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. 






Subsisted 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 poetries.  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.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Life After Peace Corps - Kite



Kite
The day I left Hong Kong, my father came to the airport to see me off.   By the gate, he urged me to come home more often for he is an old man, he may only have a few years to live.  I ignored his comments, quickly turned to the departure gate and left him there watching me disappearing in the crowd.     
     
Memories of my childhood, I often considered my father as a tyrant, an abusive husband and parent, a man with violent temper, harsh words and unhappy soul.  I was always afraid of him.  When he was in rage, I suffered psychologically.  For many years, I resented my father.  My brothers and sisters hated him as well.  When I was old enough to leave home, I was elated that I did not have to face him again.  For more than nine years, I was like a kite, flew as high and as far away from home as possible.  The only string that still tied me back to the family was my elder sister.  She finally pulled the cord and guided this lost “kite” to return home.   When I saw my father again, he was already an old man with completely gray hair.  He had lost many of his vitality.  His aging appearance brought me tremendous guilt and shame.  After all, he is my father.     
   
It is this undeniable fact that makes me forgive my father. Yet, I cannot love him, still find it hard to look him in the eyes and carry a decent conversation.  We remain cordial as strangers.  Only during these past few years watching him aging more, I begin to pity him.  I sense his loneliness, his sorrow and remorse.  He never said he was sorry, but I know he wants to reconnect with us, spend as much time as possible with his children and grandchildren.

Inside the aircraft, I am alone again. My father’s words resonate.  I am a kite, forever a kite which loves to fly freely in the open air.  That is the life I choose.  But this kite still has a string attached to where it originally took off; it will return to its roots when the time is right.   

I hope my father will live to a 100 year or more, so we have time to catch up.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Life After Peace Corps - Early Rise



Early Rise

I do not remember since when I started on rising very early in the morning, sometimes, I am up by 4am, and find myself hard to go back to sleep.  My body reacts to the natural light ever more.  Before the sun appears to the horizon, I am fully awake, anxious to get up to start the day.   Like those boisterous little creatures outside my balcony, I begin to move around restlessly, have my tea or coffee, practice yoga, take a shower, cook a nutritious breakfast, pack my lunch, dress for work, and by 7:30am, I am ready to leave for the office.  I perform each task with ease, no need to rush given that I have ample time to carry out each individual chore.  

Even in the weekend, I do not skip those routines; instead I deliberately take my time to do each task with precision.  I scrupulously make my hardboiled egg just the right texture, with a runny yolk and perfectly cooked egg white.  I exercise yoga more laboriously, enjoy the relaxation from an empty, aimless floating mind, as a result, a weeklong pressure from work slips away.  After a deliciously bath, look at the mirror and happy to see what the exercise has done to my body.  After that, I have a whole day to walk around my neighborhood, visit a friend, follow the four mile run river to its source, pick some wild flowers home, shop at the market for some fresh fruits and vegetables, return home and prepare a hearty meal.  Soon, the sun sets, and the day is over.  

The only drawback of this early rise is, when the moon emerges from the East, my body reacts to it as well.  By 10:00pm, my eyelids turn so heavy that I have to lie down.  Before long, the screen of my TV becomes a blur; I no longer can concentrate on the program.  Crawling to my bed, within a minute, I fall into a dream of happiness.  If someone has a camera, it will definitely capture the contentment of my face.  

Perhaps I have becoming a cave man, or a cave woman, rise when there is light, find a shelter to hide when darkness is upon me.  After all, what is the point of creating an artificial light, exert myself in an unnatural environment and perform tasks that are totally unnecessary.