When I was in China I had several chops made, and I asked one of them to be the Chinese word for Beauty. "What kind of beauty?", the artist asked me, explaining that there are many kinds of beauty in the Chinese language. I replied I wanted the characters that meant the beauty of life itself. "Ah!", he said, and carved me this chop. It means "Everything is Beautiful".
Along the Great Wall about an hour from Beijing we saw this poem about heroes in red calligraphy on a marble tablet. According to our guide the poem says that anyone who makes it there is a hero, so I took this picture of Peter in front of it because he's definitely a hero. He was either incredibly courageous or totally crazy to have taken this step into the unknown with me, and I love love love him for it, whichever he is.
My friend Kay married her devoted love Jeff this weekend. A gentle afternoon sun came out to bless what turned out to be a perfect wedding - charming, intimate, and profound. Profound for many reasons, not least of which being that Kay has pancreatic cancer and now in her fourth post-diagnosis year has decided to stop chemo and radiation and live the rest of her life without them, and with Jeff, who has pursued her with convincing clarity for several years now. So her radiance and beauty and very aliveness, standing there smiling next to her equally radiant Prince Charming in front of family and friends - that alone was deeply profound.
There was charm in the lovely garden site with a close-in view of the bay; in the hand-made truffles Sue stayed up all night dusting with luster powder and filling with chai; in the tendrils of green ribbon flying in the breeze and in the bride's laughter and spontaneous wit. Intimacy in the heart-felt vows, the daughters that stood proud and beautiful in their formal roles; in the generosity and community of family and friends that came from near and far to cook and offer their homes and decorate and celebrate and clean up afterward, going home together to put their feet up and talk about how wonderful it was.
And no small dose of the charm and intimacy came from a thoughtful gift given by friends Michael and Karen, who hired Silvi Alcivar to grace us with her red typewriter and poetry on demand. If you don't yet know about Silvi and her magical art, I'm so glad to be the one to tell you...
Even today, weeks after returning from my voyage, China is still on my mind... with newly awakened eyes I see her face everywhere - in the daily news; in historical narrative; on the cultural calendar; as design inspiration; in my Friend's lists and in my in-box. What was to me an abstract giant lumbering to its feet on the other side of the world is now a teeming collage of landscape, people, tastes, scents and smells, sound and silence; this mighty country with its profound history and vital present is now a living being to me. I know people there and I have seen into their lives, different from mine in so many ways and yet ... our hearts - like human hearts everywhere - are alike.
I suspect the only way I can share the riches of this trip with you is through snippets of insight and experience, so here is an attempt to bring you with me viscerally on this journey...