Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Green Fields + Graceful Water=True "Summertime"


I think tonight will have to do battle with last night to win The Quintessential New York Night Contest. And it will be a tough fight. The NY Philharmonic rescheduled from last week's deluge to tonight, and there wasn't a cloud in the sky (to begin). Six of us met on the steps of The Met (the art museum) with picnic goodies and staked out a place on The Great Lawn. It was such a beautiful night...they played Straus, Massenet, Catalani, and Weber and featured a twenty-something soprano named Measha Brueggergosman. She was absolutely stunning, and I loved it when she did a little extra number, "Summertime"-- Porgie and Bess, right?. But how great it was to sit there with thousands of New Yorkers with their blankets, food, wine, candles and dogs and enjoy such a high art form. I am back a little early (decided to skip the fireworks at the end) because it looks like another deluge is coming--the clouds move in so quickly here. Plus, it's been quite an exhausting few days (week) and I feel I must hide for a while.

I haven't been talking about my program very much, but there is just so much to tell, it is very difficult to choose what to write about and then I default to food. Today was really fun though, so I will start there. This is Jim Zhang. He has been practicing calligraphy his whole life, beginning in China, and has been teaching it in the US for the past 15 years. What a lovely guy, with a very funny sense of humor. I guess this calligraphy pictured is the equivalent of big capital letters, but it is a Chinese couplet that means (right column, reading from top to bottom) "blue mountains, beautiful (graceful) water," and (left column): "green fields red flowers." Our task for the afternoon was to copy this. He would do each character for half of the group, explaining how many strokes, which ones were first, second, third, etc and then show the other half of the group.

These eight characters took two hours to complete (mine is shown below...it's a much smaller piece of paper, you see, and I think I had a "bad brush" and my ink was too thin...). I asked him if the meaning of mine was closer to "exploding volcanic mountain, raging water, burning fields and dying flowers." This was HARD! I got his email address because I have a puzzle for him to solve. Last summer, one of my students gave me a Chinese couplet calligraphy poster as a gift - his brother had done it and evidently was very good at it (because all of the kids ooohed and ahhhhed over it). I asked him what it meant, and he said, "I don't have any idea." Because it was an ancient form or something. But Jim said I could take a picture of it and he would translate it for me. Nice guy.

Yesterday we had a fengshui expert speak to us in the morning. The first part was pretty boring, and when I looked at her bio I had to wonder why...her latest book is called Feng Shui and Sexual Healing. Seems she could have done something with that. But then she began the interesting stuff about flow of a room, and, Lisa, now I understand why you told me I must move my bed from underneath my window. Dad, when you pick me up from the airport, we are moving my bed because beds-under-the-window cause 1. insomnia 2. nightmares 3. headaches and 4. Bells Palsy. I don't want any of those things! Tomorrow our topic is "Food in Chinese Culture" and will include a cooking demonstration ("The Wok and Southern Chinese Culture") and a walking tour of China. And little brother, I am going to find that humbao. I have told Elsa, my NY connection and fellow Chinatown food lover, that I must find the humbao tomorrow and she is with me!







By the way, on the topic of blind mules, read this poster, about the carousel in Central Park (the Holden and Phoebe one.) It's all synchronicity, I think!

3 comments:

The Norris Clan said...

Simply beautiful. I have the worst penmanship, I can't imagine having a job as an actual Writer of letters... I bet the couplet you have is some kind of secret love letter...

Brian Bowker said...

I second the love letter theory! that's why the whole class oo'd and ahh'd...

May good humbao find you on your journey!

Julie said...

So... can you speak/read Chinese yet?