All posts by XingfuMama

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

What makes us who we are?

Plants that reproduce by division are clones. They do not all wind up the same. How they come out depends on the circumstances in which they are planted: acid soil, a rocky area with little room for roots, shade cover. The list of variables that affect the outcome goes on and on.

Before cloning there are several questions I would ask.

At what age would the clone come into being? I was always fascinated by the idea that kids who skipped crawling had trouble learning to read. The occupational therapists would teach them how to crawl and then they could go on to learn to read.

So much of what one can do is dependent on experiences and how they shape us physically and mentally, apparently crawling created connections in the brain needed to read, even though the two activities do not bear similarity. How many connections like that do we not know about?

Also, how mistaken can we be about what is important? Parents with kids who are early walkers are usually thrilled, they don’t care if junior skipped the, seemingly inferior, crawling stage.

If a clone came into being at age two, what would they miss of the experiences that make us able to do the things we can? What about age five? Would they ever be able to do “simple” things like walk, speak, understand speech, read, write, do arithmetic?

Another question is how much of who I am is from genetics, and how much from my life experience?

“Nature versus nurture” is what they used to call the debate (they may still, but I don’t hear the phrase any more). Studies with identical twins separated at birth was the gold standard. When I was in college I did a paper about mathematical ability in women versus men, and I poured over article after article that talked about identical twins separated at birth. It made me wonder how many of these could there be? Even in my pre-parental life, I did not think that there would be that many sets of twins separated. Would I give up a child? Was there a higher incidence of giving up one child because there were two and they were the same? Did they do all these studies on the same sets of twins? Were those twins professional study subjects? If they were, wouldn’t that skew the results?… Would a clone digress as easily as I do?

A personal example: I fell off of our bulkhead when I was three. (I still have a scar, although it has faded to the point that only I see it.) I am afraid of falling. It is different from a fear of heights. It stands to reason that a clone would not have that same fear. How much different would a clone’s life be without that fear? Also, scars and other physical defects change how people respond to you. A clone without a scar might have had a different experience of people. Maybe a clone of me would be bold, comfortable with people and politically astute. Maybe my clone would be ridiculously successful.

On the other hand how much of my bookishness and subsequent learning was from not being bold and comfortable around people? Maybe my clone would have been a high school drop-out. I have a sister who was cute, bold and popular and she was.

As I see it there are too many questions and not enough answers to go for the cloning thing…but maybe that is my fear of falling talking.

This post was inspired by the moving post “Would Cloning Erase Me?”

“Beautiful Children”

That was the whole post: two words and the picture above reduced to transmit “quickly”. It was a Facebook post.
The two boys, alot of the kids, had never seen anything but a text book and the brightly colored books about the world we brought to them fascinated them. Their teachers really liked the books as well. They came into the library during breaks and after school.
The only place I could find sufficient reception for the Safaricom modem was out in the compound. it took about a half an hour to send and it was hot. The juxtaposition of the modern technology with the sleeping dog and chicken strutting by tickled my funny bone. Young man in the blue shirt is my “baby”.
Mid-day in Mulundi-even the dogs are sleeping.
Mid-day in Mulundi-even the dogs are sleeping.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Blogger in a Strange Land.”

A Quilt on the Table…Waiting for Shoes to Drop

I looked up the source of “waiting for the other shoe to drop.” Wiki-something-or-other says that it comes from early industrial age tenements where the walls and floors were thin. You could hear your neighbors getting ready for bed and when you hear one shoe hit the floor you know another will soon.

It is used two ways:

  1. to defer action until another matter is finished or resolved
  2. to await a seemingly inevitable event, especially one that is not desirable.

Two shoes have dropped, on different sides of the bed. We have two crises pending in the family. Both are inevitable. The exact details of the crises are not clear, but sooner or later both situations will result in an unpleasant, stress-filled crisis (if we are lucky it will be one crisis each, but I am not optimistic). It is hard to live like that. Not wanting the crises, but knowing they are brewing and that the people who could make the situations better will not. I have no say in the matter but will, inevitably, be called on to pick up the pieces and try to put them back together.

The phone call or calls may come in the next few minutes or the next few months. Every time the phone rings I flinch, then stiffen my spine and answer.

What is wrong in this picture?

Quilt block in the 54-40 or fight pattern, shades of purple, blue and aqua.


Enough pouting, how do I stay sane waiting? I find sewing therapeutic. I get to touch fabric, enjoy color and create something, it takes focus, but on something I enjoy…and I have some control over the outcome.

So I decided to make a quilt, in this case I decided to finish a quilt I started over a decade ago (bonus points toward sanity). Quilts do take on a life of their own sometimes. So it isn’t always as controlled as one might think, and this one was no exception.

I made the star blocks over a decade ago after having read a book about color. I don’t remember the theory or philosophy that lead the the choices, but I still love the colors. Every so often I have brought the blocks out, but have never figured out how to put them together. I finally decided to float the stars in a midnight blue sky instead of trying to make a pattern.

Since I started the quilt so long ago and didn’t have a clear enough plan when I started, I did not have enough of the right fabrics to finish the project. The fabrics I used are no longer available and even the basic colors are not in vogue (royal blue seems to be in, not midnight, since when is midnight blue unfashionable?) so finding fabrics cohesive with the color scheme was a bit of a challenge. The fabrics I got to finish things up were not quite what I had in mind when I set out, either to make the quilt in the first place or when I plotted how to finish it this time, but I think the quilt will actually be better than I imagined.

It is coming together now. Having one thing come together, even if it is just a quilt, helps me cope with the stress of waiting for the inevitable crises. Problem is that there are only so many quilts one empty nest can hold.

I wonder if my hobby of putting different bit of fabric together to form a project is related in some way to why I always seem to get the calls?

This post was inspired by the post “Just a Stick in my Spokes” on the Miss Understood blog.

Let’s Go Fly a Kite

Weifang, where my son lives has one major claim to fame: the International Kite Festival. They love their kites.

You can buy your own set of wings:

Several colorful butterfly kites hanging on a wall in a kite shop.
You can buy your own set of wings. Kite shop in Weifang, China.

I had a serendipitous backwater experience in Weifang last spring…I got to fly a kite with an older Chinese man who did so as a hobby. Even though we could not “understand” each other we somehow understood each other.

Meet Mr. Xu Xue Lian and his butterfly kite:


With your feet on the ground you’re a butterfly in flight, with your fist holding tight to the string of your kite.

Chinese man holding the reel of kite string flying a kite.
With your feet on the ground you’re a butterfly in flight.

Send it soaring up through the atmosphere:

Kite soaring beside a tower.
Soaring up in the atmosphere.

(it is a Chinese city so the air isn’t clear!)

Oh, let’s go…fly a kite!

 I couldn’t believe it when he handed me the controls ! I think he wanted to share with me the exhilarating feeling of controlling the kite so high up in the air. I have never experienced anything like it. And he had a really good time playing with the camera (one more advantage to having an inexpensive easy to use camera!)

I learned his name because a young woman who spoke a little English and worked in a nearby coffee shop was out walking in the park during her lunch hour and stopped to chat.


Winter Wind from the North

Every so often, in the winter, the Puget Sound gets a “polar express” wind from Alaska. I don’t know whether it is a scent or an absence of all the usual scents, but everything smells different: clean beyond fresh. The skies were an amazing clear, fresh, clean blue (“The bluest skies you’ve ever seen are in Seattle” was probably written about days like that.) They are rarely ever that clear any more.

Growing up I lived on the north end of an island in the Puget Sound so the wind came over miles of water and hit without taint or impediment. I lived on a trail not a road. Coming home from school on those clear, cold days when I got  to the top of the trail I would spread my arms out and run down into the wind.

Often life was not great: my mother suffered from depression and home wasn’t pleasant a lot of the time; I was painfully shy and hated school. The trail through the woods was a place I loved, between two places that were not so great. When I ran into that clean fresh wind everything felt right. It blew everything away and running into it was heaven. The feel and smell (or lack of smell) from the cold, north wind always takes me back to that feeling.

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

The Wind in the Willows

I have never seen this movie, I do not know if this quote is in it, but, if it is not, it should be:

“And beyond the Wild Wood again?” he asked: “Where it’s all blue and dim, and one sees what may be hills or perhaps they mayn’t, and something like the smoke of towns, or is it only cloud drift?”

“Beyond the Wild Wood comes the Wide World,” said the Rat. “And that’s something that doesn’t matter, either to you or me. I’ve never been there, and I’m never going, nor you either, if you’ve got any sense at all. Don’t ever refer to it again, please. Now then! Here’s our backwater at last, where we’re going to lunch.”

I will first digress. I love this book. My well-read copy was acquired at a yard sale when I was a child. I have read it aloud countless times to my son and husband.

Illustration from the Wind in the Willows.One reason that I have not seen the movie is that my copy of this book has illustrations by Ernest Shepard and I do not want those delightful images over written or contaminated, even by Disney’s best. Another is that the book is sparsely illustrated and my imagination has filled in the gaps just fine, thank you very much. I do not want those images overwritten or contaminated either. Then there is the realest reason: Grahame was a genius at description, both of nature and of characters, there is no way for the medium of film to capture the subtlety, nuance and gentle humor that he brought to the stories.

Digression over. The reason why this quote sticks out is that it is gently ironic…most of the stories in the book take place in the Wild Wood and the Wide World. This interplay is one of the major tensions in world affairs today. If my backwater is wonderful then why should I worry about what is happening in Russia, China, the Middle East? Yet my story, all of our stories, connect through the Wild Wood and the Wide World.

Three women are sorting peas.Every place you go is someone’s backwater and can become yours. The most wonderful, life giving travel experiences are when you enter into the backwaters, and by enter I do not mean observe. Shell peas in the sun with people and you will always carry the feel of the warm sun, the joy of shared laughter (who cares if you don’t get the jokes or maybe even are the joke) and the sense of connection.

Even as we eat our lunch in our own backwaters, we connect with the Wide World. Our lunch might have tea from China, chocolate from Africa, cheese from Ireland, cherries from Oregon, wheat and apples from eastern Washington as well as homegrown tomatoes. We live in the Wide World and our backwater both.


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

I am Learning to “Use My Words”

I started this blog when I took a class in creating websites. I wanted to experiment with layout and techniques beyond the class assignments, so I needed to create some “content” to play with.

What I had easily available was my own life…but words do not come easily to me. Often my “story” is a sensation (touch, smell, taste, sound or picture) that triggers a feeling. How can I communicate that feeling?

Through blogging I have, slowly, been using photographs and words to try and learn to communicate the feelings and sometimes link them to a bigger idea. I think this is the essence of composition. So, though blogging, I am learning to compose. It is like quilting: you take a bit of this fabric and some of that and arrange and rearrange them until there is a sense of “yes!” Obviously, I am not an everyday, words-pour-out-easily sort of blogger,

Learning communication through composition isn’t something you ever finish. It cannot be done once and for all, so I need to keep at it and to take a look at how others approach the same themes. I didn’t know when I threw the first bit together, but that is what blogging is. So here am I, on the downhill slope of middle age learning to “use my words” with a picture here and there thrown in because words don’t always do it.