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04 December 2000

Last Monday

This is the Chinese symbol for Dragon, lung. The calligraphy is mine. I finally had to buy a real sumi brush— it holds the ink better. As you can see in the above, I let the brush get a bit dry and I haven't quite gained control...

I've got a really cool book The Nature of the Chinese Character, which is about the written Chinese language. I bought the book years ago. Each chapter is about a different symbol, and along the edge of the page there's a grid of boxes which show the order in which the strokes are written to form the characters. That's what I've been practicing.

I haven't tackled the Japanese kanji symbols yet. Looking at the examples in Sword & Brush: The Spirit of the Martial Arts, they seem much more complicated.


Ma's seeing auras. Psychic ones. "What's it mean," she says to me out of the blue after supper, "when you see an amber light that goes from here to here?"

"What— ? Who— ? Huh?"

"An amber light. That goes from the second shirt button to the fourth." (Ma doesn't know from chakras. That'd be between the third and fourth: heart and solar plexus.) "I've been thinking about it. I didn't imagine it. It was an amber light. What's it mean?"

Well, it's flattering that she thinks I'd know, but she had me there. Even after all these years, sometimes Ma still brings me up short. "Ma... I believe you, but I haven't the foggiest." I know something about chakras, but I haven't thought about auras in twenty years. "Maybe you should ask David."

So she did. He believed her, too. At least that's what she said. Told her some people see auras. But either he didn't know what it meant, or she ain't telling. I don't know. Of course, he doesn't know Ma. He could just think she's batty... I know I do—

But I know Ma. If she says she saw an aura, she saw one. And if she'd practice regularly, they'd probably make her High Lama— heck, maybe she already is High Lama. How would I know? I can only wonder what else she sees that she doesn't think worth mentioning.

Quo vadis?

Tuesday night, I was sailing along in class, feeling pretty good about things, practicing the new permutation of Parting Horse's Mane, following the line of tiles on the floor, when suddenly David was in front of me asking, "Where are you going?"

Rats! Another of those unexpected questions. Not my week. I looked down at my feet; I looked ahead— I looked at my feet again... I looked confused.

"That's six o'clock, that's three o'clock, and that's nine o'clock," he said, indicating left, right, and forward quadrants of the room. "Where are you going?" I looked at him. He didn't have his hands on his hips, but he sounded just like my first grade teacher, Miss Randall, when she'd already told you something sixteen times and really didn't want to have to go over it for the seventeenth.

I had thought I was going forward, but I didn't get to say so because the next moment he was sticking his foot between mine and telling me that my stance was too wide and my feet were only supposed to be one foot-width apart— "See? One foot-width."— and I was taking too big a step, and then he was demonstrating and I was following along and—

I adjusted my stance, I adjusted my stride... But now nothing felt right. And he was eyeing me, like Miss Randall used to after that seventeenth explanation, and I kept on, and finally— satisfied or disgusted?— David left me to it...

It never fails. You think you're finally getting something right, and bam! it's back to square one. I hate t'ai chi.


I'm damned if I'll practice. $#@&*^! t'ai chi.

Ma and I watched the video Power Tai Chi with Dr. Jerry Alan Johnson. Nothing like what we're used to, but... interesting.


I'm damned if I'll practice.

I found the website for the new movie by Ang Lee, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It opens in the US December 8th. (Notice the bottom symbol in the title: Dragon.) Ebert gave it a good review. I wonder if I can find anyone to go with me to see it— someone who'll appreciate it, I mean.

In The Essence of Tai Chi, a pocket version of the Tai Chi Classics, there's a very good section on what they term shoong. Sung, Shoong. It's very important. I am getting better at it, but there's still a long, long way to go.


I can't not practice. But now I can't not keep looking down to see where my feet are. Rats.

Nash Bridges wasn't on. Ma and I watched the video Tai Chi: The 24 Forms with Dr. Paul Lam, a very earnest young man. It looked mostly familiar, at least, unlike all the other tapes I've watched. But boring. Ma fell asleep.


I got myself up betimes, practiced, showered, and set out for the Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center in Mashantucket, Connecticut to see Marge Bruchac, an Abenaki Storyteller. It was excellent— and fun, too. Marge told stories, and her husband assisted, playing the flute and leading us in a couple of dances, the Snake Dance and the Friendship Dance. We also got to chant and play rattles. It was a two-hour program and I had a very good time.

And it was a little bit magic, too. Storytelling is always a little bit of magic. And I came away feeling I can do this, too...

At last! I have been out to dinner! We went to Penelli's and I got "sp'sketty" sauce all down the front of my new white shirt. Ain't that always the way? If I went out more often, I'd've remembered the reason not to order linguini: wind it ever so carefully around your fork, the ends still come loose and whip around and get sauce all over everything, expecially your chin and shirt front. Rats. But it was good to go out to dinner.


Jo invited me to the "Medicine Show." That's where all the Apprentice Herbalists who've been learning at Hi-On-A-Hill Herb Farm demonstrate what they've learned about herbal "medicines" by exhibiting various formulations they've concocted with their hard learned knowledge. It's a nine-month program and very thorough. Jo knows her stuff, she's a Master Herbalist and a certified Organic Grower, but her partner Michael of Apollo Herbs in North Kingston, is not only an excellent herbalist, but he also has a Batchelor's degree in Botany, and a Master of Science in Pharmacognosy from URI. Very interesting fellow. They're well qualified to teach. I was impressed.

The people in the class were very nice, very generous. And they had learned a lot, and some of them learned particularly well and seemed to have a real knack. The herbal preparations, and tinctures, and cosmetics, and decoctions, and soaps, and cordials were wonderful— and well thought out, too. And I got to meet a world-renowned herbalist Ms. Juliette de Bairacli-Levy. A very interesting old lady. The BBC is doing a documentary program about her life.

I spent the whole afternoon with them, talking and listening. At one point, I asked Michael about whether they ever discussed chi, because he had been talking about the "focus" one needs for the process of formulation to really work, to be really inspired. And, as I was formulating my question, I automatically put my hands up to to illustrate what I was asking and I could feel the chi in that room. I could gather it in my hands it felt so thick. Magic. I finished asking my question, but I already had the answer: it didn't matter what I called it, they knew all about chi in that room. And about Art.

I'll probably take a few classes myself next spring.


When I began practicing today the grass in the meadow behind my house was all white with frost. As I practiced it slowly changed from white to green, the white in the shadows of the branches lingering longest.

I practiced for an hour. After the third set, I took off my shirt-jack and was quite comfortable in my teeshirt. By the last set I was very warm, though I could still see my breath. I cooled down with the qigong exercises, but when I stepped out of the shower twenty minutes later the steam was still rising from me.

I have to wear my hat now to practice because the sun is so low in the sky that it shines beneath the porch roof and right into my eyes.

I love being able to practice outside. It feels so right. How can people shut themselves away indoors?


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