an enchanted alumni night

an enchanted alumni night by Praise L

Kate is glad she did not make it to that alumni night after all on that fateful night of reunion on 2017-5-17. This is the account of what really happened that night of the alumni dinner. After pausing a long while at the bridge watching the swiveling black water thinking about her past life, she drove towards that meeting hall in the city at the other end where the river mouth whispered gently into the ears of the sea.

It was a dark and lonely drive. She stayed occupied in her mind anticipating the scene of the reunion.

“What am I going to say to all these strangers?” She thinks of the old men and women whom she has not met, not in their adulthood anyway. She tries to think of Noel, the only boy in school who owned a motor cycle and tried to court her by daily standing outside Kate’s classroom looking at her.

She was not prepared to meet any of them, especially Noel whom she rejected. While driving and musing to divert her mind to something more meaningful like a poet writing about how he wandered lonely as a cloud, and saw a crowd, A host, of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze. (William Wordsworth)She also recalled a story about one day a woman decided to plant a single bulb. This single bulb turned into many more and soon she had a field filled with daffodils. The daffodil field had refreshed many tired and wearied hearts and her story motivated others and changed the belief that a small thing was too small to matter.

Why was she not interested in Noel’s courtship? The reason given was she had to travel far and not likely returning.

Yet she returned after decades. This night, like the swiftlets returning to their habitat (dark caves or houses as in the case where Kate was raised) and the fastest speed is 69 mph (111 kph), which was the speed Kate was driving. As Kate chewed over such mixture of data she realized something was not right.

She should have have reached the city of brilliant lights in less than half an hour but she had been driving well over an hour at least! She recalled making one turn towards the beach road shortly after she left the bridge. The sea and the river ran parallel so there was no reason why she had not reached the city. She could hear the monotonous sound of the sea waves on the way and she knew she was on the beach road.

She stopped the car and listened in the dark. It was strangely quiet. There was no street light on this stretch of the road. With her car light she could see a mist rising ahead. He phone went dead and frozen. No WiFi signal. No telecommunication signal. Her car clock was dead. Where was Kate?

Resuming driving she made a decision to turn off to a side lane, seeing a distant gleam of light. Finally, a colonial style house appeared at the end of the lane. To her relief, its door was opened and she was greeted kindly by a friendly and pleasantly looking woman of indeterminable age, neatly dressed in the style of the sixties. The woman was a housekeeper of the beautiful house whose owners were away overseas. She served the weary Kate cups of warm tea with fresh milk, and some freshly baked scones.

This was the conversation which Kate remembered vividly in the aftermath.

“Thank you Ma’am, for being so kind. May I borrow a phone to call my friends? We are supposed to have a reunion alumni gathering.” Kate asked politely after a cup of tea. and scone.

“You are very welcome, Miss Kate, I am afraid we do not have a phone in this house. Neither do I carry a phone.”

“Am I correct in what I am seeing? That wall clock shows a time at 11:55 and it has frozen since I arrived. Perhaps I am mistaken.” Kate tried to sound calmly.

“You are right, Miss Kate, we are living in a frozen time here. “

“My car clock, and phone went dead and none of the communication ways seems to work.” Kate replied.

“Not surprising, Miss Kate. We live in a zone without modern communication.”

Kate’s mind worked like never before. “Am I dreaming? Is this real?” She asked herself silently. Then she looked into the face of a familiar looking young woman looking at her from the opposite wall, with a puzzling look on her face.

Kate stood up and looked closer. It was a mirror and the reflection of a very young woman, like her twin in her twenties. Kate was looking at herself in the 1960s. “Have I gone back in time?” She asked.

The housekeeper answered, “No, you have merely stumbled into a parallel time zone which has been frozen in time. “

“Are there others in this time zone?” Kate asked. Memories of sixties rushed to her like wild mustangs.

“Yes, of course. Whom do you have in mind?” The woman asked.

“Perhaps my high school mates? If that is possible…” Kate made a wish silently. She believed in miracles.

“Why not?” The kindly woman answered as if it was a matter of simplicity and fact. “Just do as you normally would do when on this day as a young person.” She added.

“I was driving, on my way to attend a graduation gathering and that was the last time I would meet with my high school classmates. I flew off the next morning. Something happened. ” Kate reminisced that fateful night.

“Well? Did you have a good time?” The woman asked.

“I never got there. I was driving and lost my way somehow and ended up in a house like this one off the side lane.” Kate looked up and burst out loudly, unable to keep her cool, “It’s the same house, this house!”

“Well?” The woman asked without showing any surprise.

“Yes, I had a rather quiet and pleasant time drinking tea and eating scones. After that I drove home as it was rather late and long passed the party. I never got to say goodbye to them. And we all grew old separately.” Kate spoke calmly as she thought about that night of missed appointment. Then she remembered that she received a rose before she boarded the plane. There was no card. She never knew who the sender was.

“Do you want to live that redeemed time with a different outcome or would you rather go home now?” The woman seemed to be able to give her a choice.

Kate thought for a moment. Just a moment with a tiny bit of a glimpse of what could have been. Then she said resolutely, “I wish to go home.”

There was no further conversation. Kate and the woman said goodbye and she drove back to her sister’s house safely and swiftly. When she reached home her digital equipments and the car clock were all functioning perfectly and it was exactly midnight as she walked into the house.

She flew off the next morning. Her former classmates sent a message through Pretty Flower and said they had a nice time, though they wished they could have seen her. Being old and easily tired, they all went home shortly after the dinner. They sent their combined best wishes for a safe and good journey. She received a rose before she boarded the plane. There was no card. She never knew who the sender was.

Praise, 2021-11-18

a hermit-traveler’s snowy November 2019

20191122

Two years had passed since one November up a mountain lavishly painted with snow. It was a new experience for a hermit and yet a traveler in life for decades. The snow came just as notified through the weather forecast on the internet. Nothing really changed when it came and the locals above the city of the clouds lived as usual. The traveler was somewhat caught in surprise but the priceless Canadian “chauffeur”, a fellow traveler like the hermit-traveler was not shocked. To her it was really nothing because she came from the snowy and colder part of Canada. She was well prepared with all the normal preparations for her sturdy land rover, and her trailer home, hardware and software. They went to school as if nothing happened. Some students were deterred by closures of roads, and the school had to suspend the penalty for no-show of the students. But not this brave woman from Canada all equipped with her amazing driving skill. So the hermit traveler went to school as usual snow or no snow. What a memorable day riding/gliding on snow and seeing many cars in ditches as well, while praying real hard not to slide into the ditches as it seemed the norm to join the rank then.

Looking at the old photos, priceless memories returned and said, well done my friend! Yes, well done, my dear friend across the distance in the colder and more extreme-weathered land. It is comforting to know that you and your loved ones are together, staying healthy and well, holding onto your dreams and visions.

2021-11-02

the hermit poet lauds “cheers” to himself

taken 2019-10-07

《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.

*the festival falls on 2021-10-14 this year.

北山白云里,隐者自怡悦 ~唐朝诗人孟浩然《秋登兰山寄张五》

北山白云里,隐者自怡悦。

相望试登高,心随雁飞灭。

愁因薄暮起,兴是清秋发。

时见归村人,沙行渡头歇。

天边树若荠,江畔洲如月。

何当载酒来,共醉重阳节。

2021-10-10

Remembering October

Remembering October snow

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.

2021-10-10

the accidental art of being and not doing (a sequel) or Without freedom there is no clarity anymore

17th mile pacific coast

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 do.

Praise, 2021-09-18