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The "Wu Word" Blog

December 2019

Colors

I come from a family of poets and painters.  My paternal grandfather encapsulated both painter and poet to the fullest effect.  Back in the 1990’s, my grandparents lived in Canada.  My grandfather’s paintings and poems were so important and ingrained in him that he had a sunroom with minimal closed walls and maximum glass windows.  The windows were so spotlessly clean that Mother Nature herself in all her glory of sunshine and blue skies along, gloomy beauty of rain, and purity of snow was so clear that you could almost feel like you were outside.  He had a table of paintbrushes and thick paints.  He showed me these paintings against the dramatic backdrop of Mother Nature and would say, “You will see the paintings best in the light.”  My aunt was also a painter.   I remember him and her showing me their Chinese paintings that had dark colors and multitude of mountains. 

I also come from a family of writers and rebels.  At a young age, I learned meaning of “The Pen is Mightier Than the Sword.”  I learned how stringing and forming certain words had the power to hurt or heal.  I learned that words could form and create magical and memorable stories of our lives to share and speak out to others.  I was taught to fight for what you believe in even if you are in the lonely minority because living a life of personal truth, morals and principles held the greatest meaning than to live a life unlived and not meant to be that was actually the saddest life there can possibly be.  I came to believe that timing is everything in life, and that it is most important to pick battles in order to win wars.    

Growing up, I always considered myself a writer.  Never an artist.  My aunt enrolled me in a drawing class when I was living with her one summer.  I learned how to draw flying birds and buck-toothed bunnies.  I was bored in those art classes.  It was not until I was in high school and then in college that I fell in love with clay and ceramics.  There was something about the feel of the clay in my hands.  With my hands, I had the power to build, mold, and really create anything and everything. All through college whenever I was stressed from a brain draining psychology class, I escaped to the chilly ceramics room to pound and punch clay to form something.  Really Anything.  It was fun.  It was invigorating.  It was empowering.

Recently and completely unexpectedly, I stopped by at a pottery place just to check it out for grins and giggles.  I joined a bunch of strangers on a Friday night that had tons of free food (you can always get me to go somewhere if there is food and especially if it is free) and shelves and shelves of beautiful and whimsical pottery pieces.  Plates.  Bowls.  Cups.  Cute figurines.  All these pieces were meant for serving, supporting, or just bringing a big smile.  The name of the game was that you pick a piece, paint it, and wait at least a week to find out how the piece turned out.  That night, I listened to many of these ladies fretting over what paint colors to choose from and saying, “Oh, this is so stressful and I do not know what I am doing!”  I could have chosen any piece.  There were a large variety of colors to choose from.   However, I stuck with a simple vase and the four paint glazes they had to offer.  I wanted to keep it simple.  Simple is usually better.  Less is more.  I listened to these ladies’ conversations with a lazy ear as my main interest and focuses that night were the cheese and crackers and just shutting down my mind down to paint.  No thinking.  Only painting.  Without even thinking and me keeping uncharacteristically quiet, I painted. 

I was the first one to finish painting my piece and leave that pottery place on that night.  I was probably also the first one to pick up my piece a week later.  I was completely pleasantly surprised at my very first painted vase that was decked out in warm cinnamon brown and cool teal.   I was shocked at how the colors I had painted on had been supposedly muted and boring before going into the kiln, but actually came out in brighter than ever with a shiny and glossy sheen.   I was hooked.

Since then, I have painted a bowl and three plates.  I had a blast with three plates, but one plate was annoying and getting me frustrated, impatient, and mentally challenged with the art of symmetry versus asymmetry.  The only wiring in my mind when I am about to paint are the colors I will choose and the extra design I might make, whether it be dots, stripes, or even bubbles.  Each time I have had to hand in a piece to be put into the kiln, I have no clue how the piece will really turn out.  I have no idea if the colors will really mesh and matchmake well together.  I also must wait at least a whole week to see the final product in all its painted glory.    I have realized that this whole process of picking a piece, painting it, and waiting on the final product is so much like life.  There is so much that you can or do put out there, do or even overdo, and then you have no choice but to patiently wait on the results meeting and matching what you put out there.  You can do everything and everything you do still will not be good enough.  You can try your hardest and your best and none of these is good enough.  There are times in our lives that are dark or a completely frightening stark white and blank canvas that you have no clue what to do or put on only to find it in you to make your own canvas and bring colors and light back to your life and canvas.  You can only hope for your faith and patience to get you through that waiting time for what you waited for to be and meet what you originally hoped for. 

A vase, three plates, and a bowl later,  maybe I would have to say that I am merely a humbled artist full of poet, painter, writer, and rebel—all coming from my family.  The time I paint is my quiet time.  My quiet time for my mind, However, it has also been my time of bringing colors back to the stark white piece AND colors back into my mind and life.  I came to terms that this 2019 was one of the most challenging years of my life.   I have and am still making my peace with 2019.  I am ready to leave 2019, but, more than that, I am more than ready to embrace 2020 and bring the brightest of colors back to it that were muted and faded in 2019.   It is fun.  It is invigorating.  It is empowering.
 
It takes quite a lot to bring hope, light, brightness, and, indeed, colors back into our lives during our darkest and most difficult and challenging times.  When did your life maybe seem black and white?  Where do you escape to that brings you comfort, joy, and, maybe, just maybe quieting your unquiet mind?  What did it take for you to bring colors back into your life?  How have you or do you bring colors into your life? 
 
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,
Mary
 

 

Cheers!

 
Two years ago, I learned that one of my relatives was diagnosed with late-stage stomach cancer.  It was determined that he was terminal and probably would not make it past Christmas.  I was never particularly close to this relative, but terminal illnesses do a twisting kind of thing to the mind that make you remember the moments where you were close and could have been even closer. So, the memories played like a movie reel in my mind of when this relative lived with my family and I and I tormented him as a bratty child bugging him to play games with me. I remembered being given the responsibility of his flower girl in Hong Kong in a puffy pink dress.  I remembered my Dad and me spending the entire day with him and his wife out at Universal Studios in California in the beaming sunshine and daring each other to go on the fastest and wildest of rides.  Even more so, terminal illnesses back you in a corner making you think that you lost the chance to be closer so you try to make up for the perception of loss by making as many moments and memories to hold on to just before that person is no longer here on earth.  So, that is exactly what we did.   To make new memories to remember and hold on to, my family and I jetted off to California to visit this relative and his wife for what was deemed by doctors as his last Christmas. 

I had heard that he was going bald from the start of treatments to try to combat the cancer.  I knew exactly what I wanted to get him for Christmas; A handmade hat from one of my friends who was famous for her knitted hats from the thickest and finest of yarns.  After much decision with my hat lady friend, I finally decided on a swirl of colors thick hat for him to keep his head warm and spirits even warmer and more hopeful. 

Our first stop in sunny California was to see him and his wife.  In a stark white room that was badly in need of color, personality, and light, we all crowded and stood like soldiers encircling him.  We hugged his thinning body.  We plastered on bright smiles.  We took pictures. We filled up the awkward pauses with laughter, jokes, small talk, and really anything and everything that did not touch terminal illness with a ten-foot pole.  I gave him the hat.  He bony fingers brushed mine when he grasped on to it.  The hat was too big for him, but he dutifully put it on to try to please me and everyone else. 

Before we left, we all lifted up our filled up plastic cups to wish each other happiest of holidays.  I rang out: “Cheers!” 

Everyone beamed with big smiles and his smile was the biggest of all.  In my experience, there is something about the word ‘cheers.’  Almost all the time, it melts away tension and a big grin or smile takes over somber faces.  I think it is because ‘cheers’ is like the word ‘cheese’ where the lines on our faces cannot help but lift up rather than down.  He knew that this was going to be his last Christmas.  We knew that this was going to be his last Christmas.  Some could even say that we all knew that we were pretending that everything was okay when it was not okay, but maybe it was not really pretending.  Maybe it is just trying and creating new and happy memories in unhappy and even painful reality.  Maybe it is just trying to ring out and find the ‘cheers’ and positivity in pain and in the face of adversity and when the cloud of negativity looms overhead.

Just a couple days after Christmas and just before the New Year, he had died.  He had made it to Christmas.  He had not made it to the New Year.  All of us had made it in time to be together and say and ring in ‘cheers’ one last time, making a bittersweet memory imprinted in my mind.  Sometimes, the holidays can be the hardest time of the year where there is the flood of good and bad memories.  It can be the time of the year where we think about those who are missing and we end up missing these people the most.  Most definitely, it is that time of year that we find and make magic and as much ‘cheers’ as we can muster as we gather and try to come together. 
‘Cheers’ illicits joy and happy memories in the face of unhappy or daunting reality.  When have you been in a painful or hurtful time that you tried to overcome with creating new and happy memories? Have you ever noticed that the word ‘cheers’ naturally brings a smile to our faces? 
 
This Christmas and in the days to come that ends 2019 and starts 2020, I wish you and all your loved ones “Cheers!”
 
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,

Mary ;-)
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