The Story Capsule

from the writer of this article, taken off of…圖/阮光民

Saving the inspirations for later, when you’re, mature enough, not throwing anything away, because it can be used again, how someone becomes inspired to create, translated…

Actually, All Those Old Buildings Have This Ability, to Not Say a Thing…with the Present and the Past, Coexisting in the Same Space & Time, and the Past is Able to, Have Conversations with the Distant Futures.

The Train Station that Stayed Still in 2007

Toward these broken, misshaped stories, I’d, swallowed them all down like those cold medicine capsules, down into my throat, like how those passages in the mountains swallowed the trains whole too.

That, is how those box trains were, with a group of people, wrapped inside, standing or sitting until it’s their stops.  As the train pulled into the station, people get on, people get off, some with stories that they carried, some were, taking their stories elsewhere.  Every capsule served its purpose, all the trains contained, many stories.

With the tourism blooming in Neiwan, Hsinchu, the local governments kickstarted the plans to make the routes, built up those comic-book railroads, with the comics summer camps too, and there were comic drawing contests, with Neiwan as the subject matter too.  In the summer of 2012, I’d gone there, to get the inspirations for my art, and for the very first time, I alighted the Neiwan Routes.

The route had the originally mountain surrounding sights, the orange-yellow colored trains passing to and from Zhuzhong, Ronghwa, Zhudong, Henshang, Jiuzantou, Hexing, Fugui, and Neiwan stations with the stations about two kilometers apart from each other.  All the stations are, silent, other than the holidays and weekends, there were, no visitors, the wooden tracks were covered with a layer of dust, like the piano which hadn’t been played in a long time.  Some of these nine stations were already listed as a C class station, without the attendants, with the numbered passengers, it’s hard to imagine, how this was, once, a major tourist attraction.

My favorite station was the Jiuzantou station, those older steel mills still stood tall, and I can imagine how when it was still working, how the smokes rose out, that scene resembled that in the Miyazaki animated feature fills like Nausicaa.  Even now, as it rained, or in the winters when there was fog, that scene was still playing on.

From the ticket booths, the station like an island, surrounded by the oceans, the trains looked like they were, trekking across the seas, and, the passengers who got off needed to walk down the steps, after the train got to the shores, to walked on the cement steps, to get to the other side, and there was only a sign that stated, “One hundred people in and out at our highest”, with the second highest number of cargoes across all of Taiwan.

Other than these storylines my mind has, the reason why I loved this station was that as time keeps on moving forward, but these building seemed to have halted by time.  Stopped, in the year 2007, with the present, and the past, together as one, the past can hold conversations with the futures from far, far away.  Actually, there’s this, silently telling story natures of these old buildings.

The Same Wind Doesn’t Blow Twice

Staying at the B&B in Neiwan, if you’re driving, then, you’d needed to, take the longer way, but if you walked, you can turn left at the Guanji Temples, passed through the tracks, followed that hill upward, and you’d bump into that wooden lamppost, passing through that passage covered with trees, then, you’d, arrived at the bed and breakfast.  But, the owner of the B&B discourages the visitors to go this way when it rained, he worried, that the visitors couldn’t steady themselves, and turn the passageway into a water slide.  This B&B is located in a higher place, you can look down and see the former streets, and in the evenings, you’d get a great view of the lights down below, after the rains, you can see the mistiness across the mountains………luckily, I was able to experience all of these in my time here.  The B&B is run by this younger couple, with an elder in the home, if the guests had ordered supper or barbecue, everybody in the family works together in the kitchen, I’d sat across the bar, looking, and every scene that happened can be used as an inspiration in my art.

I sat in the trains, watching the scenes flash by, summer, the nature used the most relaxing colors: the blues, the whites, the greens, I’m thinking, for the sake of maintaining balance with the heat of the weather.  Hmmmmmm!  I should tell you a story of summer then, and this story will, hopefully, connect all the stations together.  I took out my pad, listed all the names of the stations, and assigned the characters to get on at certain stations, the points they met up.  I’m used to drawing stories where the characters enter from some place, and this sort of a multiple location arrangement is stressing my brains out, gladly, the Neiwan Lines are quite simple.  The process of coming up with a story line was like swallowing a huge pill, the moment the storylines connected was like the pill that’s stuck in my throat, finally gotten, washed down by that gulp of water, and, if it got stuck too long, then, it’d, blocked up my windpipe, and I would’ve, died.

Finally, I’d finished, “The Marriage Dress Brought by the Summer Breeze”, and won an award for it.  In this comic, I’d selected the seasons for the names of my two characters, and so, I’d thought about how the three other seasons in Neiwan would be like?  Well, maybe, I should, do it, for ALL four seasons. But back then, I was still doing my “Heaven Diner” columns, so I was limited with my ability and time, so I can only save the scenes into my mind, as a rough draft, then, slowly, allowing everything to come into being.

In a seminar, someone asked, if I thought of a storyline, and as I drew later, found that it didn’t connect, would I, discard it?  I’d answered him, that in the past, I had, discarded, but I’d felt regrettable, and after that first time, I’d, kept everything.  As an inspiration comes into mind, it’s like a breeze blowing through, it won’t happen again, that we needed to, jot it down.  If we weren’t able to use that inspiration at the moment, it’s because we were capable enough, to make a story out of it, to develop it.

In 2017, I had the chance to sort through those pipelines inside my mind from 2012, gladly, the time capsule was still unscathed.  And as I’d held that conversation now with the past, now, I am, more apt, to make the scenes I thought up more connected, and so, came the “Railroad Sonatas”.

And, I’d used “maybe”, because perhaps, in a few more years, I may be even more capable, of developing the story line better.

Creation is like the trains, passing through, a station at a time.

So, this, is how you were, inspired, and on your trip, some of the things you felt moved by you didn’t get to use it right away, but, you’d, saved it, and, as you become more mature, things fall into place, and, those items you’d saved in your portfolio or memories, became ideas you can, extend on.

The Three of Them

like this???  Not my photograph…

The encounters of one’s daily life, and the sudden changes, then, everything returned back to the way it was, that, is how life is…translated…

At the end of the hiking trail I frequent a lot, there was this, flat wooden platform, and, the riverside below that was my personal private sight.  But, it wasn’t because of the scenes that were, breathtaking, but the three of them that’s made my heart move.

The three of them almost show up at the exact same time by the river, a middle-aged, chubby man, with hairs all white pushing along that wheelchair that made the squeaky noises.  On the wheelchair, there sat an elderly woman, the middle-aged man’s mother.  And, there was an add-on basket, with an aged dog, packing up the basket.

As they got to their spot, the elderly woman got off of her wheelchair, and practiced walking, but the aged dog refused to come out of the baskets.  At which time, the middle aged man would pull out a small ball from his pockets, throw it away, then, the senior dog would run off happily to fetch it back.  Sometimes, the aged dog would get too into it, run overhead, and thrilled the turtles that are getting some sun, it’d made the elderly woman laugh, and it’d, made me laugh too, I’d felt, that this improvisational performance from the three of them was, the purest, the most heart-warming scene.

looking after our own loved ones, not my silhouette

That day, there was that squeaky noise that came from below again, but, there was only the elderly woman there, and not the old dog.

A few days later, the squeaky noise from the wheelchair was gone, only the middle aged man strolling by the riverside.  What had happened?   An assortment of bad thoughts passed through my mind, without the old dog, chasing the ball, the elderly in her wheelchair, this riverside became, very lonely now.

A few more days later, there was only the rushing sound of the water, none of them showed.  As I was about to leave, the squeaky sound from the wheelchair came again.  I’d looked down below, the elderly woman and the dog were still there on the wheelchairs.  The elderly was a bit thinner now, but in good spirits, the elderly dog’s coat was shaved off, with the Victorian collar for the post-surgery measures, as it ran, it looked like a giant moving lamp, thrilled the turtles, back into the waters, the elderly laughed again, as did I.

So long as, they’re all all right, so long as, they’re, all okay, it’s a good thing, that I saw the three of them together again that day.

Once again, in this, it’s the people in the scenes that’s made the scene a good place to visit, because people and animals are what brings life into a picturesque place, and, without these two individuals and their dog, something seemed missing, but, everything turned out okay…







Returning with Her, Back to the Beginning

Whenever the two of you felt the issues coming up, this, was the place you two would go to, to sort things out, to remember what exactly, that made you two, stayed together from before, to remember the love the two of you fought hard for, translated…

The first time we’d visited that restaurant, it was an accidental passing by it with my female friend whom I’d felt extremely attracted to, the two of us were, immediately, attracted by the place’s ocean views——it was the stories that the oceans had to tell.  When we visited there in the summertime, it was, filled with life; when we visited in the winters, it felt like it was, burdened with the thoughts.

like this???  Not my photograph…

And, swiftly, a decade rolled past, we’d gone from friends, to lovers, and became, married.  The two of us, had weathered through, the arguments, the breakups, the unsettlement we’d felt toward our, collective futures, but, we’d never forgotten, to seek out that sense of serenity, no matter how busy life became.

My wife once stated, “Every time we’d come here, it’d reminded me of how hard we fought, to stay together, despite what the outside world said to us.”

I’d felt the same way too.  Back then, we were, so courageous, believed, that we could, face ANY troubles that came our ways, like how those waves that, never quit, crawling back onto the shores were.

cherishing the memories we’d already made…not my photograph…

So, every time you’d revisited this particular spot, it served as a reminder of how hard you’d, worked, and fought hard, to stay together, and this place had, turned into that stable source of strength you were looking for, when your lives got too tough, and that, became enough, for the two of you, to keep working hard in your marriage together.

An Unforgettable Overseas Trip Together, on Family Vacation

Traveling with young children, this may prove, to be challenging, let’s see how this couple managed it, translated…

These couple of years, the two of us kept planning a trip abroad, but we’d not known what to do with the children, and so, we’d decided, to take along our two three-year-old young daughters on our vacations, to Singapore.

a vacation with the whole family, young children and all, photo from online…

Dragging along two young children on an airplane, that was something we’d never, done before, and, there were a lot of voices advising us against it from before we set out.  The grandparents started first, “Why are you taking them abroad they’re so very young still?  What happens if they start crying, or fall ill?”, and my in-law chimed in too, “If you want to travel abroad, go with a tour group, it’ll make your lives easier!”, and even as we tried to explain, “We’d considered how the children may get fussy or ill, that, was why we’d selected to go to Singapore, for the good flowing traffic and the well-established medical facilities!”

“The self-help trips give us more freedom, we can adjust our itinerary to our kids’ needs.”, and the relatives, friends, families still didn’t believe we could manage this, and yet, the four of us, two adults, two children, set out, for Singapore, as planned.

Although our friends, relatives, and families have doubts, I’m still more than grateful, for their inputs, making us plan the trip even more thoroughly.  This trip was, so smooth, that was out of my expectations, all of us had a leisurely and a fun trip.  We’d toured the well-known sights in Singapore, and the most unforgettable was the tour by the river, we rode the subways to the wharf, and selected to set out as the sun sets, and we’d, entered into the night, filled with neon lights, looking at the glowing lights.  Our daughters became so intrigued by the sights, it’d made me feel this unspeakable sense of wonder, and I’d felt glad, that I wasn’t swayed, by our families and loved ones’ opinions of traveling with my young children, otherwise, I would’ve never had the opportunities, to experience this wonder.

As the trip ended and we’d returned home, the two of us felt more confident about the future; after all, we were successful, in taking our two three-year-old children abroad on a self-help trip, what else can’t we tackle, right?

So, this, is your family’s big step out into the world, and, because you were successful, in taking your two YOUNG kids abroad, without much troubles, that, would make you more than likely to, plan another trip for you and your family the next time, wouldn’t it???

A Journey of Self-Reflection

Testing one’s own limits, to find that sense of self-actualization one needed, conquering the heights!  Translated…

Tibet, the third pole from the earth’s North AND South Poles.  The Tibetan Plateau that extended itself into the skies, became a single framed culture of history on its own, along with the residents’ faithfulness toward the Buddhist religion, making Tibet, the land, closest to heaven, a serene and mystic sect of nirvana all its own, the weather there varied from day to night, and, with the reduced amounts of oxygen, it’d called out to the tourists, but, not many dared ventured there.

like this 80-year-old man who became, the oldest man to climb up Mt. Everest, video from Youtube…

That day, in a Tibetan Culture Forum, the lecturer, Mao-Rong Lee Shared the interactions he’d shared with his fellow tourists to Tibet this year.  His sharing his experiences not only made me realize how many things of beauty are there, that the most beautiful things often grow in the most desolate of all places, also, from his experiences, I’d learned, that “if we don’t venture into the unknown, we’d lived our lives in vain.”

The elderly man that Mr. Lee talked about had a stroke a few years back, and, based off of his conditions, his family believed, that he wasn’t, fitted, to travel to Tibet at all, let alone, hiking up an eight-thousand-meter tall mountain—Mt. Everest, everybody tried deterring him from visiting this mystic place.

But the elderly had, insisted, that in his years that remained, he’d wanted, to challenge his physique, and his soul too, and, bravely, worked to defeat that physical, AND mental fear that he had, and, headed, to the tallest ridges of the world, to bear witness, to the majestic.  In the icy cold temperatures, the reduced amount of oxygen, the elderly took his steps, very slowly, worked harder than everybody else on the team, to make his way, and, in the end, because of his persistence in keep going, he’d finally, reached the destination.  The elderly man was ecstatic, not only over the majestic view, but how he was able to, conquer something out of his own life.

“Thankfully, I’d still, gotten here at last, I can, cross another item off of my life’s to-do-list.”  Mr. Lee, in the elderly’s persistence, and self-fulfillment, it’s, as if he saw the six incarnations of the Dalai Lama’s unwilling, to cave into the waves of living.  And, although the tourists were all middle aged and older, but, nobody had, been beaten by their own physical conditions and reduced their passions of conquering the world.

Just like the French literary, Proust stated, “The true journeys to discovery, it’s not in seeking out breathtaking sights, but in seeing the world, through a brand new perspective.”, a lot of people who’d never been to Tibet are still, drawn by its mysticism, believed, that going there, can turn one’s own life around, and yet, in truth, the drives behind the conquering of the mountains of Tibet didn’t come from without, it’s, from the inside of all tourists, who set their minds, to achieve, the impossible.

And, only when you’re, ready, to enter into the next peak of your own life, that, was when the trip becomes, meaningful, to you.

So, this, is a pilgrimage, something that we should all try to do, but, there are, more than one sort of pilgrimage, you can test your selves every single day, give your selves smaller challenges that you never thought you’re able to, manage, like picking up a new musical instrument now that you’re retired, and have more time on your hands, or, if you’re still working, challenge yourselves, on how to, do your tasks, in the shortest, and most efficient ways possible, you don’t really need to conquer the big waves (like in those surfing competitions???) or climb up those tall-tall mountaintops (i.e. Mt. Everest???), to accomplish this sense of self-actualization, you just have to find something you wanted to do, but never got around to, for whatever reasons there may have been, and just, do it!

The Vacation Cabin in the Woods

We’re on VACATION, so, let’s, U-N-P-L-U-G!!!  Translated…

This vacation to Keiya Peninsula, we’d stayed at the cabins as Kumano Club.  This sort of a vocational hotel usually locates in the valleys, the forests, or any place that’s without the fluency of transportation, and most of the hotels used their own small transit busses to pick up and drop off the guests, the environment was close to desolate, there’s no place to go in the evenings.  But, what’s harder to adapt to for me, was the rooms being disconnected from the internet, and, there’s no cell reception, we’d needed to go to the hotel lobby to get access to the internet.

The cabin we’d stayed at was close to the lobby, we could head to the lobby to use our cell phones easily, but, if you live in those more distant cabins, you’d needed to take a twenty, thirty minute walk.  This reminded me of the Karuizawa cabins we’d stayed in three years ago, totally inside a forest, the tour guide even reminded us, to NOT go out in the evenings, that we would be lost easily, let alone what sort of dangers we may encounter; and if we really wanted to go out at night, we can call up the reception to come and pick us up.  So, unless it’s out of necessity, we’d, chosen, to stay in.

someplace like this???  not my photo…

It sounded troubling, but this sort of a remote cabin got us away from the shopping, going back to our rooms, logging onto the internet cycles we’re used to traveling by.  And, the sign of this particular cabin hotel, I couldn’t find the meaning of the first three characters anywhere, but, the brochure stated, that the point of staying at this cabin hotel is for the tourists to rid themselves of the fast-pace way of life they’d kept in the cities, to slow down their steps, to let time passes by at its own tempo.

Thinking on it, surely, it’s right, we are only on vacation for a few short days, why not, disconnect from the outside world, and get in touch with what traveling abroad is truly about, getting away from our usual routines of life.

and this totally defeats the PURPOSE of being on VACATION!!!  Not my photograph…

So, these are the places, that most people probably won’t select as their places of stay when they go on vacation, because we’re, too addicted to using our cell phones, those hi-tech gadgets, electronic devices, but, vacationing in such a place like this gives you a brand new way of experiencing your surrounding environment, lets you take a few days off from being bugged by those alert sounds from LINE or e-mail alert messages…

The Extension of Home

Having her friend show her her lovely hometown, spending a day, away from the noises of the city, translated…

I’d Finally Understood, Why Every Year, So Many School Teachers Fought Hard to Get Stationed Away, and Yet, She’d Chosen, to Remain in This Place………

Arriving at This Small Town, Surrounded by the Beauties of Nature

She had, seduced me with the simple and beautiful words, “It’s quiet here, the skies are, reflected in the waters, do come to Shuanxi to visit!”

她用簡潔美麗的文字誘惑我,「這裡環境幽靜,天光雲影共徘徊,來雙溪玩吧!」 圖/N...from the papers…

This visually impaired music instructor had originally suggested a route by Ke-Hsiang Liu, a passage of eight kilometers total, with the smoother roads, less traffic, fitting, for the nature walk of a visually impaired individual. But before we set out, we thought, that the path was way too short, that we should, extend our trip to the nearby Wantan Hiking Pass, and we’d selected a time, when she didn’t have any classes.

On this day, the sun shone, I’d turned left after I exited the station, passed two creeks, and arrived at the school where she’s teaching. I took out my phone, planned to call her up, but, a message showed instead, “I’d smelled the scent of the fresh flowers early in the morn, saw that golden ray of the sun, with my expectant heart, waiting for you to come; this small excitement carried me through my morning classes………”, sounds so much like being in love!

This was the second time we’d met up. Being trained as an opera singer, she graduated, top of her class, had even performed in the national music hall! I don’t know how we’d become, the best of friends, perhaps, it’s something we sensed about one another, that’s locked deep within both of us, I suppose!

a place all your own, that you belonged…not my photograph…

She’d packed up, checked for her cane especially, “I heard there were snakes, and I shall scare them out, by hitting around in the grass,” she’d stated.

She grabbed my elbow as I’d guided her on, this was, the standard way of a seeing person, guiding a visually impaired person. We’d exited the school, she knew the way well, pointed forward, introduced me to that ice shop; as I smelled the scent of something stewing, she’d told me it was a buffet; on the streets, people would come up to say hi, “where are you headed?”, “did you eat yet?”, we’re, just about to, eat our lunch together.

The shop owner knew her well, or maybe, the entire town knows her too, she’d taught here for seventeen whole years to date! As were having our noodles, she’d gotten some grease on her hands, she’d gotten up, walked to the sink in the kitchen on her own, the owner of the shop took the time, guided her hand to underneath the running faucet, as she finished cleaning her hands, she’d felt around the tables, and came back to our table without any trouble; all of these movements became, this small dining scene.

We got on a free bus by Shuanxi train station, the bus sped toward a winding pass up the mountains, I looked out the window, the hills and mountains are, overlapped in shades of green.

living close to nature’s creations…photo from online…

We’d originally agreed that I’ll be her seeing eye on this trip, and she, as my guide. But, being apt in collecting the data, she’d called up the man in charge of the local borough ahead of time, and asked him to be a professional guide to us, and, the compassionate, wonderful man just happened to be free that day……hearing up to here, I awed in silence, “Wow, you’re, amazing!”, she’d even asked the bus driver, “Do you know how to get to the house of the man in charge of the borough?”, the bus driver drove straight to the man’s house, and let us get off.

This is Guan-Yi’s “Home”

The Wan-Tan Ancient Trail was built alongside the Wan-Tan Creek, with the sound of the water flowing along, the entire trail was covered with shades, the breezes, so gentle, very leisurely as we’d trekked down. The man told us, in the past, there are many roads, leading from one village to the next, that these sorts of ancient trails were everywhere.

The entire trek was very flat, only a few places that were filled with uneven sized rocks, with the water flowing between them, at which time, she’d taken out her cane, to use as her guide, she’d walked, carefully, and told me it felt like she was, trekking in a stream.

She’d collected the wildlife with her sense of hearing, “Listen, it’s the noisy cuckoo, what a good name, it is, truly, noisy!” there were also, eagles soaring, the hard-to-meet muntjac normally, the monkeys, all became, frequent visitors; all of a sudden, came a call, “Sir, is that, a crow?”, it surely is! Deeper into the mountains, there were, a few waterfalls, hidden in the midst of the trees, at which time, the sound of the water became quieter, “Did we, walk farther away from the waterfalls?”, we can now, hear the sounds of leaves, rubbing against leaves. She’d loved the pretty places too, her declined vision can still detect the changes in the light and the shadows, although she couldn’t see it clearly, it’s still, just as, beautiful.

On the way back, we’d gotten on the last bus.

There were, just the two of us onboard, the driver was the same one from the ride here. We’d identified each other, said our casual hellos, with that added sense of closeness now. As he drove on, he’d stopped in the tracks, “Look over there, it’s the Swinhoe’s pheasant.”, he’d showed it to me, allowed me to take a photo of it, but it’d kept moving, how can I possibly get a clear shot? So, the driver handed me a picture he’d taken from before to show me, “This one is a male, it’s prettier………”, this, I suppose, is one of the unique things about the countryside! The passengers became like his friends, the community bus turned into a tour bus, the driver acted like a guide, they’d lived with this leisure pace, the entire village became, a frame on its own.

Following, she’d introduced me to the Swinhoe’s pheasant, said it was, the most precious bird here, that it lives in forests 2,000 meters above sea level………her tone of voice was filled with so much emotion, as if, the bird was one of her pets, that you couldn’t find it anywhere else!

I’d finally understood, why so many teachers fought for the opportunities to teach elsewhere but she’d, chosen, to guard this place—this was the home of Guanyi, the locals are Guanyi’s family; from the train station to the school, the two locations were connected in a straight line, became her primary network; she’d used her own sense of smell, touch, sound, asking around………structuralized her own zone of comfort. I believe, that Shuanxi was not only a nirvana in the writers’ beliefs, it’s also, a haven for her too; as for me, it was, this hard-to-come-by time of leisure I’d gained, out of my busy work schedule.

The sun set, I took the trains that sped off slowly away. I’m really glad, that I’d said yes to her invitation, otherwise, I would’ve never gone home, with this, amazing feeling.

So, this, is what you got, out of spending a day, away from the faster-paced usual lifestyle of yours, and, you’d feel more relaxed in this place that your friend showed to you, got to feel that kindness, that genuine small town living lifestyle too.