Horizon at Sandy Point

Friday, January 28, 2011

The tail of the Tiger

Chinese year 2011 begins on February 3, signifiying the return of spring to the ancient agrarian society. (It will be the year of the rabbit; and hopefully a period of calm and comfort between the unpredictable Tiger - 2010 - and Dragon - 2012 - years!)

Traditions of the new year are therefore based on customs of a people who lived closer to the earth, dependent on weather, seasons, storms, trees and general ecology of their areas. Part of the focus would have been skyward - sun, moon, planets and stars.

Who knows whether the new year "nian" was a physical, astronomical or metaphorical monster. But it was necessary to chase the beast away in order to restore balance and secure another cycle of earth's fertility and fruitfulness. The ancients were advised to do this by making noise and putting up red symbols to keep the beast at bay. It's thought that the term "guo nian" originated in the meaning "survive the year/monster beast" which now comes to mean "celebrate" or "welcome the time before the beast returns."

Preparations begin the month before (in winter's harshest grip) and extend two weeks after, but the special celebration takes place on new year's eve, when feasts are prepared. One of the staples is a dumpling whose meaning "sleep together and have sons" is a wish for prosperity in family life. Wontons would be a good choice for your new year's meal.

Wear red since it is the colour that drives the beast away. And take the opportunity to "get over the past," forget old grudges and be open to fresh relationships.

Today, there is the real China that is a metropolis, with its eyes on progress and the challenges of sustaining a billion souls. But worldwide there is a China of the heart where food, culture, myth and metaphor nourish the diaspora. If you happen to be somewhere else but Beijing or Hong Kong, check out the Chinatown nearest you, or pick one of these:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

words and more words

Forever as far as memory goes, I have loved words, the rhyme in a song, the cleverness in a joke or riddle; the bite of a calypso punch line; even the lyric on the lips of a limer. In primary school I gobbled up synonyms (words that mean the same); homonyms (words that sound the same) and antonyms (opposites). In the evenings I huddled to the radio to the sonorous voice of a programme called "voice of one, random thoughts about things in general." I copied the best quips, the quirkiest lines from "laughter the best medicine" and rhymes that could be found in Readers Digest. I kept copy books full of the lyrics of favourite songs. Later on, attempts at blank verse may actually have freed me from having to act out those teenage emotions; and yes, some words don't ever deserve to see the light of day, and were burned unceremoniously.

What I have learned - from hours of self-indulgence, in a world where happiness is a site called amazon; contentment a thousand page book that fits on a tablet in your pocket; and pleasure comes from writing away into an endless ether - are some things about excess and economy. Sometimes you have to say nothing at all. Sometimes a word or two are enough. Sometimes a word or two are way too much!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

dear facebook

I used to keep a "dear diary" - I even had one with a lock and key. But at the end of the day, the entries were brief, cursory, not descriptive of who I was or what I was thinking. Rained today. Went to Library. Lessons. My nine year old self. Then the 13 year old: Packed eggs. Late at school. Math test. At 17: Saw S. Sewed dress. BAHS fete. First Intercol. Driving test - failed.

My secret diary was secret even if you managed to read it. So much compressed into innocuous two-worders. And although I may be hard-pressed to say exactly what was special about the days I "packed eggs" (was this to keep a tab of my pocket change?) or was ":late at school," other entries have the power to bring feelings flooding back. Me behind the wheel for the first time from Santa Cruz to San Fernando. It was not about speed, but endurance. The almost 18 year old self, hands on wheel, foot balancing clutch, eyes ahead. It felt like running a marathon. I was never an easy driver. My 16 year old self was a back seat reader - devouring chapters as the car made its way over the Saddle into Maraval to the school gate.

Saw S. Who was S again? Someone seen from a distance. Probably in a Saints or QRC or Trinity uniform. Or even more risque - someone already working, seen from the first floor balcony of a classroom overlooking the street.

Facebook has taken over the task of preserving your daily status "today for today." Still, however open to the world this on-line diary is, the communications remain encoded - wrapped in words and images that disguise hope, love, yearning, anger, fear, frustration...  So give the world a "shout out," see what friends are up to, read what interests them, check the world through other eyes and this single tiny portal - scroll back through time and photos. Be connected through virtual synapses - nerve endings that could be anywhere - in Amsterdam, London, Miami, Queensland ...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Blue emperor

Who knew that a butterfly would enjoy a sip of wine? No words could capture this magical event as well as the quick photographer!

Blue Emperors regularly fly through the porch - this one came to perch!

And to check out the contents of the goblet - quite unafraid!
Taking a nose dive into the goblet with dregs of wine...
Sitting and sipping from the pool of wine!
Quite comfortable inside the goblet...
Ready to go on its tipsy way.
(Photos of the Blue Emperor by Ranji Ganase)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Born slow

New year already? I never can get it together to be in the new year when it starts. Sure, went through all the motions - wait for midnight, see the fireworks far across the valley, kiss kiss kiss kiss happy happy happy, good wishes on the lips, heart still wondering "what - another year, again, now starting,  start slowly... don't think of the ending... wishes and dreams!"

I think I was born slow. Or maybe acquired the more ponderous habit of waiting and seeing later in life. 2011 - supposed to be my year. But the Chinese Rabbit doesn't come in until February 3. So I will take my time. Slow down and watch the bush along the way. Try not to seem bovine alongside the rarin' to go year-starters! Not exactly a swift hare, more a cautious cat, stepping lightly into time.

Happy new year everyone! This is a year to enjoy the view.