Carving Stamps

Finding that box of old stuff that you’d made, and that scent of, nostalgia, surfaces, translated…

I’d sold of our old home in Kaohsiung before the year.  As I was sorting through the collections, I’d found, that it’s, this enormous task.  Who was it that said, “The precious thing about memories, it’d allowed us to live twice.”  I’d enjoyed this sweating it from day to day, keep on living my life.  Specially, the lost books of calligraphy practice books of my youthful years, I’d found once more.  And, it’d given that sense of gladness, that I’d had to, sell my home.

the various types of scripts, from online…

The stamps were kept in a small fist-size wooden box, it was originally for my mother’s ginseng powders, I’d treated it as a treasure, took it home with me to Hsinchu, and put it inside the bookshelves on the back of my study, to accompany me continually, through the years.

One evening, I was fatigued from working, rose up, and saw that wooden box, and wanted to see what was kept, concealed, inside that box through the years.  But the moment I’d opened it up, the wooden casing collapsed and broke to pieces, like it’d done its duties, of protecting the seals, collapsed.

In a panic, I’d quickly used the books from around it, to keep it in place, then, with tapes, carefully, put it back together again, then, it’d returned, to its, original shapes, barely.  Tears started, circling around in my eyes then.

I’d taken up the stamps within the box one by one, asked them, “how have you been lately?”

I’d stamped a few using the stones, thankfully, there’s, still that carving that’s, in place.

like this…photo from online…

As I read the words of “Happy New Year’s”, for the blessings of a new year, I’d found one with the line of “I am, one of the rarest” in the midst of the bunch.  I’d started wondering: what sort of an expectation was that?  Had the me back then see the me now today, and still couldn’t manage to drink too much, and still stumbled, not moving forward in my poetry, will I still have that passion for what I’m doing like I had in my younger years?

But, years had gone by, things, altered completely.  I’d already, forgotten, when, did I develop this joy in carving.  My friend inquired, “Do you still do it?”, I shook my head, sighed, and felt that although I hoped to continue, but I just, don’t have it in me.  Thankfully, there’s still, this box full of my stamps from the past, as I patted those dents in the carvings, it’s like, I’d traveled back in time, with each call, I get to, return back to my past again.

And, this, is the sense of nostalgia that someone has, upon discovering that box of old things that one had made, and, it drew the writer back to how he got started, with the carvings, and it’d brought back that state of mind he had as he’d carved each of the stamps…


The Music from Onstage

Finding people who shared the same love of music like you, and playing with them, making wonderful music, those, are the moments, you’d, miss the most, translated…

Although, I’d, matured into an okay adult, and managed, to gain some real-world experiences, but every time when someone asked me of my dreams, I’d become, silenced, “What, is it?”, in this world, maybe, without dreams had become, a sort of an ordinariness, because that means, that the individuals are, without goals, or directions to their lives, a man who doesn’t know which way to turn, can be called, “lost”.

just, sharing their love for music, jamming together, photo from online…

And so, I’d always, come up with a dream, and, as I’d told others about it, it seemed, to have, become, real.  I’d dreamed, of performing in the national concert hall, playing the songs that I loved, because I’d once, been intoxicated, taken in, by the moments on stage from before.  As a student, because of my nature as a gambler, the refusal to get defeated, it’d made me from not being able to play an instrument, to entering into competition, earning a placement in the national contests.  Thinking back of this, don’t know how, I’d, managed, to gamble on this passion of mine, it’d always, caused me to repeat a grade level.

That, was the very first time our school had competed in the national competitions.  First, we’d defeated the winner in the regionals, moving our places forward.  This competitor, was our best friend, we’d, practiced during the summers together, but, in the competitions, there IS a winner, and, the cruelties of this competition had, tested our friendships.  On that day, it was my birthday, as I tasted the fruits of victory, I’d still needed to, pay attention to my friends’ tears as well as their emotions too, and, they were very good losers, helping us move our instruments off stage too, and, we were only able to, taste this bitter, and soured success on our own.

My friend, my competition handed me a birthday card, I’d, written back to him, courteously and honestly, “I hope, that this competition won’t ruin what we had, we can still be good friends.”  A few days later, I’d received a letter back from him, he told me, “As I read your letter, I was, eating an apple, and, I’d, tasted that sourness mixed into the sweetness like you were experiencing too.”, another friend wrote, “Hearing you talk, it’s, beat-by-beat, matching to each other’s tempos, you all must worked really hard to perfect your skills, we’re, glad, you were, winners!”

Before we’d tasted that mixture of joy and ambiguity of being in the finals, we’d faced, that pressure onstage soon enough.  The night before the competition, we were still, rehearsing in the auditorium, surprisingly, nobody spoke a single word, every one of us only, stared down at our instruments, and, played our separate parts; and, don’t know which measure it was, when the huqin came in, very harmoniously.  I’d felt, that the lower parts were in-synch, then came, the woodwinds, finally, the percussion strings came in, then, those percussionists who were cleaning up their instruments, also, joined in too.  The teacher who were chit-chatting offstage were all shocked, looking at how our headless band was, playing something hard, and in the end, every one of us, cried.

That night on stage, I’d clearly, felt the vibrations from the string player next to me, the vibration from his instrument had, shocked me, that my instrument played with his too—I started to believe, that music, can be felt, naturally, that the human hearts were, calling out to each other too.  But after that, I’d never met anybody, who was, in-synch whom, I’d, played so well with again.  In college, after the camps finished the activities, I’d started wailing aloud outside, perhaps, I’d, discovered, that I will NEVER, find the wonders of that very night back again, that I will never find another, whose hearts, resonated, in accordance to mine so perfectly.

just a group of friends, playing music together, photo from online…

During that part of my life when I took up music, to now, thinking back, I’d still, get intoxicated in the moments, felt phased, by that music.  I’d always thought, that we are now, humming our own separate songs in the city’s streets, playing our own tunes now.  We all have musical instruments inside each one of us, and, a stage to perform on, is everywhere in sight.

This, would be the depth of the writer’s friendship with her fellow musicians, and, it is, very difficult, to find a group of people who shared your similar values, your similar interests, that you can, run with, and, this writer was lucky enough, to find the opportunities in her younger years, to find such a group of wonderful friends to share their joys of making the music together.









Writing for the Purpose of Remembering


The two times I’d gotten that strong urge to write, they both happened at the start of the summer, and I was sitting in a darkened airplane both times, and both times, I’d had to deal with the sudden departure of someone I loved, and a member of my family.

I’d turned on that small light over my head, took out the pen and paper pad I have in my knapsack, and, as my tears quietly, rolled down my cheeks, I’d written down all the memories I have of them on this earth.

not my photo…

Once, was fourteen years ago, I’d flown back from the American West, to help set up the funerals of my youngest brother-in-law’s family of three who’d all died in a plane crash, that time, I was filled with that unwillingness to see them all go, and gained an understanding of how quickly life can change; another time was how I was on the way to go see my daughter graduate from university, my mother died, after her long-term illness, and I’d felt the waves of sorrows and loss washing over me.  A pen, accompanied a tear-stained handkerchief, my heavy sorrows slowly, diluted and dissolved as I wrote on.

Like how after my mother was gone, I’d decided, to get close to the Buddhist teachings she had been following, and, it’s as if, she’d, guided me, onto this path of writing too; the days that followed, “I will keep on writing”, kept circling in my thoughts.

In August, after my mother had died for a hundred days, I’d caught an ad for a writing class ono the UDN Papers, and without any hesitation, I’d, picked up my phone and called to register.  At the start of September, I sat, in the huge auditorium, and just, absorbed what the lecturing instructor spoke on like a sponge.

not my photo still…

And, all of the writers who had already made themselves known in the writing world had, shared with the students, the process of how they wrote in class.  Yu-Hui Liao who spoke brilliantly taught us to live life like a “bystander”, to write down our thoughts and feelings at any time of the day, and, as the timing is writing, we would be, writing those articles soon enough; the gentle and mild Mr. Hui-Zhi Hsu told us, that the prerequisite for writing is the writers’ use of language, their styles of writing, and their attitudes too, and, there can be the duality of conflicting ideas such as beauty and dissatisfaction in the essays we’re writing out.  The poet, Yi-Zhi Chen said, that writing isn’t always on what you desire to disclose to the rest of the world, you can also write, to understand the world too.

Ms. Yong-Dai Wang, who’s witty and wrote very intelligently taught us the keys to writing, using her twenty plus years of experiences as a newspaper editor that we must feel with our hearts, to get that keen sense of observation, and cultivate our own imagination too, to read more, see more, think more, and to write more too.  She’d encouraged us to submit our writings to magazines, newspapers, to test out our writing abilities, she’d given us the “Tips to Getting Your Work Accepted”.  The former classmates’ articles got published one by one, had become, the primary inspiration to us all.

I’d not wanted to miss a single class session, fearing that I’d missed out on what the lecturers had to share.  As the course was over, the big challenge of actually putting something on paper is one I was working on conquering, the pupils from various backgrounds had different writing styles and different levels of writing skills, the only thing we all shared was our passions for writing.  I’d turned into my very first piece, something I wrote, to remember my own mother, Ms. Liao who was on the committee of lecturers gave me positive feedback, it’d made my confidence boost, and I’d worked up the courage, to find three of my friends whom shared the same interests of the class, and signed ourselves up into a writing school, so we can, “keep on writing”.

not my photo…

As I’d gotten into the stage of actual writing, I’d realized, that “wanting to write” and “being able to write”, are not the same thing, the enthusiasm of a new writer, in the practice essays, slowly, saturated.  In these two years, although I’d run dry on my inspirations, and whenever the deadline approached, I’d gotten so agitated, but as I started at the writing desk, focused down on writing, the tips shared by the writing teachers helped me, on this long road of creation.

Yu Wen Zheng, the instructor told us, “Words can kick start the memories”, and that, “the things will all disappear one day, only the words will stay, leaving that permanence of memory”.  And now, writing for me, it’s not only to help me recall the faces of life, but just like Professor Hsiao-Ping Weng had stated, “in order to write, you must love it, and constantly think about it, like it’s natural as breathing, that it’s everywhere around you, at any given time of day.”

So, this, is how this woman started writing, she’d wanted to help her get through the loss of her own mother, so, she’d started writing, and, in taking the writing courses, she’d learned not just the techniques of writing, but also, the lecturers had given the tips and pointers to the pupils, so the pupils can put what they’d learned to work.

The Bottom Half of Life Became Colorful


It’s rained, these past couple of days, the weather’s so damp, it’s, as if you can squeeze the water out of it.  I’d gazed outward from my seventeenth floor window, the distant mountains became blurred that it’d looked closer, despite the poeticism in the air, I’d, still, missed the clearer, bluer skies, and the light that came through the trees.  I’d taken out my drawing tools, started free drawing out the lights, the clouds, the mountains I wanted to see in my mind.

not my photo…

When I was younger, being introverted, I’d liked to doodle a lot, and, although I didn’t draw the objects clearly, but my mother would always encourage me, and had even posted my pictures up on the living room walls.  Once the typhoon brought the strong rains, our house started to leak, my mother saved my artwork, placed them inside a cookie tin for safes keep.

I’d once envied the kids in my neighborhood, for being able to take art lessons, I’d ranted on that I wanted to, but the cost was too much for my household.  Plus, there was no television in my house, I’d always, taken along a small stool, headed to my neighbors to watch, and, the neighbors would give me the eye-roll a lot.  One day, my father called me to him, asked, if I wanted to take art lessons or if I wanted to have a television in the house?  For a seven-year-old child, choosing between the two was, no easy thing.  After thinking, questioning, hesitating, the sound of entertainment won over the art.

not my photo…

In middle school, the trend of copying the pictures off of small cards using the dotting method was in, I’d gotten on that trend too, my work had, gotten the attention of my classmates, and they’d come to me to ask me to draw for them.  I’d gotten so intrigued by it, I’d not studied at all, and just, gotten the promised artwork finished so I can deliver them to my classmates, until my parents were presented with my grades, I’d finally realized, that the cost of my vanity was, so great.  Ever since, I was forced, to put up my dreams of being an artist.

A decade ago, because of work, I’d gotten into the art exhibitions, and that seed that’d been buried for too long, started to grow again.  Two years ago as I left the workforce, I’d decided, to pick the art back up again, to make up for the regrets of my younger years.

Never taken any lessons, it’s too difficult for me, to express the world using the colors of the watercolors, and how much water to dip in, it’s also, an experience that can only accumulate through time, and, only by commanding both, will I be able to, make a good piece of art.  And, a process like this, is like the process of life—everything must be done, slowly, and after the experiences of time, then, you can finally, achieve.

And now, I’d started out on this road to art, not demanding to become artistic, but, to have fun through the processes.  Gladly, that after I’m over fifty, I’d had the chance, to fulfill my own childhood dreams, and enriching the bottom half of my own life too.

So, you’d taken up art, because you loved it growing up, but, because of the times, you were forced, to give it up back then, and now, you have the free time you need, and, there’s no pressures to perform well, because it’s a hobby, and hobbies should be pursued, under NO pressures.

The Retired Servicemen Picking Up Musical Instruments

picture from the papers…

Living, after getting old, translated…

My husband was a professional serviceman, and I’d worked for a privately owned company, for almost twenty years, after we’d retired, we’d gotten, a lot of spare time, but, we’d just become a bit, lethargic in planning out or retirement; at first, I was so glad, that I’d no longer needed to answer to the nine to five, how I can sleep until my heart’s content, but, after a while, everything became, boring, and, everything is at a standstill at the house, and, I’m the same face that my husband stares into every single day.

I thought, if we keep going on like this, we shall be, “graced” with dementia, and so, my husband and I started picking up musical instruments, he’d picked up that guitar he loved playing so much back when he was younger, started collecting the sheet music, as well as the peripherals, he’d gotten more and more into it; he’d gone from playing a folk guitar, into playing an electric guitar, he’d taken so many hours from a day-to-day basis to practice, and, he looked like that famous rock star too, he’d taken, decades off of his life all of a sudden.

But, being in a one-man band is way too lonely, and so, I’d played accompaniment on the electric piano alongside him, and, we’re really, harmonious too, and, the days passed on, more interestingly too.  When the friends and families came for a visit, we can show off our skills, and, they would be in awe, at how we relate to each other, how in-tune we are with one another too.

Good things should be shared with good friends, as the saying goes, my husband found his classmate from his military school days, and, persuaded him to pick up an instrument too; his classmate had already been very good in music, loved playing the guitar too.  After he’d tried it, together, with my husband, he’d fallen, deeply in love, not only did he buy the amplifier online, the mic, the music stand, and asked his children, to bring back a certain brand of guitar from China for him too, his way of becoming professional had us both, feeling beaten.

The lead singer was his wife, she’d also, worked for the military unit too, is half of a soldier; she has a crisp clean voice, with a great set of lungs.  With her in the band, this temporarily put together band of ours, became better, only that my piano skills are not honed enough, I can’t play along with how fast they changed up the music, I’d practiced until my brains are in knots, and I can still just play a few songs in the scales.

Because practicing the piano is supposed to be happy and not defeating, so, I’d sung backup to my husband’s classmate’s wife instead, and this turned out, to be, much easier for me.  What was more interesting was, with my harmony, the band sounded even better, and, the band of four became, even more professional, at the reunions, we’d become, the entertainment too, we’d even filmed ourselves, and sang a song for the wedding of a relative in New Zealand.

We met together every Wednesday afternoon, and after the rehearsals, we’d stayed for suppers at my husband’s classmate’s house, it’s even better than going to sing at karaoke.  From before, our group had wanted to get licensed as street performers, so we can perform at charity events, making our lives more meaningful.  My husband’s classmate had even picked out a name for the group too, “Happy Band”, enjoying ourselves, in making the music!  It’s just, after we saw the requirements for being a street performer, we’d all tossed that idea, after all, this is just, something for us to do, after retirement, not a way of livelihood!

But, as my husband’s other classmates saw us in action, they’d picked up, an assortment of instruments too, and so, this group of classmates from the retired army generation, became a small chamber musical group.  Although some pay play, really out of tune, the dozen of the classmates, as well as their spouses are all, enjoying our performances and laughing a lot.  This was, a chance that presented itself to us, as we are all, retiring, we’d found something, to occupy our time, it’s a great idea.  So, let’s make this group of servicemen and women who carried the weapons to protect the country from before, pick up musical instruments, enjoying the rest of our lives, it’s an alternative way, to serve our country, I suppose.

So, this, is what you ended up, doing, after you retired, you’d found something, an interest that everybody can get into, and all of you pursued it, and, worked hard, to perfect your performing skills, and, you’d established that connection which all of you shared with the world too!

No Longer Competing, Yu-Chien Tseng Will Now, Play for Himself

A brand new goal for himself, realizations of the purpose behind him, playing the violin, from the Front Page Sections, translated…

The twenty-year-old professional violinist, Yu-Chien Tseng early yesterday morning received the classical music Olympics’ Tchaikovsky Competition’s silver medal, this, was the best accolade for someone in that competition from Taiwan.

However, he’d told, that in the future, he will NO longer compete in any musical contest again, “from here on out, I just want to play for my audience and myself, to challenge myself”.

Once Called “Tone-Deaf”, He’d Practiced Very Hard in His Small Residence

When Tseng was a child, because he couldn’t sing “Happy Birthday” completely in tune, he was thought as being “tone-deaf” by his kindergarten teacher, and, he had a legendary experience in learning to play music too, he was NEVER in the music-focused classes, in his small home, where having a bed would be too much trouble, he could only stack up a wooden board, to practice his violin skills.

And still, with extraordinary musical abilities, started when he was just thirteen, he’d won a TON of violin competitions of the masters’.

The Tchaikovsky Grand Competition happens once every four years, it’s the heavyweight competition that is historical in the classical music realm, he had competed again this year, on the fifteenth time this year, a lot of his fans in Taiwan watched the live broadcast from online, in the final competition, he’d played the Sibelius Concerto, it’d made the director of the Yunmen Dance Group, Lin moved to tears.

“As the placements were announced, everybody was shocked”, Tseng said, the awards ceremonies started from the sixth place, the Korean competitor whom he saw as his primary competition only received fourth place, and after ALL of the five other competitors had received their awards, his mind went blank, but, as he’d received his certificate of award, he saw, that it was only second place.  Not getting the first place trophy, Tseng said, the judges are mostly Russians, and for the last fourteen years, only TWO Japanese competitors had won the first place trophies, all other winners had been Russian, “Getting the Silver Prize, I’m already, more than lucky”.

After He Left the Belief that He Needed to Win Behind, He Was Able to Play with More Emotions that Moved His Audience

 “From before, I’d only wanted to play the notes fuller, and on key, and now, I’d started thinking about the pieces I’m playing.”  He’d analyzed how his playing style had drifted from the technicalities to the artistries, leaving the thought of “must win” behind at competition, he was able to enjoy playing his piece even more immensely.

“I’d started competing since I was eleven, entered into over a dozen international competitions, I’m tired now.”  Tseng said, that the competitions are merely opportunities to help him establish himself as a violinist, it’d given him more opportunities to perform more.  This decade’s worth of competing all over the places, made him feared that he may “lose his passions for playing music.”  Tseng had decided, to NOT compete again, to play for the audience as well as himself, NOT for the judges.

And so, this, is a young man’s process of growth, he was once considered TONE-DEAF, and, he’d won so many awards since he was in his teenage years, and yet, at the prime of his violinist career, he’d decided to stop competition, because he knew well, that if he kept competing, winning will become his primary goal, and, he would’ve lost his love toward music, and this guy knew himself well, that, was why he was able to, decide to stop competing.

And NO, this, is stil NOT my picture!!!

The Life of Music, a Dream Come True


Opening up my drawer, flipped through my high school yearbook.  “Do you still remember the music class………”, “Where’s the ‘Life Like Honey’?”, my classmates wrote down things that went on in the classes, it’d taken me back, to when I was starting out in high school, at age fifteen or sixteen.

My high school music instructor, don’t know if he’s just quirky or what, or maybe, he’d gotten annoyed at how we just knew how to pass our examinations, he would often SHOW us up in class.

“I’m going to play a note from the piano, see who can sing it in tune.”, all my classmates were all shocked at this unprepared “examinations”, only me, who’d started out in music, in my kindergarten years, kept my calm, and, no matter what the teacher played, I can sing it back to him, and, all my classmate hoorayed for me.

Afterwards, the teacher picked the song, “Life Like Honey”, and assigned us as duets, and, those of us with odd numbers sang the melody, those with even numbers, harmony, and we would perform this duet, as our final exam.  Those who were assigned the lower keys, “Life Like Honey”, for them became “Life in Purgatory”, every time we’d practiced, we’d gotten distracted by the main higher-keyed melodies, and started, singing off key, we’d all become prepared, to flunk.

Don’t know if it’s my inability to see others suffer or in pain, that after school, I’d given singing lessons to the classmates; as we’d practiced the tunes in tears and laughter, we were all able to, get passing grades from that music course.

Forgot about the things that happened in high school, it’d also opened up that memory of bitterness.  From the moment I’d learned from my kindergarten teacher, that Vienna was the city of music, being so young, I’d started longing for it.  Started with my piano lessons, I’d practice hard every single day, hoped, that one day, I too, will go to Vienna, and become a top-notch piano player.

My very first great dream however, was left behind me, because my family went through the economic difficulties; followed by getting into the German language department in the university, going abroad for my studies, starting to work, even marriage, are all connected to Europe.  As I’d trekked almost thirty countries in Europe, gone to visit the homes of Mozart, Beethoven, as well as other famous composers too, I’d not have that once so strong passion toward music anymore.  I’d chosen to forget, to run from how the years had taken my love from me, and how reality always clashed with dreams.

And still, three years ago on the trip to Peru, it’d accidentally created that ripple again.  When my husband and I followed the tourists in Peru to go visit a monastery at the village by the Andes, the priest led us on the tours, there was an ancient organ that stood erect before us.

“Do you know how to play?”, the priest asked me all of a sudden.

I’d played something from memories, although I hadn’t practiced on the piano for thirty years on end, the moment that my hands touched those keys, they’d started dancing around.

At that moment, it’d hit me, although I’d intentionally buried my love for music, from the moment I was in the music class, the notes had been planted, way too deep inside of my mind, and, they’d followed along, waiting, for the chance, to sprout again.  And, I’d let go of my unfulfilled dreams too, so long as I knew how to enjoy music, or to play it to entertain myself, even IF I’m not a professional musician, I can still have a fulfilling kind of satisfaction.

Because of the demands of your life, you had to give up on something you really enjoy doing, but, that love never actually left you, it was still, deep, inside your souls, waiting, for the right chances to come, and to be put into motion again, a great story of how one found one’s love for an activity again.