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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Moon and Thunder

Funny few days, a lot of Tao discussions on several forums sparkling my brain, then Ash Wednesday, a Catholic holy day, but with, for me, oddly Taoist overtones.  All that ashes to dust stuff and beginning of a set period of self-examination, above and beyond the self-exams I do pretty much constantly.  (I could accomplish something serious if I meditate regularly over the next 40 days.)

I failed to notice that today was in fact not only the day after the ash day, but also the birthday of Tu Di Gong, the Taoist Earth God. "Why today?" I asked a forum participant. "Is it lunar?"  And indeed it is. Everything is connected, in synchrony with sun and moon, yang and yin, breathing in and out, send and receive.
"Shengri kuaile, Tu Di Gong!"
Much earlier today I had been reading from Thomas Cleary's translation of Understanding Reality (Wu Zhen Pian), a verse called "On the Crescent Moon Furnace. " (What do you read in the passenger seat on your commute?)  This is a treatise on Quanzhen Internal Alchemy, neidan, by  Zhang Bo Duan,  dating from the Song Dynasty.

"Stop wasting effort at an alchemical oven;  to refine the elixir you must seek the crescent moon furnace. It has of itself the natural true firing--you do not need purple coal or bellows."  There are a lot of obscure metaphors here.

In the accompanying commentary by Liu I-Ming, I read:

"The crescent moon refers to the moon of the third day of the lunar month, appearing as a hook of light in the direction of earth (southwest). That light curves upward, that is why it is called the crescent moon  What this crescent moon symbolizes in humans is a point of yang light shining through in the middle of extreme quiet.  Among the trigrams, it is thunder (two yin lines over one yang)."

So it was like a little burst of thunder when, driving home, the Wizard pointed his finger to the west where the crescent moon was setting. (I pulled out my iPad to confirm the status of the moon, waxing gibbous, one day after the dark moon, with a nifty little app called Luan.)  Not only a nice upturned bowl (impossible to photograph) settling over the mountain, but a remarkable vertical alignment with Venus and Jupiter (confirmed with another nifty iPad app called Starwalk). Looks like Uranus is in the line too, but not visible from where I am.  Suddenly the alchemy text, the Earth God birthday, and my own odd energy all combined, mixed up in that crescent bowl.  Duh.

Energy shifts.  The calendar moves on, filling up and emptying. I was thinking life would be boring in the near term, but not only did I enjoy my regular weekly lunch with a friend today, but tomorrow the third and final opera of the season (Bizet's Pearl Fishers) gets underway, and I have tickets to see the Dalai Lama in Honolulu April 15, and I think I have a business meeting in Kona later that week.  Something's going on in March too, but I'll have to check my calendar to remember what it is.

Actually, I come to discover, that the 22nd was Tu Di Gong's birthday, and the 23rd is the birthday of the God of Literature, which seems appropriate.  And in March, I have a dim sum date with a friend! Perhaps that will be a food god date?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Orb in the Morning

Since Tuesday's full moon, I've been watching it closely, feeling a definite shift in my personal idea why. Yesterday morning, after the big rain, it was clear enough to still be in the sky in the morning.
Wednesday Morning
Last night I dragged the Wizard out to see the moonrise, one of those huge bright kind, but no picture taking; my nighttime photos of the moon mostly look what a deer sees when she is suddenly stopped in the road by an oncoming car at night. But the morning...
Waning Gibbous in the Morning
Can you see the big orb, not a quasi-spiritual digital aberration of my camera, but the real moon setting over the mountains?  I noticed it when I got up in the morning chill --it was, gasp, 60 degrees in my bedroom this morning.  It's all relative anyway.  My coffee chilled while I ran up to the 12th floor elevator area to take this photo; the trees were obscuring the view from my own lanai.
Getting close and lucky.
I wonder how many moons will pass before TAO 61 achieves twoness.  The odometer looks like a lucky omen, anyway.  Lucky I drive Hawaii.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Moon Madness

I awake at 6:30 before it is light, darker even than it was when I awoke earlier at 3 a.m. to the moonbeams shining through my window.  I wasn't aware it was the full moon (full dragon) as I went to the lanai to drink a bit of water.  It was raining, but the moon was shining bright through clouds; I could discern a misty clot of vapor in the the stream valley below.  Not up for moon cream meditation, I lingered a bit before returning to my warm bed with its fresh soft sheets and a cat who rearranged himself between my legs, purring.  We don't know what purring really it happiness or submission?  I have come to see it as a sort of qigong device, like the kneading routine they go through before settling down.  The faint vibrations from his body to the back of my knee helped me drift off again.

I was feeling a little more relaxed anyway, having relieved myself of a burden...I have been blocked (probably stagnant liver qi) for the past few weeks, unable to complete a painting project to which I had committed myself.  I owed one more image to my friend to illustrate --as if it's necessary-- her collection of haiku.  But the dragon I envisioned just wouldn't come. I did a little Chinese New Year's sketch that had been taunting me on my table as I passed everyday, but I just couldn't finish it.  I confessed my blockage, but not to worry, she is not waiting on me, so some relief.  Perhaps now the dragon will come easily; it is hard to get the image out of my head and on to paper when there is an obligation involved.  It interferes with the spontaneity.  I am not professional or commercial enough (which simply means I'm not getting paid for it) to produce on demand.

On awakening in the dark --the moon has long set--I made a conscious effort to remember the dream I was having.  I was at an academic conference of some sort. I  went back to the dining hall to retrieve a missing shoe, a red stiletto. It was still under the table.  Attached to it was something like a bicycle chain, which on closer inspection turned out to be something like a tapeworm.  (In dreams things are always "something like.")  To the tapeworm was attached a card with instructions on how to ingest it, with special notes on how to take it camping.  I know there are people who use tapeworms as weight loss devices.  My reader who recently did a piece on her own dreams might explain what all this means.  Unblocking the liver qi?

Liu Ye
No, I suspect the dream is related to the surreal and shocking media I have been indulging in the past few days. Last week I watched a little film called Dark Matter, with Meryl Streep, Aidan Quinn and the extremely versatile Liu Ye.  I've enjoyed his eager, brooding style before in several films--Postmen in the Mountains, Purple Butterfly, Curse of the Golden Flower, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, and a couple of historical Chinese political propaganda epics. I've not been able to get this story out of my mind. Loosely based on an actual event, the plot concerns the trajectory of a brilliant young Chinese doctoral student in a western university--literally in the Rocky Mountains. Reviews suggest this was unappreciated by mainstream audiences, but I was blown away. Under the ineffective protection of Meryl Streep, who studies tai chi, mandarin and tea making, as part of her support of young Chinese students at the university, Liu Ye's character (Liu Xing) tries to adapt, but in an inappropriate way.  Liu Xing gets mixed messages all along the way.  He is encouraged to challenge his professor (Aidan Quinn) who advises him that his dissertation thesis is way over his head, (meaning way over his advisor's head and challenging his mentor's theory).  A staged western shootout in a tourist pioneer village is contrasted with his watching a wuxia film on pirated TV and foreshadows the disastrous end.  The film is accented by chapter divisions that follow the wu xing, a Chinese cosmological symbol which probably was not understood by most people who watched this film.  A patronizing cultural clash leads to a shocking conclusion.  Why I am discussing movies lately here on my yang side may indicate some integration of yin and yang.  (I wouldn't mind integrating a bit with Liu Ye, which Meryl Steep failed to do do in one sexually tense scene when the failed cosmology student, reduced to selling cosmetics, applies cream to her hands and face.)

At the same time, I am nearly at midpoint in 1Q84, Haruki Murakami's new big novel (925 pages).  I'm not sure why, but I need to finish it, hopefully without injury.  The last time I read a big book like this, that big Ken Follett book about gothic cathedral building, I did actual diagnosed arthritic damage to my wrist (which I have since overcome through qigong). 1Q84 has the pace of a long Korean drama with cliff-hanging chapters, with intense and possibly unnecessary physical descriptions of characters, especially the shapes of people's heads.  With even more bizarre sex scenes than Ken Follett's, set in contemporary Japan, it has a manga, Studio Ghibli feel, as if interpreted by John Irving. It's oddly compelling, but I'm not ready to say yet that it's really very good.  A few good lines to 925 pages one would hope.  Easy to read, but one wonders what might be lost in translation.  I have read some Murakami before, none of his novels, just short stories in the New Yorker.  Over the past several years I have ceased reading New Yorker fiction, and now I think I know why.

The sky is lightening, but not like it was at 3 a.m.  The world seems a little different today, though not as different as 1Q84's with TWO moons in the sky.  I must get ready for my day in my academic office.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Although the only thing that made me have this particular numerological observation (only slightly less interesting to me than the not too far off odometer rollover to 222,222 by TAO 61) was that it is Groundhog Day, which figures much in my personal gestalt. I've not only been to Punxsutawney, but I can spell (actually, I had to double-check) and pronounce it. But Feb. 2 is also Imbolc, Candlemas,  and when you think about it, the second day of the second month of the second year of the second decade of the, well, third, millennium. Hence, 0202020203, dd/mm/yy/DD/MM. (To make it work perfectly, I guess we'd have to step back a thousand years.) Which seems kind of special. It is a cross-quarter day, a particular moment in the celestial movement of the earth and sun.  So while the news is all about Punxsutawney Phil and his bizarre predictions, the day actually has a lot of ancient cultural significance. Sometimes it takes a groundhog!  I have posted about groundhogs before, on my Yin side, and much longer ago than I remembered.  Seems like yesterday. I had to think about it, but the days do repeat themselves...
When was that Groundhog Day?
In the meantime, it's back to my burrow.