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Song of China

Mom, thinking 2

China always intrigued me. As a child I read Pearl Buck’s books, and later happily studied Chinese history, literature and philosophers at our local university.

Confucius

Confucius. We also learned about Laozi, Mencius, Zhu Xi, and Mozi, all great minds.

 

 

When the country opened, if just a little, after the Tiananmen Square Massacre (1989), I finally visited in 1991, after obsessing about China for years.

 

 

 

Tiananmen Square Massacre1989

Tanks in Tiananmen Square, 1989

Many died in the Tiananmen Square Massacre. We’ll probably never know how many. Our group were some of the first tourists to visit afterwards, so I was not surprised at the mixed reactions we created.

 

 

Tiananmen Square1989

Tiananmen Square, Beijing, where a man said ‘Go back to your country.’ and meant it.

 

The presence of many soldiers throughout the cities made me uncomfortable, I wasn’t used to so many military men in the streets. Were they following us?

 

 

 

protests

Protests, Tiananmen Square, 1989

Shopping district Shanghai

I wrote about China being ‘wall-to-wall’ people. They took us to this shopping district in Shanghai.

I’m not a shopper nor used to crowds, and so was terrified at the crush of people in the shopping district of Shanghai. Hans and I just fought our way across the sidewalk to dash back to our bus before it left to park. We sat in it talking as we waited for the others to return.

We think of the Great Wall as one of the wonders of the world, but I considered the bus drivers, who managed to get us safely from one place to another in the insane traffic as the real wonders of the world.

I wrote this  little poem to read from the top of the famous Great Wall of China as a tribute to the many brilliant Chinese poets I’d read through the years.

touristswall

I did read my poem from the top of the wall in Beijing. The many tourists ignored me, which was just as well.

 

Song of China

Oh, revered Chinese poets and scribes
Who have given beauty in song for ages
Hear these unworthy words I offer you
As they drift softly on the winds of your land
Where my breath and presence
Are but a wink in eternity.

I humbly give you this song as a tribute
To the beauty and wisdom you give me
With your words which will endure forever.
May this little poem, in my foreign tongue,
Please the ears of your spirits, who hover
Around me In the heavens above China.

Wall#1

The Great Wall of China

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afternoon naps…

Muriel2017

photo by Chandra

Hail the snuggly, comfy, fabulous and relaxing afternoon nap; that rejuvenating miracle I’ve indulged in since email came along. I toss off my shoes, puff up my pillow, crawl under my soft covers, and — ahhhh. What does email have to do with it, you ask? Listen up, email changed my life!

Years ago I worked for a local newspaper. I appeared at their offices every weekday morning, wrote on whatever subject the editor told me to, even — twice a year — fashion.

old-lady-with-walker

If we met, you’d know it was kind of hilarious

(If we met, you’d know why that was kind of hilarious.) However, I’d long ago been taught a good writer can write about anything, so I managed to think of something to write on the subject.

tiredinpm

By afternoon, my brain is barely functional

I’m an early morning person. By mid-afternoon my brain is barely functional. A nearby cafe, opened for breakfast and lunch, closed at 3 p.m. Each day at 2:30, you’d find me there buying a cappuccino.

Fueled on caffeine, I managed to survive the rest of the afternoon. (Friend Hans once added up how much I spent on those cappuccinos per year. It was a shock.)

How much I spent on cappuccinos was a shock!

Later, writing from home for several newspapers, I could email my articles to the editors. As long as I met deadlines, no one cared that I crawled into my bed after lunch

funnysleeping

No one cared that I crawled into my bed after lunch

to do what brilliant people in many countries do — take a nap. My eyes, tired of looking at my computer screen, delighted in this indulgence which, in time, became a necessity. It doesn’t even matter if I sleep or not. I close my eyes, listen to the radio, and R-E-S-T. I’ve renamed my daily snooze. It is now referred to as my ‘beauty nap’.

veryfunnybeauty

I’ve become more beautiful

 

I declare to anyone who will listen to my insanity that I’ve become more beautiful than ever.

 

I once asked my doctor about my naps. He heartily approved!

doctor

He heartily approved

Is a nap for everyone? Maybe not, but I recommend it highly, and if aging gives one any wisdom at all, just maybe I’ve accumulated a little along the way. (Ahem!) If you decide to try for yourself, let me know how it goes.

 

The elusive ‘O’…..

Muriel2017

photo by Chandra

Years ago in L.A.  I reviewed theatre. I typed weekly articles on my electric typewriter, drove them to the newspaper office or, when it became possible, faxed them from a local shop. No one I knew had a fax of their own yet. Email was not yet available.

A writer friend invited me to visit his cabin high in the San Bernadino mountains. It was a beautiful spot which gave us a break from the heat of the city, but I had a review to do.

‘Not to worry,’ he assured, ‘I’ve got a portable typewriter up there.’

‘Does it work?’

Royal manual typewriter I learned

I first learned to type on an old manual

‘Of course.’

I believed him. Why would he lie? He was a successful playwright. Naturally he’d have a typewriter that worked, right? And I first learned typing on an old manual typewriter so it ought to be okay. Off we went.

First thing next morning, I settled in comfortably on the large outdoor veranda under the shade of huge ancient trees — the kind you know have lived for generations. Sheets of paper and typewriter at the ready. Coffee close at hand, I took a deep breath of the fresh air and started typing.

ribbon-hearts

The word ‘love’ was in the title

 

The name of the play eludes me, it wasn’t that memorable, but the word ‘love’ was in the title. The typewriter managed the first two words without a problem. I managed to press the keys hard enough until I reached the O in the word LOVE. It didn’t work. I tried again. No luck. The third time I pushed that O, I realized I was in trouble. How can you write a whole article about a play about love without an O.

confused-old-lady

What to do?

What to do? I sipped more coffee and glared at that stupid, stubborn typewriter. How dare it do that to me? It didn’t react. Then I glared at my friend. How come he didn’t know the O didn’t work? How could HE do this to me. I guarantee the words coming out of my mouth weren’t pearls.

fatoldangry

The words coming out of my mouth were not pearls

His excuse? He didn’t go there to write. He spent his time climbing mountain trails, not working. Admittedly, his portable typewriter had obviously been ignored. He didn’t know the O was in trouble.

1950's port Oliver typewriter

I inserted an O by hand into each space

After I tired of scolding everything and everyone, I finished my coffee, concentrated on that tired little typewriter, and decided to write that review come hell or high water. Have you ever known me to give up? No way! I would write that darned review by skipping a space every time a word called for an O. It slowed me down — a lot. It took a lot of coffee. It took a lot of time, but I managed the approximate 500 words by inserting a space wherever an O belonged.

After completing my masterpiece, I carefully inserted an O by hand in each space. Was it perfect? No. The O’s stood out from the light gray of the old typewriter ribbon and tended to be of various sizes and shapes, but it said what I wanted it to.

Off to the village post-office we went to fax the piece to my editor. It was done on time, retyped by a clerk at their office, and published. I had managed it after all and my reputation was intact.

Mountains

The San Bernadino Mountains

Later, the editor told me he was so amused by my handwritten O’s throughout my review, he showed it to everyone who would take a moment to look at it, including the mailman. He then tacked it up on the bulletin board where it remained for months to come. I became famous with that Hollywood paper. What fun!

Am I too sane to write really well?

Muriel2017

photo by my Chandra

The other day I attended a ‘Music in the Morning’ concert featuring pianist Pedja Muzijevic, which was not only enjoyable but, for me, particularly interesting. Am I capable of judging the artist’s talent? Of course not. I certainly enjoyed the performance and felt it worth braving the rain and windstorm that chose to hit our city that day.

Said storm created floods and hazards and made it difficult for me to obtain cabs and I got soaked. (We are, after all, located in a rain forest.)

 

pedjaMuzijevic

Pianist Pedja Muzijevic

 

On the program was Robert Schumann’s Carnaval, Op. 9.

ClaraSchumann(1819-1896)

Clara Schumann, (1819-1896)

RobertSchumann(1810-1856)

Robert Schumann, (1810-1856)

In introducing this selection, Muzijevic said something about Schumann which I’ve been thinking about ever since: ‘Schumann, being mentally ill, wrote music without boundaries.‘

(Schumann’s wife, Clara, was also a gifted composer and musician and deserves mention here.)

 

This was the first time in many, many years since I’d heard something like that. Way back in my 30s, when I still hoped to someday write the ‘great American novel’, my husband and I had a friend who was a psychiatrist. One evening when he and his wife came over for dinner, he told me I would never be a great writer because — I was too sane!

having dinner

Dinner conversation years ago

He went on to say he had some patients who were very successful authors, who were able to write things ‘normal’ people can’t. People who are sane, he continued, have something like a protective fence around their brains and they tend to stay within those perimeters. People who are not sane don’t have that barrier. This makes it possible for them to follow ideas outside where you would not dare go.

I’ve never forgotten that evening so long ago and the interesting discussion we had over dinner. This week was the very first time since then I’d heard that same idea expressed. What do you think of it?

Reading Richard Wagamese

Muriel2017

photo by my Chandra

It’s Canada Day today. I’m home with a bothersome cold, which wouldn’t be nice to give to anyone so I’m alone, listening to the CBC and reading Richard Wagamese. Good, they’re talking about Canadian Literature. Since reading is one of my greatest pleasures, I’m interested. They haven’t mentioned any of our native writers yet, but they may.

Our book club has given me the gift of discovering,

Wagamese author

Ojibway author Richard Wagamese, 1955-2017

often for the first time, many writers I didn’t know of before. The books we chose to read this month are ‘One Native Life’ and ‘Embers’, both by Richard Wagamese. We

indian Horse

Indian Horse by Wagamese (now a film)

had already read two other of his books, ‘Medicine Walk’, and ‘Indian Horse’, each of which were very worth reading. (Indian Horse was made into a movie, but I haven’t seen it. I don’t like to see films based on books I’ve read. I like to hold on to it in my own way.)

We lost a special Canadian when Wagamese passed away in 2017. He was an Ojibway journalist, radio and TV broadcaster, and producer. All of this in spite of an abusive childhood and little education. (His parents were Residential School survivors.) Wagamese was only 61 when he died and certainly had more books left in him. He did, however, leave us a rich legacy. I’m now reading his ‘Embers’. Here are a few quotes from this account of his journey in learning how to live.

Embers

An easy read, yet full of wisdom

‘I am a traveler on a sacred journey through this one shining day.

Walk gently on the earth and do each other no harm.

We live because everything else does.

A gift is not a gift until it is shared.

Keep what’s true in front of you.

Freedom is letting go of bounds and barriers, and hurling yourself into the adventure of living.

Let the mystery remain a mystery.

Be filled with wonder.

Take the first step and try to make it beyond.

Shout something.’

I hope this moves you to read ‘Embers’ and then more of Richard Wagamese’s books. Enjoy!

Old lady reading

I may have a cold, but I’m enjoying my day doing one of my favorite things.

 

 

Write to a special teacher…

Muriel2017

photo by my Chandra

Once upon a time, in sixth grade, we were introduced to Shakespeare.

three witches in Macbeth

The three witches in Macbeth

Our teacher, Miss (sounds like) Merovitz, taught Macbeth. She acted out the roles as she read aloud — she must have known the play by heart and obviously loved it. I was mesmerized. The woman turned me on to Shakespeare. Much later, I thoroughly enjoyed his work and Macbeth remains my favorite.

In junior high, we had a class called ‘Music Appreciation’. Mr. Hopper, our teacher, played recordings of classical pieces for us and at exam time, we were expected to recognize the piece and know who the composer was. (I made up words to the music which helped identify which piece was which. It worked.) One

Modest Musssorgsky, 1839-81

Mussorgsky 1839-81

was ‘Night on Bare Mountain’ by Mussorgsky, another, ‘Fingal’s

Felix Mendelssohn, 1809-47

Mendelssohn 1809-47

Cave Overture’ by Mendelssohn. (By the way, I highly recommend a fascinating book called ‘Mendelssohn is on the Roof’ by Czech author Jiri Weil — a fascinating read.)

 

Jiri Weil 1900-59, Czech author

Jiri Weil 1900-59

Was Mr. Hopper an especially, exciting teacher? Absolutely not. He was a bore — in retrospect probably a shy man who played piano. However, he received ten tickets to the Metropolitan Opera’s performance of Saint-Saens’ Sampson and Delilah. Why he chose to give ME one, I’ll never know. Montreal didn’t have an opera house then. Undaunted, the Met performed at the Forum, a hockey arena. My seat high up in the bleachers wasn’t too high for me to be enchanted. I’d never seen or heard anything so beautiful. To this day, merely two of the first notes of that gorgeous aria are enough for me to recognize it. (Mr. Hopper would be proud indeed.) I’m sure I thanked him for the ticket, but that would have been all. I had no idea what an important role opera would play in my later life.

This October, for the first time since I saw this performance so many years ago, I will see it again. The Met is doing Sampson and Delilah. I’m excited. I’ll be in my seat at my local theatre on a Saturday morning watching, listening and enjoying.

Camille Saint-Saens

Saint-Saens 1835-1921

At the time, we held teachers in awe — like one step down from God. I certainly didn’t feel they would be interested or care about my reaction to anything. Besides, it was many years later, after my children were grown, that I was finally able to find the time to attend performances. Only then did I realize the gifts these two teachers had given me so long ago.

Things have changed. Teachers are now more approachable, students have easy access to email and can more easily send notes of appreciation to teachers who are special in some way. My son, Rafi, teaches high school. He receives notes and letters from students, former students, and parents who want him to know how much they have appreciated him. I know how much it means to him and love that it happens. So, if a teacher has been meaningful in your life, do take the time to let him/her know.

 

photo from newspaperRafi

Rafi, teacher of the year, 2012

Okay I’ll brag. I’m a proud mom. Rafi was nominated ‘Teacher of the Year’ in 2012 out of 5,000 teachers in the county. The guy was born to teach. He profoundly cares about his work and his students. He’ll probably be annoyed with me for doing this, but do watch him at it in the short video below taken during a student walkout at his school where an unpleasant racial incident occurred right after Trump was elected. Go, Rafi, go!

To see him at it, click below:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5Z5ePJSVtrBSTBxb3BMam9zeGs/view?ts=58572979

 

Dear Chris….

Muriel2017

photo by my Chandra

I’m trying to eliminate clutter. It’s my true effort to become a thoughtful parent. Unfortunately, I find it almost impossible when it comes to my files.

Tackling one of the thick folders of correspondence from my late friend

Hans

Hans. He was a lot of fun…

Hans, I re-read one of his letters and just couldn’t bring myself to dispose of it. It is  too funny. Right behind it was the following poem he wrote to Christopher Columbus. If you were me, could you toss it out?

 

 

 

‘What I always wanted to say to Chris but was afraid to’

by Hans Muller

‘Mister Christopher Columbus

Columbus by Granger

Christopher Columbus, by Granger. I doubt he was much fun.

you’re in history’s vein a thrombus

which, on wide spread urgery

should be removed by surgery.

By Soviet-style complete excision

lest history’s held up to derision

occasioned by your sine-qua-

non mis-historical faux-pas.

What befogged your addled brain?

There was no smog or acid rain,

no radio or T.V. commercial,

nothing crass or controversial

to have made you cause such terror

by your gross baptismal error,

christening our natives ‘Indian’.

Did you hear them speaking Hindi-an?

Did you see them wearing saris?

Your fraudulence tops Mata Hari’s.

Had odes been sung in Amerindian,

not Shakespearean or Pindian,

but sung in praise of Red Man’s Gods,

you’d probably call those odes odds.

You would call a square a rhombus,

wouldn’t you, Signor Columbus?

 

You’d misquote the works of Homer,

3ships

The Nina (Santa Clara), Pinta (Spanish for ‘the painted one’ (prostitute), and Santa Maria

you champion of the crass misnomer.

No more of your mumbo-jumbo

Don Chistoforo Columbo.

I shall ask the nearest cop

to jail you, Mister Malaprop

for the lies with which you bomb us,

Mister Christopher Columbus.

 

*Hans, who could speak/read about five languages, had no problem making up words in any of them. He believed in having fun.