《a poem inviting an old friend to come over for a drink, written while climbing the Orchid Mountain in autumn》
Amidst white clouds of the Northern Mountain, the hermit lauds “cheers” to himself,
Gazing afar, overtures a higher climb, his heart yearns with the parting geese.
Enfolding dusk arouses a faint sorrow, yet the crystal clear autumn mount stirs up high spirit.
Buoyed up by returning villagers in twos or three, strolling at the beach, some resting at the ferry,
Painted on a clear horizon backdrop of trees as intricate as shepherd’s purse, gleaming sandbar laced with celestial white moonlight,
(the hermit asks,)
When will you, (my friend), bring over your wine and get drunk together on this Double Ninth* festive mountain?
Poem by Tang Poet Meng Hao Ran 《a poem for ZhangWu, written while climbing the Orchid Mountain in autumn》
The above English version is my attempt to “translate” (not entirely) a Tang Dynasty poem from a poet to his old friend, inviting him to come over for a drink up the autumn mountain. I have tried to capture the spirit of what he had intended and it is not a literal translation.
I still recall the shock. Sunshine and clear blue sky in the morning when I went out. Snow and blurry car windows when I returned at noon. October. October snow. I noted in the weather forecast but I just did not believe it could happen. It had been decades since I went to live in a snowland. I was warned about the sudden changes in weather and I did prepare though feeling skeptical.
But the first snow came on that fine morning, saying hello, my acquaintances said, and that’s the way the weather up that 8000 feet altitude worked. To the locals, it was business as usual, nothing out of the blue.
After the initial shock I took some nice pictures. My first snow in October for decades. Lovely moment.
Today I visited this post originally written on June 30, 2021 because someone clicked the like icon and I received a notification. So I came over to read and find out why. What did I write? What was the purpose I meant for others reading it? For those who know me (not merely virtually), they have known me as a person who writes and likes writing but not exactly the writer in the writer sense.
It sounds complicated. I too, marvel at my writing and yet am not a writer.
What do I really write about and why? What is the point in my writing?
In many ways writing is living life. First you have to be living to be able to write. Living means having some hope and interest in life, and doing something to make it easier and more meaningful than the usual mundane way of being an existence.
Of course some may choose to be just being and not doing. That is their choice. As for me? I choose to be a doing being even when I hibernate.
The art of being and doing is simple. Daily I find something to do. That something has to have a meaning for me personally. It can be an act of kindness helping someone out. It can be a regular thing like doing a cover design for a friend to add some colors to her videos on YouTube. It can be reading or listening to teachings that help me to become a better/deeper person. It can be just cleaning up my abode, moving stuff around to let the sunshine come in and I can sit at the window to receive my daily supply of vitamin D. It can be receiving a lift to a health food grocer to get the stuff that consist of my main diet. It can be doing physical exercises like walking a mile indoor following the pace of a program onscreen. It can be a brisk walk under the sun to a fish monger and get some fresh supplies.
You would have observed that I have deliberately left out writing and chatting with social network. Why? first I have nothing worthwhile to mention here of both of these activities. Does this mean I don’t chat? No, I do with some usual few chatters, one on business, and others out of duties as family.
What about writing? You would have observed that I haven’t been writing anything of note lately. In a way, there is a shortage of materials to write about. It has been that short since the March 2020 locked down and shut down and sudden vanishing of the world we used to know. I can see how Paul, (the protagonist of a classic book) felt when he thought he lost every desire in his familiar world since birth. He was so accustomed to it that he just could not make himself break away from that past.
Freedom has been my utmost value for a long time since young. I like being free to find out new things, being mobile in spaces and entirely uncluttered. The invisible clutter had crept into many lives. I can see it in their eyes, which are windows to their souls. The worst thing is that many do not know it.
Without freedom there is no clarity anymore. And a person who writes seriously cannot write without clarity in view. We see veils and ambiguous layers upon layers of covers which have flooded the marketplace with beautifully packaged products that happen to be frauds/fakes/counterfeits. That is why I find nothing to write about, unlike before when the sky was clear and blue and both mental and physical visibilities were unclouded. A responsible writer looks at logic and whether the thing makes sense. It is insane to try dressing up something inherently ugly and incoherent, to pass as a dazzling and genuine awe inspiring beauty and imagine that we can fool all people all the time. No genuine and self-respecting writer will want to be a part of any hoax.
what is the point then of writing this post? I am glad you ask.
Well, I just happened to come out of a writing inertia, and saw the notification of a click on the like icon on this blog which led me to read the liked post written by me on June 30, 2021, with the same title as above. Is this a good enough reason for you my friends? No?
Well, I could have done better if motivated. Here is an example of the definition of the word inertia: the thermal inertia of the oceans will delay the full rise in temperature for a few decades. I wonder why this example was used in my laptop dictionary. Whoever who wrote the dictionary must have had some environmental issues on their mind. Someone may look up the term thermal inertia further. Someone may look up the phrase full rise in temperature. Me? I look at the term for a few decades. I am only interested in time.
A few decades. What does it mean when you have lived quite a number of decades. Do you ever wish to live those decades again in a new way?
I never knew then I would come to this page. No, I am not discontinuing what had started. Blogging is not like turning on a tap to wash your hand and then turn it off when finished. Is there a finishing line? Where or what the finishing line is? What is the goal? The terms “finishing line”, “goal”, or “goal-post” seem irrelevant for non-commercial blogging. It all depends on the blogger/producer for a blog to survive. In commerce it depends on the recipients/viewers of the blogs/products. In blogs like this the blogger merely does a creative thing and leave it on the shelf, not necessarily for any other purpose aside for the creation process.
Do bloggers ever visit their own site and view the things they have journaled in the dusty past?
Of course, some bloggers use the piece as an expression or a diversion. Perhaps there is something you want to tell a loved one or someone really important, but is unable to do so in person or in other forms of communication, like a digital text or audio/visual message, email, or even a longhand-written missive, well, the remaining option is to blog, hoping that the intended recipient will one day find this and read it (and perhaps respond somehow).
For me, I use this blog as a way to check on my writing. Am I still writing words and making sense? Is my mind still working and my use of language fluid? What are my trends of thoughts lately? Today I visited this blog and noted a post on August 15, 2016, titled “Leaving behind is like a taboo statement”, and the content stirred me to write this page. In it I quoted a passage about Paul, (the protagonist of a classic book) being left behind as a self-imposed derelict after the demise of his mother and the final leaving of his long term girl friend. Looking back now, that passage had wielded its impact subtly over my years of solitude, and that blog post has revealed a page which I had forgotten, but not entirely lost…
A blog expresses something a blogger wants to talk about. It is interesting that at that time I wanted to talk about a sudden sense of being alone after a rather fruitful event of writing a biography for a business missionary and her team in a distant land. It was a restful time for me after finishing the big task of writing and publishing the book in two languages. Yet, away from the limelight, I could sense the solitude of just being and not doing.
The year June 2020-June 2021 had been a “being” year for me. “Being-not-doing”. In a way, it is very much self-imposed. I returned from another foreign land, locked up another newly acquired academic certificate and an important license and rested. Over the whole year I did not get to use them. Are certificates and official licenses important? The Generation Zs know they are important for them.
For me? Really I have no imagination there. Meanwhile, I continue this blog and not abandon ship. Afloat with words. Effortlessly sailing ahead. Ahoy! Land!
“That is the land of lost content, I see it shining plain, the happy highways where I went and cannot come again.”*
We have not met for quite a long time and then we get together again from time to time. At time like this, for a year plus now, each gathering of friends in person is rare and precious. We can no longer gather a big group like we used to do, but the few who manage to do so take the bother to come and bring their personal warmth and care to the rest. It is really a time to ponder and consider.
Why did we not value our previous freedom when we were so free to walk about, to drop in as and when the wind brings us and the smell of Spring time stirs us? Last year was a harsh Spring for us all as we were all caught unprepared by the news. We found that we have made promises that we could no longer keep. We thought it would be over soon and some of us had postponed our reunion to Summer, then Fall, and then were crushed by the harsh Winter.
For 365 days, daily I stand at the window for a while, and scan the sky, why? I listen to the whispering silence out there, and ask in quiet response, is this new dawn bringing me a time of joyous connection with a long lost one today? Each dusk I sit quietly giving a passing glance at the world outside the glass panel, undeterred by the futility and weariness of waiting. We are separated by an ocean or two. The ocean is too vast to cross. Yet we do not lose hope.
Not all of us are without bags of ages laden on our feet. Yes, the weariness of time. A year had left us, taking some friends with it. We still call those who remain, in a renewed hope with Spring around the corner of our garden, taking virtual coffee and cookies, a glass of wine or two, singing half-forgotten lyrics with whatever words and phrases we recall from old. Yes, we shall not give up. We are thankful we are still around and available for our old friends. Let us press on to be a season of hope makers for each other, my dear friends. Cheers!
Star and coronal and bell April underfoot renews, And the hope of man as well Flowers among the morning dews. (A. E. Housman, ‘Spring Morning’)