Walking Along the Way Our Sun Goes

The sparrows that sometimes came to stay before my window were singing. Outside of the window, the trees whose names I was unable to utter were shining under the sun.

By Tome Loulin

Inexpressible Things Unexpressed

A year is a long time to leave any piece on a newspaper unlooked at, and the posts on the Wall Street Journal have been left without a glimpse even longer than that since its usage of a s-word to describe a country in Asia in an op-ed title. I say “unlooked at” instead of “unread” because to read things demands the involvement of one’s imagination while to look always includes the possibility of encountering something undesirable. Ineffably, the business of glancing at certain titles on news outlets got so difficult that the mere act of seeing might tremble my body if certain adjectives or nouns purposed specifically follow their owner’s lead. Yet, the sentiment and reaction I have had since may not be the case for others but I wondered where are those who pen words that way standing and to whom are they speaking?

I remembered, relying on my own memory, a very sense of unsettledness in the last Hubei version of spring when the days and nights of the city where I was staying had been quieter and emptier than ever, and when every word I had read on certain news websites ran contentious and unpredictably purposeful. I remembered seeing convenient stores and home-run business go closed then and streets emptied of vehicles. Do such happenings, I wondered, have an innate purpose or meaning? Things are always things that happened and kept happening. And the nature of happenings is their proneness to different interpretations good or bad, depending on the values one holds. Thus, judgments are never about the things themselves; contrarily, they are the evidence of a radical conceptualization that is usually self-reflective and distorts the defined, beheld, and judged involuntarily, which could hardly, if not never, reveal the true image of certain happenings.

It was such quiet a time and a place that the impression of a material nothingness was for the first time being that vividly felt. There is, certainly, nothing more devastating than witnessing the very ways of our existence being disrupted in certain eras like this which has been characterized by nationalistically motivated extreme rhetoric and ideologies that kept shadowing this material world. Unsettledness was not the word that would normally come often to my mind; actually, so rare that never once had it crossed my mind before my personal encounter with certain adjectives I saw or heard somewhere online a year ago or so. And since then, the search of spiritual tranquility has never been so urgent that the futileness of this endeavor is unfathomable as trying to walk through a pathless wasteland without any navigation. And it was since then that, from the impressions I got from certain news outlets online or so, the people in the country where I live, whose endurance in trying eras like this has for a long time gone unnoticed and whose stories untold, were being depicted purposefully, mostly to suit the narrative needs of the narrator. Stories are always the production of the storytellers, never the described’s. The hard truth may be this: the people that were invisible to certain media before have suddenly been depicted thickly because there is a usefulness being found in them. The usefulness of creating an exotic narrative that may grasp the attention of another group of people. And to most news medias, before this intense need to scrutinize the unseen, which is created by certain unprecedented occurrence, the existence of some people whose socioeconomic status deteriorates or seems relatively travail are almost always being deemed unworthy of covering, let alone present in a normal light. Of course, they did and do exist but for the cause of this invisibility, it’s, the outlets may well evidently argue, due to the nature of their existential powerlessness. And because of the widely spread assumption that to go on living is to expect anything to happen, indeed, anything, imaginable or not, it’s no surprise to see how radically unequal and distorting is the distribution of the power that decides whose stories could be told and whose not. Yet, it is the hard lessons that should have been lessoned early in order for us to maintain our composure. And we get to be prepared early for certain things, things that may get us if we didn’t get them first. But too often than not, certain things are not here to be readied. It’s perhaps because to ready things that seem hard to be foreseen risks us to appear thinking magical. So, when I learned the paper that used the s-word to describe the country where I live was clarifying that the word that was considered offensive by a group of people is actually very frequently used by various news outlets around the world, indirectly suggesting it was the hypersensitive reaction of certain group of readers, instead of the abusiveness the use of the word may cause, that is undefendable, being silent or not was certainly not an option, for having our lips moved is one thing but getting the voice run out of our lips heard is another.

Houseplants on the windowsill of Tome Loulin’s rented room in Hubei, late March of 2021; photographed by Tome Loulin (Tommy H. Loulin)

“Nobody was minding us, so we minded ourselves.” Toni Morrison has written in the foreword of her book Sula, depicting the difficulties she had faced as a working woman then in the sixties with two children to take care of while at the same time continuing to write novels that were unencumbered of other people’s expectations.

For there are certain outlets whose very ways of depicting the reality have brought a lingering atmosphere of horrifying, I should stop looking lest I be overwhelmed.

Tome Loulin

We are travelers who travel around a world that we all share but fail short to understand. I knew it is hard, for there have already been so many physical barriers that estrange, divide, and isolate us, oceans, mountains, rivers, deserts and straits, just to name a few; and we are left with little wonders about the spiritual barriers that impede the completion of a common tower in our mental world. I used to have wondered the purpose of newspaper. Is it to inform or to influence the public, to make a difference out of the indifferent or to sensationalize the sensible. And anyone who believes that there would be an apparent distinction between the truth and the fact to be made would hardly find their relief in reading remarks that name-call any group of people; I also wondered that if what we read doesn’t matter, what would matter to us spiritually. No matter for what a purpose we are reading—be it getting informed, forming connections, finding spiritual relief, or knowing our world better—we are seldom interested in reading for misunderstanding, confusion, division etc. For there are certain outlets whose very ways of depicting the reality have brought a lingering atmosphere of horrifying, I should stop looking lest I be overwhelmed.

Asian is perhaps too powerless a word to be used as an identity marker for the people of Asia whose identity is usually reduced to certain abstract label and stereotypes that confuse the line between the us and the other and between the familiar and foreign. I wondered how come I call myself Asian or Chinese instead of Zhongguoren in the first place as the two are sensibly never the ones that we use to describe and define ourselves? Asia is from the initial naming of a place then called Asia Minor, which is not a place near where I’ve been living. Chinese, unlike the word Zhongguo, is not the word we utter in the language we use daily with our family members, friends, teachers, doctors, strangers, and persons who live here in Zhongguo, too.

Early spring in Hubei; photograph by Tome Loulin

When reading certain type of essays whose function, originally, should have been to inform with carefully checked materials but has now been way more confusing has turned into a tormenting process, I felt an urge to abandon it for good because, if this thing is left disregarded, there would certainly be a series of unquenchable surges of unsettledness and powerlessness that is to catch me, in the end of my day. I should think more of those who are compassionate, kind, regardful, and loving and who would not call our desire to a world, to which kindness, moral seriousness, altruism, and compassion are the passport, unrealistic.

It’s been about a year passed without feeling how warm the sunlight is. As I walk across the roads in one of serial cities to which I relate in Hubei province of Zhongguo(China), it occurs that not a moment has been passed without getting the impression that anything non-human makes more sense to me, from the houseplants I planted on the windowsill of my rented house to the birds that had come before the window to sing a while. I feel thrilled by these beings’ ability to look contented with so little materials they could get.

The sparrows that sometimes came to stay before my window were singing. Outside of the window, the trees whose names I was unable to utter were shining under the sun.

I crossed the road where taller trees with big boughs were dotted and lined sideways, sheltering walkers and bicycles passing by; not afar was the water of a lake waving and glistening in the sunlight as the clouds over us were spreading eastward or so.

‘twas so empty, yet so bright over the lake in the campus of my school. Other passersby beside the lake were watching sideways, picturing the gradual setting of the sun in an ordinary winter afternoon, the only sun we’ve had.

And it’s about time, perhaps, to go on walking for the spring is to come.


By Tome Loulin (Tommy H. Loulin) in Hubei

23rd, March, 2021

Radical Authenticity: Looking at Abdellatif Kechiche’s Films

This authentic way of telling and showing something that is too hard to be told and presented properly brought a sharper contrast between the romantic imagination and brutal everydayness in actuality, as the story presented by the film is already too tough to experience, let alone review it.

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by Tome Loulin

I’m made and remade continually.

Virginia Woolf

Filming is creating ways for us to see something different, familiar, unseen, seen, exotic, and alien in a new sense maybe because for most of us, seeing only one side of something is not enough and film provides us with the opportunity of seeing the world differently. Now, it’s almost ubiquitous to speak of film metaphorically as one of several popular metaphors regarding film goes that every person is the protagonist of their own film; Similarly, that the metaphor that life is a lengthened film is used and accepted so widely suggests we all have a want to feel our life is worth watching, i.e. worth living and the pain we have endured. Unlike literary works that evoke us to imagine a mental world that enriches our real world experiences, visual arts like film present us with a different way of focusing and of paying our attention. Choosing a film to watch is like deciding to pay a very different attention to something that we haven’t been well aware of. Yet, almost every kind of art is focused on our utmost desire to authenticity—what we are and where are we going?

The purpose of creating an involved plot is, perhaps, to make those who expect to discover something that could only be found in film think deeply about the themes that often require more serious attention in order to see the true depth of truth. Most of the films Kechiche directed involve critical inquiries to real life struggles that socially marginalized groups—such as North African immigrants in French society and sexual minorities—have experienced. In Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013), the emotional span of the whole film is extremely broad, giving audience a different sense of reality.

In Blue Is…, Kechiche depicts the emotional and professional apprenticeship of Adèle, a high-school student in Lille who falls in love with older art student Emma. The pair embark on a passionate sexual and domestic partnership, the film tracing its stages from two protagonists’ first encounter to the sublimation of their relationship and from their parting of ways to post-separation reunion, which gives the viewer a touched and engaged experience with a sense of being involved in an alternative reality.

This authentic way of telling and showing something that is too hard to be told and presented properly brought a sharper contrast between the romantic imagination and brutal everydayness in actuality, as the story presented by the film is already too tough to experience, let alone review it.

Tome Loulin

In the film, the focus is put on the irreconcilability and fragility of inter-class communication. It is almost too hard for a film-goer after seeing the film not to absorb the theme that the ordeal of inter-class loving relationship is eternal given that the film’s depiction of an often-overlooked reality is almost as vivid as ever, i.e., the difficulties and social invisibility experienced by sexual minorities and the marginalized.

Speaking of the art of performing, Kechiche’s way of directing is an authentic one if not brutal. In an interview with the Guardian, he was described to ‘delight in bringing untested non-professionals to the screen.’ This faithful, if not radical, realistic way of art making is nothing unheard-of before. Art itself as a profession is about realism at first place. And before the camera was invented, paintings, except for its religious use, were widely made for the purpose of depicting the powerful and upper-class elites. Ordinary people before the age of camera were deprived the right to visual artistic creation. Art history is a history of exclusion because of the great division between the poor and the rich. And of course, the access to artistic creation is not all controlled by the powerful, the well-off, or elites but there did exist some hurdles that obstruct a more inclusive artistic imagination from emerging anew.

From 19th century Russian realism tradition to postmodern reflection on radical modernistic experiments in art, there is certainly a revival of a new taste for realism in artistic creation. Regarding his working-class upbringing, Kechiche, born in Tunis in 1960 but resettled to Nice with his parents at the age of five, reflects “For me the important thing about living there (his flat in Paris’s Arabic area, Belleville) is that it’s a working-class district, it’s the social rather than the ethnic aspect that matters.”

Through his depictions on working class people, we see something unseen but extremely familiar before, which is our innermost authenticity. Life is not about pretention nor is art.

Tome Loulin

The narration of Blue is…, is a lifelike one, and this radical authenticity is further reinforced by a scene depicting Adele, the protagonist with a working-class background, walking alone in the alley, being the final climatical point at the end of the film. This authentic way of telling and showing something that is too hard to be told and presented properly brought a sharper contrast between the romantic imagination and brutal everydayness in actuality, as the story presented by the film is already too tough to experience, let alone review it. Perhaps because people can more or less share this kind of love – the complex feeling that returns and goes away like a lonely self-reploquise, it is also a unique taste of sadness mixed with happiness.

It is not the first time that socially marginalized experiences are depicted and focused by Kechiche. Before Blue is…, there is Couscous(2007) whose subjects deal with old-ages, immigration, and remarriage—all hard ones. It could hardly say that what Kechiche experienced in his childhood as an immigrant in French society doesn’t influence how he interprets about art in general. Through his depictions on working class people, we see something unseen but extremely familiar before, which is our innermost authenticity. Life is not about pretention nor is art.

Kechiche’s imagination about what lens should focus on creates a new way of seeing the unseen. In Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein wrote that a mental image is the image which is described when someone describes what he imagines. By imagining radical-authentically, our very ideal of how should our authenticity be defined and presented gives us a new way of describing the experience that we had felt extremely familiar with but rather incompetent to describe accurately. And, of course, our specific way of seeing and imagining what matters to us does matter.

Tome Loulin
Feb 15th 2021

On Self-emancipation

There is something deeper inside of us that is calling, urging us to escape something else; yet, hardly could we find out where and what it is. Something, it’s always the notion of something that is most hard to be named precisely or defined properly, so is our notion of self-liberation, which is hardly an unattractive concept–different people interpret it differently–and has thus gained a lot of philosophical and literary attention seriously.

Virginia Woolf wrote in her book, A Room of One’s Own, that “lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.” indicating a sense of insecurity that has been felt throughout times by people who write while at the same time worrying about their restraining circumstances. Fear for the spiritual and artistic creativity being deprived by a lack of material security and of personal privacy still resonates to a large audience today. Many difficulties facing us today are still basic ones–the lack of personal space and financial security.

Many people are still consumed by issues like poverty, abusive upbringing et al., making them hardly able to write about something other than a reflection of what they experienced, out of anger, insecurity, and helplessness.

It’s no good, perhaps nightmarish, to have no choice but to live in a dorm with two other strangers during the first semester of my postgraduate programme, with covid restrictions–unable to move out, having no means to avoid the sense of being envied against, but to endure this, in this dorm, a strange and foreign space. Being forced to live with those unmindful of what you are valuing is like preparing a meal that would certainly be left uneaten–in vain.

It was raining when I stepped out of the bus that carried me to the university. The first time I went to Wuhan in years after the pandemic. Everything, almost, I saw—Xiangzhang trees, tiled roads, and stone railings on the lakefronts in the campus—was getting wet.

I remembered that several months before when I was walking on the road to the dorm with one of the strangers and listening to NPR news podcast, the stranger suddenly said out loud that ‘you learn so hard that I feel pressured.’ For a while, unable to process what I’d heard exactly perhaps because it was too novel a realty to grasp immediately, I replied: “none of your business.” But certainly, this boundary-shaping answer opened the door of an ineffable animosity between me and the person.

Concerning literature, rarely do authors write their unpleasant experiences without proper reasons or contemplation because to write about something means to examine the matter deeper and to tell the truth instead of purely presenting different social phenomena one observed in his/her daily life. To write seems to me like transcending our current understanding about something—something unnameable, never told before—and making the unseen seen and the unheard hearable in an imagined space where things are observed in a thorough fashion. But writers’ commitment to truth-seeking doesn’t mean that absurdities and hostilities observed in human world are not worth serious attention. Instead, to understand certain social phenomena in which serious literary imagination took place has required even more time for writers to process what we thought we know, how can we describe the subject properly and what we tell to readers in general. Perhaps because our society didn’t pay much attention to social-gendering and sexually derived judgements about social norms, many people around me still talk in a way that assumes my personal image is somehow defined by my biological gender, which as the fundamental notion of our social functioning is socially constructed.

It’s no exaggeration to say that heterosexuality has unfeelingly shaped the ways that our society structures and social norms are formed as well. Many languages in the world are gendered ones, making the potential resistance to this linguistic gendering even harder for us to put up with–it’s already occupied our mental world. because of the heterosexual dominance in our social structure-shaping, it’s worth noting that in literary discourse, what has shaped our mind can shape our culture; and there have been many literary works deemed classic helping construct the ethos of an ethnicity and these works are still mostly the ones that reinforce an imagination that many minority groups could hard relate to. No wonder Cao Xueqin, a male writer, would write in his novel Hongloumeng or the Story of the Stones(1791) that the male body is made of mud but the female body of water; this plain heterosexual idealization certainly reflects the writer’s thought about relationship between gender binary and heterosexual dominance. In many ways, our literature world is still dominated by certain forces of gender-derived stereotypes about social minorities whose voices were often left unheard and silenced. Somehow, the current shape of power structure in literary discourse reflects directly that in our society. We are taught to be the member of a society instead of our family now because the way we make us alive has drastically changed. We learn certain ‘useful’ skills through compulsory public education that usually reinforces a preset ideology of gender norms, which often took many years for a person to undo, to fill the social role that is deemed valuable in order to survive. While regarding literature, we hear the voices of the powerful that usually shape ours in order to write, to get fit literally by following these social and cultural standards, to write ‘appropriately’. But independent-mindedness is not getting our society’s approval nor is the purpose of writing. Imagine how hard it would be to describe a same sex relationship in a literary work comparing to a ‘normal’ one and how risky it may seem to write a piece, a serious one, about sexual minority without being judged in a way that rarely has a heterosexual romance writer has been.

The very sense of inequality both in our social survival and in our aesthetic creation could still be felt powerfully in our everyday experiences. One, who as a member of a marginalized group continues to dedicate his/her marginalized experience to the very artistic creation, would certainly encounter the very sense of being constantly judged in a way that rarely had heterosexual or mainstreamed persons understood or wanted to. Their indifference to our untold, unspeakable, and socially silenced sufferings is the most obvious indication of their collective ostracisation–we do not belong.

Being socially excluded in a closed space where escape is hardly an option means to endure a nonverbal cruelty inflicted by a majority group aimed to enforce their values, through the indication of group hatred against perceived outsiders.

Not hearing, not seeing, or not minding anything related to the marginalized group is perhaps the easiest thing to do. What’s not easy for those majorities to do is to not define, label, and name ‘them’ and ‘us’. I am not what ‘he’ sees and thinks. I am, like any mortal beings in this world, undefinable. Why should they think they have the authority to define our identity and have the power to tell us how we should feel about what we feel? Abnormal or normal, mainstream or marginalized, where is the line?

Myself These Years in Retrospect, A Notetaking

It seemed like a remindful aphorism to me that though years could have passed unnoticed, some memories were still as vivid as ever when being reminisced about thanks to the photographs taken before.

Photography itself is like a partially immortalized and visualized bit of time, which as a collective concept is itself hardly an accurate conceptualization; and if taken in the light of personal significance, it’s also an concept invented for the societal convenience as whole in the use of reinforcing a socio-historical consciousness to us. Time as well as history could be seen as an necessary invention that was flawed at the first place; history in general as we know it today is the history of a selected few with many critical memories and recounts of the powerless unseen, unheard, and forgotten. Thus, the impossibility of being neutral and impartial becomes almost a feature in conceptualization of time and history. It is of course a standard that could hardly be achieved but what is the most rattlingly worrying is the false perception of this notion of history and time being just and fair when it is actually not. To historicize is both to emphasize and exclude.

Though living in the same time, a senior’s feeling about time is different with that of a younger person. Because time is basically something needing to be felt, the objective concept of time is ultimately incompatible with a personal one. That’s because we simply cannot feel the same way that any other does. Moreover, with the help of photography preserving our moments, we further individualized our interpretation of our lives, liberating our being and existence from other’s interpretations because of the assumption that only we ourselves could recount about our personal experiences uncritically. Though our memories could be involuntarily distorted by the passing of time, we still have a fond impression about what had happened then. Our own personal history thus becomes our own understanding about life, yet, the one unlike any other. We need to safeguard our own rights to interpret our lives and this is made possible with the almost universal access to cameras and other photography generating machines because to remember our time is to remember the scenes and the mass availability of cameras helps democratize the ways we interpret our own memory.

Whether a year is defined as significant or not depends on the preferential interpretation by the powerful. And for so long, people define a time or a era’s signification with the help of photographical works deemed representative that we forgot so easily that without our own personal memories, there will be no collective ones at all. Ours is a visual memory that has been unseen for so long that history has almost in turn become a kind of re-constructed imagination forced by the powerful. Time is an incomplete concept, and, yet, could hardly not be. There, our preserved moments are collectively a recollection of our own imagination unlike any other.

Home, Qianjiang
It was the first summer I stayed in my hometown after entering my early twenties. Summers in one’s youth seemed to be imaginative, passionate yet filled with constant worrying about the lastingness of a season that is characterized by its hot-to-kill heat, symbolizing the ardency of man’s life in general.
Because I used to take self-portrait by camera alone, a habit I developed during years of living in Wuhan after a acquaintance took several photos of me, arousing my interest in preserving my own life in photography. ‘How precious are our living moments,’ I murmured to myself while looking at a photo of me taken years ago showing me standing between fields near a lake; In that photograph, I wore a dark-pinked shirt which I still like to wear and my eyes looking straight at the lens with a air of benignity. What was I thinking?

I took the photo with a sense of nostalgia about my previous life in the city when looking on the phone screen trying to control the camera remotely, I wore a white vest then, sitting on a bed, focusing on capturing the ephemerality of summertime. It’s a summer filled with these montaged scenes, yet, a unforgettable one.

I used to joke to myself that young people should go for bigger places because nowadays small cities have turned to be deserts of love. There were not many young people in small cities but with the rising rent prices, I, who was from a small city, could not afford the rent in a bigger one, thus, having moved back home.
I remembered I was recovering from a teeth-related condition and had contemplated solitude. Solitude, for awhile it seemed to me, is the source of kind self-regarding and self-reconstruction.

In Provincial Museum of Fine Art of Hubei.
After revisiting Chang Yu, my college classmate, in Wuhan, I headed with Chang for the Hubei Museum of Fine Art where I had toured with other friends before and found it very fit for lonely wanders like us, a kind of spiritual shelter.
Strolling in the streets of Wuhan, one could not help feeling a sense of hollowness due to the road-reconstruction plans. Yet, with a protesting banner hung before piles of dirt and noisy trucks passing by, no person walking here would not be aware of the rawness of the city life here, a brutal beauty mixed with an anticlimactic flush of noise.
Several paintings exhibited there then were about half-naked bodies of different females. He, Chang, was interested and borrowed my camera to try to capture some of those paintings. Other spectators mostly middle and senior aged were not disturbed and the museum was as elegant and quiet as ever.

Last Year before Heading for My Postgraduate Studies.

That was the first teacher’s day gift I received after working in a second language teaching facility and it was unexpected because of the naughtiness of the students I was teaching and tried hard to tame, reading educational psychology to try to find solutions but mostly in vain. The flowers were from a parent of the student who looked and behaved very fondly. I thanked the parent for the gift and it was a bit hard for me to walk in the streets back home so that I waited till very late in the night to bike home.

The black scribbles on the card she wrote wished me to be happy daily. She is kind of parent who smiles heartedly when encountering teachers; and that kind of smile of her was something I hadn’t encountered for years, and something that reminded me of my own self in earlier years after graduation, ‘the sincerity found in your smile is so powerful that it speaks a lot of who you truly are without sounds.’H.L. had said to me, referring the way I smiled. Sincerity, sure; but innocence, also. And innocence is something too fragile to preserve, let alone hold firm. It’s simply too hard.

So pitiful is that flowers could hardly be preserved forever that I had stared at the petals for about a half hour. Still it was too short a time for flower-viewing and too precious a gift I’ve received that I took a photo to try to remember this moment a bit longer.

“Why taking photos recording bare hollowness?” someone had asked questions alike.
Perhaps, I thought, it’s for the life itself. The objects in the frame were dark, doomed, looked at with a narrow angle. Under the shabby roofs in that Spring festival holiday were people living. They were not rich materially, yet, though their new year imagination might be different with that of the abundant, their lives are no smaller than any.
Beside houses were trees growing, year by year.

Remembering the Unrememberable

By Tome Loulin

Seeing the sun set is like watching the most difficult and touching part of a movie, yet, having no control, just watching.

Partings and sorrowfulness are things worth remembering instead of forgetting, perhaps, for to live is to remember the unrememberable.

That was about a late autumn evening when I came out of the library that the reddening glow of the sun vanishing bit by bit. There were breezes coming from the lake beside the road. For so many years in my life I haven’t seen such warming and loving a scene of sun-setting that even the mere looking at the red round sun moving afar and down could make me unable to think out of the unthinkable past inside my heart.

I knew why I was vulnerable to sunset. Same is the place where I was walking alone to another walk I have had years ago when the person companioning me then was still studying in this university. Now it’s me alone in this campus. Maybe it’s late to reminisce about those walkings-along.

A lot of people beside the lake bank were photographing the sun with some who ride bikes making a stop to memorize this moment. What has been memorized?

I bought some oranges and packed milks after a dinner of stir-fried noodles, thinking it would be healthy to have some fruit for I haven’t been having fruit for about a month. It’s very easy for a person to forget to take some fruits, especially for those economically strained for the price of fruit has been steadily risen.

Days have become much shorter in colder seasons. After walking back to the library with almost a river of people passing me by, I find an place beside a tree to sit down and take my fruit and milk out to eat. There were many bikes parked in lines before me. The light is dark so those passing me by would not see clear that I was eating.

Before me is a girl who also ate and whose head bent a bit low. It’s not a particular thinking for me to find that the girl’s manner of eating had reminded me of another colleague of mine who has been friendly. Her signature smile to almost every one made me think of the sunset I’d seen hours before that day.

Though it was not a particular evening that I have taken some photos to record, Yet, looking at the photo is still something hard to forget.

In the evening, a soft voice from a girl trying to record the sunset went on: why am I unable to depict the sunset as it is?

秋日的夜

想起陶渊明的田园诗歌,不知,夜深的山林间,是否也是这样,冷淡间的独特感受呢?也许是幽静中带些深沉的想象,古代诗人的避世情节倒是比较容易满足。

by Tome Loulin

从理发店出来后,望着月光下的校园,深秋的晚夜,路上零星有些行人,湖边是寒雾,飘到夜路间。理发店的洗发师领着我进去,他微笑着,许久没有见陌生人对自己微笑过,好像偶尔抬头看到完满的月亮。洗头的时候,温水冲淋着我的头发,他的手好像也感到了些凉意,“哎。“他似乎自责道,又把水温调高了些。其实冷水我也可以洗,只是很久没感受过这样的温度,心中全是棱角分明的方块在碰撞着。“因为压力大了些,所以头……”我没往下说。“不会的。”他立刻回道。沉默中,自己好似冲刷在这暖潮里,正好流过水池的水也是温热的。

“不要把学习看的太紧了,压力太大了对身体不好。”他轻声说着。

“嗯,的确是这样的。”我回复道。

“以前在学校的时候,有感触,学习之余要多放松。你们现在有电脑,不一定玩游戏,偶尔看视频放松一下对身体也好。”他又说道。

温热的水流在发间流过,人闭上眼睛后就像在另一个世界,眼皮覆盖的视野,一切都是暗红色,黑色,他说话是协商似的口吻。也不是很特别的嘱咐,在那狭小的世界里,心中却好似有股暗潮涌过,自己很久不流眼泪了,但还是很知道这特别的滋味。

头发短些了,感受到的夜寒也深了些。薄雾的夜路间,一边是高大的树木,一边是栅栏外的车流,大部分时候都是我自己一人行走着。路灯下是模糊的影。从一条小路间走到回宿舍的大路边,寂静的树林间,暗绿色的草叶,有些像聊斋里的背景,自己好像不在现代,在古代。一人独自夜行,背一些行囊,无任何盘缠,黑暗中,也可能碰见别的什么来。古代的荒野间是所谓的江湖,好在自己只是匆匆过客,一切也不太沉重,那暗林间的石子路。

想起陶渊明的田园诗歌,不知,夜深的山林间,是否也是这样,冷淡间的独特感受呢?也许是幽静中带些深沉的想象,古代诗人的避世情节倒是比较容易满足;独自徘徊的时候,前路好似就如前方那幽暗的树林一样,宁静中带着些自己的想象。我们也要快乐一些。

独自徘徊夜径边,远槐幽然明月天。沉寂的秋夜里,白色的夜光,正好是明月将圆的时候,夜深也不太暗淡。

In A Misty Late Autumn Night

by Tome Loulin

It is dark in the night that I walk and walk after having my hair cut. “Because of the stressful lifestyles I was living, I am worried about this.” I murmured worryingly, gazing in the mirror reflecting my curved brows in the dim-lit room. “Don’t over worry about that.” The hairstylist beside me had consoled me saying. While lying on the hair-washing bed, feeling the warmth both of the water and of his hands touching my hair, I started to think of my family. “Besides learning things and reading books, try to have some relax because if you always read you will get bored perhaps even ill.” He continued, still washing my hair, softly. It’s because this hair saloon is located in our university campus that these staffers are hospitable while, quite contrary, if one goes outside of university, he may mostly experience certain kind of hostile and degraded services. “Yes, we students really need to take this easier for our health is the top priority and thank you.”

The hairstylist kept talking about the importance of having some recreational activities during university years. “Looking back in my own time in school, I always feel having some rest is important and sometimes I had been climbing off the walls that meant to prevent us from sneaking out of the dorms in order to play video games.” He said murmuringly. It has reminded me of some of my former classmates in my middle school years. Their innocence. Their lives. ‘Yeah, you said truly. We should have to get things a bit easier.” I replied, otherwise, it may prove to be too painful to go on living. To go on living.

So misty is the trails in the forestry park in our campus that while walking through the trial I felt as if turned back to ancient when there were scary hearsays intended to scary those who travel in the night: the possibility of getting caught by ghosts and robbers etc.
But with such a serene night, I feel for the first time after enrolled to my graduate school a sense of liberation, away from the external pressure, the pressure to be living up to others’ expectations and demands in order to have my humanness recognized. Walking alone on the roads in the night where other persons can seldomly be seen is sanity-saving. One needs no one to confirm his or her wholesomeness in order to feel loved and worthy of self-loving, instead, we need only our own bodies under completely our own control.

So loving is the people-less road where I am walking in the night that I start to feel being alone is another form of becoming free, free from others’ judgmental eyes, free from their watchful eyes. Today, we start, truly start to care of ourselves and those who love us truly, mutually, unconditionally as intense as tonight’s mist. This deep autumn night. This cold misty and beautiful night.

Looking from the Runway

“Pleasantly and well-suited I walk,
Whither I walk I cannot define, but I know it is good,
The whole universe indicates that it is good,
The past and the present indicate that it is good.”
Walt Whitman, To Think of Time

With air-conditioning on though the temperature that night was not high, yet, I slept, feeling that would be the best way to remember a passing season. It’s about going to autumn though the leaves of Gingko trees on the sidewalks were not turning. The little city wherein I live was not particularly good at being looked. Beautifulness might not be the sort of the words to describe these kinds of small cities. Expectedly, the season was changing.

“Summer or winter, they are seasons we have to live with, like it or not.” My grandmother replied me when I murmured that I hope summer could remain forever so I wouldn’t have to wear much clothes.

In the living room, with my grandmother folding clothes and my mother wandering idly, I took my camera and suggested to take some photos for us. A DLSR camera always requires someone to help control the shutter lest the photo taken be unwatchable so that we were unable to be pictured together for a long time and nowadays there wasn’t much freelance photographers to be find in such a small city.

“Smile, grandmother, and remain relaxed so your naturalness will reveal; say cheese.”

Several rounds later, my grandmother still smiles with eyes wide open, concentrated, a characteristic technique she learned during her younger years when being photographed was still a much celebrated and important activity. She takes this activity seriously.

Trembling and heart-rendered, I give photos to her for review.

“Old. Aged.” She murmured reluctantly. “Delete those.” Almost protesting.

So saddened was I for witnessing the passing of the time but unable to do anything to solace her still hopeful eye sight that I was standing idly with no idea what I should do later.

Going is the time.

So unspeakable are our lives. To live is to remember the unrememberable because that was something we could barely be able to live without.

Before I left my teaching job that I worked for about a year and a half for my postgraduate studies, some colleagues had been often trying to correct my pronunciation.

“This vowel you pronounced should be pronounced this way.” Miss D had said during a teacher’s training session.

“Oh, really? I didn’t hear him pronouncing this wrong.” The school master had commented.

I was standing in the classroom where bright lighting shone on my body. That was days before I started to teach my first class. No one said how good my spoke English is as if this is something unworthy of mentioning while a manager had flattered an other colleague for her good speaking skill.

“Correcting you is for the good of your future students.” A colleague had said. I said nothing in reply.

Helping from those strangers is something too much to bear. Their almost dispiriting desire to be seen as superior is too much for another stranger to behold.

Why do they think I need their help?

It’s been about two years that I didn’t live in Wuhan so I only have my memories to rely on.

It’s also a special time. And the reason I applied the graduate school in Wuhan is of the short distance between the city and my grandmother’s home.

The backpack is heavy-weighted but somehow its weight made me feel consoling. There seemed to be a lot of people going outside as usual at the railway station of Qianjiang. I did not sense out the difference of the passenger traffic between now and then. When the time came, people were hurry to line up, getting their tickets checked. only the prevalent mask-wearing had made the difference obvious. Travelers alike were keeping distance from others. I remembered in January when I saw the news of the outbreak, I felt anxious and called doctors to consult because some colleagues of mine had come back from Wuhan. And when I expressed my concern for going to the emergency hall of the hospital, the doctor replied calmly: “Don’t worry, just wear a mask.”

Doors of some shops inside the Hankou railway station’s underground floor were closed with shelves inside emptied while I waited for school bus. People sitting on the chairs were looking at their phone screens with masks donned.

Looking at Yangtze from the bus window, I saw cables of the bridge over Yangtze move fast. Over the misty river, the traffic was still busy. The city seemed alive and it was a rainy day.

I used to go to the bank of Yangtze and feel the liveliness of the city life and there always seemed to be tourists on the streets taking selfies. But things seemed different recently. Even I was in the bus there was an air of coldness that could be felt outside. Did Wuhan change or did I? Enthusiasm inside me seemed to be disappearing though I thought that could be a normal process of growing up. When I was little, I felt curious about everything unseen before and seldom bored about the most trivial things such as sightseeing the wild flowers and plants.

There was a gulf between the past and the present.

There are trees in the campus, very old and large trees, clustered together, making whoever walk there feel like being in a forest.

Years ago before my graduation when my grandparents had come to have a visit at the campus, three of us were walking together on a trail in the hill near my then university. “The air was fresh and I feel my skin had become better because of that.” I said to them.

My grandparents had only smiled back and continued walking. “It is beautiful.” They said.

Several days after my graduate school enrollment, at a interpretation class, I made a speech regarding educational equality and humanity after two world wars because of the professor’s encouragement of self expression in a new semester. After the class in an evening, a classmate approached me saying :“Classmate Lou(my surname in pinyin), how excellent English you spoke, have you been studying abroad ever?” “No. I just attended several online courses from Open Yale and other universities and you can try to have those materials obtained too.” I replied.

After hearing my speech regarding the pandemic recently in English when a teacher asked us to do some speech with whatever the theme we like, a dorm mate asked me whether I had contested in some English speaking competitions.

“No.” said I.

“You speak so well and so logic.” He said.

There was a sense of coldness in my dorm and I knew maybe I shouldn’t have exposed my English speaking in front of them.

While I was sitting before the class started today, a female classmate said loudly and ruthlessly: could you sit away from me? For teacher will surely focus on us.”

I was silent for a while. “what should I reply?” thought I.

“I won’t be very active to attract teacher’s attention.” I remembered saying.

“No, you have better sat far away from me otherwise I will change my seat.”

I said nothing. And other classmates was slightly beaming watching me.

I didn’t move.

Why should I move? For students are coming to school to learn things. Did she see me as a threat? So unprecedented were such coldness and hostility cast against me that I haven’t realized that I started to morally sanction my own wish to learn. Is such ostracizing attitude I felt justified? Why should I move instead of her?

Should I bend my dream for their approval?

 I had been name-called during my elementary years for I play games with girls.

There were so many things strange from my perspective, why should I be seen as normal in their eyes? For they had never cared about me?

While I walked on the runway over a street, I see mid-aged men carrying bags and luggage walk ahead, with blue face coverings donned. Their skin color was not bright. They must not know the need of sun protection. They wear simple-colored clothes. Seldom had I seen them smile. I don’t know what they were thinking.

While it is sunny today, the street I saw is still not recovered from its normal traffic.

Will it recover?

Another Moon

by Tome Loulin

Above me spreads the hot, blue mid-day sky,
Far down the hillside lies the sleeping lake
Lazily reflecting back the sun,
And scarcely ruffled by the little breeze
Which wanders idly through the nodding ferns.
The blue crest of the distant mountain, tops
The green crest of the hill on which I sit;
And it is summer, glorious, deep-toned summer,
The very crown of nature’s changing year
When all her surging life is at its full.
To me alone it is a time of pause,
A void and silent space between two worlds,
When inspiration lags, and feeling sleeps,
Gathering strength for efforts yet to come.
-Summer, Amy Lowell

On the last day of my job that I did for about a year and a half at a language school, I speeded up my pace to clean up my remaining belongings in the office. The photos of my students sticked on the wall of the classroom were stripped off and thrown into a dust bin by a female coworker who will later use the room. When I mentioned the photo and suggested to take the photos home, her mouth curled surprisingly, offered to pick up those photos thrown by her from the dust bin and said that she thought I would no longer need those photos because the students had graduated. ‘Aren’t they already graduated?’ She asked.

Though I worked for the company for about more than a year, I have either social nor medical insurance. So when I was admitted to the graduate school I applied, I decided to quit but have to work in the company for three more months because of the contract I signed.

Being required by the administrator of the school to stay after work because there was a ceremony to be held for the leaving of a colleague from Beijing, I glanced at the room where coworkers were gathered. Seeing them eating pre-sliced fruits, I decided to leave. A female recipient observed my intention to leave and walked into the room, imitating the way I walk with exaggerated gestures making other coworkers burst into laughters and said to other colleagues: ‘ Mr. Tommy was walking this way and said he will go anyway.’ She walked zigzag with the head raised.

At that summer early evening, the sun was late to set, giving more light than other days of other seasons. On the way home after leaving that office, I walked the way I usually walk and watched cars passing me by. I noticed my body being trembling uncontrollably. And for the first time in my life, I wanted to simply stop walking. I was thinking of me because at that time it is apparent that there in this world, only me, I myself could truly ‘think’ of me. I think of me not because of what I looked like, not because of what kind of clothes I wear, not because of which gender I am, not because of how much money I have, not because of what kind of the way I walk. Not because of anything in the world other than me.

They say
Don’t weep boy
Because you are
A boy.

They say
Be a lover instead of a beloved
Because being a boy biologically means
To love others instead of expecting to be loved.

They say
A boy should be like this
A boy should be like that

They say
They say

But darling
Who are they?

Who
Are they?

I am not like any boy nor any man

I am like a person. Another person. A person.

Quitting, for me, somehow and sometime, is like a rebirth. Just like paying the last homage and saying goodbye to the then will-soon-disappear three gorges scene in early 2000s. On the eve before the Three Gorges Dam was setting to be built, my father and mother had brought me to take a visit to the gorges. The advertisement said: to see the three gorges for the last time. It surely and always was the last time for people to see the three gorges of the Lang River before the dam to be built.

There are also people from other countries coming to have a last look. While on the board of the boat in the center of the water, the tour guide was telling folklore and history stories of the gorges to visitors as usual. I forgotten most of the detail but remembered a story of Wang Zhao-jun. Miss Wang, a resident of the gorges area, and sent by the emperor of Yuan of the Western Han dynasty to marry Chanyu Huhanye of the Xiongnu Empire in order to retain a peaceful relationship between the two, was memorized by local residents as a godlike figure protecting the safety of the people commuting through the gorges part of the Long River. And according to local tales, there was a statue of Wang Zhao-jun on a mountain top of the Xiling gorge safe-guarding the people traveling through the gorges.

Then people on the touring boat changed the topic, saying that when the dam is built, these cultural and natural heritages echoing the past of our people as a whole will forever be submerged. Also gone was our memory of the lives in the gorges. Looking at the pebbles under the water, I heard echoes of monkeys that were jumping on and changing different trees. Li Bai, a poet, while passing through the gorges, had written a poem: The sounds of monkeys on the either bank of the valley seldom cease. And when learning this poem in school courses, I always thought of the sounds I heard during my travel with my parents in the gorges before the dam was built. And it may be then that the echoes of monkeys in there had been stayed in my mind forever.

Maybe overwhelmed by the intense parting feelings, some tourists started to talk about the mythicised death of the poet, Li Bai: on a boat at a midnight at the center of water, drunken as usual, Li Bai, after seeing the soft reflection of the moon on the water and confusing the moon on the water with the real moon in the sky, determinedly jumped off the boat into the water in order to pursue the moon on the water. It’s a romantic re-imagination of the very poet’s death and reflected the narrator’s own romanticisation of the very story. Surely enough, every ethnic group has its own myths and romances reflecting its past and ethos. That story is even saddening and beautiful. Are we forgoing our history or are we becoming negligent in our very imagination of our past as a whole? Those heritages submerged, boat trackers in the gorges area, and the people commuting to and fro the gorges are becoming another reflection of the moon on the water of the gorges but now who is fascinated to that moon? That clean and soft moonlight.

Gone with the moonlight was the past; left unforgotten was the hope. Their hope for reconciliation and reconstruction.

And at this later summer night, I have seen a full moon in the clean sky. How soft is the light. How fine, tranquil and free.

Wandering through the Alleys

I saw people walking on the street and though it is a small city, I feel being small is also like being on the way to our very origin.

by Tome Loulin

This small city—Qianjiang, yet, not a particularly special one, while on the south of the Han river, is in no way like a river town. Though having been living there sporadically for almost ten years, occasionally, I could still somehow feel waves of unfamiliar feelings engulfing the shores on the inside of my heart.

Yet, it’s another summer reaching its culminated phrase in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s the season of passion and ardency, yet, still fleeting in nature. It’s summer and people are tired of not being able to socialize or to live collectively. Young people who used to be studying or working outside of the city now are coming back to the city to work for jobs relating to gig economy. It is seemed suddenly young people who had previously absent from the city have come back for good—there are still people living here planning to work or study in Wuhan or other big cities but this time most people are not going, for there are times they could wait. So they waited and wait.

Mostly abandoned by educated youngsters, the city had looked like a city of the aged and the new born. It’s still full of people walking aimlessly and not a single one seemed much affected by international politics. Yet, parks in the city are filled by retired people, mostly women, dancing and exercising—surely those who dance regularly must have known what is the best way of living. Old ladies cluster together, sitting still to talk about their old love stories or rumors, yet, still some are eager to master the art of mahjong playing, sitting beside mahjong tables in mostly shabby spaces with dim lighting. They don’t mind such conditions as long as they can have something to talk about, to play with and to laugh at.

The sidewalks of the road beside my apartment have been undergoing a gentrification motivated, I guess, by the intention to help people who want works work. Most of those working at this road renovation site are middle aged, mostly men with sunburnt skin. They just work and rarely were seen to talk. Their browned skins are the products of their unawareness of sun protection but how can they care about their skins when they cannot stop caring about how will their next meal come securely.

In a street in Qianjiang, by Tome Loulin

Days before at an afternoon when I was on the way home, a man middle aged with curled hair at middle-length carrying a plow on one of his shoulders passing me by impressed me when I saw his bitter yet still warm smile on his face. At that moment, though he was no longer seemed young but I still feel his overlooked passion for life. It’s about hope. His hope expressed by his shy smile was at that time as vivid as the sunlight that afternoon.

It was about six past forty when I saw a pair of seniors holding hands stroll through the street through which I go to my grandma’s house. Their movements had been shaky and zigzag yet still as steady as one can be at that age. It was a beautiful yet burningly hot evening. I saw people walking on the street and though it is a small city, I feel being small is also like being on the way to our very origin.

A Hometown of One’s Own

Everyone’s hometown could be regarded as unrecognizable at some rate after all. Surrounded by rows of emptied houses, feeling lonely, witnessed neighbors to have moved away from here, I knew what was life in a lonely town like. Although I had never gone to Sahara desert, but felt deeply after reading San Mao’s–a traveling writer–‘The Stories of the Sahara’ because of the emptiness of this lonely countryside.

Because my grandparents worked as doctor and nurse, I had witnessed peasants, both sexes, undergoing gastric lavages in the emergency room–which was simply a bed placed in the lobby–in order to be rescued owing to their suicidal acts by gulping pesticides. I had saw them laying on the bed unresponsive surrounded by crying relatives who wore over-worn clothes with dried muds stained on their pants and were sunburnt, sobbing, kneeling. They were people living in the fields.

The town itself was like any other one in rural China—though lacking cultural activities but authentic at some degree. I had never travelled out of my home county but never given up thinking about what would outside world like: would that be some place better than mine. My family lived in the near edge of the town but were not farmers. Grandparents working in local hospital were living a very simple life.
There were birch trees before our front door, unoccupied fields cultivated with vegetables. Every afternoon then I remembered seeing the reddened sun set west like Monet’s impressionism paintings, blurring, engaging.

My mother was scared to sleep alone–although she had me to be with–so that she had requested a female coworker to companion her. I was very happy to have a new guest in the house and had requested mom’s colleague to companion me to tour around the town and she agreed. Holding hands, we had reached before a lotus pond.

‘Lotus’. She said to me, pointing her fingers not very far away. Some lotus leaves was above the water and withered lotus darkened. There was a silence and both of us haven’t spoken about anything but gazed at that pond, motionless as if stunned.

She must had felt about the inevitable force of life and death of the lotus but she had just taken my hand, led me home.

Our family had used twigs to cook and without grandmother’s help, mother cooked awfully as if doing chemical experiments. One day grandmother had gone to her mother’s house so we had to cook by ourselves. There were still some dried twigs in the keeping room, so mother had started cooking and I had watched her kindled stove. Then I fueled stove and saw smoke circling away through the chimney. After some minutes, somehow, the food we cooked was just over-burnt; while in shock but not very feeling shocking, I thought we must have been very careless about cooking to have such an outcome.

When we moved to an apartment near the main street, I had tended aloes, cactus and flowers and because of the southward balcony, the outcome of that tending was very fruitful. When felt idled I could be sitting beside those potted plants watching and watering them for hours and still feeling refreshing. Those days were always gentle and loving because of those flowers. So years later when I lived in a place where the sun didn’t shine much, I felt lost that I couldn’t tend potted flowers. And because of that, when a university classmate, Sarah talked to me enthusiastically about her tented flowers in her balcony, I had felt envious.

Sarah said that while she was growing up, her grandma had treated her critically compared with her younger brothers. ‘My grandma preferred boys.’ She said. And when in a late summer night, sitting on a stair after a day of fruitless job seeking, we talked about what we had dreamed about our future and she said she had always dreamed to own a flower shop in order to live with flowers—her favorite thing. Worked for a flower shop with a low pay, feeling defeated by the reality, she said she had to quit her job as a flower seller. ‘It cannot make me a living.’ We bent our dreams in order to live.

Sarah had said to me that in her backyard was a fruit tree that was very very huge and her love for flowers and plants was because of that tree. And every time when she thought about the flowers, she thought about the tree.

The town itself was no longer recognizable while I walked in the narrow main street again but never so strange had I felt because in my memory this currently dirty, narrow, lifeless main street was a street full of people, wide, hustling. Never once had I felt so helpless when finding out that hometown was forever gone, and only existed in my memory.
Or maybe that town had never existed; I had remembered that wrong, had deceived by my inaccurate memories—those overly-loving memories. ‘Life was like walking back to one’s hometown and finding out how strange it was to call it hometown, again, as if something gone had simply gone, gone.’ I had joked to myself, smiling while saw those shattered country roads. In some ways, it had never gone.

‘Aren’t you a Qianjianger?’ Joseph, a colleague of mine, had asked me when asking me why not speak Qianjiang dialect. I had excused that because the town I lived had been forgotten by Qianjiang city. Was I mourning the fall of my hometown or why. Was I living in the past unable to face the reality that the hometown in my memory was no longer there?

Chinese families usually celebrate their children’s birthdays when they were one, ten year-old, their successful university enrollment and marriage banquet. I had only remembered my 10 year-old celebration in a very old, dirty restaurant but still felt happy maybe because those grownups coming to celebrate with me didn’t judge me in someway. I had never held a university enrollment banquet because I felt uncomfortable to face my sharp-mouthed relatives and the university that admitted me was not well-known, in those relatives standards. With a cake and smiling grownups surrounding me, I blew out the candles on the cake. Those grownup had devoted their time for me at that time to celebrate with me. We were poor but we care about others. My childhood lacked materials but never lacked people caring others’ emotional needs. I didn’t know their names but still feel grateful for their time devoted to me at that time. I am thankful for their attention.

‘You said Qianjiang city had neglected your hometown, now you see those beautiful newly-built roads, I hope you would be forgiving about the city because we are all just that—not that rich to care for every town.’ Joseph had said to me. I managed to calm down a wave of sadness inside me and thanked him.

When I was in elementary school, teachers had asked us what we wanted to be in the future. I was always unable to answer that question. ‘Surely you will be somebody and leave here in the future.’ A teacher said to us.

Slouching toward Wherever the Sun Shines

‘Sunshine cleaning’, a movie I watched years ago, presented stories about different women who divorced and tried to restore their savaged lives back to normal with positive thinking and challenge taking traits, and its characters’ willingness to endure and change. For most of us, life may be seen as living with challenges that need to be overcome, and we manage and get through. At that point, every person may be seen as a sort of hero.

the weather, in the Northern Hemisphere is getting much warmer and the sun much brighter and shiner, so shine I feel enlightened, physically. Do you love summer time? Answers may vary but I thought, most people may not dislike sunny days. Sunshine is bright, clean, and loving, and also evokes positive feelings. Looking on the windowsill in my room, full of potted greenies and flowers, which are blossoming progressively like burning kindles. Glistening lights are basking in my room, making it finer and softer. I feel happier staying in sunlit room maybe because that gives people a warmer imagination for our future lives, and strength to overcome the hardships we face.

I’ve always remembered that summer my father took me a tour outside of a elementary school when I was six-year old. His belly bulged and he wore a dark-red T-shirt. Leading the way to that school, on the trail outside the school fence, he turned his face back, facing me, slightly smiled and raised his forearm pointing towards the front-door of the school, saying that he prepared to let me study at that school. I felt his pride while he talking, saw swarms of pupils playing on the playground, crazily, enchantingly. That was summer; the small path we walked outside the school was surrounded by walls of burning ivies and greens. That was an afternoon, the most clear and exhausting one in my memory. “Dad.” I remembered saying and he answered slowly, softly and gently. “That’s a good school.” He said.

After a fierce argument between my parents, my mother had temporarily taken me back to her hometown that year so I didn’t go to that school. Every September when the school year began, I remembered that walk with my father, his gentle tone with his will to enroll me to that school. I didn’t forget though he had never mention that again. But I know as long as summer continues to come I won’t forget that summer when he walked with me beside that school, with water-clean light.

After graduating from university, I had tenanted with one of my schoolmates, in an apartment near a lake in Guanggu, a newly constructed borough in the city of Wuhan. While in university, roommates were eager to find jobs to earn money. “Whatever the job is, I will do; and where there is a job, there is hope.” A roommate joked saying. But if one said he or she doesn’t want to find some work to do then, that won’t be true. They need money to go to restaurants, to buy extra outfits to increase their attractiveness and to show their power. Most of the students I encountered then wanted to work, to improve their living standards.

So hurry was I to find a work to do then that I was lost. I had met a friend, Bee who in his middle thirties, was working as freelance. In his age with an unstable working position, life was fragile and depending on luck. Though getting days by, he loved outings in mountainsides and thus invited me to go outside biking.

We decided to go to Jiangxia, a mountainous suburb in Wuhan, to have our afternoons pasted. We bought transit tickets and rented bikes to go into the forest in the mountain. There were trees and the sun shining sharply, making us sweating like mad. But he loved biking and often turned his face back to me encouraging me to compete with him on the mountain path on which we biked. There were raspberry bushes, whose twigs were full of thrones. Though unwashed, he picked those berries and ate happily, smiling to me. That was summer; there was sunlight. I knew life could be hard. He struggled to find a well-payed job to get him being able to stay in Wuhan. He said he had never thought about buying house in Wuhan, so expensive that he said he would never bother considering. “Do you know where can a person find a well payed job?” He had asked me. Struggling to make my ends meet, I said I didn’t know either. While sitting on the bench in the neighborhood where then I resided, I saw his face darkened, though that was a bright afternoon and the sun was near setting.

He said he always loved days we spent on biking together in Jiangxia’s mountainside because he felt he was alive by our energetic defiance towards money. Though we were both not living high-standardly, we felt happy and that was summer.

There is the light and it has come into my room.

As Happiness Is the Romanticization of Ephemerality

It was afternoon I walked and cycled on the lanes around East Lake. ‘Green lanes’ square-shaped signs showed. Trees and greens were everywhere as well as people cycling around the lake.

Breezing around the lanes, I saw happy faces as well as saddened, serious ones.

I wasn’t alone; I was with my friend.

There was a teen-age girl standing before the rock-made railing gazing at the surface of the lake, apparently saddened by her personal affairs. There was an unspeakable strength of saying nothing at all around her that could be seen by all passing her by. Had not life silenced people’s ability to express their feelings, they might still be willing to dream.Consciously saying nothing when one was obviously overwhelmed by something is a learned behavior. Learned helplessness, they, psychologists, called. Who had taught them that skill of not expressing their feelings? Mom usually says nothing while her eyes are apparently filled with untold uneasiness as though she have gone through a lot. Idling around the room then sitting on the armchair, mostly she was simply sitting, motionless, silent.

“Find something enjoyable to do, that may do you good.”

She will not listen.

Riding bicycles going towards wherever I was aimlessly was what I thought living. “I love to see you smile.” Zon said while sitting astride a bike looking at me, smiling.

I returned that smile and proceeded going into the deep forest in Jiangxia’s green lanes.

“How could a place be beautiful like this.” Zon meant the serenity of the forest we are in. “So serene that it seemed like a miracle.”

A miracle; It truly was, to me and Zon. So tender was to breeze around the trails in the forest on which we rode our cycles as free a experience as no one could ever have that I thought chancing our ability to understand very originality of living is a way to learn what is really worth having.

While resuming to go into the forest deeper, we expect no thing though still feeling fulfilled. Happiness to me seemed to be be that easy to obtain when we just noticed that there was a loquat tree beside the lane on the hillside and picked up some produce it bore to taste then that we didn’t realize it was such precious a thing to be cherished.

Before night people riding bicycles on a bridge over East Lake.

The loquat fruits we picked weren’t much tasty but they were everywhere; other tourists were idling picking those too. No one had said anything; they were eating, searching there for the next source of matured loquat fruit which could be much easier picked. Some seemingly delicious produce those trees bore were on the boughs too affluent to ignore and too high to be picked, about which we feel pitied.

So ephemeral was our trying to remember those sparkling bits in our lives in which we found our consolation when feeling hurt that we didn’t realize just that suddenly a moment we no longer knew what that very happiness was felt like.

Cool winds before night at that time in the forest of Jiangxia flowing through us made us aware again about our very nature of originality.

It had occurred to me that the less we expected about what we might be encountering around next corner of the mountainside, the more meaningful experience we might gain.

On the way home, seeing our shadows first, riding on the bikes, we felt thankful that we were on the right side of the lane at the right time as profound a feeling as a person could never imagine to experience.

And if in another portion of my heart I could still feel that part of me at that time, That smiling face of mine could still be felt there as much real as I could ever be.

On Lakes

Somedays were dreams, but some, you know, were not. Walking on the bank near the lake where I had walked many times before, I recalled so many memory fragments that belonged to me and some one whom I had befriended. The water of the lake, the lake of South, dotted with and surrounded by willow trees on its bank was and is shrinking. There the lake now has never happened of having the tide of the flood invaded its lower-bank again after a heavy rain, which had come to Wuhan in the year of twentysixteen, poured tons of water into the city and helped cause a catastrophe of flooding on the every inch of the city’s ground.

People in China had since friendly teased about that Wuhan as a coastal city had its main feature of sea view although the truth is that Wuhan is a inland city thus it does not own a perfect sea view. But at the same time, as this disastrous scene of flood got even worse, there was really no difference between whether to tag Wuhan as a coastal city or a inland one because it was simply a city on the verge of complete turmoil.

The city had since been turned into a sallow harbor which state had lasted nearly a month in that summer, a disastrous but enthusiastic period– we used to call it the raining season. You know, some people did feel the harm caused by the extreme weather but some did not. I could barely move down to the street to buy some food. Everything there and then was both dependent and independent. We were like being living in an island but had never felt to be so self-reliant and complete when I was picking up food from an icebox and cooking the food we’d bought online before. Food there were not expensive. Feeding ourselves at such an economical way at that time was a creative way of living, which our lifeworld had never been so colorful and fulfilling. Life is simple although it is full of challenges but that are the challenges we must deal with sooner or later. We loved it. Flooding waters had divided the city into smaller rivers. Every building that was standing higher than the depth of the flood was like an island. The winds that had been blowing heavily and constantly made us start to worry about the stability of the building we lived. I was worrying about whether the building would collapse by the force of floods and storms though it didn’t happen.

There is a picture I have shot gone to a sitting-on-the-bench girl who was facing on the surface of the lake. It was autumn, but the sky was so shiny and bluish that I had failed to realize that was autumn if I was not checking the calendar. The girl who sat on the bench might be full of an optimistic view since it was such a lovely day. The breeze was so tender it had made me heart-melting. I knew my heart was full of happiness when facing the lake I loved. Everything here and then on the bank of the lake I was facing had never been so familiar. The birch trees, stone benches, stone-made railings beside the bank, and mosquitos, they bite me as usual, had never been so enriching, vital and meaningful to me. Even the pain caused by the mosquitos’ biting could not shy me away from the land of wonder. I was thinking magically but that was the way I love.

Is the autumn here this year the new summer? Everything is unceasingly changing so to answer this question is just so meaningless maybe mostly because here the city I have been living for a long time has not rained much this year. And that is the real problem. This land is used to be called a hazy and misty land on the south of the river- the Yangtze. The axiom related to this issue of constant changing is something we have already known. But with a hope to preserve the moment we lived, we also want to do something even though we know that we can’t change the universal nature of changing. To live is to change. That is why we are always nostalgic. We don’t really own our time and our bodies since we cannot control it and it seems like that the only thing we owned is change. We still are, say, at this moment.