ROAMoChan: Stockton

My husband and his family immigrated from a small village near Canton, China when he was just a toddler. They settled in Stockton, California and soon put their green thumbs to work.

Every time we come for a visit, we step into his parents’ world of mysterious child-size hanging squashes, medicinal herbal soups, and more than a handful of surreal happenings. The answer to a not-quite-formulated internal question might fall as an object in the closet. Or as you sit and drink your morning coffee, the bitter melon vines in the backyard might call to you from a homemade apparatus held together by old internet cables. “Hmm, I think I need to go outside,” is the magnetic message you receive daily.

Dreams of my high school orchestra days are induced by an eccentric night-owl neighbor tossing a baton and playing the French horn on his front lawn.  And on a morning jog right as I think of how the subtleties from those dreams spawn and intermingle with more subtleties, I pass by the street sign “Inspiration Dr.”

This place is not just any old random place.. there is so much going on. The pile of freshly cut cucumbers and loofahs that greet us on the kitchen counter each morning is evidence of this. This place is like a library for the avid reader and writer. But instead of books, there are tiny surreal happenings that occur right before your eyes during the unfolding of each day.

Like when I walked under the peach tree days after all the peaches had been picked, wondering if one or two had been missed. I did this a few times, to no avail. And then as if Nature wanted to impress me, today I found one almost in plain sight-perfect in size and shape; untouched by bird and bug.

After getting older, no one ever asks what kind of magic power I would like to have anymore. So I hadn’t thought about it much. I think I’d like to make fruit appear in a meaningful way for people. Like, after they wake up and go into their kitchen they suddenly notice a large mango sitting in the middle of the table. Or on a seemingly unremarkable day, they open the refrigerator door and are greeted by a bowl of delicious lychees that wasn’t there the night before. And in either case, they feel like how I felt when I found that peach.. a startling gift that shifts the ground you walk on just a little bit.

I feel as though it’s like a Narnia kind of existence for me here. The closet opens for me (and even answers my unasked questions). Fruit materializes with a mind of its own, and large dangling squash are encapsulated bundles of light-you can’t help but feel their divine presence. There is a different sort of gravity here.. and of course it’s very fitting to have discovered this right in the family’s backyard!

Inside a delicious ripe fig~ Stockton, August 2018

 

ROAMoChan: Berkeley

I rolled my little red suitcase from the BART station all the way to the hotel wearing my sister’s Duluth marathon sweatshirt. I’d made sure to bring it on this trip so I could return it when I saw her the coming Sunday. My short trip to Berkeley was about seeing her and my other sister as well as celebrating. Celebrating what? I told everyone I was celebrating my birthday, as it was the weekend right before it, but in actuality I was celebrating something else.

In our culture it’s acceptable-even expected-that we treat ourselves extra well and do something a little out of the ordinary to celebrate our birth and life on our birthday. You won’t be criticized for being selfish and because of its engrainment in our culture, it will force others to be nice and extra cordial to you. It’s the perfect umbrella to be shielded by, once a year.

I was celebrating something our culture doesn’t readily have a name or structure for understanding. There are just “symptoms” that would suggest powerful internal growth. Over the past few years, I’d begun to see the world in a different way although it did not directly result in taking specific actions. As nice or compassionate as people may have told me I was, a part of my heart was still closed. Now, I understand better what part was closed. I closed the area that I had come to believe would cause an inconvenience to others. It was the part that the material environment had guided me to sacrifice for the greater good. The same environment that painted the first picture of the meaning of that very powerful enigma: love.

In Berkeley, the hotel staff greeted me with surreal smiles. The placards in front of the receptionists at the check-in counter were enlarged student ID cards each introducing the name, major, and an interesting fact about the person. I’d chosen a hotel called “The Graduate” hotel. The nice young man whose placard revealed he was a psychology major who likes long walks through the forest, offered me a glass of champagne. The hotel happened to be celebrating its 90th year in business and would be providing free champagne for the whole week.

A mysterious world unfolds itself when one learns how to take full responsibility for one’s life. All validation must come from within. Only inside, is a person truly themself. A great paradox exists in that innermost place of our being. It’s the place where you are a receiver and must learn to discern what is noise and what is not. (No one can do that work for you.) And though you are listening to yourself, you are greater than yourself.. like watercolor.. the painter attempts to let go enough to let colors, water, paper, and the magic of the ether merge. It can become a meditation of setting intention, letting go and losing control.

I plopped down on the couch in the hotel lobby with the champagne and watched the bubbles steadily float to the surface of the glass. I felt the celebration inside me. What a strange new world. Self-love breeds self-validation and the permission the soul needs to come alive. If there is such a thing as a second birth in life, then perhaps I really was celebrating my birthday.

Graduate Hotel complimentary pencil

Painting hanging in Graduate hotel lobby~ Berkeley, July 2018