Thursday, July 22, 2010

Wild Ginger

shifu - abbess
nigu - buddhist nun
miao - buddhist temple

The hills glistened under the slanted golden sun. Her hand-tucked canvas shoes and long wide sleeves, sweeping along grasses scented with dewy drops, were wet. She brushed her long hair aside along with the sweat on her forehead and drew in deeply the cold mountain air.

She had collected enough fire woods for the day and filled the giant urn in the kitchen with spring water. Shifu told her to fetch one more thing for the ceremony tonight, and she was told to do this chore by herself.

Others had described the shape and scent to her before. It’s pure white in color, they said, and they bloom in summer with dancing petals. She missed the season when she came to the miao to stay last year. She was broken then, lost her sight for life.

Shifu and other nigus nursed her back to health in their quiet and gentle ways. She gradually understood from shifu’s wise eyes that life could be simple; that heartaches could be buried.

She realized she wanted to be one of them when she was healed. The tip of her hair danced in the gentle breeze and tickled her face, her neck. Waye used to do that. She pushed the thought out of her mind.

Not today, she thought, today I need to be pure and empty. The bothersome hair will be gone forever, much like her thoughts of earthly connection. Her fingers wrapped the hair around but she was concentrating on purging her thoughts and didn’t notice.

You will know when you find it, they said. The scent is divine, there’s nothing like it! That’s why we offer it to Buddha.

She followed the turn of the road and there it was: behind the big tree in the shade, some white flowers swayed in the air. The blade shaped green leaves bounced under filtered sun light. Her hands reached out to touch the petals and the aroma seized her.

Waye’s head was buried in her hair and he whispered: “You smell like heaven.. ” She felt Waye’s arms around her and she caressed her arms achingly. Her memories were battered with horrible fragments. There was blood all over her. She remembered screaming his name, his head draped lifelessly on the steering wheel. People were shouting and pulling her away from the car, from him. She couldn't stop screaming.

They told her she was lucky to have survived, but she didn’t know how to live without Waye. Her mother took her to this miao as a last attempt to pull her back to life. Almost a year later she decided to join the women. Her head would be shaved clean, a symbol of cutting tie with the rest of the world, and her scalp would be burned with incense for spiritual cleansing. All pains would be gone for good.

Her face was wet with tears and her arms full with white wild ginger flowers. She had lost the sense of time sitting under the tree. Fresh tears kept flowing down and she let them come out freely. She was no longer lost. Her heart hurt for the first time in a year.

Shifu saw her face when she walked into the miao and knew--the broken child was repaired. She carefully put the flowers in the vase in front of Buddha’s statue and turned to face shifu.

“They smelled so...” she began to say, but words failed her and her voice cracked.

“I know.” shifu said, her eyes calm with foreboding wisdom. “ Your bag is packed and ready in your room.” she said, gently and lovingly, “Go now. Go and have a wonderful life.”

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Hair Therapy

The shop was sparse when I walked in. A woman sat me down and asked what I wanted. I didn’t remember her but I was not surprised. Their turnover rate must be astronomical, and the quality of their work remains not improved.

I don’t do the $50.00 haircut. I tried, but nobody ever said “Wow. Your hair looks gorgeous!” to me.
I told myself if nobody could tell the difference, it makes no difference where I get the cut.

I don’t do Lancome or Estee Lauder brand for skincare either, but only because my skin broke out miserably every time I did. I’m more than happy to save some money there, too. Drugstore brand works great in that aspect.

My mother has a good analogy for that. She told me I was born with a body fit for a royal family (that means not very strong and needs pampering), but a fate proper for a poor peasant (that's pretty self-explanatory).

Thanks, mom.

I do draw the line at Supercuts. They butchered my hair so bad once that I looked like a man. Actually, more like a woman who would prefer a female lover.

“Your hair is wavy.” The hairdresser commented.

My hair is straight, but she would hear none of it. She pointed at the back of my head, where a few strands of hair were posing in an acrobatic twist.

“Yes, it IS wavy.” I said.

She had the scissors, so I let her win. My decades of experience with my own hair merely meant she knew better than me.

I looked around the shop when she did the cutting. I’ve learned long ago they had their own minds on how you should look. It’s beneficial for my own mental health if I indulge their artistic expressions freely.

A man walked in. He was short with dark skin, but pleasant at first glance for the smile he was sporting. He looked around and proclaimed happily, “Ah, there you are—hiding in the back!”

A woman stood up and greeted him. She was his favorite, obviously. She had a knit top on, and her torso was squeezed into three sections above her waist, in Michelin Tire logo guy style.

I soon found out she was his victim, not favorite. He talked non stop all the time while she cut his hair. I tried to tune him out, but he was only two seats down. At one time I heard him asking her if she knew the difference between smart and intelligent, then proceeded to explain the difference. She murmured mindless “uh hum” every now and then while trimming. Maybe she had a good reason to be hiding in the back.

He was either in love with her, or had a bad case of superiority complex. Either way it was an urban tragedy. She struck me as the type who would value earthly pleasure more than intellectual enlightening, with which he was so eager to impart.

He had better come up with a better strategy if he wanted this to go anywhere. I would suggest lots of dining out and leisure drives in his luxury car if he had one.

As for the complex, he’s on his own. My arms weren’t long enough to reach over and slap him out of it.

She said something to her coworkers in a foreign language after he left. I had a pretty good idea what that might be. Following is just one of many possibilities:

“WTH was that? He should pay me double for putting up with all his crap!”

A haircut is not only a fun and relaxing event, it can also be therapeutic at times.


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