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February 2003
Tabula rasa ·  Sunset over Lima ·  The Cloudherd's Song ·  Nature writers ·  Swirl ·  Repeating ourselves ·  Chinese New Year ·  Island in a lake · 

February 26, 2003  |  Tabula rasa
Another sunset on the balcony, 4th or 5th now? A hammock, a perfect breeze, bougainvillas a riot surrounding me. It's lovely, but this thought crosses my mind: can I remember the snow in New York? Only with effort. It takes concentration to recall more precisely the sensory information, how it felt on my skin, the lift of the leg necessary to walk through it, the way my mind and everything felt sharp. It's still possible to recall these feelings, concrete and real; in a few more days it won't be possible, the sensations, if requested, would need to be approximated from abstract ideas. The senses always have amnesia, forever wiped clean for the next thing, good or bad or neutral. I wish to be the tabula rasa that can receive, but I also wish to be like the strata of the earth, like the ice inside the Austrian Alps, preserving layer upon fine layer of information that can be retrieved, and an impressive cross-section of knowledge, and time, within.

Posted by yingzhao 12:14 AM | Permalink
February 23, 2003  |  Sunset over Lima
Lima sunset

Lima sunset
Lima sunset, two views

I'm on a balcony overlooking the Pacific, a lovely sunset going on, the bright red-orange disc kind of sunset, the unblinking going-going-gone kind of sunset. (It was explained to me that nearer the equator the sun goes down much faster, diving straight down into the sea rather than sliding into it at an angle further up north. So true, don't know why it never occured to me before. Enjoy your long sunsets.) My British compatriot of Peru is in his hammock listening to Harry Potter on digital audio, the usual studiousness given up for the day as the magic of Harry Potter drew him in deeper. I am in a calm and happy moment as is usually the mood at sunsets, with a boost also from a few hours of productive work late in the afternoon, writing an equipment grant for the NGO, for which I get to stay in this lovely and privileged San Isidro house.

The organization, Shinai Serjali, does good work, great actually, honest and painstaking with no promise of easy ways out. They work with indigenous peoples in the Peruvian Amazon who've only come into contact with national society in 1984, after which an estimated 40-60% died from introduced respiratory diseases, they've had to relocate, the loggers and petrochemical companies continue to infringe on their rights. They're facing the most important decisions for their future, but concepts such as pollution are entirely abstract to them. That's a trip. Some communities in the surrounding areas choose to stay in voluntary isolation, though they've not necessarily gotten what they wanted. It's like that old joke of someone's about to be rescued from a desert island, but ask for the day's newspaper first, then refusing the lift. It's like bringing children into the world. Serjali's task is to "bring up" the group in record time, so that they can stand up to the bullies and otherwise make something of themselves in this world.

Posted by yingzhao 12:05 AM | Permalink
February 18, 2003  |  The Cloudherd's Song
Olympia Mountains, Washington State

The Cloudherd's Song

Never having done anything ever but watch
and never having actually watched anything,

never having attended to anything but cloud
and never having touched one or learned

its numbers or colors or rightful names
(except once on the slopes above Darjeeling

I wore out into the morning and breathed you in,
mother of atmosphere, green air,

eternity, vagrant, the monsoon
had brought you and I took you entirely in)

I call you cloud and call myself yours.

— Robert Kelly

» Click here for more cloudy pictures. «

Posted by yingzhao 10:13 PM | Permalink
Nature writers

Recently I have found great kinship with a couple of American nature writers in the great tradition of Thoreau: Barry Lopez and Peter Matthiessen. Matthiessen is an intrepid and true explorer, who later in life became a Zen teacher, and in his writing and his character I find great inspiration. Some have described him as "always making things hard for himself." I find this is true; anything as sharp, polished, and penetrating as his mind is, does not come easily. He did everything the hard way, went to the ends of the earth and the depth of himself, sought after snow leopards and cranes and other mystical things, endured great distances and hardships, so that he became an instrument like a glistening diamond. The process is utterly complex, the result is utterly simple. I sense I wanted to be Matthiessen, before I've heard of Matthiessen, before I had an idea of a person as such an instrument.

All this is to say, I'm doing things the hard way. I feel like I have done it that way since I was 13. And I was looking for some reassurance that I am not just dense in some way.

Posted by yingzhao 10:08 PM | Permalink
February 14, 2003  |  Swirl


»  Click here to see more images from Klamath, Northern Calfornia, November 2002.  «

“The epiphany of my life came along long ago, when it struck me that sadness was a recognition and affirmation of the sweep of beauty in the world, the promiscuous swirl of it through our lives, and the scars it leaves behind.”
— Bob Shacochis, author

Posted by yingzhao 11:38 AM | Permalink
Repeating ourselves
It struck me that each of us only have a few things we say, over and over. It could take on different forms: conversation, writing, photography, painting, our habits, the air we displace, the ideas we arrange, etc., and there are great diversities within the self, but in all the flurry there's often that recognition: oh, here it is again, I'm repeating myself. We all say the same things over and over, because we are trying to say them better and better. In some ways we want what we say to transcend language, and other media, in other ways we want what we mean to transcend ourselves, yet another form.

Posted by yingzhao 11:05 AM | Permalink
February 08, 2003  |  Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year 2003 Chinese New Year 2003 Chinese New Year 2003
Chinese New Year 2003 Chinese New Year 2003 Chinese New Year 2003
Chinese New Year 2003 Chinese New Year 2003 Chinese New Year 2003
»  Click here to see more images from Chinatown, New York, NY, February 2003.  «

Chinese New Year's parade and festivities, Chinatown, New York. It's the year of the Ram, or Goat, or Sheep, or year 4700. The festivities are mostly a facade, thin. The details are nice, but without the crowds, there's not much of a show. But I appreciate the young men and women with their bleached and colored locks and their good looks doing the drumming, taking up the baton of tradition that's the lion's head, dancing their way into each storefront and wishing auspiciousness for the coming year. Some traditions and some sense of community are passed down. I pass through the parade streets alone, reviving old memories and collecting new ones. I'm an outsider to this Chinese community, and most others, yet I appreciate them deeply, if only for a smile on a Chinese baby girl's face.

Posted by yingzhao 09:35 PM | Permalink
February 04, 2003  |  Island in a lake


An island in a lake on the Olympia peninsula in Washington State.
I'm forever trying to get back there.

Posted by yingzhao 03:17 PM | Permalink
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