Yesterday was my first day of volunteering at the Asian Art Museum and I just loved it. It was an exquisite experience. But here is something absolutely strange and unbelievable that happened. My ‘job’ that first day was to acquaint myself with the Gift Store, where I will be working. I could occasionally chat with customers and welcome then but roaming around the store was my main task. There is only one problem, I shall be spending all of my hard earned retirement income in that place. The merchandise is so tempting, the quality superb and the prices reasonable. I asked the staff not to let me buy anything
He: Well I have never been asked to do that before. But I will do it.!
Me: I need to be restrained! I am going to London in three days and I do not need anything.
It was the best of times, the people I chatted with were so charming and from various and sundry places in the country and abroad. I went to the book selection – so many good books of varying topics – all well and topically selected. A book caught my eye: Chinese Love Poetry. It seemed unlikely but not only did I look at it but I felt absolutely compelled to buy it. When compelled – you do it. What is compel. Its synonyms are: force. sign, indication, presage, warning, forewarning, harbinger, augury, signal, promise, threat, menace, ill omen, forecast, prediction, prognostication, prophecy, straw in the wind, writing on the wall, hint, auspice; premonition, presentiment, feeling, vague feeling, funny feeling, feeling in one’s bones, foreboding, misgiving; literary foretoken.
But this harbinger, this prophecy, this writing on the wall, this presentiment became even more ominous when the book opened to this poem from the Book of Songs.
If you tenderly love me,
Gird you loins and wade across the Chen;
But if you do not love me –
There are plenty of other men,
Of madcaps, maddest, oh.
If you tenderly love me
Gird you loins and wade across the Wei;
But if you do not love me –
There are plenty of other knights,
Of madcaps, maddest, oh
But then to make matters even worse – the book opened to another page, this from the Book of Songs.
Too not till too big a field
Or weeks will ramp it,
Do not live a distant man
Or heart’s paint will chafe you.
Do not till too big a field,
Or weeds will lop it.
Do not love a distant man
Or heart’s pain will fret you.
The first poem is me, at my sassiest. If you love me gird your loins and wade but if you do not there are plenty of other men and knights. The second poem speaks of a distant man. A far away man. I shall speak no more. (Everyone shall faint upon reading that.)
You: What you shall speak no more? You with your big mouth?
Me: I shall speak no more of this compulsion, and these poems because I am rendered speechless. But I will blabber on about other matters.
You: Well, thank goodness for that.
The Asian Art Museum, in its new location, came into being while I was still living in the Bay Area – my preLondon days and I do recall going to an exhibit there. But during my absence they have renovated the space and they continue to do so. Since my return to these parts I have gone to the museum twice – once for the special exhibit on kimonos and the second to the amazing exhibit on tattoos. It was on that last visit that I met a volunteer, went into the Gift Store and learned of the volunteer experience. But it, of course, waited upon recovery of knee replacement surgery. When the end seemed near I went on line and applied. Immediately, and I do mean immediately, a response was received and there I was – my first day. It seemed like the first day of school – and for me, as I laughingly said to staff and volunteers:
Me: I have so much schooling! I have more degrees than ex husbands.
But I was made to feel most welcome and I did, fit right in. Within the first hour I had summoned the boss for a couple from New York who were contemplating a gorgeous box made of camel bones. I pushed a woman in a wheel chair and just made myself useful. When explaining to a patron. I sat at the coat check chatting with a woman who had been volunteering for over twenty years. Paris, the newly hired volunteer coordinator did a wonderful job, responding immediately to my application, welcoming me to the museum upon my arrival and showing me the ropes. I spoke to two men visiting from Oxford. One man, from San Francisco gave the the following information.
He: If you first came to California in 1967 you simply must read Season of the Witch.
Me: Oh, I shall! I am so lucky to be born when I was and have these wonderful experiences.
He: You might even find yourself in the book.
Me: I doubt it. I was married to a boring doctor at the time. I am just kidding (sort of)
The photographs that follow are three. One the cover of the poetry book, one an illustration showing a woman looking for her lover in the distance, the third is me with the facial mask I bought a couple of months ago at the museum. You should be able to distinguish between them.
Oh, I almost forgot this. Months and months earlier I was in the gift shop of the museum and saw another book, Rich and Crazy Asians. I read the book in 2017 – by the way the movie was terrible and missed the point. I picked up the book and began to sob – actually howl. I was rather surprised. But I blinked away the tears and said to myself.
Me: I guess that situation was not resolved, just repressed.
Alter Ego: Obviously!
Me: I am most surprised but I guess I should reexamine the situation.
I did, and decided (upon a great deal of thought and reflection) to forgive what was felt to be a a transgression against me. The synonyms for transgression are: crime, sin, wrong, wrongdoing, misdemeanour, felony, misdeed, lawbreaking, vice, evil-doing, indiscretion, peccadillo, mischief, mischievousness, wickedness, misbehaviour, bad behaviour; error, lapse, fault. I did forgive the misdeed, the indiscretion and the wrongdoing. No clear sign that the other person accepted the forgiveness. But I tried and, therefore, found some peace. .