All posts by XingfuMama

Amateur photographer seeking beauty in both the memorable and the mundane. Sharing pictures, stories and meditations from here and there.

I’m ready to move on

If “that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” then I am stronger. than I was a year ago.

About a year ago I was sitting in a hospital trauma unit, hypnotically watching a machine monitor my uncle’s lack of brain activity. It was not a peak life experience. Nor was much of anything else in the past twelve months.

This year has had deaths of family and friends, moving my Grandmother and, with that, having to face how fragile she has become and trying to deal with the bureaucracy that controls getting help for her. We had work done on the house, which is still not done and a bit of a disaster zone. There have also been crises in another quarter that I don’t feel up to discussing right now. I can only deal with one extremely frustrating thing at a time and today’s battle is legalism over benefits.

But more than all those I have not felt happy this year. Many years I could have coped better with the on-going sh…tuff of life, I had more emotional resilience. This year things overwhelmed me.

I have been feeling better lately. So I’m going to take a pass on repeating anything from this past year. I am ready to move on.

Today is gloomy and chilly but the Empress and I are enjoying the magic box (gas fireplace). I find sitting by it reading Tove Jansson’s Moominpappa at Sea  more cheery than sunshiny days last summer.  The empress is so close to the fire that she seems to have melted one of her whiskers (do whiskers melt? anyway it has become a curlicue at the end from being so close to the heat).

This post is a response to the DailyPost Prompt: One More Time.

Horizontal Lines

This post is a response to Cee’s Compose Yourself Challenge: Week 6 Horizontal Lines and the Horizon.

I noticed after reading Cee’s Essay and reviewing a lot of the pictures I have taken that I often wind up with my horizon in the middle. I wanted to take some experimental pictures but it has been pouring and the horizon isn’t visible so I am playing with old photos.

This picture was taken last spring when the sky was funny. The sunlight reflecting on the water formed a strong horizontal line.


I did an experiment with the series below. The first picture is the original, which has the horizon near the middle, the other two are the same picture cropped so the horizon is low and high. Of the three the better picture is probably the one where the horizon is low, in large part because the beach is so dark that you cannot really see it well and yet it is kind of busy.

In the pictures below I thought that the dead tree formed a strong horizontal. I like the middle picture in this series as well, the bird is in a good position and there is enough of the tree it is perched on.

I think the two pictures below have strong horizontal lines, but they are a bit unconventional: the strings of lights in the first one and the steps and roof lines in the second.

I mostly use Adobe Lightroom, which allows me to straighten the horizon and also to rotate pictures to remove distortion from taking them with the camera tilted. A free, easy to use program for Windows that allows one to straighten a picture, and do a fair bit of other editing,  is Fotor.



Taking the Bus No.2

More about why I like buses. In the first post about buses I explained a bit about the sense of community I feel on a bus. Buses also allowed me to escape a bit as a pre and young teenager.

By the mid ’70’s Harlan’s bus was no more. King County Metro began to serve Vashon at some point. Because of our location (within walking distance of the ferry) I am not clear about when this happened because I could walk across and catch the #18. (Eventually Metro added the 118 which rode the ferry over and served the island).

“Walking across” doesn’t mean that you are performing a miracle. It means that you walk onto, then off of a ferry boat. When I was 11 or 12 I started walking across and taking a bus to Pioneer Square, which had been recently gentrified, to go to Shorey’s Bookstore. Once a well known destination and now no longer in existence, although it put up a better fight than most. Or I might go all the way downtown to the used bookstore upstairs from the Bartell’s Drug Store at the end of the Monorail (They shortened the monorail so it ends at Westlake Center mall, and tore down the funny triangular building). In those days I spent all my allowance money on books.

We lived in an isolated location, it was hard to visit the few close friends I had, my parents didn’t get along, and our home was often unpleasant. Those bus trips to town, and the books that came home with me, were an escape from that. Having an escape is a way of maintaining hope.

Times have changed, I would never have let my son go to Pioneer Square or downtown alone at that age. I sometimes wonder about that. Seattle is much bigger and less friendly feeling now, Pioneer Square is a strange place, upscale rubs shoulders with derelict.

Did I maybe feel somehow unsafe somewhere deep inside on those solo journeys? Were my parents negligent? Or was it a change in our culture? James was 12 in 2011.

Is there something you did as a child that you wouldn’t let your own kids do?

Taking the bus

I know that this is strange but I like taking the bus.

When I was a kid we lived at the end of the trail, it was about 1/4 mile uphill to the nearest road and 1/2 mile, relatively flat, to the ferry dock, our mail box was at the point where we popped out of the trail on to the road 150 or so feet from the foot of the dock.

My mom didn’t drive until I was 9 or 10 so we walked, Grandma drove us, or took the bus and ferry except on weekends when Dad brought the car home for grocery shopping etc. In those days Vashon had one bus, Harlan’s bus. I think Harlan took three or four round trips to Seattle weekdays: early morning, late morning and evening. I don’t know how far south on the island he went, we only ever took the bus uptown (to Vashon, it was literally uphill to the town on the crest of the island) or downtown  (to downtown Seattle).

I was well into adulthood before I understood that there were cultural references from New York City in the use of “uptown” and “downtown”.  To me they were a literal description of where we went: up to Vashon, and while Seattle wasn’t down from where we lived (nothing was), it did have a waterfront and was lower than the town of Vashon.

This time of year I think about going shopping, which almost always makes me think about Harlan’s bus. We would walk down to the ferry dock and board the bus on the ferry.  A half mile doesn’t sound like much but my memories are from being 3-5 years old, and my legs were a lot shorter then. We rode in on the late morning bus and went to the elegant shops that aren’t there any more: Frederick and Nelson was a favorite, the Bon Marche was up there also. Nordstrom’s was a store that specialized in shoes, not yet whatever it is now (I really am not sure, it is pretty trendy, it no longer carries every shoe size like it used to, and, worst of all, its cafe is very, very noisy).

The beautiful Christmas decorations, a nice lunch, a visit to Santa and shopping. I hate shopping. It sucks the energy out of me.

So we trundled back to Second Avenue and got on Harlan’s bus to go home, loaded down with packages. It was dark when we got off the bus on the ferry and walked up the dock to the road, then the trail carrying more than was comfortable. We would sing songs on the way home. One that I remember was

“Show me the way to go home, wherever I may wander, wherever I may roam, you will always hear me singing this song, Show me the way to go home.”

(If you actually know this song please be gentle with my memory I was only a little girl and we only sang it a few times a year, when we went shopping downtown.)

On Harlan’s bus there was a sense of community. Only islanders took it. You were all from the same place going into town and going home to the same place at the end of the day. If there was a shortage of seats people squeezed together to make room. People on the bus gave me candy or coins sometimes. It was after we got off the bus that things got hard.

This started out to be about traveling on buses. I was going to tell you about taking buses in Weifang, but I wanted to start by explaining why I like buses. Maybe I will try again tomorrow.


Neglect and treason

Our cat, the Empress, lashes her tail back and forth and meows as I wrap a hot pot of soup in an old beach towel to keep it warm, while we travel over to Grandma’s. She weaves in an out between my feet trying to trip me as I pack up our picnic dinner.

She knows that we will come home late. She will be neglected and the house will be cold. To add insult to injury we will come back smelling like those nasty dogs.

Human beings are so silly.  You can eat your bowl of soup sitting comfortably by the fire while you pet your own soft kitty-cat. No need to travel across town and fraternize with stinky dogs. It makes no sense at all.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “An Odd Trio.”

Double check the calendar.

You return home to discover a huge flower bouquet waiting for you, no card attached. Who is it from — and why did they send it to you?

This happened to me…in a way.

KSM-20151011-Roses-04-500pxI live in Seattle, most years in mid-October we start to trend cold and wet. I returned from a two week trip on October 29th and my roses were blooming. They are supposed to be going dormant. Orange roses in the front yard and yellow in the back, fall colored roses smiling in the sun. Clear breathable air. Sometimes I really love my home!

I fear these buds are doomed as it has gotten chilly. But it was a nice welcome home from my faithful, yet too often neglected garden. So flowers but no admirer. Oh well you can’t have it all.

The cat was glad to see me, especially when I turned on the gas fireplace.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Secret Admirers.”

Up on my feet, down on my seat

Part of a series of posts about my experiences on a trip to China in October 2015. The series of posts related to this can be seen on my page “Sleeping Dragon Slowly Opens One Eye”.

As I have mentioned a few times, I am a planner. I like to know where I am going and have an idea of what to expect. This post is about going, rather blindly, along with the flow.

Our trip was planned by others, and the plan changed more than once, to the point where we went to bed the night before only knowing that someone was to pick us up at 8 am the next morning. James didn’t know which of the people he knew were going to be picking us up, and we didn’t know where we were going.

Sunny posing for a picture taken by her dad.
Sunny posing for a picture taken by her dad.

It turned out to be the family of one of his students, a little cutie named Sunny. He knew her parents and had been to Mount Tai with them and some others last summer.

In the car we learned that we were going to a national park called Yishan and it would take about two hours of driving to get there.  It was not until I got home and was able to plot the GPS data from the pictures I took that I was able to figure out where Yishan is: southwest of Weifang, almost as far south as Qingdao but to the west of it.

Entrance to Yishan National Park, Weifang, Shandong Province.
Here we are.

Although Yishan is not oriented to westerners many of the signs have English explanations. I used photos I took of the signs and sights to piece together a better idea of what I saw than I had at the time I was seeing it.

Yishan National Park in Shandong: hotel under construction.
Hotel under construction.

Yi Shan as a national park struck me as new. The entrance, visible in the picture through the windshield was fairly new and there was a lot of construction going on, including what looked like a large hotel pretty far up the mountain. That could be a very nice place to stay when it is done.  The views will be terrific. I wonder how hard the beds will be. Even though the park buildings are new there are temples and features that are very old.

You take a shuttle bus up from the main entrance area to the start of a series of stairways, to the Jade Emperor Pavilion at the summit of Yi Shan.

Yishan National Park in Shandong: View looking to the top from the bus stop.
You walk up from here. View looking to the top from the bus stop.

On the way up I noticed that people had put stones in the trees. I asked our host and, after consulting his cell phone, he said that they are for blessings.

The walk up and the summit had nice views out in many directions. It was over cast and just a bit hazy, much less hazy than it had been the previous weekend at Tai Shan. Apparently, when it is very clear you can see to the sea from the top of Yishan. It wasn’t very clear but the views were nice.

The Jade Emperor Pavilion at the top is a charming temple. Less majestic in scale than many but it has many ornate details and is well maintained.

I am not sure what is the significance of this rock, but it was the place to get your picture taken.

My son and I at "the rock".
My son and I at “the rock”.

You then slide down a granite slide on your backside. This is not my type of activity, but I could see that it would take all day to walk back down all the stairs we had climbed. So I tied on my seat cover donned my gloves and sat down. I didn’t go very fast for fear of losing control. The way to control your speed is to push your feet against the sides of the slide. Even though I wouldn’t have signed up for the experience it was an efficient way to get down and I would probably go a little faster next time. It was fun once I started to get the hang of it.

On the bus ride down there were two stops: Marvellous Waterfall

and Yishan DongzhenTemple.

At the Dongzhen temple they did a reenactment of an imperial rite.

The main temple is quite new, in fact they were still painting the entrance gate red, but there are some very old trees, an altar and a bixi (giant stone tortoise with a stele on its back) that are very old.

An explanation…sort of.

This sign explains a bit, but after trying to find information online and reading the signs, I couldn’t totally figure out what was what beyond that the altar, some trees and the bixi are quite ancient and that the temple, in fact the whole site is a sort of seaside Mount Tai and that some emperors came here either in addition to or instead of there. The Dongzhen temple is analogous to the Dai Miao in Tai’an.

Regardless of my lack of understanding, it was a great day enjoying the scenery and culture in China. Stuff I couldn’t have planned since I knew nothing about their existence and wouldn’t have dared to try if I knew about it ahead of time.

Jade Emperor Pavilion


Jade Emperor Pavilion, Yi Shan National Park,
Jade Emperor Pavilion, Yi Shan National Park, Shandong, China


In my opinion no one does ornate like the Chinese. It seems like every inch of some of the temples and buildings you see would be a framed work of art anywhere else. An example of this is the Jade Emperor Pavilion on top of Yi Shan, which is a national park just southwest of Weifang in the Shandong province.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Ornate.”

Melancholy thoughts on a grey day.

Beyond knowing that life ends in death we do not know the future.

On the other hand many things are predictable, and yet we act surprised when we let go of something and it falls to the ground.

This week has been a bit strange, I have had opportunities to get worked up and feel things intensely and instead felt disassociated.

I received a call last night that a friend has died. She has been dying for five years, give or take. She was on hospice about four years ago, then they kicked her off because she just kept living, removing critical support for her physical needs and putting an even greater burden on her family.

Something sad happens when people ail for so very long: we become inured. But beyond that there comes a point when you can’t live in a dramatic moment forever, putting all other life activities on hold while you minister to the sick.

I went to visit my friend a few times. She was in a discussion group I facilitated, and, early in her illness, we took field trips to include her in our discussions now and again. But our visits were work for her family, and it was difficult to coordinate people’s schedules, especially as it wasn’t predictable when she would be lucid.

I went on my own a couple of times, but life is busy and as we spent more and more time not sharing life experiences there was less and less to say. I haven’t seen her in a couple of years. I don’t feel bad about that. I went when I was able to converse intelligently with her and we had mutual joy in the conversations. That changed.

Sometimes that happens in non-death bed type situations. You become tired of crisis after crisis. The relationship shifts to where meaningful interaction no longer takes place.

When folks called me this week about the latest crisis I had to bite my tongue to not say something pithy about the drama queen. Not that it isn’t true, or even that it shouldn’t be said, just that it wouldn’t be helpful. I tried to encourage the enablers of the day to think about themselves and take care of those needs first. Because I know what they haven’t learned yet: there will be another opportunity to enter into the adrenaline rush of the crisis, because there will be another crisis.

So is there a point to this post? Yes, an important one. Selfish as it my seem, it is really important to

“Always put on your own oxygen mask first, before assisting others.”

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Six of One, Half a Dozen of the Other.”