Sunday, July 27, 2014

My Chinese signature stamp …

I’m sure you remember my good friend Lisa who taught school in China this past year. Actually she and her husband Glen are going back again in the Fall but right now she is in the States and we had a wonderful reunion visit this week.

I was surprised and delighted when she presented me with the gift that you see pictured here. (It’s much smaller than it appears in the picture. The whole box is just 3 ½ x 1 ½ inches.) It is a signature stamp and the little square piece of paper shows what prints … which, in this case is actually my name written in Chinese !

In China artists stamp their paintings (and a lot of their correspondence, and even legal documents) with their own individual signature stone, using the traditional red ink. It made me wonder if this is in lieu of their handwritten signature or if they do both. Perhaps someone reading this can enlighten me on that.

The stamp is quite heavy and actually looks like polished marble but Lisa and I knew that couldn’t be possible because of the carving. I did a bit of research after she left and found that it is soapstone.

As I was writing this I realized that the seal would make a wonderful paper-weight and I decided to display it on my writing desk. I paired it with a tiny box that Douglas gave me years ago after his last trip to Japan. It contains a very small calligraphy brush and ink stone. Don’t they look like a perfect match? I will treasure them both.

 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Ad infinitum …

These words “…this was not an honest war. This was a war dreamed up by politicians” (from “The Map of Love” by Ahdaf Soueif) were written in reference to the battle of Tel el-Kebir in 1882 but it could so easily apply to what happened here in the U.S. in 2001.

When the Twin Towers were attacked on 9/11 there was an outpouring of dedicated young men and women who willingly joined forces to protect our country. They were under the impression that we were going to Afghanistan where the terrorist camps were based to rout out Al Qaeda and the Taliban warriors who had attacked us … i.e., an “honest war”.

This did not happen. Instead President Bush, Vice President Chaney and their cronies grabbed the opportunity and used it to their advantage… a political decision that has caused immeasurable grief to both Iraq and the United States and now, 13 years later, there seems to be no end in sight … especially for the people of Iraq.

This is nothing new. Since day one our world has been dominated by devious politicians and now we have another incredible example: the tragic gunning down of the Malaysian Airlines Flight 17. I often wonder if it will ever end, but, call me naïve, I do see a slight glimmer of hope when I look at the young people of today.

They are growing up in the age of wireless communications and it is second nature to them. Unlike many of us they are comfortable with this electronic eye on the world and I believe they will demand transparency. Perhaps then the shady politicians will find it more difficult to hide the truth or to pull the wool over their eyes. I wish I could live long enough to see it happen but I pray that it does. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if acceptance could replace fear of the unknown?

Oh, well … I told you I was naïve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Happy Birthday Maffy …

Here you are at age one … July 18, 1960

I will never forget the day that you were born. Dad and I were living in New York City and it was a terribly hot month. We, and your brother Mark (born July 3, 1959), were spending as much time as we could at the movies. We were trying to stay cool and it was about the only place in Manhattan that had air conditioning … or at least in a place that we could afford !

I knew that the OB doc was on vacation but I wasn’t worried because you weren’t due to be born until August. However, I was awakened with a bad tummy ache and when I described it to his nurse she gave me the phone number where I could reach him. He asked me a few pertinent questions and then advised us to get to the hospital ASAP.

I was totally unprepared but we grabbed Mark and headed to the streets to hail a cab. The taxi driver was not happy to be driving a lady who was gasping for breath and yelling “you’d better hurry if you don’t want to deliver a baby in your cab”, because by this time I was really in labor. We were headed to Lennox Hill Hospital and it was across town from where we lived but we did make it in time …BARELY !

The cabdriver honked his horn and jumped out of the cab at the Emergency entrance looking for a nurse. One came running out with a wheelchair but after a very quick assessment she yelled “forget the chair. We need a stretcher stat…this babe is about to be born!” …and she was right. No time to get prepped at all. They rolled me direct to the OB birthing room and out you came. I was still on the stretcher and everyone was laughing and you were screaming your little head off.

It was an auspicious start and you haven’t slowed down since then. Even the smile is the same …HAPPY BIRTHDAY MATT       
                                                                 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

YUCK !!!

I live close to the road and I try to keep the front of my house looking nice, so I was pleased to see how clean and welcoming the concrete floor of my porch looked after I repainted it. But a few days later I drove back from shopping and noticed that the branches of the pecan tree in my front yard were covered with those horrible, yucky Gypsy Moth cocoons. It was gross and very visible…not at all welcoming !

I called my son Matt to see if he could help and he said that he had just listened to a PBS discussion on that very thing. They recommended a solution that did not use chemicals. Evidently caterpillars are a real treat to many birds so if you can break open the cocoons exposing the critters you can just leave the rest to the birds. Matt got some very long sticks and he poked and probed the cocoons. We bagged up the parts that came down but the rest we left open to the elements and the birds. That was 4 days ago and look at the difference …already they are practically gone.

I am so happy to have been able to rid myself of this yucky stuff without using heavy duty repellants or sprays. And, best of all, I now feel that my little house, once again, says “Welcome” …

 
 

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Fiesole, Italy … another 2001 Douglas memory

Douglas was wonderful to travel with because he had been to Italy many times and he could easily cut out the tourist traps. He was better than a travel guide and when he told me that our trip would not be complete without a visit to the magical town of Fiesole, perched on the hills north of Florence, I believed him. A short ride on the number 7 bus took us there .

When we reached the town center, the Piazza Mino, I was awed with the views that were on all 4 sides. However, it was the steep walk up the Via San Francesco that really made me feel like I was stepping back into history. It leads to the Abbey of San Francesco, begun in 1330 by a group of hermits, and taken over by the Franciscan’s, who expanded it in 1407.

                                            
We were able to visit the monk’s cells and I can’t imagine how they existed through the winter months. Each cell had a stone bench for a bed, a rustic table and candles for light. A window in each cell was open to the elements.

I am so glad that Douglas recommended that we go to Fiesole. It gave us a well needed respite from the hustle and bustle of the big cities.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Remembering the Cinque terra … and Douglas


In 2001 my friend Douglas and I spent a month in Italy. We had originally planned to go for two weeks until someone mentioned how inexpensive it was to lodge in Monasteries there so I did the math and was thrilled to find that if we did that our budgeted money could be stretched to cover a full month . The first three weeks were spent in Rome, Orvieto, Bavagna, Gubbio, Cortona , Florence and Venice.

Of course they all differed and were wonderful but we’d saved the last week for a special treat. We had decided to visit the Cinque Terre,  the five small villages clinging to the coast of the Italian Riviera. It was the one place where we had no reservations but we’d read somewhere that all you needed to do was show up and someone would appear with rooms to rent so we decided to give it a try.

After a full day’s train ride from Venice we arrived at Montrose al Mare the uppermost village of the 5 and the one in the picture above. As had been promised we’d barely put our luggage down when a lady on a bike approached asking if we were looking for a place to stay and we were able to rent a wonderful villa at an amazingly low rate.

We spent a lot of our time trekking the rugged, steep paths that separated the 5 villages and it was fascinating to see how they differed. Here is Douglas taking a rest between villages.



I have so many memories from our trip to Italy but I believe that my favorite occurred on a sunny afternoon at the Cinque Terre. Douglas and I were taking an espresso break when he suddenly said, “Oh, look …“ and I turned to see a young woman approaching. She wore no makeup and her dress was modest but she was regal enough to be a queen and on top of her head was a huge wicker basket filled with lemons. It felt like she’d just walked out of a painting !

Douglas passed away about a year and a half after that trip so our future travel plans died with him. He was a dear friend and I cherish the memories of our dream trip to Italy.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Chinese barbecue …

…on the campus of the school where my friend Lisa and her husband Glen have taught this past year. It’s a festive way to say farewell but it won’t be for long. They have made the decision to go back for another year !

Lisa writes that she has no regrets about going to China but that it’s been a long year with it’s share of problems. However they have lots of ideas and plans for making next year go more smoothly. One change will be the addition of two new staff members, both women. One is from Albania and the other from the U.S.

The Chinese school officials were hesitant about the woman from the U.S. because she is black. Evidently there is not one other black person in all of Pinghu but Glen convinced them that they should be more concerned about the quality of their teachers than the color of their skin. Lisa is excited that she was hired because she will now have an English speaking friend to converse with.

So my series of Lisa in China ends for the school year…with this picture that she took in a local market. I’d love to think that someone will buy the poor bird for a pet … but it’s more likely that he’ll be Crispy Roast Duck for dinner !