Tuesday, December 30, 2014


It's the seventh day of Christmas here in Jing'An.

Yesterday I walked along Beijing Road to the Bund. At a very leisurely pace it took about two hours. I suspect I could have done it in 45 minutes, but I stop a lot. I talked to a little girl and took her picture, tried on a pair of shoes, strolled through the Jing'An Sculpture Garden, I walked around the block in a couple of places that looked interesting, and I stopped to have a jym-be just blocks before I got to the Bund. There was lots of talking there at the jym-be stop, and I took a picture of a lady and her dog there.  At the Bund I had a pot of tea and then took the train home. If you live in Jing'An, after all, why would you want to be anywhere else? I really feel that way about this neighborhood.

A jim-be is a burrito like thing which is made on a big round thing. The cook puts a blob of dough on the big round thing -- like a comal, used for tortillas, only much bigger -- and as the dough cooks they put an egg on it, toss on some green things, a yellowish thing, and then add a either a crispy bread or a chewy bread. Then they fold it in half and put some brown sauce on the half-moon bit. then roll and tuck the edges and you have a jym-be. This one was made with a chewy bread. It had noodles and seaweed inside, so it was a little different than what I am used to. But I think it's still called a jym-be... and I am not at all sure how to write the Pin Yin for it, that's just my best guess. They are from Shandong Province. You can get them on my street at the weekend, early in the morning. I like the ones here better. I'm not much on seaweed as a food for humans. I sometimes use the dried seaweed as a salt substitute, but I don't really like the limpy stuff in my jym-be.

I was surprised to see the sculpture garden. I knew it was on Bejing Lu, but I thought it was the other way. So, that was a nice surprise. There were some new sculptures and some old favorites. I went there quite a lot that time I wound up spending almost three weeks here waiting for my backpack to clear customs. Remember that? What a bother that was. Anyway, I'd go down to the sculpture garden to calm myself.

Then, if you continue on Beijing Lu, you walk through an area that sells all kinds of hardware: tools, motors, nuts, bearings, rotors, just everything you can imagine. I even saw some plumbing, which often has its own section. So that was interesting, though I am not sure I need to do it again.

Nanjing Lu also goes to the Bund and the next time I take that walk I think I'll go down Nanjing Lu. It will be more interesting.

We have not had very good air quality lately. The AQI (Air Quality Index) has been spiking up into the very unhealthy range several times a day for a few days. In the unhealthy range I sometimes get a mild eye irritation, something that I treat with drops and a nap. No big deal. But now it's the sore throat and I don't know if it's AQI or an actual sore throat. I will stuck close to home today and drink lots of tea.

Photos to follow. I know I always say that and then I never do it. I am just putting more energy into ukulele and journalism these days. I can only really love one or two hobbies at a time. I feel fortunate that there are so many things that interest me. But it also limits me. This is the nature of the Earth Plane.

Love to all.

Saturday, December 6, 2014


In haiku -- really in all of Japanese poetry -- we talk about sabi. It means to feel your own existence and to eperience its particualrity, it's edges.

the Advent disciplines of art and poetry lend themselves to expressions of sabi. Incarnation, after all, is about taking on limitation and accepting the constraints of the Earth plane. Advent calls us to the starkness of being, and being bound to time and place.

During this time we turn away from what I call LED Jesus; the bright shining transcendence who hovers over altar tables, the pantocrator on the ceiling surrounded by gold... and way, far up there.

During Advent our God has edges. God comes right up to our skin and breathes. it's close-up. Stark. And so we need a stark expression.

The haiku master Basho once talked about how other poets write in color, but his students write in black and white.

Here are some of my black and white haiku for the first week in Advent:


o come, come Emanuel
a people of hope
we want to sing, want to hope


the dark closes in
unstoppable, unyielding
where is my candle?


dark keeps creeping in
my little candle flickers
winter wind threatens


don't let the rain come
wet skies taunt me with their threats
i guard my small light


at night it goes out
then the day with its own light
i light the candle again
and again, amen. amen.
i light my candle again


can the light grow strong
when the dark is all around
when indifference rules?


On Saturday we have no haiku.
Jesus is in the womb.
It is a quiet day.

Also we are moving house on this day and we will not have time to write any haiku. But, we will have a darling little apartment and that is worth a haiku sacrifice.

Thursday, December 4, 2014


You may know haiku as the very short Japanese verse consisting of three lines and 17 syllables. And that's basically it. It's something we teach children and English language learners because it gives them a sense of being in command of the language, it reviews vowel sounds, and syllables, it uses new parts of the brain, and it's just plain fun.

But there is more to it than that. In fact, doing good haiku is hard. That's why I keep doing it. I haven't done a good one yet.

The precursor to the garden-variety 5-7-5 pattern was called thanka (or waka) and it has a 5-7-5-7-7 pattern. In a variation of that, one writer can write the 5-7-5 thanka opening, and someone else can write the last two lines. It's a poetic word game for two.

It reminds me of what Jane Hirshfield said in her Kindle Single, The Heart of Haiku:
To read a haiku is to become its co-author, to place yourself inside its words until they reveal one of the proteus-shapes of your own life.
Of course, such an exercise is different for everyone.

See if you can add anything to this haiku:

in mad defiance
i will light the light again
always believing

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


William Cullen Bryant is famous for his poem To a Waterfowl. At the time -- mid-18th century -- it was thought to be one of the best poems ever written.  And it is a very clean little piece:  Eight stanzas of iambic trimiter and pentameter. In my class we just looked for the rhyming words, though. It's only college, after all. And they are only English majors. Alas, I briefly fantasized about showing them the metaphor, the anaphora, and the anastrophe; in the end I decided against it. It is a clean little piece, though... and just right for teaching. William Arnold even said that it was the best short poem in the language. I don't think that any of you will feel that way about my haiku, but I am inspired the same as Bryant by the steadfastness of the bird, and the mysterious way it makes its way home... the way we all do.

to the waterfowl
bright white snowy bird

feet to the rear, beak forward
the avian engineer

are you going home?
is your lover there?