to remodel the unit for sale and move back to the Mainland near our son in the Northwest US, weird Portland, to be precise.  I occupied myself in the empty nest years with work, play, taking courses and occasional overseas retreats in China.

One ordinary Hawaii winter night, just on the eve of Year of Horse 2014,  I came home from a Chinese painting class to hear news that my son, on the eve of his 40th birthday, had suffered a stroke, hospitalized an ocean away, as a result of a stroke.  Ironically, in my class,  I had been painting horses, learning calligraphy for ma nian (horse year), but never expected such a kick in the head.

Next day, I tearfully, apprehensively cleared up some details at work and was on a plane to Portland that night.  The next two years -- Horse and Goat-- challenged me in ways no other life milestone (deaths of parents, marriage, career building, raising that child) ever did. It has been the worst--and best--two years of my life, now completely different, in activity, residence, relationships.
 This seemed so wrong--shouldn't it have been the other way 'round?  The next day, in a state of shock, I put things in order in my office and flew to Portland reading the kindle version of Jill Bolton's book, "My Stroke of Insight", recommended by a biology professor and friend. I had heard of her, scoffed a bit at her YouTube video, which made the effects of a devastating cerebral event like an embolism or hemorrhage sound a little like a desirable kind of sudden enlightenment.

In some ways that has proven true, but only after we began learning new vocabulary: hemiparesis, aphasia, neuroplasticity (my new favorite word).  To say nothing of participating in tough activities like rehabilitation, support groups, physical, occupational and speech therapy, home care, and a kind of discipline I hadn't enforced since my son was three years old, all the while needing to remind myself that I was not the victim here. He was the one who, in hospital, appeared to be speaking Hindi, had to be moved from his bed in a sling, and whose right arm was like dead meat hanging from his shoulder.

After a three-week hospital stay and a similar period in a fine rehab center, he came home to a new apartment without stairs (and clutter).  I returned to Hawaii, his Dad took over intensive language drilling and PT for four months until I joined him in retirement (almost as good as joining him in matrimony).  The very day after my last day on the job, July 1, 2014, I left Hawaii, more or less for good, swapped places and roles with my husband and began a new chapter of six months of recovery--not just for my son, but for me in a way.

In December 2014, we concluded a deal on a house in Oregon, I returned to Hawaii for six weeks to oversee the move and to ready the condo for sale.  After a full year of chaos, I came back to Oregon with our two cats and a container of 31 years' worth of accumulated "stuff"--a somewhat embarrassing load--I had had only three days to prepare for the movers, who took another three to load a container for overseas shipping.  I regret leaving some things behind; I am puzzled by some of what I retained.  At the last moment, I realized there was room for TAO 61, my precious vintage Miata, in the shipping container, but her clutch had failed just days before the shipping date. I donated her along with the cat car, my husband's 20-year-old XJ-6 that was in a constant pricey state of restoration. They have been replaced by a rough and ready old Mazda 626, a ubiquitous car with longevity rivaling TAO 61's, purchased for $1,500 as a temporary vehicle in lieu of a rental, and a sturdy red Ford Ranger, almost a necessity for home-owning--and image--in the Northwest. All of the cars, the donated, and the new, each have clocked more than 250,000 miles on their respective odometers!

Today my son is well into a good recovery: his wit has returned with a surprising Zen master attitude (the bit about enlightenment may be true), though he still is a little wobbly and is working on his right arm with a therapist for whom he would do anything. We are well settled into a home that has easily absorbed our "stuff"--moving from a 1,200 SF high rise apartment in the woods, into a three-story, 3,000  SF house with yards and forest, a deck and a hot tub--for $10,000 more than what we got for the condo--has been like living in a mansion.  Space to move about! Storage! A studio for me! An office for him! A fireplace! A kitchen we both can cook in at the same time!  And yet, by mainland standards, this is still a small house.

So here we are.  Each sentence in the preceding narrative could be expanded with detail to several blog entires, with photos.  I may actually do that.  It would be called a book.  I think this is the beginning.  I might call it "The Long Slow Pivot."   All is changed, but the human factors, the spiritual factors, have not. The brain can break, but the spirit need not follow. Who we really are persists despite what happens to us, despite what things are acquired and discarded.  It is to honor my son's perseverance, my husband and his father's strength and wisdom, and my many friends' support,  that I even share these thoughts.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Excess yin, fresh new yang.

The Winter Solstice...today or yesterday, whenever, is a moment of pause and transition, central to Taoism and other spiritual traditions.  We marked it, as usual with a wedding anniversary dinner at a favorite restaurant, our table.  Perhaps because it was Saturday, the weekend, the place was more crowded than usual. A loud holiday party next to us was a bit of a spoiler.  But it seems like anywhere I go these days there is a loud crowd in the way.  On the highway, in shops, on-line, too many people with too much to say and do.

Does no one appreciate quiet any more?

I've been thinking about snowmen lately. (Not something we really get to make in Hawaii.)  Quiet, ephemeral creatures, somewhat Taoist..."like ice about to melt" and with stable bottoms. With three dantians, they resemble the neijing tu.  I put this little guy on the Christmas tree yesterday, not a moment too soon or too late, along with all the other traditional symbols, whimsical memories, and glittery light-reflecting things, collected over 45 years.

"And I will call him San Dantian."
In a Korean drama I am enjoying right now, the beleaguered young king, when he wants to discreetly leave the palace and travel incognito among his people, often summons his ever-present loyal eunuch to make him a snowman by gathering fresh, untouched new fallen snow. He usually has to climb up on the roof to gather it, giving the king time to escape with his ultra-attractive swordsman/bodyguard (with whom the ministers think he may be having an affair because the king won't sleep with the court-selected queen).

Bodyguard played by Song Jae Rim;
a swordsman who likes cats.
The king is changed into street clothes and out the gate before the eunuch returns with a little snowman on a lacquered tray.  There may be symbolism here that I'm missing in the Korean, or it just may be a whimsical plot device, but it seems like a metaphor to me. (The name of the drama, Moon Embracing the Sun,  seems just right for the solstice.)  The drama actually has a plot about black and white magic performed by shamans and Taoists.  The court wants to abolish the shamans and Taoist office of rites!  Well, wouldn't they, now.  The ministers are manipulating the Confucian scholars to help their own interests along, which are, of course, not the interests of the savvy and benevolent king.

How like the little snowman we are.  Created by unknowable forces for unknowable purposes for a brief moment in time.  The worldly intrigues and disasters occur around us.  Are we made to melt, to only hope to revert to fresh-fallen pure snow, are we countless unique snowflakes coalescing once again into a pattern, the same always, but never to be repeated precisely?

Those in the past who were good at practicing Tao,
Were subtle, mysterious, dark, penetrating (wei miao yüan t'ung),
Deep and unrecognizable.
Because they were unrecognizable,
I am forced to describe their appearance (yung).
Careful, like crossing a river in winter,
Hesitating, like fearing neighbors on four sides,
Reverent, like being guests,
Dissolving, like ice beginning to melt,
Thick, like uncarved wood,
Open, like a valley,
Chaotic (hun), like murky (cho) water.
What can stop the murkiness?
Quieting (ching) down, gradually it clarifies (ch'ing).
What can keep still for long?
Moving, gradually it stirs into life.
Those who keep this Tao,
Do not want to be filled to the full (ying).
Because they are not full,
They can renew (hsin) themselves before being worn out (pi).


(TTC 15, tr: Ellen Chen)

Monday, October 7, 2013

Sit-down Comedy: A Running Gag (Part 2)

Traveling back to someplace always makes you reference previous visits, and this latest to Wudang is no exception. Novelty is replaced by routine and ordinary, but no less wonderful.   I'm sure my companions got tired of my constant comments,  "When I was in Beijing in 1988..." and "This hotel used to be moldy..." and "When I broke the hermit's stool...".  That last reference has to do with my big western butt overwhelming a delicate wooden stool provided to me by the famous Bee Taoist. In the middle of a solemn little talk about Tao, my stool suddenly collapsed, put me on the ground in a big sudden shift in yin/yang, and provided the hermit with some new bits of firewood.

When one of our companions this trip was having some trouble getting a proper ticket from Beijing to Wudang with the rest of us in hard sleeper, he was encouraged to do what countless desperate Chinese must do: buy a little portable stool to sit on during the nearly 24-hour overnight journey in a crowded cattle car. (There are hawkers roaming the station selling stools for just this purpose.)  I joked about my stool adventure, and we decided that we would make a trek to present his little stool to the hermit as a kind of offering...assuming he would remember.
 
The stool became something of a sitting joke (as opposed to a running gag) for much of the journey. We never did deliver it to the Bee Taoist, who did remember me, but probably not because of the stool episode.   I gave him a copy of my Chinese-style ink portrait of him and a photo from our previous visit, and inadvertently left my Camelbak bottle on his little terrace, guaranteeing that I had to visit him one more time to retrieve it. (I was dropping and forgetting things all over the place on this trip; some practical lessons in attachment, or just paying attention.)
Bee Taoist Jia Ye (and a tiny Sufi), September 2013. 

I would like to know the story of this. This is like finding a statue of Lao Tzu in a mosque.
Later in Beijing, when I was alone after the last of the group had scattered, I spent an afternoon in the National Art Museum.  I never did find the shui-mo shan-shui scrolls I was looking for, but did stumble into some unusual modern installations, in particular, one involving...stools.  I guess I could call it an instoolation.




So the stool metaphor continued through the end of our trip and then some. If I can consider it a metaphor. (There were not a few stool jokes made related to the previous blog post. You can get very preoccupied with stool in China.)  The train stool purchaser and veritable art critic commented that the installation "represents the non-linearity of the journey of learning that we undertook interspersed by reminders of our humanity within the unfolding humanity of China.  I am glad I was sitting down on my stool at the time I opened these [photos] as I couldn't believe that someone could actually mutilate such objects of beauty..."  I couldn't have put it better.

Sit-Down Comedy: A Running Gag (Part One)

A couple of Wudang Tao study trips ago, in one of our little class sessions, our teacher made reference to the necessity of having "good intentions" in practice. (We've all heard this, especially among those pesky Buddhists.)  One of our group misheard this as "you must have good intestines."  No surprise, since most of us were having serious gastro-intestinal issues, blockages, and guts "being like water," all sorts of internal chaos.

Once again, this year in Wudang, I was initially suffering from blockages. Two years of office work, hours and hours cramped in planes and trains, and changed diet, left me quite constipated.  It's very hard to sit and meditate well with that kind of blockage.

I finally succumbed to a little artificial help to create genuine movement and suddenly felt the overwhelming urge to relieve myself when we were all gathered at a temple to do tai chi practice.
Wudang Tai Chi class in Nanyan Temple courtyard.
I wasn't really participating in that anyway, a little plantar's fasciitis and a gimpy hip from all that previous office and plane sitting,  rendering me the spitting image of Tie Guai Li, (Iron Crutch Li).  I would go nowhere without my trusty green Coleman walking stick and red Camelbak water bottle.  Still, I wanted to watch the tai chi practice, which was interrupted by a Hong Kong film crew who wanted to memorialize the foreigners paying respects in the temple and to film the master and his regular (in so many ways, I'm sure) students.

Good time to escape to a toilet. Cesuo zai nar?  I was directed back to the entrance to the temple, with fears of Yuan Dynasty squatters, but was pleasantly surprised to find renovation of the Temple facilities had resulted in perhaps the finest public restroom in China.  A huge flat screen television! A baby changing room! Sofas. And two rooms of toilets, one stall in which was clearly designated for me:
Disabled people, Tie Guai Li impersonators, and Westerners toilet.

Clean, comfortable, and only lacking toilet tissue.

I spent considerable time enjoying this facility, assuming that in Chinese, "disabled people" means "Westerners unable to squat."  I saw no one in wheelchairs at the temple, which otherwise was in no way handicapped accessible.  (Unless you hired porters with their bamboo sedan chairs.) The only thing missing in the stall was toilet tissue, an apparently precious commodity in China, so I completely used up one of my own precious portable packs of Wet Ones.

I felt bad throwing them into the wastebasket, which was decorated with a Wal-Mart happy face.  I had been advised back at our hotel to avoid putting toilet paper down the crapper, with vague reference to the use of night soil by the peasant farmers.  This was a very hard habit to break.  A few times, in a fit of ecological cooperation,  I actually retrieved my tissue from the toilet which barely filled with water, but my overall contribution to the fertilizer was probably not welcome. 

My hotel bathroom. I used that same towel for 18 days. Hotel policy.

This is not the first time I have been preoccupied with Chinese toilets, having had all sorts of primitive experiences over the past decades, in country latrines, restaurant stalls, and train potties. In cities, you develop a mental map of where the good toilets are.  You can google images of "Chinese toilets" for a hint of what I am not posting here: some things I don't photograph.  I did observe though, on our train journeys, the toilets, even in hard sleeper, were slightly improved.  You no longer could actually see the tracks rushing by below as you squatted over the hole. (You're not supposed to go when stopped in a station.)  This time however, on our return to Beijing, after having reluctantly visited the toilet in the middle of the night, I discovered in the morning that the sole of one of my shoes had peeled off.  I suspect the urine pool in the toilet dissolved the glue.  Ordinarily I would have taken them to my shoemaker, but couldn't bring myself to do that this time. 

But back to good intentions...I still laugh about the "good intestines."  But on reading a little booklet edited by one of the Tao teachers I have met on the mountain, I discovered the following tale about Zhang Sanfeng, legendary cultivator and alleged creator of Wudang Tai Chi Chuan, who behaved like an immortal.

"After hearing of his reputation, Emperor Chengzhu of the Ming Dynasty had a meeting with him. The emperor said, 'I would like to learn about Tao. What is the most enjoyable way?'  Zhang replied, 'Having a good appetite and smooth bowel movements is the most enjoyable way.'   The emperor regarded this reply as disrespectful and wanted to kill Zhang.  But at that point, the man disappeared all of a sudden.

"A few days later, Emperor Chengzu felt uncomfortable.  He was unable to eat and suffered from constipation.  Then he realized that what Zhang Sanfeng had said was correct.  Before long, Zhang met an envoy of the emperor on the road and asked the envoy to take a few Chinese alpine rushes to the emperor.  The emperor had them boiled down into a broth which he gulped down as Zhang suggested. All his troubles disappeared instantly.

"As Zhang had once lived on Mt. Wudang as a hermit, the imperial court began to build monasteries on this mountain.  Taoism on Mt. Wudang then began to flourish."

Which makes me begin to believe that what our teacher said was indeed, "You must have good intestines."  Tao cultivation is actually all about "gut feelings."


Lao Tzu recommends, "Take a load off."

So many meanings of "to sit."



Monday, September 30, 2013

Full Circle

What goes around, comes around, they say.  I don't generally like those kind of pop Taoish karmic statements, like "It is what it is" and "Go with the flow" and "Be like water."  But there is some truth in them.

Just a little over a month ago, many months, years even, of planning culminated and I boarded my usual Korean Air flight to Seoul, to connect on to Beijing, and then to wherever.  I got to Honolulu International a little early, out of eagerness, thinking I would just relax in the lounge before embarking.  Who knew that hordes of Korean tourists would be returning home on an ordinary Thursday morning.  The lines were long, ticketing and security was slow, and only because someone in the line translated a Korean announcement for me, was I able to jump the queue because my plane was just about ready to go. Made the gate in decent time though, had a moment to send an email on my iPad before flying, settling into a very cramped window seat in a bank of three.  Nine hours in the air was made bearable by individual movie selections: I watched four Chinese films to get ready for my Wudang adventure.

Usually I'm one of those that waits until everyone else is off the plane before I exit, but by the time we landed in Seoul I was in Beijing-subway-mood: push, shove, there's a line, there's order?  Transited through another security and passport check at Incheon to make another tight connection to Beijing.  Maybe time for another airport-wifi-supported email on the iPad.

I reached in my bag and discovered...it wasn't there!  In my haste to get off the first plane, I completely forgot that I had even gotten it out of my bag.  I told the ticket clerk what happened.  She would try to connect with the plane, on the other side of the terminal. But come boarding time, no luck.  My iPad, loaded with Tao e-books, Chinese dictionaries, photos to share, music, and at least one Korean Drama (the first 18 episodes of Jumong) was not to be found.

For several days my carelessness nagged me, but soon became a lesson in attachment, and finally I stopped lamenting, and even considered buying a new one in Beijing. 
Forbidden Fruit store near the Forbidden City
There is a huge Apple store in Wangfujing, the big shopping area next to the Forbidden City. It's a popular brand in China, as evidenced by this child's haircut, seen on the train, where practically everyone under 60 had an iPhone, or something even better.
The Apple of his mother's eye.
But getting a new iPad felt like buying a new puppy right after the old dog dies. I still had my iPhone, and updated the service so I could make calls and check email on it.  I was even able to post to Facebook from China, altogether a costly proposition, but still, it worked.  I consoled myself by recalling my last trip to China which was a delight, despite (or because of) breaking my camera on the third day of the trip.  It had been liberating, like losing my car radio.  Lessons in silence and the direct pleasures of the moment.

Still, once I returned home, I thought I would check Korean's Lost and Found website one more time.  They have a photo database of all items found on planes: an unbelievable number of cell phones, earphones, children's toys, pillows, books and other weird forgotten stuff.  They maintain the items for 90 days. Still a little attached to my electronic pet, I was pleasantly surprised: lo and behold, there it was.  After a few emails and a phone call to Korean, I got it back in Honolulu, all nicely bubble wrapped and packaged in a Korean Duty Free bag.

It was like a Korean Drama, really, with a happy ending. I had suggested that the iPad could be identified as mine (as if any other had been left on the same flight) by a red sticker on the case, a cat named Chairman Meow, representing a website, http://www.obeythekitty.com/

What the South Koreans thought of a parody Mao cat is beyond imagining, but I did get the following emails:

**"REF.NO 9459 iPad KE072/30AUG goods are goods that are learned from. It also reaffirmed record and offered hope with photo please check the board."
**"I’m writing this e-mail to you on behalf of Korean Air Lost & Found Center at Incheon Airport. We see that there is a sticker of red cat "Obey the Kitty". 
**"We will send the item(ICN9459) to the Korean Air office in HNL airport through KE051/28SEP flight."

I was thoroughly impressed with the honesty and service of Korean Air, which I have been flying for years into Asia, watching as this once lowly carrier has become one of the best in the skies.

And now, iPad back in hand, I have a different feeling about my trip, which had been a little tainted by my careless stupidity.  Even now, the scams, cheats and pickpocketing I endured in Beijing seem trivial.  All is well. Everything is back where it started, and now I can review my trip.

And as Korean says: goods are goods that are learned from.  And I might add, "Obey the Kitty!"

Korean jet getting ready to leave Beijing for Seoul.

Day 1 in Beijing: it was remarkably clear, you could see the Western Hills all the way from Beijing West Rail Station.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Another Cycle, Endings and Beginnings

A busy intense hot summer with some travel, work, painting, too much Facebooking, neglecting the TAO 61s.  Over two months just flew by.  Then the  kolea returned and I booked my flight. I am about to leave, in two hours, returning once again to Wudang for three weeks.  

It feels familiar, this pilgrimage, but I know it will bring new insights and new people into my life, if only for a few days. (I will also be visiting some lao pengyou, old friends.  At last night's painting class, someone brought dim sum, so it felt like the kickoff for my journey.  I was attempting images of the Eight Immortals, especially fond of Tie Guai Li, with his iron crutch and gourd.
A little distorted, but he WAS crippled; teacher says, "You paint in the style of Li Keran."
So I am off, with my own gourd and walking stick.  Although over the summer I was troubled by a gimpy hip, like Tie Guai Li (in my case from too much seated desk work), I put myself to the test a couple weeks ago while visiting Mount St. Helens on the way back from a Washington, D.C. conference.  All these mountains --the Cascades, Wudangshan -- seem to have lots of stairs leading to forever views.
Stairway to heaven.
The Cascading Shan.
I passed the test and it even seems to have corrected my hip problem. Athough now I'm tending a little chronic plantar's fasciitis (one damned thing after another, cycles of pain and cycles of painlessness)...it will work out, but not sure if a coveted Chinese foot massage will be too brutal for my inflamed heel or will actually help.  Whatever, in just a few hours, my next adventure begins.
A message left in a scenic spot in the Mount St. Helens  area.
I ripped out the relevant dated pages from my ancient falling-apart copy of Deng Ming Dao's 365 Tao and packed them, in the equivalent gesture of trekkers who might cut the handles off their toothbrushes. Now that I think of it, I may not have actually packed toothpaste.  Something to do at the airport while I wait.

In any case, the message from Mt. St. Helens is pretty much the same as the one I get in Wudang.  Things are destroyed, but return.  To witness and accept these changes is magical.  Where there is life there comes death; where there is death there comes life.

Felled trees from the kinetic energy of the blast 33 years ago; new trees taking their places.
Trees not felled, but stripped by the energy of the blast.
The magnitude of resurrection.