Ten Things of Thankful: The Quick Edition

TenThingsBannerWe left the house at 6:20 am this morning, and got back at nearly 9:30 pm. But it’s been a good day. And that is something to write Ten Things of Thankful about, even if it’s quick. Details about today’s trip (with pictures) will follow, but it’s closing in on my bedtime.¬† ūüôā

I am thankful for:

1. The ticket agent who found us seats on the express train. We just had to change seats once we got to Taipei.

2. The lovely view of the ocean on our way to the Luodong train station.

3. The wonderful visit at the National Center for Traditional Art.

4. The puppet show and live theater performance at the NCTA.

5. A husband who takes cool photos for me.

6. A most amazing student from one of last year’s writing classes who invited us for this great adventure.

7. A most amazing iced latte at a local coffee shop.

8. An amazing breakthrough on two projects that I’ve been stuck on. (This could generate its own thankful list in a day or two if it continues.)

9. Getting a taxi with no wait at the train station when we got home.

10. Getting my 400th blog follower while I was checking email and blog comments after we got home. My little orange guy lit up with a new follower. I checked, and it was #400.

Awesome day!

Pictures to follow.

For now, I’m off to bed!¬† ūüôā

265 days to 60!

 

 

 

 

Moving Toward Wholeness, Shaman Style

About a week ago, I found this image the Facebook page of one of my friends, Susan Frank. I was struck by the simplicity and the power of these questions, and the easiest way to save it for myself was to share it on my Facebook page.

shaman

The source for this image is Liora’s website, which you can find at http://www.twinflame1111.com

 

This message needed to be saved because over the last several weeks, I had found myself slipping into a cavern of deep frustration. I was able to keep the despair at bay–most of the time, but it was always nearby, threatening to join in. I kept working on projects and deadlines, but there was no joy in the normal day-to-day interactions with students that inspired me or reassured me that the efforts were effective. Occasionally, there would be some extraordinary moments where I actually got away from the desk and the classroom, but they were few. They renewed me momentarily, but they lost the cumulative effect that such encounters have had in the past.

This was my frame of mind then, when I encountered this message. I didn’t have to go beyond these four questions to recognize why I was so out-of-balance. The original four questions got my attention:

  1. When did you stop dancing?
  2. When did you stop singing?
  3. When did you stop being enchanted by stories?
  4. When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?

I stopped all of these things when I felt like I had no time. I had plans to do a blog piece about dancing, but that was months ago now. It also had become necessary to stop going to Curves until the doctor cleared me to return. I could still be occasionally enchanted by stories, but it was harder for stories to reach my soul, and I stopped telling my own stories. As a result, my blog became lifeless. And silence lost all its sweetness as anxiety and its endless chatter took up lodging in my mind.

As much as these questions got my attention, I knew I needed to make them even more personal. I needed to create a list of questions that would guide me back to a sense of wholeness. A reminder that there are some activities that are necessary and not optional. By framing the questions in such a way, I could plot a path back to myself. I created a list of personalized questions:

 

  1. When did you stop making music?
  2. When did you stop quilting?
  3. When did you stop sharing your stories?
  4. When did you stop finding comfort in the small moments of beauty and sweetness?

In the couple of days since I created my own questions, there has been a shift. A summer quilting project will be revealed tomorrow. I’ve started blogging again, with more of a focus on stories, including a story about my future blog. I am set up to return to Curves in August. In the meantime, I’ve started walking to a coffee shop that is quite a bit farther than the local shops. The walking is the beginning of putting movement back into my life, while also giving me a source of new things to notice and appreciate. And a few times a week, the coffee shop provides a change of scenery that boosts my creative output.

At the moment, much of the stress has been eased, at least temporarily. I can now focus my energy on creative healing while accomplishing the tasks on my list in a more balanced way. Life is looking a lot brighter.

A Magical Night of Dance and Culture: Then and Now

Tomorrow evening, Rena and I are going to the evening performance of Shen Yun. Here is the trailer:

Last year, I ended up getting an email inviting me to check out the performance. A similar trailer captivated me, and I was hooked. I had recently discovered through a round of list-making that dance was something I missed from my past, and this was the prefect opportunity to reconnect. I had no idea just how deeply I would connect: I got caught up in the festive surroundings of the performing arts center, in the performance itself, and in the fun of chatting with a few of the musicians afterwards at a near-by coffee shop.

Although I never posted after the performance last year, I wrote some notes. I wrote about how the first half of the show immersed me in color, props, music, and the seemingly impossible movement that the human body is capable of. Every time the curtain opened, I was captivated by the movement of form and color. The costume designers, the choreographers, and the dancers brought together color, light, and movement to create moments that were nothing less than magical.

In the second act,¬†something went deeper and I began to see the connection between what I was seeing on stage and what can happen in quilting and other visual art. I was reconnected with the part of me¬†that loves¬†colors, patterns, and textures, even though I’m not always sure how to put combine them to match¬†my inner visions. But I felt my mind totally stimulated by a whirlwind of possibility.¬†I like to think that maybe I’m becoming a little more confident about blending these elements into the ideas I have for my quilting and how to make visual movement possible through such combinations.

I knew from the first moments of last year’s performance that I would go again this year. I kept an eye out for the posting of the schedule. And now it’s here.¬†Less than 24 hours from now, I’ll be experiencing that magic again. I wouldn’t be surprised if this time, you might get to read about some of the details. In the meantime, I’ll have sweet dreams of the wonders that await me tomorrow evening.

Spinning Plates: An Inner Dialogue

Here is the first part of a conversation between me and Plate Spinner, the part of me that tries to manage the multitude of projects and ideas I take on in spite of myself.

**************

ME:    Hi, Spinner. Thanks for taking the time to chat with me.

P.S.:¬†¬† No time for chatting. If you want to talk about something significant, make it quick. I’m very busy. No time for small talk.

ME:¬†¬† Well, I don’t want to intrude. If you don’t want to talk to me . . .

P.S.: Seriously? If I didn’t have all these plates to keep spinning, maybe I could sit down and have a cup of coffee with you, but that’s not the reality.

ME: I see: Why do you spin so much? Do you enjoy it?

P.S. Ha! It’s been a long time since I enjoyed it. It’s become nothing but a burden. It’s not whether or not I like it: it’s what I do.

ME: That’s the problem. You’re always doing.

P.S: Well, if I stop, all of these plates will fall. That wouldn’t be a pretty sight.

ME: Maybe not, but sometimes I get exhausted just watching you. Don’t you ever relax?

P.S.: No time. If it’s relaxation you want, turn it into a project, paint it on a plate. Then we can talk. Well, actually, I can’t really talk much, but I can add it to the other plates.

ME: Sometimes you can be so frustrating. Don’t you want a little time for fun, for friendship, for just exploring new things without it all being so frantic?

P.S.: What are you talking about? What would I do if I wasn’t spinning these plates? More importantly, how would all of these important things get done?

ME: Maybe they’re not as important as you think.

P.S.: Really! Aren’t you the one adding all these plates to the pile?

ME: Hey! I thought I was the one one asking the questions.

P.S.: Just because you keep me too busy for questions most all of the time doesn’t mean I don’t have them.

ME: O.K. I guess that makes sense. I don’t like it, but I can’t really argue with you. There might be some truth to it. I’ll go out on a limb here. Do you want to ask a question?

P.S.: Damn right, I do! But first, I’m going to put all of these plates down for a few minutes. Unless you’re brave enough to tell me to just let go of them all.

ME: I might like to be that brave, but I have to admit, I like most of those plates.

P.S.: No you don’t. I think they’re just a poor substitute for what you really want to be doing. You’re keeping me and yourself busy with all of this stuff. We barely have a¬†moment to think.¬†And besides,¬†this stuff isn’t satisfying to either one of us.

ME: What do you mean? I find a lot of satisfaction in these activities.

P.S.: Excuse me while I laugh hysterically. When is the last time you actually were satisfied with something you were doing? You don’t even give yourself a minute when something is done before you’ve moved on to the next thing, or the next dozen things. I work for you, remember? I can’t stop spinning these plates, because you won’t stop spinning. OK, give me a minute to put all these plates down for a few minutes.

(You can see the process in this video.)

P.S.: There! That feels better. Do you hear that?

ME:¬† Hear what? I don’t hear anything.

P.S.: Precisely! That’s my point. No whirring from the constant spinning of plates, no frantic footfalls as I run from one pole to another to keep all the plates in the air.

ME: Wow! I guess things really have gotten out of hand.

P.S.: When I came to work for you, I didn’t realize there would be all of this overtime. I didn’t realize that we would be spending so much time in the immediate moment keeping all of this crap in the air so that we’d never have time to work on the bigger dreams. I mean I do like spinning–and juggling for that matter–but you’ve taken all the joy out of it.

ME:¬† Wow! I’m so sorry. I didn’t realize how miserable I’ve made things for you. What can I do?

P.S.: Well, for starters, you can stop grabbing every new plate that comes along. And then when I do finish with a plate, you could consider just leaving that space open. Give me some breathing space. Give us a chance to step back on occasion and see the big picture.

ME: I hear what you are saying, but sometimes I can’t help myself. The colors, the textures, the patterns, the . . .

P.S.: Cut the crap! One of these days, I’m just going to drop the lot of them! I’ll walk off the job!

ME: Oh, please don’t do that!

P.S.: Why not? What do these plates really represent?

ME: Well, I never really thought about it that way before. But since you ask, I guess they represent me. After all, who am I without all of this activity to define me? Who will notice me if I don’t do all of these things?

P.S.: Really? You’re going to turn this into an identity crisis? Isn’t that a little too convenient?

ME: I’m feeling threatened, insecure. And I’m definitely not sure what to do next. You’re making sense, but I don’t know how to make it better. I don’t know where to start.

P.S.: Oh, I think you do. You didn’t get into this mess overnight, and you’re not going to dig out of it in a day, or even a week, but seriously, I think digging out is right where you need to start.

ME: You’re right. And I need to get intentional about it.

P.S.: Now I’m beginning to feel like you’re listening to me and like there is hope. I really need to get back to all of these plates. But if you’ll back off a bit, maybe we can meet tomorrow and map out this intention thing.

ME: You’ve got it. You’re really good at what you do, but I want you to feel like you’re using those skills for better things than just juggling all of my unexamined stuff. We’ll talk tomorrow!

P.S.: Great!  See you then!

(TO BE CONTINUED!)

 

 

Wishing and Hoping (Musical Theme for November 27)

Wishin’ and Hopin’

A light-hearted beginning, to put me in the mood of wishin’ and hopin’ and thinking of possibilities. This came out before my time and has recently made a come-back. I also heard a lot of 60’s music later in life.¬† ūüôā

My Wish (Rascal Flatts)

This selection and the next were recommended by my daughter/collaborator Kate. She may be joining in on some of these challenges later on, but for now, I still can reap the benefit of her musical interests.

I’m Wishing on a Star (The¬†Tenth Kingdom)

Wishing You Were Here (Phantom of the Opera)

This song makes me think of the times in my life when there was something I wished that could be other than the way it was, but wishing was not going to make it so. Yet they were too powerful to just push away. The expression of the longing was painful, but necessary. It can lead to new resolve and intentions that bring a new direction that is even better than what I thought I wanted.

Imagine

My daughter also sent this one along, and I couldn’t agree more. The song has always been powerful, and this cover by Glee takes it to an even more amazing level. I am moved by the pure emotion of this rendition. If you can imagine it, it can be. And sure, realistically, we know that many of these things won’t happen anytime soon, but without hope, we have little reason to go on.

I Hope You Dance

In the end, this is my fantasy, my fondest hope is to inspire others: my children, my students, my friends, anyone who is searching for more in their life. Anyone who dreams of dancing, or of writing, or of being an artist, a scientist, a teacher, or an engineer. It doesn’t matter, as long as they find their way to being the best at what it is they want to be and not simply settle for what’s easy. If I can help someone find their way to a life of purpose and fulfillment, then I will have my wish. This song captures that for me.

Other posts on this theme:

Bear:   MY SECRETS, HOPES, WISHES, AND FANTASIES ARE ALL DREAMS       http://bearspawprint.wordpress.com/2013/11/27/music-themes-secrets-hopes-wishes-and-fantasies/

Eva:  What’s my secret fantasy desire? My hope? My fond wish? Animate Art with Music! What else is worth living for?   http://47whitebuffalo.wordpress.com/2013/11/27/music-theme-whats-my-secret-fantasy-desire-my-hope-my-fond-wish-animate-art-with-music-what-else-is-worth-living-for/

Johnny: http://johnnyojanpera.wordpress.com/2013/11/27/secrets-hope-wishes-and-fantasies/#like-2575

WIllow: http://willowdot21.wordpress.com/2013/11/27/musical-theme-secret-fantasies-and-hopes/

D.S. Nelson: http://hatpaintladdersandwonkypooh.wordpress.com/2013/11/27/27-secrets-hopes-wishes-or-fantasies-whats-your-music/

Eleven Things I’ve Learned from the 31-Day Blog Challenge

1. You never know what you can do until you try.

The first year anniversary of my first post is this weekend, and the most posts I had ever done in¬†a month prior to now was ten. I¬†kept a twice a week publishing schedule for five months before dropping off in April and then disappearing for four months. When I came back in September, I wasn’t sure about what kind of schedule I wanted to keep. I just knew it was time to jump back in. The invitation for the 31-day blog challenge came at the right time, and I decided that it was just the push I needed. Even though I got a little behind, especially in the last week, I successfully posted 31 times! If I hadn’t tried the challenge, I never would have found out what I was capable of.

2. Once I committed to my intention to write more, I actually wrote more.

This isn’t really rocket science, and it isn’t that big a surprise, but the reality is that once I know I need to write, and I actually START writing, it becomes easier to keep writing. By following the intention to sit down and blog regularly, it was easier than I thought. The commitment kept me motivated. The limited time of the challenge (31 days) made it seem possible. It wasn’t forever, it was 31 days. And I could do it if I set up ways to keep my attention focused on it.

3. Having a specific number of posts to do in a specific amount of time makes a difference.

You may think that I have already learned this from other endeavors in my life, but it’s always amazing to me how often, some ideas have to be learned again and again. But¬†when I make specific intentions about what I’m going to do and when I’m going to do it, I have a higher rate of success. Go figure!

4. It’s easier to follow through on an intention with a system of social support.

Knowing other people are also working on the same thing is powerful. Even more powerful is the fact that when like-minded people support each other, the synergy exceeds. I know beyond a doubt that trying to carry out an intention that I keep secret is going to be much harder than it needs to be, and that I am setting myself up to fail. Telling other people about my plans and intentions makes it more likely that I will stick to them.

5. The more posts I write, the more ideas I get.

I found this particularly interesting. I had a few drafts in reserve when I started the challenge. And I wondered if I would have trouble coming up with ideas to write about. But the more I wrote, the more I ideas I had. I now have more pieces waiting in line than before I started, and several more ideas that I’ve got jotted down to do. Writing definitely begets writing.

6. The more I write, the more I learn about myself.

I have discovered that I can explore my own thought process, that I can make discoveries about what’s going on inside this brain. That I am becoming more willing to take risks and try new things, especially when it comes to blog posts. Following up on #2 above, I also discovered that I am now ready to tackle other short-term challenges. I’m participating in a quilt-along in November and December. If I could focus on this challenge and complete it, I can choose another that appeals to me. I choose challenges that are specifically focused on things I’ve been wanting to do, and the results are powerful.

7. Maybe the most significant discovery, is¬†that I can be¬†too “practical.”

Fear of failure is a crazy reason to lower the bar on what I want from life. To limit myself because of potential disappointment keeps me locked in a place where I will always have and be less than I could be. I the dreams and ideas I have for my life. In spite of the fact that I keep the bar too low as a result. I talk myself out of things before I even start. The spill-over effect of succeeding at a challenge leads to other possibilities beyond I thought was possible. For example, I just completed my first entry in a Trifecta Writing Challenge.

8. Taking time for me and what I enjoy energizes me.

It may seem counterintuitive, but being busy can actually be energizing IF the activity is based on things I want to be doing. Most of my busyness before was based on the wrong things, and that’s what wore me out. I need to focus on what will nourish me, what accomplishes the things I want, or simply finding what it is that I want to accomplish. Having an intention like this one has made me feel more alive, more tuned in to the people and events around me.

9. Perseverance really is the key.

I can do what I set out to do if I persevere. Making intentions and setting up ways to keep focused on them has made a huge difference for me. When things don’t work out, it’s much easier to pick up and start again because a system for accomplishing the intention is already in place. This was particularly significant both for the blog challenge (when I went four days without writing a post), and for starting up an exercise routine. In both cases, I had several strategies in place to keep my focus going, so there was no need to throw up my hands in frustration. I just could go back to the plan.

10. The reactions of my audience rarely matches my expectations.

I have been surprised over the last month about which posts get people excited and which ones tend to fall a little flat. Of course, in the blog world, timing is significant. No one can follow all the blog posts that show up on their readers. By the same token, blogs are ongoing. So you never know when someone is going to go back to earlier posts.

11. Blogging is now something I pay attention to.

I am constantly surprised by new ideas, new things I want to try. I’m paying attention to blogging in a way I never did before. All kinds of ideas emerge:¬†I take notes, I try things, I have fun. Now that I’m focused on it, it flows more often than not. Sure, it’s early in this process, but I am finding that the time spent on the blog is making a big difference in the way I approach life. It’s a great tool for exploration and for boosting my willingness to try new things. Who knows, I may be up for another blog challenge one of these days.¬†¬†.

From Blog Challenge to Quilt-Along

The Blog Challenge

As I approach the end of October, I will be finishing up the 31-day blog challenge sponsored by¬†Lesa Townsend at http://conversation2sales.com/.¬† A final report will be forthcoming when the month officially ends,¬†but what you’re reading now is my 25th post for the month. One of the most important things about this challenge for me is that it helped me focus my¬†intention of taking time for myself. In the past, I¬†would have¬†told myself that¬†I have too many obligations, too many reasons why this challenge is an extravagance of time that I can’t afford. And yet,¬†I did it.¬†Regardless¬†of the final count, I am thrilled with the results. And I’ve learned that nothing needs to keep me away from blogging, as long as I’m clear that it’s what I want to be doing.

An interesting element is that signing up for the blog challenge was a fluke. I saw¬†an invitation in an email, and I thought, “Why not!” And so when I had the opportunity to join a quilt-along, I had a similar response. Sure, it’s the same old problem. Where will I find the time? But if I don’t try, I’ll never know. And I intend to quilt in the next couple of months, so why not have some support along the way. Let’s lay the groundwork with two quilting stories that converge in this quilt-along.

My Role Model for Fabric Play

(Photo Credit: StitchedInColor)

(Photo Credit: StitchedInColor)

Not too long ago, I wrote about my¬†fabric play role model.¬†(Click on the heading above the quilt to see that post.) Rachel had used a photo she had taken to match up fabric with those colors and created a palate for the quilt you see at the left. I was enchanted by the idea of using photos to create such creative palates for quilts. In fact, I love seeing what comes up in Rachel’s blog. I often save some of her ideas¬†so I can find them later. Looking at her creative work makes me happy and ready to tackle quilting again.

I had selected a project, chosen fabric, and set a quilting date when Rachel put out feelers for a quilt-along. That idea would have intrigued me on its own, but two things sweetened the deal. First, the timing was good. The real work would take place in November and December after the blogging challenge was over. Second–and¬†more important for me,¬†the pattern Rachel chose for the quilt along is the very one I fell in love with when she did the fabric play–the quilt shown above. How could I say no? I couldn’t. To be honest, I didn’t try very hard.

BONUS: Once she posted the actual schedule, it turned out that the biggest push for sewing comes during the week of mid-term exams. I have to grade exams, but I have no classes to teach that week. I can focus on my other to-dos, in order to smuggle a day or two for quilting.

Like the blogging challenge, I look forward to what the quilt-along will bring in terms of quilting progress and the things I learn about myself. I suspect that this blog will feature a few updates on quilting projects in the next couple of months.

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Three of My Favorite Things (Hu-Kou Old Street, Part II)

Taiwan 008In my last post, I talked about the first half of our day trip to Hu-Kou Old Street in Hsinchu County. Now, it’s time to cover the amazing set of circumstances that were part of the magical aspect of the day. Our coffee destination was a lovely shop, Vanilla Garden. It was charming, and I was excited to have a cup of coffee, one of¬†my simple pleasures of life. Our day had been so lovely already, and the anticipation of coffee was inching the day to near perfection. So imagine my surprise to discover, as I peered in the window as we approached,¬†that there was a piano on¬†the left¬†wall just inside the shop.

But that’s not all! To the right, on the counter were stacks of fabric and quilts in various colors and patterns. Quilts were displayed on the wall behind the counter.¬†The couple who owned this¬†quilting and coffee/restaurant¬†business had a daughter who studied piano. Her piano books were stacked on the piano,¬†a cozy place for exploring music. Overall, the shop was magical, with¬†coffee, a piano, and quilts all in one place.¬†I¬†just took it all in.

Taiwan 036It didn’t take long to get an invitation to play the piano. It had been about four years since I had played the piano on any kind of regular basis, so I was a little rusty. And excited. And there was an audience. My mind went blank. I couldn’t quite reach back to the memories of the songs that used to be my go-to’s.¬†I tried a couple, but I ended up making mistakes, forgetting what was next, and just generally having a difficult time. I wasn’t comfortable trying to sight-read any of the daughter’s music either.¬†Then I thought to try the one piece I had composed a few years prior. It took a minute, but then I had it.¬†I was able to settle in and do a respectable job. And it felt good to play again.

After I finished the song, we wandered very slowly past the quilts and past the kitchen area toward the left where the seating area was. More quilts were displayed on the walls here as well.¬†Imagine sitting down to have coffee with quilts hanging on the walls around you. OK, maybe that doesn’t excite everyone, but I was sure one happy camper. I was in awe of the amazing colors and details. I marveled at the craftsmanship while waiting for our drinks–coffee for me; tea for Mei-Hung.

Taiwan 039Taiwan 043

Taiwan 040

Taiwan 045When our drinks were brought to the table, we were also treated to free mango cake as a “thank you” for my music! Delicious!

Knowing that I would be having knee surgery the next year during winter break, I did a little fantasizing about how cool it would if I could come and hang out in this Hakka village, specifically in this shop and live with quilts, music, and coffee for a week or two. As I get ready to do some quilting next week, this post was a good reminder to take time for these things that bring me joy and well-being. More importantly, this post has made me realize that I can eventually turn my Vanilla Garden fantasy into reality. It may not be in a shop on Hu-Kou Old Street, but I certainly bring those three things (and more) together in one place.

All in all, an amazing day, which I have thought of many times in the last few years. I smile every time I see these pictures, and I thought it was time to share them and my memories of that day.

The link below is another blog post that has more pictures of the shop.  http://blog.sina.com.tw/sophiaday/article.php?pbgid=70313&entryid=583262

Reimagining my Life

English: Creating a splash

Creating a splash (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As many of you know, I have been teaching at a university in Taiwan for the past four years. During each of the past three summers, I have traveled home to the U.S., and I always have mixed feelings about leaving family and friends to return to Taiwan. This past summer, that all changed.

One day in August, I woke up to the realization that I was actually excited¬†about my return trip.Even though I knew I would face the same workload and stressors I had left behind in June, I felt more hopeful than I’d felt in years. Without a doubt, this was a powerful moment for me. I didn’t need to look far to find an explanation for this dramatic shift. During an extended¬†visit with my¬†friend Joycelyn,¬†I had a chance to more fully explore the¬†materials she was developing for her course, Farther to Go. In the process, I gained several insights¬†that changed the way I looked at my life and at the world around me.

It’s hard to pinpoint the strongest idea or tool of the course. Certainly, being more aware of how the brain really works has been life altering for me, but that’s only the beginning. The tools that help focus that awareness into intentions have held real power. I feel like I can reinvent my life, bit by bit; and those bits are gaining momentum. I’ve already changed long-established habits, and the results are allowing me to move in the direction of what I really want to be doing.

For me, the most important aspect of my work with Farther to Go is that I finally am finding out what it actually is I want to be doing. Until recently, it was hard to imagine what a life of my own would look like. Now I can envision all kinds of possibilities, while trying things out to see if they really fit.¬†I am becoming wide awake to the world around me and more alive than I’ve been in a long time.

Stay tuned as I share notes on the reinvention of my life.

Containers of Surprise (and Delight)

Invitations: Potential “Surprise” Holders

invitation

invitation (Photo credit: Theis Kofoed Hjorth)

This blog post was not planned. The photos and words are the result of a day of surprises. They arrived in an invitation, in a new day, in a museum, and in the art it held. The surprises actually began yesterday. My husband and I were already out on an outing with our friend, Steve–an outing of “Western” proportions, involving Costco, Starbucks, and IKEA. Luckily, Steve and Dave were going to hang out at Steve’s apartment between Costco and IKEA, which gave me time to get some work done at Starbucks. That was my compromise for taking an afternoon away, to get a couple hours of work done sometime during the day, and the guys didn’t mind.

While I was sipping my iced latte and working on a literature review, my cell phone rang. I was surprised to see it was my regular taxi driver, Mac, calling. Surprised because classes don’t start until next week, and I didn’t really expect to hear from him until then. But as he’s done in the past, he and his wife wanted to take Dave and me on an outing the next morning. The connection was awful and I couldn’t make out everything Mac was saying, but I did get that they would pick us up at 9:00 and something about the afternoon. If he gave me specifics about where we were going, I didn’t make them out.

A New Day: More Surprises

English: Taipei County Yingge Ceramics Museum ...

Taipei County Yingge Ceramics Museum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I woke up thinking I probably should have declined the invitation and stayed home to get more work done, but the one thing my moratorium allows for is social¬†events. The reason is I tend to hole up too often and not get out and do fun things. So I got ready, but wasn’t really looking forward to it.¬†But my reluctance changed quickly to excitement when Mac greeted us with the plan for the morning. We got into his SUV (not the taxi) and headed to Yingge Ceramics Museum in New Taipei City. Dave did a lot of ceramics in college and I love anything in arts and crafts. In fact, this was a place on my “wish” list, and we were on our way! I was glad that I had not talked myself out of going.

Museums: Another Kind of “Surprise” Container

Three floors of exhibits and more out in the back of the main building. We did not get through everything in the 2 1/2 hours we spent there. Here’s a view of the open space from the third floor.

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Beyond the amazing exhibits, there were loads of other surprises in this museum. For starters, admission is free! Not just on special days or at the holiday time, but always. Even the audio tour players and head sets were free. You left your ID card with them; you could punch in numbers at various exhibits to hear lots of details. They had the audio sets available in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, English, and one especially for children. There may have been others, but you get the idea.

Some of the exhibits were so delicate, I had to remind myself that they were ceramic. For example, this piece, Unread Books, looked so real that I could almost picture the pages turning.

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Another piece I really enjoyed. The English title is something like, Look Up and See the Blue Sky.

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And the kitty lover in me couldn’t resist the whimsical rendering of cats in the afternoon sun.

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Surprises in Art

A huge kimono type garment hung in the museum. It was exquisite. It was clearly, decorative only. It’s hard to get a sense of the scale from this picture, but let’s just say that it was too large for any one to wear. The real surprise of this piece though are the thousands of ceramic butterflies sewn (or clipped) to the cloth. (No clear indication of how they are attached.)

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Prepare to be amazed!

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The sheer volume of these butterflies and the size of this piece of art are just breathtaking. The museum makes great use of lighting to highlight many of these pieces.

Another surprise was a piece with an English title,¬†Sad Child with Short Wings.¬†I’m not going to try to figure it out. But it was cool looking. Stands about 15 inches high. (In this photo, it appears a little bigger than life.) ¬†hehe

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My Personal Art Surprise

This piece had an English name of¬†Dilemma.¬†As I looked at it, I was baffled. People kneeling in a circle facing one another, holding their dismembered heads in their hands. Two of them had empty hands and one head was on the ground. I thought the dilemma pertained to some sick game of “Musical Heads” in which a head is taken away before they start the music back up, and that the dilemma was how to decide who leaves the game, or who no longer has a head. Like I say, I was baffled. You take a look! (The lighting for this piece makes it hard to get a good picture, but I think you get the idea.)

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I turned to my husband and told him my insane “theory,” and he asked me if I had listened to the audio for it. I didn’t realize that one had an audio, so I was excited. He told me the number of that entry, #94. I don’t think I’ll ever forget. When you enter 9-4-Enter, you hear the story of this ceramic piece. Here’s the English version.

With no more strength to move forward, those people melt down. Each looked around and found that the others were in distress as well. They had no one to help them. When looking forward, they only saw a pitch black road that led to uncertainty. When looking backward, they found the road they just took had disappeared. So where to go and what to be? “That’s too painful. Could I not think about that?” they cried out! And they pulled off their heads.

WOW! And I thought MY interpretation was a little odd. I think desperation of that sort would go beyond “dilemma” to something more, well, desperate. I thought about the times I get frustrated and don’t know what to do next, but pulling my head off isn’t usually in the list of options. The words of the people, “That’s too painful. Could I not think about that?” was done with such a whiny tone, too. Once I heard this interpretation, I knew that I had to include it in tonight’s post. So let me know what you think about it in the comments below.

So that was our unplanned trip to the ceramics museum. Our hosts only had the morning for the outing, but Dave and I could have spent the day. We didn’t even get through all the exhibits and demonstrations. We are already looking forward to a trip back when we can spend the whole day. Dave already found out the museum is a ten-minute walk from the train station. I’m sure I’ll have more things to share. Until then, look up and enjoy the blue sky! ¬†: