Posts Tagged With: Peace

PEACE, CULTURE AND HIP HOP

It is our last morning in China. We are up early. Business people all over town line up in their suits and ties at street steamers to buy buns and dumplings for breakfast.  (Picture by Nicolas Delerue) China is vast but it’s cities are huge and crowded. The Chinese seek peace in their gardens.

In the center of this snarling city is the UR Garden. The designers took great pains and cost to turn this former government employees home into a centerpiece of Chinese garden architecture. A walled garden shuts out the troubles of life and brings peace and quiet to the soul. It allows you to contemplate a higher plane and renew the spirit.

The Chinese people strive for perfection in everything they do. A perfect garden must have a hill, water, rock, plants, bamboo, a building and trees. The plants placement and position in the garden, and shapes of everything  have special meanings. A rock must not overshadow water. All gates, walkways, windows and doors must suggest nurture, peace and serenity to soothe the soul. A tea house provides refreshment and joy.

A cut out in the wall has pleasing lines and picturesquely  frames and enhances a particular view of the garden.

A beautifully designed window does the same.

Each rock, each plant is chosen for its sense of balance and rest. Lotus for purity. Bamboo for strength and resilience.  Flowering plum represents rebirth. If you plant a pine tree, you must have both a male and female tree. If one dies, the partner tree is removed.

Proper dragons guard the roof and walls.

The roof is enhanced with bamboo at the top to make music as the wind passes over the hollow tubes.  The poetic aspects of a garden are taken very seriously.

When a contingent of Chinese Garden Architects from Vancouver came to see the garden, they politely said it was beautiful. Not perfect?  They judged it imperfect because modern condominium visible in a little corner of the garden.  Tsk, tsk!

We leave the garden to visit Shanghai Cultural Museum.  On the freeway we see a huge cement column  about 12 feet in diameter  supporting an over crossing. It was beautifully decorated with writhing dragons. I asked why the need for such a heavy support column? Our city guide explained that it allows the dragons to get out. When they were building, the workmen had trouble in that spot. They insisted there was a dragon there and it would be bad luck to cover it up. The government architects came up with a solution. It is partially hollow and has an exit window.  Now knowing what we do of Chinese culture and centuries of superstition embedded in their character, we understand.

The museum too, is a quiet place that gives a sense of peace…

and beauty.

Late in the afternoon we have free time and several of us take tea at a lovely tea house and then off to the Hip Hop Market to pick up any last minute souvenirs. This is not a souvenir market.  We gawk at ultra modern merchandise. Shoes like I’ve never seen in my life with price tags to match.  Baby items and clothing  for the children or grandchildren of the very wealthy. Teens swarm the place with their phones and wrist band radios. They buy see-through blouses, painted skirts and bathing suits that would fit in a cigarette box. We are running from store to store like unruly kids were we see every kind of goods,  rich leathers, golden threaded bags and scarves; canes, sunglasses, jewelry to dazzle an empress, plastic neon bracelets, fancy suits and ballgowns, jeans and top branded merchandise from all over the world.  A city of such contrasts is Shanghai.

We enjoy a fabulous farewell dinner with a flaming dish of some sort. We  fondly embrace our new friends and  trade addresses and know we’ll probably never see them again. Unforgettable China.

 

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AS THE DAY GETS CLOSER

The older I get, the simpler my Christmas becomes. I feel closer to old friends as I write my cards.

As a family, we gave up giving each other gifts long ago, except for the children. As I age, I know that Christmas is a matter of the heart and we value the gift of time with each other over anything else. That includes the food,  an important part of our shared time together. Special dishes, lovingly and thoughtfully prepared.

Fond remembrance for Christmases past. The profound enjoyment of the music, the tinkling of bells. Teasing the kids, perpetuating the magic, and looking at Christmas through their eyes.

Appreciating the trappings of the season all around us, glowing lights, cheery voices, the smells of cedar and pine, the colors shining bright, secret smiles, hidden glances, the scurry and hurry and expectation of things to come.

And Peace. We don’t expect World Peace to happen as much as we may wish it. But, in our country or city neighborhoods,  where Christmas dwells, 80% or more  people take a day out of their work to celebrate Christmas, and there is a sense of peace. Little traffic on the road. The quiet of a neighborhood as everyone turns inward to reflect upon the  beauty, the warmth,  holiday hugs, the family together, the deeper meaning of Christmas Spirit. Love, Joy, Hope and at least, a day of peacefulness.

 

 

 

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POST OFFICE CLOSINGS

Obviously,  some post offices must be closed. The US Postal Service is bleeding money while most of us communicate through our computers, fax machines or private delivery services. Consolidating is a hard decision when it affects postal employees during already hard times. I’ve heard neighbors grumble  why not cut down the number of days the mail is delivered? For rural folks like us, the Post Office is regarded as a necessity. House to house delivery was just a wish when I first moved to Calaveras County. In some remote areas it is yet the case and continues to serve as  a friendly neighborhood meeting place. You can’t just shout  “Howdy” to your neighbor as you drive by when neighbor’s driveway might be a half mile long on two dirt ruts. It is the place for a community bulletin board when you inform your neighbors there has been a death in the family, or you impart other less important information.  Giving up such a chunk of history will be hard.

From a purely selfish point of view, I’m hating the idea of closing post offices because I’m a stamp collector. It was a lesson in history growing up, inexpensive, and engaging at one time.  The above two post marks reflect local history from two different communities that most people could care less about. But, what’s in a stamp?  The small towns of Centerville, Irvington, Niles, Mission San Jose, and Warm Springs became Fremont in 1956. The post mark reflects the change from each community.  I wish I’d gotten a transfer mark from each town. The Calcopex post mark honors the former community of White Pines which consolidated with Arnold many years earlier. Local folks identify themselves as being from White Pines and wanted their heritage honored and remembered. They applied to the U.S. Postal Service and permission was granted.

I started my collection in 1946. And it was a thrill if a neighbor gave me a post mark from far away places, like Norwich, Connecticut, or Tuscumbia, Alabama. It was enough to make me dream of faraway places. Along with the  stamps I collected history on post marks.  (Click on the picture to enlarge it.) You notice abbreviations were CONN. and CALIF.  No zip codes. Stamps are pretty boring to young people who have the world at their fingers in their computers.  I still like to send away for Christmas Post Marks in exoticaly named places like Bethlehem, IN, Antler, ND,Chestnut,Ill, Snow,OK, and Angels Camp, CA. Yipes!  Just 9 miles down the road. I don’t oppose the closings, but I will miss the post marks. I’m saddened to watch this small part of history disappear.

 

 

 

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FINDING HARMONY, PEACE AND JOY.

Several months ago, I picked up the book Blue Highways, by William Least Heat-Moon. He calls himself a half-breed. Part Indian, his father called himself Heat Moon, and his oldest son Little Heat Moon, thus, born last, William became Least Heat Moon. Least Heat Moon set out in a home-made camper van and traveled on “small roads”, across the U.S. from Missouri headed east to the coast then back through the Carolinas, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Utah, Nevada;  north to Oregon; east across the top part of the U.S., through the Great Lakes, up to Maine and then back to Missouri. An epic journey of trails and travails in fascinating prose. What made it special to me is the many places he passed through that I have passed through these last three years, with Jim, at the helm of a motor home. Least Heat Moon  reminded me of other RVers, (particularly our friend Randy Vining,) who take the path less traveled, and adopt philosophies of a simplified life. Emerson, Thoreau, poets, Walt Whitman, and other historic figures like Muir, who relate to nature and the simpler things in life. People shed their possessions and find harmony, peace and joy. On the road, we meet people who profess to want that, few find it. Be inspired by this book.  Here is a link to Least Heat Moon:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Least_Heat-Moon

Jim ordered 68 books from the Book Barn in Connecticut, at $1.00 each. He finds an author he likes, and they ship him the used books. He is set to put in another order, and I’ve ordered two more “journey” books by Least Heat Moon and a Walk In The Woods by Bill  Dryson. What a treat, what a deal.

Yesterday was a quiet day of letter writing, swimming  and reading. The weather remained cool, but dry with a weak sun. Enough sun for Jim to get out and put new battery cables on the Bronco while I swam. At the pool, I met three kids from Tennessee with their grandfather. None of them knew how to swim. I had fun with the youngest, seven-year old, teaching him the basic rules of learning to blow bubbles, getting used to having his face in the water, and holding onto the edge and kicking. All benefit of watching my own grandkids take swimming lessons a few summers back. The boy was pleased with himself. I was taught the old, regrettable way, as a kid, when my dad pushed me off a stump and said, “swim.”

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SO MANY GODS

In my local paper, I was dismayed to read an advice columnists letter from a woman who attended one church for the 30 years of their marriage and her husband attended another. Her husband died but her pastor refused to ask the congregation to pray for him because their churches were  fundamentally different.
Oh, woe is humanity in the hands of men.

Its Christmas Time. A time of peace and good will toward others. We are at war. Its a religious war with people killing themselves and other people in the name of God.  Banish religion and keep God.
I’m reminded of Ela Wheeler Wilcox’s simple words.

So many gods, so many creeds

so many paths that wind and wind.
While just the art of being kind
is all this sad world needs.
(Ela Wheeler Wilcox)
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HONORING VETERANS, HATING WAR

Metta Schafft of Sonora owns a Civil War Diary from her ancestor, Peter Lane in which he notes that marching across the beautiful hills and through timber and crossing streams, he met farmers, their herds of cows and hogs, blacksmiths and carpenters. Families stirring in their dwellings waving at them marching by, only to remark:
“…this scene of happiness was destined to be ruined by war. Gen. Sherman the robber and incendiary said War Is Hell, he, at least, carried it on that principle-burning, killing and destroying.”

Now the killing is more efficient.
I salute our nations veterans while I hate war.
Some people consider themselves patriots and those of us against war as unpatriotic.
Let us consider the wise words of some respected historical figures:

“As never before, the essence of war is fire, famine and pestilence. They contribute to its outbreak; they are among its weapons; they become its consequences.”
“When people speak to you about a preventive war, you tell them to go and fight it. After my experience, I have come to hate war. War settles nothing.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

“It is a shallow victory which leaves a prostrate people.” Charles A. Lindbergh

“The human tragedy reaches its climax in the fact that after all the exertions and sacrifices of hundreds of millions of people and of the victories of the Righteous Cause, we have still not found Peace or Security…” Winston Churchill

“War is the business of barbarians.” Napoleon

“There never was a good war or a bad peace.” Franklin

“You are never going to get peace with millions of armed men. The chariot of peace cannot advance over a road littered with cannon.” Lloyd George

“No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” Madison

“War is an instrument entirely inefficient toward redressing wrong; and multiplies, instead of indemnifying losses.” Jefferson

“Let us pity and forgive those who urge increased armaments, for “they know not what they do.”” Andrew Carnegie

“To be prepared for war is one of the most ineffectual ways of preserving peace.” Washington

“When wars do come, they fall upon the many, the producing class, who are the sufferers. U.S.Grant

I salute our nations veterans but war should be relegated to the trash heap as a way of solving problems. Civilization is at stake

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