“Alchemy” by Stephen Sandy

IMG_5819(published in The New Yorker, October 29 and November 5, 2002)

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Calligraphy at Anderson Gardens

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Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s “Summer”

arcimboldo02Presently in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, this painting of “Summer” is from Arcimboldo’s original Four Seasons, painted in 1563. This is the only version with both the artist’s name and the date “woven” into the collar and shoulder of the figure. Filled with visual puns (love the ear of corn as “ear” and that artichoke with its “heart” bursting forth from summer’s chest, the cherry lips and pickle nose, for starters), Arcimboldo’s amusing take on summer’s bounty is still fresh and fascinating some 451 years since it was first painted.

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“Truth Difficulty” by The Roving Typist

IMG_5802Back in February, I wrote about The Roving Typist, a writer who spontaneously creates stories on the streets for people, “stories composed for you while you wait.” He doesn’t keep copies of his stories, he doesn’t keep track of who buys them. He just writes them and then lets them go.  His work began as a way to make some money, but has evolved into a kind of performance. I have reposted the video about him at the end of this post.


The reason that I am writing about Christopher Hermelin is that I ordered a story online from him and it just came today! He had asked if I wanted the story to be about anything in particular and I gave him free rein. With great anticipation, I opened the envelope. Inside the larger envelope was a card-sized envelope stamped with his insignia (typewriter-above left) and the title of the story at its bottom. Inside was a folded cream-colored sheet of paper, carefully torn in half (from an 8 1/2 x 11) accompanied with his business card. I slowly unfolded the story. The story is typed on his manual typewriter, with its quirks and dying ribbon, so it feels very personal, almost from another era. I do believe my heart was racing a bit as the story unfolded itself to me.

The story, posted below, is called, “Truth Difficulty.” It has already become a cherished treasure.


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“maggy and milly and molly and may” by e. e. cummings

maggy and milly and molly and may


maggy and milly and molly and may 
went down to the beach(to play one day) 

and maggie discovered a shell that sang 
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles,and 

milly befriended a stranded star 
whose rays five languid fingers were; 

and molly was chased by a horrible thing 
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and 

may came home with a smooth round stone 
as small as a world and as large as alone. 

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me) 
its always ourselves we find in the sea 

e. e. cummings
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IMG_5727At T’ai chi overlooking the lake very, very early this morning (hence the very long shadow above), I wondered how one could ever master this intricate and precise form of exercise. Indeed, it is stretching the core of my very being, being able to move in a graceful fashion with my right arm making one movement, my left arm another, and then coordinating it all with specific movements of my feet, not to mention the proper breathing connected to the different components of the specific forms. It’s like tapping your head, rubbing your belly, and circling the foot, while whistling a tune and reading a book, all at the same time.

This being said, not only is T’ai chi a coordination challenge, but it is spiritually challenging as well, demanding an extremely slow pace, deep concentration, and riveting focus. It’s not about breaking a sweat as in doing push-ups or lifting weights, but it is about all the parts of the body working carefully together in an ancient choreography to stimulate the chi in the body to flow smoothly without obstructions. It is about stretching oneself in the profoundest of ways.

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Ducks Gone Wild!


When we entered Anderson Japanese Gardens today, the image above was what we saw. I know the ducks were feeding, but seeing their duck butts in the air, in unison, was very funny to me. Verily like a water ballet.

Later, near the waterfall (I heard the abundant splashing first), the ducks were splashing themselves and each other in exuberance. In fact, at the water’s edge, we were getting wet ourselves from their high-spirited horseplay (Can “ducks” participate in “horse”play?). I can’t help but to anthropomorphize them. It seemed so absolutely playful, enthusiastic, irrepressibly jubilant. They wiggled their behinds with great gusto, twisted and turned their bodies as in a ballet (see the fourth photo below), pushed themselves out of the water, and opened and fanned their wings to spray water as well. Part of this dramatic demonstration had to do with cleaning themselves, but I have never seen so theatrical a display in taking care of such a habitual chore. And in all the duck sightings today they were all female ducks, female mallards, specifically. No males anywhere. Was that why they were so excited? The ladies having a time at the spa? Ducks gone wild!

May we all be blessed with copious liberating moments of complete abandon, with finding utter joy in the most mundane of tasks, and with experiencing all this with our dearest of friends as these female mallards were able to share today.

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