Category Archives: Life

Travel Theme: HEIGHT

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I am petite. Every time I am a spectator among a big crowd watching a parade, I am keenly aware how challenged I am with my height. I am envious that this person has found his vantage point. This also reminds me of William Kurelek’s painting I saw at the Ukrainian Museum in Saskatoon.

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Do visit Ailsa’s Where’s My Backpack for other interpretations and images of Height in her Travel Theme.

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Thursday Special: My 200th Blog Post

I celebrate my 200th post to-day with a link to my first post. I also submit this post to Thursday Special, that Paula of Lost in Translation has set up. I entitled my first post “Impossible? Possible!” It was the banner in the photo that gave me the inspiration to start blogging, and the words also reflected my determination to power walk to bring health to my life. Blogging and power walking are now two activities that I engage in regularly, together with my other passions–reading, food, and music and art.

I was standing under the same banner at the start line of the Sporting Life 10K earlier this year in May and took a picture of it myself. It dawned on me too that I had been blogging for one year. These two activities have enabled me to connect with many lovely people, who have shared with me their interests and their lives. They have broadened my perspectives, challenged my usual way of thinking, and in short, they have enriched my life.

My walking friends have supported me through races and hikes. I have covered distances that I have never dreamt that I am capable of doing. They have also given me the privilege to share their blessings and joys, as well as trial and tribulations. Without walking with them, and being part of their non-walking related activities, about half of the contents of this blog would have been missing.

My blogging friends (yes, although we have never met, yet I consider you my friends) are generous and embracing. They open their world to me. Their posts have made me laugh, made me cry or rendered me speechless in awe.  I learn about books, movies, music, crafts and hikes, as well as classics. Their blogs have taught me how to take pictures, how to write and how to cook. They help me update my bucket list of things to do and places to go. They have offered me comments and “likes” that have encouraged me to keep blogging better posts. The benefits I have derived are too numerous to count.

Now that I have reached the 200th post mark, I want to take this opportunity to thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

This blogging milestone is making me reflective, but not sentimental. I am determined to live by the Tagline of this blog to “age with peace of mind”. I have made a choice to appreciate my blessings in the vicissitudes of life. I have likened races as a metaphor of life. Walking and Blogging are part of my Life. Thank you for celebrating my 200th post with me–if you reach this far–and so, let us walk on and blog on.

For other Thursday Special posts this week, check out: Lost in Translation.

 

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Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: In One Colour

I welcome Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge for this week: In One Colour, as long as it is not black and white. The subtitle of my entry is: “All that glitters is not gold”. This is a visual illusion of gold coins showering from the sky in a show in a Macau casino. See how excited the audience is trying to catch them!

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Thursday Special: A Visit to the Hairdresser

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Paula of Lost in Translation has set up a non-challenge Challenge called Thursday Special as an avenue for bloggers to “wake up their creativity and show their own ideas and interpretation of the world”.

As I was sitting in the chair in the beauty salon the other day, I had a revelation that I wanted to write up to share in the Thursday Special this week.

On that day, I had to spend almost two hours in the hair salon to perm my hair. I was leaving for a trip on which I had to attend formal occasions and professional presentations. I would not have time to take care of my hair which was normally short and straight, let alone get ready in my hotel room with curlers like Hilda Ogden in Coronation Street. My solution was to perm my hair, with a plan to finger dry it after  shampooing it myself.

The shampoo was the best part of my appointment with my hairdresser, Maria. I lay down in the reclining chair and rested my neck on the groove of the sink. I closed my eyes while my Maria showered my hair with lukewarm water. She worked the shampoo solution all over my hair before rinsing it off. She was efficient but never rushing when she repeated her action with the conditioner. Then I felt her fingers, gentle but firm, starting to massage my scalp. This was the moment I was waiting for. My already half-relaxed body let go completely. At the end of each stroke, her fingers applied pressure to the vital points on my head. If one aspired to an “ohm” moment in transcendental meditation, I already attained my “ah” moment at Crowning Glory, with my hairstylist giving me a head massage. I forgot that I had left my house all stressed after a hectic week; I forgot that I had a list of errands to run after my hair appointment before I could to go home to pack for a trip.

“Let’s move to the other chair,” the voice of my hair stylist Maria sounded distant, but brought me back to reality before I drifted into an altered state of consciousness, with my hair wrapped in a turban and I was now sitting upright. I followed Maria to her station and talked about the purpose of my visit.

Still, for the moment,  I watched Maria put the curlers on strands of my hair sandwiched between two thin pieces of paper and she squirted a chemical solution on them. I noticed how the method had not changed since my first perm that was inflicted upon a reluctant me by my mother when I was six years old, even though the stink of the chemical seemed greatly reduced comparing my present experience to that retrieved from my olfactory memory.

After Maria had left me with my head of curlers covered in a towel under a shower cap, and a cup of coffee and a magazine to wait for my hair to curl. I noticed the animated conversations between the customers around me and their hair stylists. The lady sitting beside me was having a blow dry. She raised her voice that I guessed the entire place could hear her.

“I have to be there almost three or four times a week. She says she is taking a course and has to stay back to do her homework. Then I get a call from Tom the night before asking me to stay with the kids when they go away for the weekend,” she did not sound pleased. I was more amazed though by the neutral yet tactful response from her hair stylist, “So it must be very inconvenient for you.” “You’d better tell her,” the lady said, “I know Tom wants a break but can’t she ask and say ‘thank you’ to me?”

When the blow dryer stopped, her voice subsided, and I was drawn to the conversation between an elderly gentleman and his hairstylist. He sounded tired but only too pleased that he could be out of the house for a brief moment to get a haircut and vented about his circumstances. By the sound of it, he certainly needed this reprieve from the constant strain taking care of a spouse suffering from dementia.

The two customers were not the exceptions, I realized. My mother, who is in her eighties, goes to her hairdresser for a “shampoo and set” every week before she meets her friends for lunch. Her friends apparently do the same. During these regular visits, my mother, like many customers, chats with her stylist. Only on one occasion when I met her hairdresser that I realized how much she had told her hair stylist about me and my family.

My revelation is that the hair dressers are there not only to create an attractive coiffure for the customers and pamper them with head massages, but they also become a social resource to some customers over the course of regular visits. These encounters of an hour or so transform from small-talks into a social support session as well. If the customers are willing to talk, the hair stylist becomes an engaging individual for them to open up to like a friend, or if I were bold enough to speculate, a therapist-of-sorts.

I believe that face-to-face interaction is fundamental to social relationships. Powerful as the social media for fast, instant and brief messages, they cannot replace what real human conversations can offer. A visit to the hair dresser is one of such encounters. You become relaxed after the shampoo and the disarming head massage. There is verbal dialogue, visual contact and body language in the interaction. The hair dresser is always ready to listen. This is the essence of human interaction that technology cannot replace. Maybe that is why most of us find a visit to the hairdresser so desirable.

I felt very content with the hair treatment and my beautiful perm when I left Crowning Glory to get on with my day. I also felt good that I had witnessed the celebration of REAL human interaction in the hair salon.

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Travel Theme PEACEFUL: The Interactive Garden of Walt Rickli

The Travel Theme of Ailsa’s Where is my Backpack this week is Peaceful. This photo shows the setting in which I have discovered a peaceful surrounding for a quiet walk to engage in my own meditation.

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I am talking about the Interactive Garden of Walk Rickli, nestled in the serene grounds near Bronte Creek in Lowville Park, Burlington Ontario. Walt Rickli has made his name as a stone sculptor-philosopher, who has integrated into his art the beauty of nature and reflections in the mind. While I pace along the garden path, each sculpture invites me to pause, look and think. Many pieces on display have running water, the sound of which entices me to walk over, and I discover the stillness of the stone contrasting with the movement of the water. Many a visitor will find the ‘ohm’ moment here.

This is one of my favourite pieces.

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The exhibits are rotated during the year. I find on this day several sculptures depicting the native Inuit theme. I leave them to your interpretation.

Kitchen Renovation (6): The Final Lag and Finish Line!

My excitement was beyond words when the cabinets arrived soon after the dry walls were finished and the tiles laid on the floor. The cabinet installer also started working on the same day. Watching him work, I discovered how exact the task was to ensure that seams and joints were aligned, the hinges on the doors were adjusted and tightened, and the shelves were placed to provide functional partitions. I was very pleased to see the two-tier lazy Susan trays which would give me all the space I had hoped for in the corners of the cabinets.

In the meantime, the painter came in. I had been expecting him for a while, especially the contractor told me that the painter had promised to complete my job before his three-week holiday in Australia. I could simply not bear the thought of my kitchen on hold for three weeks! To my relief, a jovial painter bounced in like a kangaroo (he told me he was Australian), decided on the colour with me and the job was done.

The final lag of the kitchen renovation was a piece of orchestration and co-ordination by the different trades, and the supervisor did a superb job lining them up. Once the lower cabinets had been installed, the countertop person was called in to do the measurements. He used an equipment that was similar to a surveying tool. That was an innovative procedure to me.

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It took two weeks for the counter top to be ready. The cabinet installer continued with his work and so did the electrician who put in lighting under and inside some cabinets.

I welcomed the counter top on its day of its arrival like a groom waiting for his bride. I heaved a big sigh of relief when it was brought in, because finally I could tell that it matched my choice of the floor tiles. The backsplash were installed the day after the counter top. Another day for grouting and cleaning up. The last item to go in was the kitchen vent.

I had no idea when I started to post about my kitchen renovation that it had taken some eleven weeks to have everything completed. Not bad, because I was given an estimate of nine to ten weeks when the job started. I had become used to cooking and eating in my make-shift kitchen in the basement, but it’s certainly time I moved to my new kitchen and caryy on. It would take me several days to wipe it down and return to the old routine with new appliances and new storage arrangements . If you were expecting drama from my renovation, you might be disappointed. However, it was an educational experience, nonetheless, finding out the expertise of the different trades and craftsmen, learning to be patient and how to communicate clearly what I wanted using trade terms.

Please don’t ask me about kitchen warming yet; just let me enjoy the sight of it first.

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Leslie Shimotakahara Reads “The Reading List”

I1-IMG_1248 heard about Leslie Shimotakahara through six-degree connections, bought and read her book The Reading List: Literature, Love and Back Again, A Memoir. In each chapter of her memoir, she relates herself to the character of a book, as she describes her struggle with her career and her relationships with friends and family members. She has included Thoreau, Wharton and Joyce as well as Faulkner, Woolf and Hemingway in her thirteen chapters. Ondaatje and Atwood also make it into her list, among others. I have also found out from her blog under the same title “The Reading List” that she has many insightful reflections weaved into the over sixty book titles she has posted on her blog.  When I heard that she would be reading from her work in Hamilton, Ontario, I went out, because I wanted to meet her and ask her to autograph  my book.

The reading was organized by Litlive and held at the Homegrown Cafe in Hamilton, Ontario. The venue was situated in the re-vitalized downtown area of the city, where artists and writers had moved to in recent years. It offered a casual but cosy setting for this reading event with about thirty people among the audience to listen to the works of six writers of poetry and prose.

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My interest in meeting Leslie Shimotakahara stems not from the fact that I know a member of her extended family who has told me about the book in the first place. It is more because I am fascinated by her talent. Her writing has demonstrated scholarship and style. I admire her courage and frankness in revealing herself and her family in a memoir, though generally memoirs are written by people much older than she is. Her themes are multi-faceted and she has knitted them together seamlessly in her book.

I can relate to her feelings about academia, having come from academia myself. It would1-DSC02296 indeed be difficult if your goals and inclinations are not there to play the role according to the rules of the game, no matter how interested your are in the subject matter and the topic you are conducting research on. Now that I have met Leslie Shimo (guess it is all right to shorten her name like her great grandfather, Kozo, was referred to in her book). I can also identify with her disadvantage of having a young-looking oriental face. It would be tough to be a professor, a bona fida professor she was, in a small east coast town where the parochial outlook predisposed her students to take her at face value (ah, what a pun).  I wish I could tell her that I had been asked if I were a teaching assistant  by an overseas visitor I met for the first time in a faculty social after I had been a full member on faculty for some years.

Part of the revelation in the book was the Shimotakahara family history during the period of internment of the Japanese in Vancouver during the Second World War, and it was spearheaded by her father who tried to extract as much information as he could from her grandmother before she died. Her family saga could be representative of the hardship of many a Japanese families during those difficulty times. I cannot but marvel at Leslie Shimo’s artistry in blending her personal story against the backdrop of the past and present unrest in her family and in the world. The tension was palpable and she handles it with such ease.

She read an excerpt from the first chapter of her book. There she 1-IMG_1249was, back home to decide on her next move after leaving the ivory tower and after fulfilling her father’s aspiration for her –although it might not be hers– to obtain a doctorate and to become a professor. I am daughter as well as a mother. When I read that part of the book and listened to Shimo read, I  kept wondering: Is this an immigrant psyche, or an oriental psyche? I have to resort to Jung for an explanation of our collective consciousness.

Critics and publicity blurbs describe Shimo as “a recovering academic”. As I watched her friendly smile and how composed and graceful she was on stage, Leslie Shimotakahara was already “a recovered academic”, in my opinion. I congratulate her on winning the Canada Council for the Arts Canada-Japanese Literary Award.  I wish her well in her new relationship and I look forward to reading her next book.