No wonder classic torture involves drilling of teeth sans anesthetic and ripping out of nails. I was seriously considering the idea of declawing myself, (something I would never do to the bloodthirsty Yellow Emperor who sometimes attacks me in tooth-and-nail kitty kung fu sparring). And by far the most harrowing scene in Tom Hanks's Castaway is not the plane crash, but knocking out his own tooth with the help of an ice skate blade. I wonder if he used it to trim his nails. Eric Weiner says, in Man Seeks God, that he had trouble meditating in Kathmandu because he kept thinking of nail clippers and his possible lack of them. I can relate.
But all that is behind me now, the angry nail is filed, the disturbed tooth is settling,alleviating two of the most annoying and relentless kinds of pain. So I can now better concentrate on my latest Chinese painting class assignments. It is a blessing that my teacher returned for a session (even though she is going away again, but leaving us in the talented hands of a Chinese man who does landscape and portraits).
I was pleased to have produced for her a flower or two. A couple of years ago she (the bird and flower painter teaching me the techniques of landscape painting) said, "Maybe in two years you paint a flower." And over the past few months, I have been doing that. My peonies, partly inspired by peonies I photographed a year ago in Beijing, passed muster, although I think the leaves leave something to be desired.
|My Pretty Little Peony|
The note on the reproduction was "Ceiba pentandra" but no one knew what that was. As I consulted my handy iPad, Laoshi started spontaneously painting a small group of the individual flowers for a sample for the student.
"It's kapok," I announced to the class. A tropical tree, which I always have pronounced, I think correctly, 'kay-pock', it is also known as silk cotton, with which I was familiar from life vests and flotation cushions in my boating childhood. The fluffy stuff from the kapok's seed pods is water resistant and buoyant and used to be the standard filling for such things. (Now a synthetic material is used.)
|Like cotton from a tree|
|Laoshi's Kapok Flower|
|Kapok, the eponymous city flower of Panzhihua, Sichuan Province, China|
Reference to verse 1 of the Dao De Jing is probably appropriate on this first day after the summer solstice, a moment that calls attention to the drama of the cycle of yang and yin, flowering and going to seed.