In the meantime, I am trying to process the events of the past month, with little photographic evidence, but some journal notes. I really didn't go anywhere I'd never been before, but even so, revisiting revealed new lessons and new teachers, the kind who present themselves when you are ready, doors that were always there mysteriously opened. And just like when you leave a job you didn't really much like, saying, "But I'll miss the people," so too, part of the pleasure of a pilgrimage is the fellow pilgrims and priests.
One morning in the mountains, where I usually awoke at dawn with birds who may also have been restless during the full moon period, I took my tea and journal to the rooftop of the hotel to watch the sun rise over the very landscape which is the banner of this blog. After some stretching and breathing in first light and fresh air, I seated myself along the railing to make some notes about the previous evening when the group had been entertained by a charming literati type who sang some Chinese opera and folk songs, spontaneously, when we were enjoying the full moon.
In the dawn, the same young master emerged on the roof from his own little apartment with his tea and began a morning qigong routine. His back was to me, so I watched for a few moments and then realized he was doing movements I was familiar with, so I quietly began to follow him. At some point, he turned to acknowledge me. "I know some of this, it's eight brocades," I said, hoping he did not object to my energy, and he told me, yes, but what he was doing was a mixture. And then proceeded to demonstrate. Then he offered to teach me the Five Animals exercise.
Before I left home, I had been enjoying a 2009 Chinese TV series, The Shadow of Empress Wu, in which the five animals is a plot point -- a clever and manipulative Taoist applies the ancient routine to cure the sickly young prince (though the Taoist's elixirs were not for the good of the dynasty). I had been interested in the exercises, and it seemed uncanny that the master brought them up. (And I just discovered there is an earlier series about the Empress which also features my muse Vincent Zhao as Tang general Li Zunxian in a fictional romantic role...well, why not?)
But back to the exercises. After tiger (no tiger mom) comes bear, oh my...when we did that one, young master said to me, "Now you are a happy bear," not knowing then that my Chinese name is Xiong Shan Di (which a Chinese friend at home says may be interpreted as Empress of Bear Mountain, something like a Baroness). Later he began to call me Madame Xiong. A happy Madame Xiong. (Xiong=bear, which is in fact, my family name.)
We continued over the next few days, early morning before breakfast, on the roof, to complete instruction in the five movements. It was an unplanned program, one of many spontaneous happenings off the itinerary and schedule, but linked to full moon and sunrise. To be practicing while the sun and moon were both in the sky, together hovering over the mountains, was magical.
And now after a week, I am 95 percent well, 5 percent weak ---the phlegm is almost gone. I hope my memories linger longer.