Monday, November 24, 2014

A walk in the Wood

A walk in the Wood
November 16, 2014  

Early this morning, when I leave my apartment and enter into the wood, the sun is half hidden behind clouds.  The unseasonal cold temperature keeps most people indoor, so I have this “wilderness” all by myself.   It is pleasant sitting by the creek watching the leaves – now rusting into brown – go drifting by. After rain in the night, the path is covered with soggy leaves.  The moist air is laden with the scent of gentle decay.  In the still woods of November, I saunter aimlessly and recognize plants that I stopped besides when they were green, and when they were in bloom.  The plants of summer, now dead and dry, mingle in their varied shades of yellow and brown.  In walking among them, I sometimes envy the simplicity of their lives.  Without straining, without aspiring to more than they can achieve, they grow and bloom and form their seeds.  They seem to be contented with their life cycle completed.  I hope when my time to retire, I can feel the same way, nothing to regret, nothing to desire.

The wood is splendid with fall colors.   I do not need to travel far to witness the New England autumn foliage.  Surrounded by the golden forest and scarlet bushes, I follow the trail and reach my favorite spot; the Carlin spring.    The mirror of the spring water reflects, amid floating fallen leaves, the image of trees growing bare as autumn advances.    It is peaceful here.  Nathaniel Hawthorne once said, “I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house”.  I understand exactly what he mean.

Three hours later when I emerge from the wood, the sky opens up.  The sun peeks through clouds.  As usual, every walk in the wood, I rejuvenate; gain back the energy that I need to face more challenges from the office.    

A walk in the wood, it is a good thing!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I am Free

I am free    

Since I moved to Virginia and took the less stress Smithsonian job, I see my life is changing.   Every Saturday when I am not out hiking, I would devote the whole day housing cleaning, gardening and cooking.  These tasks some time ago sounded dreary to me, but now I find them enjoyable.  When the house is clean, it feels cozy, when the garden is tidy, my plants are happy, and the honey bees and butterflies will come and as I start cooking, my apartment smells like what a home should smell.  Finally when I hang my laundries out in the sun, I find myself singing.  I really love doing these simple things!

Nowadays, I have foods to eat, cloths to keep warm, nature (my garden) to relax, occasionally friends to visit, life is satisfying. I no longer want to climb the "Corporate Ladder", just be a humble government employee, work 9-5, and have time to do things I truly enjoy. I am ten times lighter in spirit than when I was working in Wall Street. I don't envy Marissa Mayer (Yahoo CEO) or Sheryl Sandburg (Face Book COO), they are the phantoms and illusions that I, once upon a time believed were real.  At least, Indra Nooyi, the CEO of Pepsi Cola is honest, she admits: ‘I don’t think women can have it all, I just don’t think so. We pretend we have it all. We pretend we can have it all.”

Occasionally, I ask myself if I miss shopping on the Fifth Avenue in New York, do I regret giving up the high-paying job, or feel unfulfilled for quitting the annual CMCNY 26-mile hike.  Well, I know the answers when I see myself in the mirror looking thinner, browner and healthier than the model I see on the magazine, or when I sit quietly on the balcony in the evening with nothing to annoy me and nothing to exhilarate me, just watch the sun setting down to the horizon and the star coming out one by one.  I went to Peace Corps and found a simple, leisurely way of life very satisfying, and I came home and determined to do just that.  Looking back the last three years, I can see myself as I was and realize how living simple has changed me.  Certainly I am happier than I was then in New York. 

Here, away from all the Wall Street executives, “yuppie” professional colleagues and competitive hikers, I dare to be myself.  I don’t see why it should ever again be important to be accepted by them.  I don’t see why it should ever matter to me again who does or does not like me. I don’t see why I should ever care again what they think of me.  Those things used to matter, though, because I had no confidence in myself.  To be accepted and be included in their circle was important to me, but no more.  Today, I am free.


Monday, August 04, 2014

Life After Peace Corps - An Unfair Game

An Unfair Game

War is never a solution to a conflict; rather it further inflicts the problem.  When two countries are at war, it is their people suffer the most. 

From my reading of the “Arabian Sands”, I understand that in the old Muslim world, “an eye for an eye” is the traditional way to settle conflict between tribes.   A life is to be paid for the death of another life.  This enigmatic rule of killing, nevertheless, never involved with a woman or a child.    The law is primitive, yet makes sense. 

When an Israeli soldier was killed, more than 100 Palestrina women and children’s lives had to be scarified.  Life from one side is precious; life from the other side is not.  Israel is a civilized country, yet its rules are barbaric and

I never understood why the Nazi carried so much hate towards Jewish people.   Animosity is often a result of an emotion, sometime roots from love.  To hate someone so intensely, that person must once care deeply about that person.  I know I will never have a desire to hate a Jew.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Mystery Canyon and its Red Bud Tree

Mystery Canyon and the Red Bud Tree

While there are great sights to behold and interesting discoveries to make on the main canyons, the small side canyons always have the most powerful pull on me.  A few years ago on the Coyote Gulch hike, I accidentally walked into a side canyon and stumbled upon an idyllic lagoon filled with blue dragonflies.  It was a magical place.  

Many of the side canyons Richard takes us are beautiful as well.  One particular side canyon is no more than a mile in length, snakes back only two or three turns before ending abruptly in a rounded open hall.   Standing in the middle of the barren sand is this imposing, arrogant and noble red bud tree.  Her branches are ornamented by thousands of infinitesimal red buds.  Young green leaves begin to unfold and dot between flowers.  Scattered around her base are myriad petals forming chaotic yet interesting patterns.  There are no other trees or plants inside the canyon.  I am immensely enticed by her gracefulness and solitary beauty. 

Subsistng on a seasonal waterhole a few yards away from its stem, the red bud tree epitomizes the strength of desert plant.  In some years when rain fails to reach the canyon; this tree may not even have a chance to flower.  Fortunately, this year, rain arrives early and fills the pool to the rim. 

 As lonely and aloof as this tree may seem, she appears to be happy inside this desolate canyon. The gigantic sandstone walls act as a protector; shelter her from storms and gales.  I watch her branches dancing in the wind and can almost hear she sings.

Perhaps it is true that wind carries voices, trees speak a language, and canyon does have a heart.   



Friday, March 14, 2014

Life After Peace Corps - Find your Shangri La

March 17, 2014
Few weeks ago at work, a completely innocent event turned into a drama.  People were hurt, in tears.  Stressful work environment has made some people turned into evils, kindness was forgotten, and hatred prevailed.  I went home with sadness……Then I thought about my early retirement, how much I look forward to its arrival. 

Ancient times in China, there were hermits hided deep inside mountains for various reasons. Some tried to escape political prosecution, some avoided paying taxes, others simply chose to live a quiet surroundings, ran away from the hustle and bustle of city life. 

A famous Chinese poet whom I admire greatly did just that.  He resigned from his high paid government job and chose to live alone in the wilderness.  He left behind his luxurious home and settled in a small cottage deep in a mountain.  With no servant except a young helper attending his daily needs, he made no contact to the outside world.    He often took long walk in forests or on high mountains, rested along riverbank or traveled to remote canyons. 

Once he ventured to a deep valley and discovered an entrance to a small village.  Inside, light fragment of wild flowers permeated the entire area; creeks covered with sweet, cool, clear and unfailing spring water, small animals darted from bush to bush, song birds called out to their lovers with sweet melodies, butterflies, dragonflies, bees and tiny insects filled the air with buzzing sound.  Handsome strong young men worked in the fields, their attractive wives attended young children by the courtyards, and elders weaved bamboo baskets under the shade of willow trees.  The poet was completely hypnotized by the beauty, tranquility, and peacefulness of the picture before him. 

During his stay, he was treated with kindness, courtesy and respect by the chief and villagers.  Later he realized that the villagers had no knowledge of the world other than their own.  They lived in harmony with nature, had no desire for things other than foods on table, cloths to keep them warm, and family to foster love.  Everyone was happy, healthy and content.  The poet went home and few months later, returned to the valley.  No matter how hard he tried, he could not locate the entrance to the village again.  With much disappointment and sorrow, he quickly wrote down as much as he remembered about the place and he named the place as his Shangri La.

Inspired by his Shangri La, he continued to travel faraway places and created many more poems.  Many of them are still adored and treasured by many literature lovers and academic students today.  This is my favorite one:

Evening is approaching,
Love Birds are returning to their nest
The mountain is resting and the forest is darkening
There are profound meanings in all this,
But I cannot find an appropriate word to describe it

This poem stays with me throughout my life and each time when beautiful scenery appears before me, this verse resonates.   I, however come up with an appropriate word to describe what I saw, or I should say, how I felt.  It is “Simplicity”. 

I may not find a mountain, a canyon, a valley or a forest as remote and as beautiful as those described by the poet, but I will find a place for my retirement where I can find peacefulness and serenity, where I can meet people who are kind, gentle and down to earth, where money is not the most important word in a daily life, where air, sun, water and flowers are far more important than anything else, where people are content with foods on tables, cloths to keep them warm, and family to foster love, where nature provides all necessities, and ultimately, where happiness can be found.  That will be my Shangri La.