Saturday, September 29, 2018

A Zen Priest Dreams of Angels | James Ford

September 29 is Michaelmas Day. As one who has been somewhat agnostic about angels yet open to the mysteries of the spiritual realm, I found this to be a beautiful meditation by James Ford for this Feast Day for St. Michael and all Angels. ~ CK

"...All that said, and wherever they come from, the idea of spiritual beings that muck about between heaven and earth, whispering warnings, making announcements, and occasionally directly intervening, certainly has its appeals. And, I suggest, realities.

And so on this festival day I find myself thinking of what those mediators between heaven and earth might be for me.

I have found in my life that we live and breathe and take our being within the meeting of two worlds. The problem is the two are not actually two. Nor, are they precisely one. So, when we open our hearts to the realities we find our vision complicated, mysteries emerge, the divine erupts into the ordinary."

Read more at  A Zen Priest Dreams of Angels | James Ford


Saturday Haiku: Lights on the Lake

embarked on the lake
soft lantern light gives comfort
shoreline lights give hope


Image: Lake Biwa (private collection)
Artist: Koho Shoda (1871-1946)
Medium: Woodblock print


Wednesday, September 26, 2018

From My Hong Kong Scrapbook

With the season of the Chinese Moon Festival this year, I found myself feeling nostalgic about my days in Hong Kong when I was teaching English at Hong Kong Baptist College from 1981 to 1983. I decided to re-post a couple of former entries along with some added photos to create a kind of scrapbook entry for today's feature.

Here I am in Hong Kong in 1982, on a walkway overlooking the harbor.
(The photo was taken by Sharon Caulfield who was visiting from South Korea)

A view of Hong Kong Baptist College 
(now Hong Kong Baptist University)
(Photo from the Hong Kong?Macau Baptist Mission)

Hong Kong Memories

The name "Hong Kong," translated from the Cantonese, Heung Gong, means "fragrant harbor." We expatriates who lived there found that to be a bit amusing. There were definitely many aromas, especially in Kowloon City where I lived, but that combination of automobile exhaust, yesterday's garbage, restaurant cooking, and open markets was not what we typically referred to as "fragrant." I am assuming that in the old days before it was so populated, local vegetation along with natural beauty gave rise to the name.

Hong Kong was indeed a fascinating and diverse place to live. It had a long history of taking in refugees. Many had flooded in from mainland China in the wake of political turmoil. In the 1980s, there was a large refugee camp in Kowloon for Vietnamese refugees awaiting resettlement in various countries. In addition to the majority Cantonese (southern China) population, there were also other Chinese groups such as Hakka, Swatow, and Szechuan as well as a large community of "boat people" whose homes were in boats on the harbor, and whose families had traditionally earned a living by fishing. 

At the time I was there, Hong Kong was still a British Crown Colony, so there were many British expatriates there as well as other European business people. Being such a vital place for business, there were also Japanese, Koreans, Indonesians, people from India as well as Americans there involved in various business ventures. There were also significant Filipino and Southeast Asian populations living there. I saw an amazing hodge podge of old tradition and new industry; Asian culture with European and American influences.

One of the less affluent neighborhoods on Hong Kong Island

Various street scenes in Hong Kong in the Kowloon region:

Immanuel Baptist Church

On Sundays, I led and English language Sunday School class for young adult members who wanted to practice their English (speaking English was a skill that many Chinese wanted to improve). I was the only westerner in the congregation. The pastor had been raised in mainland China and spoke Mandarin, so he would use a  Cantonese interpreter when he preached. There was always one Sunday a month when he would deliver his sermon in Cantonese (some of the members told me that they understood his Mandarin better than his Cantonese).

This section of photos is from pictures taken by church members.

The English Language Sunday School class 

 The Sunday School class at our church picnic

Here's the group shot of the whole Immanuel Baptist congregation (that is, those who came to the picnic) I'm in the back - the one wearing a cap


A Trip to the Guangdong Province

Early in my sojourn in Hong Kong, I was fortunate to take a trip into China to the Guandong Province (formerly known in the West as Canton Province). It was in the early days of China's opening up to tourist travel, and the trip was organized by my Cantonese language instructor, Dr. Jachin Chan.

The following pictures were taken on an old farming commune in the Guangdong Province. I don't know if anything like this exists anymore.

Men walking with water buffaloes, common beasts of burden on farms throughout Asia. They are fairly docile creatures and well-suited for working the wet rice patties.

A man with a water buffalo working the rice fields
A large flock of Peking Ducks on the farm commune


Old Canton

Guangdong, known to westerners in the past as Canton, is the major city in the Guangdong Province. As we crossed the river into the city, we saw many traditional boats on the water, with newer modern buildings in the background, some of them still under construction in 1982.

There were many two-wheeled carts, and many,many bicycles in those days. The woman in traditional garb pulling her cart is one of my favorites.

There were were open air markets out in the streets, including a vendor selling fresh meat.

We saw many old brick buildings. There was a plaza in the middle of town that was more open and spacious while most of the streets were quite narrow.

In the New Territories

When I lived in Hong Kong, I was in Kowloon, which is actually on the mainland across from Hong Kong Island, but part of what was then known as the Crown Colony of Hong Kong. North of Kowloon, was the New Territories (so named in the treaty in 1898 with China that leased the New Territories to The United Kingdom for 99 years in an extension of the Hong Kong Territory). In 1997, the entire colony, Hong Kong Island, Kowloon Peninsula, and the New Territories, was ceded back to China.

Lion Rock (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

The New Territories were less populated that Hong Kong Island or the Kowloon Peninsula. There was farmland and countryside that was a refreshing sight to those of us living in the crowded city.

Whether traveling to the New Territories by highway or by railway, Lion Rock was a natural landmark that one noted on the way

Rice patties in the New Territories

At the Temple of 10,000 Buddhas)

Tao Fong Shan’s Lutheran chapel 
(photo by David Van Tassel)

The Temple of 10,000 Buddhas is a fascinating place to visit in the New Territories.

One of my favorite spots to visit was in the Sha Tin region of the New Territories was Tao Fong Shan. It is a Christian Center that was founded by a Lutheran missionary who adopted Chinese customs and established the center along the line of a traditional Chinese temple. In the days before the border was closed by the communist regime, Buddhist monks would make pilgrimages to the center for time of prayer, meditation, and interfaith dialogue.

The center is known for its making of fine china depicting scenes from the life of Christ in Chinese style paintings.

*    *    * 

Crossing the Harbor

The Star Ferry chugs across the harbor

One of my favorite things to do while living in Hong Kong (from 1981 to 1983) was to ride the Star Ferry. For the equivalent of about 20 cents I could take the ferry from the Kowloon Peninsula where I lived over to Hong Kong island. The subway train which ran through a tunnel under the harbor was much faster (and cleaner), but I loved taking the time to ride the waters and watch the crowds coming and going, trying to get a flavor of the culture.

Crossing the Harbor

When crossing the harbor at night,
Or on a cloudy, windy day,
My thoughts are carried swiftly away
To a realm potent with yesterdays and tomorrows.

As I ride the waters
My spirit soars;
Exchanging thought for dream,
And dream for destiny.

I think of how it would be
If you were on the other side –
A warm heart and receptive ear
Taking joy in sharing both the petty and the profound.

Knowing that you will not be there,
I realize that I've yet other harbors to cross.
My spirit shall continue its flight,
And I shall continue my wanderings.

           CLK                                                       10/81

Leaving Hong Kong

Before I left Hong Kong, I wrote a poem for one of my Chinese friends who was a school teacher. She herself was about to embark upon a journey to England for further study. In the poem, I tried to express my sentiments about the place I was leaving behind.

Fragrant Harbor

A fragrance to heaven goes up each day
            as incense burns in temples.
A fragrance to world endures in time
with the gathering of spirited and lively people.
A fragrance to business and trade is sure,
            and it disperses throughout the land.
A fragrance to the East,
A fragrance to the West;
A fragrance to all who have come.

How many have sensed the sweetness of this place,
For whatever reason they journey –
To escape, to be caught;
To be lost, to be found.
The motives are many, the result is one.

I number among those
Who have caught the scent
Of this busy, crowded, unique place.
And something in me shall hope to smell again
The fragrance of these shores.

Charles Kinnaird                               6/83         

(Photo by Sharon Caulfield)



*All Photos by Charles Kinnaird except where otherwise noted.


Monday, September 24, 2018

Monday Music: Chinese Folk Music

Today is the official day for the Chinese Moon Festival. The autumn season is a time of celebration and sharing of moon cakes leading up to the festival day. Here are some musicians with the New York Chinese Cultural Center performing traditional Chinese folk music played on traditional Chinese Instruments Pipa and Dulcimer.


Saturday, September 22, 2018

Saturday Haiku: China Moon

over all the land
the moon bestows her soft light
making the heart glad


Image above: "Full moon rises above the Chinese stone lions at Beijing" (Photo by Li Peng)
This week's haiku is in celebration of the Chinese Moon Festival.

*   *   *

 Full moon rises over Barkol, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur (China Daily photo)


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Chinese Moon Festival

View of the full moon against an ancient building in Shaoxing, East China's Zhejiang province. (Photo from China Daily)

It's not dark yet because the Chinese Moon Festival is almost here! The Autumn Moon Festival is one of the most joyful times of the year for the Chinese, and we are in that season right now. It is always held on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month when the full moon associated with the autumn equinox is in view.  September 24 is the actual day for the Moon Festival this year.

A Long History

The season is celebrated by sharing moon cakes to symbolize prosperity and family togetherness. Paper lanterns are made to carry outside at night when the day finally arrives.  The Chinese Moon festival dates back to the Zhou Dynasty (1046-246, B.C.).  There have been many legends associated with the Moon Festival, which may indicate how different aspects of Chinese culture have been incorporated into the holiday.

One legend is that Chang E, the Chinese Goddess of the Moon, in order to protect her husband’s elixir of immortality, ate it and flew to the moon. (To read more about the legends of Chang E, go here. An interesting side note: the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program is named for the goddess Chang E.)

 Other connections are a Taoist tale about Wu Gang chopping a self-healing tree in order to become immortal. The tree kept healing and growing back, so it became an endless cycle (like the Greek myth of Sisyphus). Another Moon festival connection involves the Jade Rabbit Pounding Medicine (the Chinese, when looking at the full moon see a rabbit, unlike the Western notion of a “man in the moon”).

Another Moon Festival tale, probably more legend than fact, is the story of a political uprising against Mongolian rule. Written messages were supposedly placed inside moon cakes that were distributed telling the date of an organized rebellion. Ate any rate, many aspects of Chinese culture can be found in the Autumn Moon Festival.

A Personal Encounter

(Photo by Jacky Ngo Kok Foong)

I had never heard of the Chinese Moon Festival until I moved to Hong Kong in 1983. I loved walking up from my apartment to Kowloon Park to see families gathered with their different colored paper lanterns shining in the night. In addition to small family gatherings in restaurants and informal meetings in neighborhood parks, there are also larger celebrations involving traditional Chinese lion dances and dragon dances.

(Photo from Hong Kong
Tourism Board)
I was also intrigued by the moon cakes and enjoyed sampling a variety of them. The traditional moon cake is round like a full moon, and about the size of the palm of one’s hand. They come with a variety of fillings, often with red bean paste or lotus seed paste. Sometimes they are filled with seeds and nuts and sometimes they have more exotic fillings (such as durian, also known as “stinky fruit”). Many will have the yolk of a salted duck egg. To serve a moon cake, it is usually cut into quarters and shared, often with tea. With that first cut to half the cake, if it contains an egg yolk it will present as an image of the full moon.

I have been away from Hong Kong for many years now, but I am delighted to find that moon cakes are available in my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. I have found them at the Asia Super Market on Valley Avenue as well as the Home Town Market on Green Springs Highway. I am glad for the growing diversity of the city which brings its own cultural enrichment to all of us. 

More Highlights

To give you an idea of the traditional Chinese festivities, I am posting some photos below that I took in Macau during Chinese New Year in 1982. I also have included a short video produced by China to introduce the Moon Festival.  

Traditional Dragon Dance on the streets of Macau
(Photo by Charles Kinnaird)

Traditional Chinese Lion Dance in Macao
(photo by Charles Kinnaird)

A Chinese dragon flows along in the parade
(Photo by Charles Kinnaird


Monday, September 17, 2018

Monday Music: Rainy Night in Georgia (Brook Benton)

"Rainy Night in Georgia," was written in by Tony Joe White (who also wrote "Polk Salad Annie") and originally released on his 1969 album, Continued. It was Brook Benton's recording in 1970, however, that became an instant hit.


Saturday, September 15, 2018

Saturday Haiku: Rainy Night

rainy night
a lighted window
joyful steps  


Image: Rainy Night at Maekawa, Soshu (1932)
Artist: Hasui Kawase
Medium: Japanese Woodblock print


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Movie Notes: The Poetry of Paterson

A friend of mine recommended the film, Paterson a while back. I noticed that it was available on DVD at one of the public library branches, so I checked it out last week. I found it to be an enjoyable film with a thoughtful pace. It does not delve deeply into the art or the impact of poetry but does create a sense of liminal space which is for me the kind of quiet space where creativity can take place.

Paterson, by filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, portrays a week in the life of a bus driver named Paterson, who lives in the town of Paterson, NJ. He is a quiet fellow who goes about his day writing poetry about the things he sees, hears, and feels. He has no thought of sharing his poetry, though his wife tries to encourage him to make copies that he can show to others.

A Town for Poets

The fact that Paterson is also the hometown of the poet William Carlos Williams serves to further underscore the role of poetry in this ordinary town. Williams, in fact, was a physician who wrote his poetry during the course of the day and wrote about everyday life, just as our bus driver protagonist does in the film.

Ron Padgett wrote the poetry for the movie. His poems are placed on the screen as Paterson writes them. All in all, Paterson is a film that quietly celebrates the role of poetry and art for ordinary people in ordinary times. English film critic, Mark Kermode, describes the movie as essentially a tone poem, which I think if a very apt description.

Subtle Symbolism

One thing I found interesting was the recurrence of twins in the movie, and I wondered what the filmmaker intended by that. There were three sets of twins making cameo appearances, as it were. One the sets of twins included a young schoolgirl who was herself a poet. Could it be that the twin idea is pointing to a creative counterpart within each of us?

There is symbolism to be found here in terms of doorways to the arts. For example, we see the marriage of poetry and visual art, illustrated by the fact that Paterson’s wife is an artist who spends her day designing and painting her own dresses, drapes, shower curtains, and living d├ęcor. Her art then leads her to move into music as she becomes driven to learn to play the guitar. Her character also added a more light-hearted whimsical touch of comic relief.  

One last aside, and speaking of twins, I couldn’t help noticing that the bartender, Doc, who Paterson talks to every night, bears a strong resemblance to his dog, Marvin. 

If you are in the mood for a quiet film that celebrates poetry and the wonders of ordinary life, check out Paterson. It is well written and well crafted with excellent acting and character portrayal. The acting is understated, which takes talent to pull off, and it lends to the poetic pace of the film. You will be inspired and may want to find a quiet corner, a cup of coffee, and a book of poetry so engaging that your coffee gets cold.

*    *   *

Here are some added attractions:

Ron Padgett’ s poem, “How to be perfect,” can be found online at Poetry Foundation

PBS NewsHour offered a segment which includes a brief interview with the filmmaker, Jim Jarmusch along with poet Ron Padgett. You can see that here

A brief talk by Ron Padgett can be seen on YouTube in which he talks about his own poetic inspirations and influences. To view that, go here.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...