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

 

ROAMoChan: Vancouver

In the last week of June I was in Vancouver, Canada on a mission to help a friend settle in after just having moved there with her family. The bonus was the third tomodachi in our friendship was also able to fly over with her family too, so our strategic gathering doubled as a reunion trip like the ones we used to have annually back in our 20s. I’m writing about that trip now, in August, a time when I’ve found myself roaming in the same garden daily, and in the company of little people once again.

  ♦♦♦

Children-like seeds- are the smallest versions of their someday-selves. They are in their most condensed and “potent” forms. They know exactly their likes and dislikes, regularly display raw, unfiltered honesty with themselves and towards others, and understand many subtleties that many big people no longer grasp. Though they appear small and fragile, they possess a mysterious resilience that is often underestimated.

And yet, don’t they all thirst for attention =D They need parents and others to validate what they do. “Do you see me? Do you see what I made?” And, “Please look! No, look longer and more closely!” They are all learning to feed their own souls, and need a special kind of loving attention to do so. They don’t need your creative ideas or humorous jokes, those are just a bonus. What they really need is that special look in your eye. The kind that seems to fill the entire room and radiates directly into them-like the sun. It’s the look that infuses another solid brick into the inner supportive pillar they are constructing. Trust? Love? Warmth? Whatever you want to call it, I sense that it is what is needed now that will eventually become the source of inner conviction later in life when we must learn to make the transition from seeking validation from others to self-generating it from within.

All the little people in my life are still very small and thirsting for that special kind of attention. And, they remind me in their open-hearted growing selves that all the wonder and dazzlement we could ever seek is in the eye of the beholder. Children in the act of simply being themselves, demonstrate the joie de vivre that so many adults lose in the forest of grown-up land. One of the many blessings of parenthood must be the constant reminder of this when one catches a glimpse of pure joy streaming from their child’s eyes.

As we attempt to teach them our version of love, they in turn infuse us with their version of reality. The flexible companion to a child has one foot in the child’s reality and one foot in their own-practicing the art of leading and being led in a seamless flow.

From a restaurant in downtown Vancouver~ June 2018

 

 

ROAMoChan: Singapore

Norman and I found ourselves in Singapore for a week in January thanks to genuine interest, some free time, and hot plane ticket prices. We stayed in the most obscure little loft apartment in a very convenient area. It was so small, we didn’t see the entry (a single glass door) even when we were standing right in front of it. It was a perfect little cubby-hole abode for a pair of travelers like us.

We took turns being jet-lagged (ok, it was mostly just me), and during my solo time, I’d put on my earphones and listen to some Joe Satriani while sketching in my watercolor field journal. I knew I’d be turning the paper vertical, after just one day taking in the abundant green growing in and around Singapore’s city buildings.

 ♦♦♦

I was born into a fast-paced world. To the authentic “me” that has struggled to maintain my own pace amongst all the busy-ness, even travelers and vacationers seem so busy. My natural disposition is to be that person who says, “I’m fine with whatever works for the group,” and “hmm, let’s see where this current takes me..” Because on the inside, what makes me come alive is less about material particulars and more of an intrinsic nature.

Maybe while out, I’ll see a random brick that speaks to me. Then I’d probably start hearing stories in my head and feeling the inner me weaving new fabric made of future-present-past inklings, daydreams, nightdreams, and thoughts that are always floating around. This kind of thing (inspiration?) is what bubbles up constantly and me being an artist at heart, cannot feel content until I express whatever it is on a blank sheet of paper. This is my inner “digestive” cycle. My subjective experience of life has largely been one attuned to this creativity cycle as it has given me a thorough kind of fulfillment in life that is difficult to articulate let alone find a substitute for.

I imagine any kind of expression of one’s authentic self will be of a creative nature and have healing properties. It’s not the case that some people are creative and others are not. It’s just some forms of self expression (like painting or playing an instrument) are more recognizable to the masses and shareable than others.

When I meet people, there is a kind of excitement stemmed from a curiosity as to what makes them come alive. Whether the conversation will move in that direction or not keeps things interesting. When it does though, I can often tell, because their eyes light up and their energy dances. It’s one of the coolest discoveries we can make, and it doesn’t require the purchase of a plane ticket.

Singapore at dusk, January 2018

 

ROAMoChan: Seattle

In Seattle, I didn’t know where I was going, until I arrived. The cute cafe looked and felt inviting so I went in. I contemplated which dark mocha to order briefly, feeling slightly overwhelmed at having so many options. (I always imagine a more simple world where menus change frequently but never offer more than about
3 beverage options =P)

I sat at a small table and was immediately inspired by the panoramic interior before me. I was reminded of curvilinear perspective from an art book I’d browsed a while back. I took out my pencil and began to draw.

♦♦♦

I identify myself as an artist not because of my artistic ability, but because of how my soul feels when I face the blank paper. Line by line, I just draw. I am in flow, and I am where I am supposed to be and I am who I am supposed to be. I feel somehow that each time I translate my experience into a drawing or painting, I am bringing something of importance into the world. Even if, like a delicious bite of food, the painting is seen and quickly forgotten by others, I believe in its “nourishment”.. that it brought a little more light into our world.

I don’t know why I am this way, but I am not so interested in “why” anymore. I just want to tell my story.

..that whether I’m in Seattle, or any other place, the joy of “being” myself lies not so much in where I happen to be, but in the realization that I am allowed to be who I am. I suspect we are all allowed to be who we truly are in our inner-world. In my experience, that is the one “trip” that takes bravery just to embark on. It’s also the only place that contains what I like to call “the quiet joy.” It’s not the joy of anticipation. It is the simple joy of being.

Snowy Seattle~ November 2017