And on the other hand...

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

Sunday, March 28, 2010

In Tao There is No East or West

...there is no north or south.

Such is the lyric of an old turn-of-the-century (i.e., 19th to 20th)   hymn, in the Episcopal hymnal at least, but of course it was "In CHRIST there is...".  Whatever.  I always liked that old late Buddhist Episcopalian John Fahey's syncopated version.

I was painting today, and working from an early Ming image accompanying verse 57 in "The Illustrated Tao Te Ching," a pretty little thing which features James Legge's somewhat archaic god-infused translation.

My little ink homage (not quite finished) is hardly worthy, but it made me recall the classic American transcendentalist painting that illustrated something by Thoreau or Emerson or William Cullen Bryant in my middle school English reader (probably yours too). (In my painting, see the little guy under the tree?)  I found it in just minutes, tracking down the "Hudson River School", and was slightly startled to realize it is NOT in black and white (as rendered in that old textbook).

In Tao there is no black or white, either.  The title of the colorful painting is Kindred Spirits. It must have been speaking to me as I painted today.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Equinox Cactus

They bloomed exuberantly at the winter solstice (making them "Christmas" cactus) and they are blooming again at the spring equinox.  I've never seen them bloom for the summer solstice or the fall equinox; they lie low, dormant, at those points of the cycle. Apparently they are very yang plants, bursting forth when yang is rising.  Wikipedia says there are different seasonal versions of this plant, but mine observe two seasons.  Some say they are hard to grow, but I don't do much with mine.  They pretty much do it all by themselves. 
I just think of them as yin/yang plants.

The Oneness of Balance

I see today in my 365 Tao reading, and a Facebook post by a Tao friend, that today is the Spring Equinox, a moment of nearly perfect balance between the dark and light, night and day, for everyone, everywhere. I don't know if it's auspicious, but seems like a good day to get a haircut, and then, the photo I need for my China visa application.

On this day I had a curious sensation while cat-sitting for my young next-door neighbor, someone I didn't really know until she knocked on my door last week to ask if I could watch her cats for a few days.  "But of course, I love cats," I said, realizing that now I have another option available to me if I need to have MY cats tended. The folks on my floor aren't really social (maybe no one here is) but we do look out for one another. We are good neighbors, not community members. I keep an eye on the apartment on the other side when its older Japanese orchid-fancier makes his annual visit to Tokyo to see the orchid show.  ("If something seems wrong," he says, "just call the police, don't go in...those crack addicts are dangerous.")

So, I am visiting this handsome Siamese tom and a "foster" female that stays outside on the lanai, to feed, water and do litter box duty (which is forcing me to be a little more regular about my own).

So strange to be alone in a stranger's apartment that is the mirror image of your own's floorplan.  The personality of the owner is very evident, and you can't help noticing the books, the kitchen implements, the accoutrements of someone else's life.  I don't poke through cupboards or closets or anything like that, but one does feel another person's presence and personality, almost as if you could just move in and BE that person.  (I'd like to: she is much more tidy and clean than I am.)

So watering her herbs (as opposed to my ornamentals), feeding her noisy-but-friendly Siamese and the little stray Holstein heifer kitten (as opposed to my big yellow tabby and the plump French matron), cleaning her covered litterboxes (as opposed to my wide-open ones), contemplating her framed print of plum blossoms (as opposed to my landscape scroll), observing her large-flat screen TV in the living room (as opposed to my 19" box in the bedroom), I realize that really, in the final analysis, we are exactly the same. It is only "stuff" that makes us different. And not much of a difference at that.  So in caring for her cats, I am really looking after my own.  Everything balances, evens out.

Such is my observation on this Spring Equinox, 2010.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

They're Back...Again

I was thinking yesterday, it's been about two years ago since I started these blogs (the yin and the yang; if you're a yang reader, please also visit the yin one) --and lo and behold, I note the first post here was March 15, 2008.  I don't do this every day (I don't do much of anything every day except get up in the morning and go to bed at night), but I'm surprised that I have sustained this for nearly 100 posts on this side, complemented by another 83 yin rants.  I've learned some things about how my mind works, have exercised my writing a bit, and have made a few blog-o-pals in the process: thanks everyone for reading, and especially for leaving comments -- we thrive on that.

But what is more surprising to me is how the blogs have acquired personalities of their own.  My yin blog, where I rant about assualts on trees, seems to be turning into a site for reviewing Chinese kung fu film  and tracking my obsession with Vincent Zhao, which has occasionally spilled over on this side. (Ooops, there he is.) Here, the yang me has made soup, revisited China, and observed the cycles of the seasons for two years...and they are coming around again.  What new can I say? The kolea (about whom I am obsessed as much as Vincent) are beginning to plump up and become more vivid as they prepare for their Alaskan summer;  like me, thinking about packing for another visit to China in a few weeks.  (Did I just say I am becoming plump and vivid?)

And the Christmas cactus are blooming again.

Highlighting the observation that my own history repeats itself, was the appearance of a poem by the great W.S. Merwin, "A Message to Po Chu-i" (the Tang Dynasty poet Bo or Bai Juyi in Pinyin) in the New Yorker recently.  Merwin, another native East Coaster, lives in Hawaii, something I didn't know until just now. I had a previous poem of his, "A Letter to Su T'ung Po" (aka Su Dongpo or Su Shi --I'd use a different name too, he's not Japanese--of the so appropriately named Song Dynasty) tucked in my anthology of Chinese poetry at the page where his original reference appears. Merwin seems to find poetic continuity in the old sages.

So not strange that I find inspiration for my own brush painting attempts (legitimately and properly copied in the honorable Chinese fashion) from the Ming Dynasty.

My teacher liked this one, even better than the Ming original, which however features poetic calligraphy, something I am not, nor will ever be, ready to do.   Or she was just being polite, but she did say I should put my name on it, perhaps so as not to confuse it with the Shen Jhou original which hangs in the Palace Museum in Beijing.  Maybe in May, I will take it with me and show them how it ought to be done!  Since Chinese paintings and poems just go together, I could write "A Letter to Su T'ung Po" on it.

My Journey to the West
I suppose I was inspired to do this not only by my rapidly firming-up trip plans, but by views from my lanai, where I sometimes feel I am looking at a living brush painting. Click on this image and you'll see what I mean:
Almost like a King Hu Movie Set

But nothing stays the same...the sky clears, making way for some other kind of inspiration.  I'll find out what it is tomorrow.

In the meantime, if you didn't go read those poems linked above, do it now.  They're beautiful.

And despite the blog date of March 17, St. Patrick's Day, it is still March 16 by my clock.  I think a web-based Daylight Saving Time joke has been played on me.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Pussy Willows and Cat Tails

Someone recieved a beautiful birthday bouquet at the office today which included among the orchids and other ornamental blooms, a couple of lovely pussy willow branches.  Lots of ooohs and aahhs. "These are so expensive," someone said, petting one of the fuzzy catkins (oddly, the male part of the flower is known as pussy).

When I grew up on the East Coast they were basically wild, like weeds, a delightful sign of spring but not rare or costly. In my mind they are linked with the equally tactile but more phallic cat tails (right), like grown-up pussy willows, though they are not related.

Contemplating the pussy willows, I recalled a time in the eighth grade, when my English teacher had returned from a trip to Hawaii and had on her desk a vase of anthuriums, "little boy plants," (below right). I was completely awestruck and had to touch them. She came shrieking into the room. "Don't touch those!"

Now I can touch them any time I want; highly valued, but not rare, and not too expensive, at least when bought locally.

Nature doesn't care where it is; only we put an economic value on it, depending on time and place. Just like the "eat locally" movement, maybe when it comes to our flowers and trees, we should "appreciate locally."

Not sure how this post wound up being so very sexually YANG, since I think of flowers and buds as such feminine things.  But, there it is. Maybe a sort of backlash to yesterday's Girl's Day.

Ripe Cat Tails