Saturday morning. An insipid dishwater of a day, if the sky’s anything to go by. The horizon’s worse, five solid inches, from where I stand, of yellow-grey sludge. We’re breathing that stuff in? I look away.
No photo, of course, how could you take a photo of something you can’t bear to look at? Saturday morning’s for lazing in, checking your emails, and finding out what the weekly WordPress Photo Challenge is. In this instance, its called One Love. You wonder what everyone else is doing with the challenge, but have no time to look, cause you’re drowning in a sea of Chinese characters that you write again and again to memorise.
When you finally get out, the day looks better. Looking straight upwards the sky looks blue – well, let’s say blue-ish. You don’t think any more about what the API Index might be, you’re just glad it’s a blue-sky day and you go out walking, and shopping……
While you ponder what you might do for a photo challenge called One Love.
You decide you’re probably going to do something about Chinese characters,
this one for instance,
爱 ai, the Chinese word for love.
You decide you can probably wax lyrical about all the words made up from that character, like
爱抚 ai fu , caress, literally love stroke
爱好 ai hao , hobby, a word constructed from 爱 and 好 – making ‘hobby’ a “love good”
Then there’s those cultural expressions you probably wouldn’t find elsewhere like
爱面子 ai mian zi literally “love face”, which means someone who loves “keeping face “ with others, or a classic you find in the dictionary, 爱到人民的 ai dao ren min de, meaning to enjoy the love and esteem of the people. In which case you could get sidelined into a discussion about the changes since the Mao era, from whence you would find this expression
爱人 ai ren, literally love person. You could talk about how the term was fashionable in the Mao zidong ( Mao Tse Tung) era, but now it’s been replaced by the colloquial 老公 and 老婆 laogong and laopo, or returned to the formal 丈夫 zhangfu and妻子 qizi husband and wife。
You could talk about how no one uses 爱人 much anymore, except in this popular song from a few years back..
ni shi wo de mei gui ni shi wo de hua
You are my rose, you are my flower
The song’s called 你是我地玫瑰 ni shi wo de mei gui ( You are my Rose), which reminds you of this lovely photo from Ethical Artisans,
who blogs at La Floralie 1 and 2.
So you’re thinking of all these things, and wondering what photographs you might find in the depths of your laptops or hiding somewhere on your OPPO, and you’re lost in a sea of 汉字, hanzi, Chinese Characters, which you are writing relentlessly, all day Sunday and half the night for an assignment.
Suddenly it’s Tuesday and your hand is aching from all that writing and your eyes are sore from looking at all that fine detail and your head is a mess of hengs and dians and hu and ti and na ( the names of the strokes in chinese characters), and you want to give up but you think if Fuxi went to all that trouble to invent these words then the least you can do is try and write them.
So you do. You get the assignment nearly finished but by this time you need a break, because you’ve made a few mistakes and need to go out to the local stationers and buy some whiteout. ( You gotta hand write for the assignment, right?)
Break time means check email time these days, so you do, and it turns out there is a Blogging God after all – its midweek and there’s already a Badfish post! Turns out that the badfish is planning a trip to all kinds of exotic locations and is leaving on the exact same date that you are leaving for an unexpected trip home – and he has a countdown on his blog.
NEXT BIG TRIPBURMA – BANGLADESH BHUTAN – NEPALMarch 25th, 20167days to go.
Badfish’s countdown looks like this, sort of, and it’s handy, because i’m trying to avoid the Countdown…
This gets you to thinking about one love and all that, and how maybe you could write a badfish type post this time, and use that intro to make the obligatory link to the WordPress Photo Challenge, but you know that the Fish is the Master of that kinda blog so why should you bother?
Instead, you go outside. It’s 7.30ish and its March and still cold. You get the white-out and a few pens and pencils – so cheap, why not, never can have enough pens or 自动铅笔 zidong qianbi – self-moving lead pencil, or mechanical pencils that my daughter loves – and you see a lovely rose hanging deco thing in the shopping centre that you think will look fine in a post about One Love.
Then you’ve planned to buy some almonds at the nut store, but by the time you get there he’s closing for the night. “You’re closing for the night,” you say, talk about stating the obvious, and he smiles and opens up again. I help myself to a large packet of fresh almonds from Xinjiang and a packet of deliciously crunchy fresh pistachios, known as 开行果 kai xing guo – Happy Fruit because they look like a smiling face. I hand over my 100 kuai bill and we both laugh.
It’s a nice evening, I decide to go for a little walk while I ponder the intricacies of love, and what I might say about it in a blog post.
I’m thinking about Badfish’s blog and his trip to Rangoon, which reminds me of an Aussie radio-play cult classic, What’s Grafton to you is Rangoon to Me, which in turn reminds me of back in the day, when we did those crazy weekend Brisbane to Sydney and back roadtrips.
Then you get to thinking about the kinda love you have for your old mates, for the friends you loved in your youth, when you’re full of fervour to change the world for the better, and you march in the streets to get rid of corrupt governments and to save the Great Barrier Reef, and some crazy times, more than once, you drive the long haul down to Sydney for a weekend in the big smoke.
There’s the old dark-emerald green Combie van that Chris A has just bought, and there’s the broken down old lounge chair, that americans would call a ‘sofa’, wedged into the back of the van, and there’s Chrissie driving the midnight run and there’s Barb and me in the back, laughing at some crazy joke or just nothing at all, and we get to Sydney, party, and live to make the drive back.
Then a decade or two seems to slip by and you lose contact cause you’re lost on another planet called China. Once or twice you run into Chrissie and he’s just the same, sweet honey voice and those brown brown eyes, sparkling with laughter and the slight curl to that long brown hair. It seems in those moments that nothing has changed, that all life is just a collection of moments that sing in the cosmos.
Then there’s Barb, and I try to find her from another time, another place, but it’s hard to find people when you’re just home for holidays and another decade slips by and suddenly it’s the End of a Great Cycle, the Long Count ( of the Mayan Calander) is over and we’re down at Byron, my daughter and me, to celebrate.
Byron’s a place you gotta go to to understand. All the superlatives just wont make it till you get to Byron Bay. It’s a kinda of mecca for the lost and found, wanna be healers, real healers, the rich and famous, and those down on their luck looking for a new beginning. The original people’s, the First Australians, never lived there much, just visited when they needed healing.
So you kinda get the idea. So we’re standing on the beach at Byron, my daughter and me, amongst a great crowd of people listening to indigenous elders from across the globe speak, an assortment of people doing cartwheels and wheeling firesticks, as you’re prone to get in Byron, and I look to the right and there’s Barb standing next to me, looking to the left, and we see each other, and it’s like there is no decades in between.
We laugh and are happy and that’s the kinda love that always is, the kinda love between old mates, old friends, the best kind. The kind of friend you’d do your best to move heaven and earth for, if you needed to, and then some. So she cooks up a storm, just like she used to, and we laugh at how some South African went out looking for Rodriguez, whose music was the soundtrack of our lives, back in the day.
And how the South African found him, working in some factory, living in some tenement, and made a movie about him, Looking for Sugar Man. Rodriguez was, is, an amazing singer, a humble man, and a genuinely good person. And that’s a concrete cold fact.
Time moves on and The Cosmic Joker gets in the way and makes it happen that I have to go back home again, apparently its ten days time, nine perhaps now – the Fish is keeping track, so I don’t need to.
There’s some heavy duty cosmic rewiring going on, as another friend crosses the Pacific to land in Shanghai right when I leave, and I’m walking back down the road thinking about all of this looking for the Korean grocery store so I can buy the kind of Korean crunchy fried noodles that my daughter likes. But it doesn’t seem to be there – oh! There’s the place where it used to be, there’s a dressmaking shop with a fruit shop behind, instead.
It’s not as cold out now as it used to be, and I keep walking, thinking about love and how a mother’s love for her child is all encompassing. It’s like, okay where else do I have to go to get those Korean fried noodles, and will a mango or three from the fruit shop which is still open – and it’s nine at night – do instead.
It seems like there’s all kinds of love, the irrepressible, all-encompassing, forever-love a mother has for her children, the love for old mates and new friends, passionate love, partner love….. and you’re still walking and you wonder if anyone else is gonna reference this
315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/e7eXCkdImsY” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>
for the Word Press Photo challenge, but then you stumble on the Korean shop, after all. Seemed you’d taken a turn too early, and you get those crunchy fried noodles, and you get some liliduo, and you even by an expensive Korean icecream, even though it’s still cold out and you refuse on principle to buy icecream in winter, because there’s one love, between a mother and her child, that’s inexpressible, bounteous, that enlivens and enriches and that you break all the rules for. And because its double choc and damn good double choc, and besides, it’s the kind of time that you both need damn good double choc icecream.
and then there’s Van singing …. and you’ve just discovered an old bluesy version of Madame George on QQ music. and you wonder how you can spend twenty years or more with a song ….As it happened, you were just hypnotized by Van the Man’s drawling, hypnotic tones and those long long riffs and the mesmerizing repetition of those lilting licks…..
That’s when you fall….
(not the bluesy version from QQ)
Then there’s the kind of love, thats often unspeakable, because there’s so many people out there that seem frightened of love. But you’re glad that there are people who are brave enough to speak out, even make court cases out of it, like the British woman in Hong Kong who took her case to the courts, claiming she should be eligible for a partner visa for her spouse, who happens to be another woman. She lost the case last weekend, but they are still fighting.
and you know you gotta go, not to Dublin up to Sandy Row but across the seas to Byron,where you’re gonna meet Barb and Chrissie will make it down one way or the other, and even though Chrissie looks like Santa Claus now and Barb’s still the same no matter what, and that dark-emerald green Combie is probably long past even the scrap metal stage, it’s like there is no time, there is no distance, there is no real worry about disease and decrepdation, just life and love, not death nor dying.
And so we’ll hang out in Byron, eating organic home grown food, laughing and singing the songs that were the soundtrack to our lives, not marching in the streets much any more, but still trying to save the Great Barrier Reef for at least the fifth time this year ( you win one battle and another one begins, Adani is still trying to sell dirty coal and more fish are dying, coral are diminishing and the Reef is dying….. but we sign petitions and donate and still march in the streets…. )
Because there is LOVE for country, love for the beautiful places on earth that inspire and enrich us, love for this country China where I live whose incredible wealth of history and culture sustains me endlessly, despite the pollution.
I’m nearly home now. We’ll eat that double-choc delicious icecream, we’ll crunch on Korean fried noodles and fresh pistachios. The lights of that building have gone off, and I sit and wonder about writing this blog post, and wonder about all kinds of love.
Seems we’re on this planet to learn how to love, and even though our species tries its best to destroy her, the planet keeps loving us back.
Which brings me to another planetary body which gives us love, which leads in turn, back to those Chinese character’s I’m trying to learn.
暖 nuan is made up of two characters， which are called radicals when they form part of another word 。On the left is 日 ，ri, the sun
and on the right is 爱 ai, or love.
Put the sun and love together and you get warm.
You see, 暖， warmth， is the sun’s love。
Warmth is the sun’s love.
One love? Nah – I think there’s all kinds of love. I go in and give my daughter a kiss goodnight and we settle down for an evening chat and a laugh.Did I mention I’m nipping over to Byron? But I’ll be keeping a ruby in my heart. That’s that one love that’s all consuming. A mother’s love.