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Daily Inspirations

Philosopher’s Path

 

 

While watching Hope building a tower with her blocks, in between changing diapers and cleaning the kitchen floor, or when mindlessly moving my hands under running water in a sink, my mind canters along a path I remember dearly. It always starts with a brook in the middle of a road that is outlined by a procession of trees on both sides. Along the path, there are little shops–colorful, coy, self-contained. I let them pass me, thinking I would stop by one of them if I would ever return to this place. I am always running out of time.

One day I asked TH about this path. I asked him if he could tell me where we had walked this road. “Was it in Minneapolis, near the park of Minnehaha fall? Was it some French town near Geneva? Or somewhere in the suburb of Philadelphia?” At first TH said he knew which place I was talking about. I vaguely remembered that I was not alone, but I couldn’t see the face of my company. I just assumed it would have to be TH. “Where were we going?” I asked again, and more questions asked, TH seemed to get more and more unsure.

On my fourth day in Kyoto, I looked at the city map for the first time. Until that point I solely depended on my friend for directions and choice of activities. Since my friend had to spend the afternoon in a library at Kyoto University of Art and Design, I had to plan my afternoon alone. Since the University was in the upper east side the city, I tried to find something near, and I spotted an interesting name for a road. Philosopher’s Road, as written on English map connected couple of temples nearby.

“Philosopher’s road! What a romantic name!” Jisun exclaimed. A flashback to eight years ago. Jisun, wanting to take a few days off her work, persuaded me to come to Kyoto with her. She and I were a good match for traveling in a city that we had never been before. We both loved things from history, and we both appreciated art. It was destined that we both fell in love with temples of Kyoto; colorless zen gardens, green moss, wooden floors that you can feel under bare feet, and paintings enshrined in meeting rooms—we soaked them all in.

I knew where to spend my last afternoon in Kyoto so I take a bus from the art school to Ginkaku-ji bus station. In there middle of the road, there stands a wooden sign with carved white letters, “哲学の道 Tetsugaku-no-michi,” literally translated as a path to philosophy. Behind a sign starts a passage, two parallel roads and a canal in-between. A path is laid out in stone that stays cool under overhead foliage. Tree trunks, wearing summer green moss become a corridor that feels safe to walk in. Shops appear here and there along the road, selling coffee, souvenirs, soft ice cream, and handmade things, but they are not at all demanding. They entice you with possibilities to find something personal to make your day special.

There is a wooden doll in red dress placed on steps that lead to a small gallery. ‘I had been standing in this place.’ I said out loud to myself. With this realization, the trees, stone paved road, cafe, and canal became known to me. Yes, I have finally returned to the place in my memory.

At times when my alter-ego brought the image of this road to me, it was perhaps trying to tell me something, the same message over and over. I’d rather linger inside the image, as in daydreaming. The frequency of random appearance of the image increased in the past two years. Perhaps in those moments when I wished things were different, the image was my longing, as bare as it can be.

 

 

Do not doubt

“There is a deep satisfaction in watching things change while being still. Perhaps it comes from knowing where I am and accepting changes that come with the passing of time.”
-from  “Old Man Reflecting on Water”

Water
becomes a word, not just a carrier.
Watching it flow, I am an ancient wise woman meditating.

If I stand in water it would only come up to my thigh,
weed can wrap my torso three times
fish, length of my forearm, keep growing in size
so long as trees make blossom each spring.

I am my own stream, I too
have growing weeds and fish.
Where it starts, the stream—
and where it heads, I do not know. Only this moment
where we gathered under a bridge from which a child looks down
is an my validation.

Do not doubt.

D and Love
Daily Inspirations

D and Love

This is a picture that reminds me of our multi-dimensional existence.

What we have here with us today binds us to a relationship that last forever.

The beagle in the picture is D, my Love-child’s first dog. He was a contemplative kind. He did not care for chasing squirrels as other beagles do. If there were one thing that distracted him, it was his passion for food. He sometime went beyond a capacity of a beagle to get the object of desire in his mouth. With his companion beagle B, the duo scavenged food shelves for boxes of cereal and bags of dried fruits and nuts, and chewed them open to get to the contents. They once opened a jar of peanut butter and licked it off clean.

Besides the matters about food, D was generous towards life. He was self content, which was a natural result of unconditional love he received in his puppy days. He was rarely subjected to self doubt and jealousy. He did not have to prove himself. He just walked about the kitchen nonchalantly and if there is nothing that interests him, he took his usual seat at the couch and looked outside the window. On cold days he’d rather snuggle inside the house than go out for a walk. On good days he liked to sniff his favorite plants and carefully choose a spot to let out his waste.

D was an emblem of loyalty. His first love is for Aaron, his best-friend and the one who raised him. When Aaron was staying home in one afternoon sick with cold, D would not follow TH and me to go out for the usual walk. His legs became this solid rock planted deep in the ground. His neck muscles are dense and they can resist a hard pull from a leash. When he is determined he means it.

Love was already used to D’s barking sound before she was born having heard it daily through the uterine wall. From two weeks after birth she accompanied D’s afternoon walk. In her precarious waltz, she followed D’s lead. D did not speed up when Love was holding the leash. Love learned the smell of roses and lilies in summer. In winter she observed how D’s hot piss drills a hole in ten inch snow.

D taught me there is no need to hurry through life. You hold your ground and stay royal. Enjoy the grass of spring, love what you eat, and make new friends! Don’t overexert yourself but appreciate what you already have.

I will confess this: I am not a dog person. Having said it, I can tell you even a hard hearted being like me can recognize the dignity of a canine with ample time spent together. Every relationship has its own internal dynamic and a meaning that flows out of its nature. Between D and me, D was a giving one and I had been an oblivious preteen who makes mistakes in a friendship. Every time we met, he greeted me with a waggle inviting me to love him back, but he did not bother when I was not ready. He’d climb to his nest and close his eyes for his afternoon rest.

#5.2
Motherhood Journal

Motherhood Journal #5

Mother’s prayer

On August 15 of Lunar calendar,
under the full moon light
people used to make a wish

It would be a super full moon this year
TH told me the day before

I wanted to stay out until the moonrise but we had to put Hope to bed before a football match Korea vs. Uruguay
On our bed beside the windows we lie
to begin our bedtime routine
until something knocks on the pane
not with any sound, just silent rays of lights overlain
on the venetian blinds

We clear the window to receive the call to join
in the ancient prayer routine on such night

I know to whom my hearts are speaking to
and along with ten thousand words my wish will go up
and after hundred years my ardor will turn back to its source
and enter through the window of a little girl’s room
as her mother and father guide her to sleep.

#4.1
Motherhood Journal

Motherhood Journal #4

When traveling with a toddler
you should not prepare her to sleep by taking away her nap.
She will only blink at you with a suspicious smile.
 
Did you pack her blanket? books? color pencils? her sheep and bee-bear?
I was so tired you know
I will just talk to her.
 
I tell her about how Santa Claus had to catch a plane, hitchhike, and ask a skier then a rock climber to take him to his last stop, a boy named Harvey who lives on the top of the Roli poli Mountain. Her eyes turn inward focused on the pictures stored somewhere in her brain. How she loves to hear the names she knows. Socks, bicycle, boat, sleigh, medicine, reindeer, and present.
 
Train passing through the center of a journey.
 
Her feet are busy jumping from a lap to lap. Like a restless cat she rubs her head on the cover of a seat. Her weight against my belly where an infant pushes out from inside. The only barrier between the world of not yet and ours is a layer of fat
pushed and pinched. I know here I exist
here with my children taking me on a train ride.
 
Three times faster than a car
Less than three hours to the end of a peninsula
Little heart engine of hers.

 

#3.1
Motherhood Journal

Motherhood Journal #3

Whether you have planned to be parent or just stumbled upon this parenthood, I believe there comes a moment for every parent to ask the question to himself or herself. “Did I really want to do this? Then Why?”

This question led me to a book, “All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood,” by Jennifer Senior. Unlike other parenting books, the book was written for parents to learn about themselves instead of the kids.

Five chapters out of six in “All Joy and No Fun” explain why contemporary parents have such a hard time being a parent. Honestly, I was not in the mood to read more about the negative matters of life of a mother as I find myself complaining about them all the time. I wanted to hear something refreshing. Some kind of reassurance for me to keep doing what I have been doing in the past five years: Some hopeful message. Thankfully the book did not let me down. The gem of this book is hidden in its last chapter called “Joy.”

I highlighted basically the entire chapter and inserted a note to every paragraph: “uh-huh,” “true true,” and “love this.” I will try not to quote the whole chapter here and try very hard to pick only a few that could apply to even non parents.

On Difference between fun and joy

“The first [fun] turns the individual inward, while the second [joy] turns the individual outward, toward others.” (Senior)

“Joy is connection.” (George Vaillant)

“Joy is about being warm, not hot.” (Vaillant)

“Excitement, sexual ecstasy, and happiness all speed up the heart; joy and cuddling slow the heart.” (Vaillant)

On Joy and Loss

“Joy and woe are woven fine.” (William Blake)

mono no aware: Japanese phrase “bittersweetness in ephemeral beauty”

“Thus a heavy task is laid upon Gift-love. It must work towards its own abdication.” (C.S. Lewis)

“Joy is grief inside and out.” (Vaillant)

“So much venerability can be agonizing. But how else can parents experience ecstasy? How else can they know awe? These feelings are the price mothers and fathers pay for elation, and for fathomless connection.” (Senior)

Conclusively, the book convinces me that the reward of parenting is greater than what it costs: my autonomy, career, time, friendship, relationship to my husband, even mental health. By placing the Joy chapter after five previous chapters expounding on demanding characteristics of modern parenting, the book leaves me with definite hope and encouragement.

In the past five years, I have learned that there is something that goes to the soul level about being connected to another being in such an intimate way. Interesting thing is this kind of intimacy comes from such condition: One person is utterly dependent on me, and to take care of this one being, it takes all of my life. This is a mysterious on one hand, but at the same time embarrassingly plain thing about love.