I'm back, and I haven't written in forever. Oh, sure, yeah, I wrote on Dec 24th. And that was delightful. But it is now two weeks since, and not having written for so long makes me doubt my ability and feel all stretched away from it. I know I can write. So why can't I write? I want to write. But writing is over there, and I can reachy reachy all I want and can't get to it.
enough whinging. let me talk about other things.
I have been doing so much so much these last couple weeks, kids, it's hardly even funny. I have had Christmas and friendvisits and newyears and more friendvisits all in one, all one after another. They have been good. Over all of them, though, is laid a fuzzy, drawn-out feeling. I have, for some ununderstandable reason, been unable to grasp the moment so easily as I was doing a month ago.
So strange, this, because all those dragging days when I wanted to be at home, when I was sick as fuck of being over there and would've dropped it all in an instant to be back home: I can remember every goddamn second. And but now I'm here, Christmas flows into Boxing Day flows into the weekend flows into New Years, and now it's the 6th of January, and ... here I am?
I mean, I know where the time went. I can remember things, and feelings, and sensations, and thoughts, and conversations. But it's like it's all sliding together so much easier here and now.
Maybe it's relief?
Maybe it's eustress?
Maybe it's letting go?
I don't know what or why. All's I know is it's it.
On the 18th of December I ran from bank to bank to bank, getting that account set up; then last-minute packing; then last-minute seeing; then I went. I took the taxi with two chorus friends to the airport, and at the airport we talked for a while til I get antsy and left; then I went through security with my bag that weighed some ridiculous number of pounds and then sat in the waiting room, and then sat on the plane, and then sat on the shuttle, and then stumbled up the lane to my hostel. It's a good hostel and I always stay there; a new girl didn't recognize me and put me in a new room. I'd gotten women-only-four-beds, and i was the only one in the room, but this one had a long, wide window set in the opposite wall, and so when I slept it wasn't like being in a tomb, but like the world was out there.
I slept from ~1AM to ~10.45AM.
I woke and did some errands and then went and lunched with my Filipina Beijing friend in 日坛, the Temple of the Sun, at a little home-cooking place. I'd forgotten the neutrality of Beijing cooking: I've lived so long in China that Beijing food is no longer "Beijing food" but a ubiquitous sort of "this is Chinafood". You get a few Dongbei things in Beijing, but overall its food is just so very standard, so very run-of-the-mill to me, that I eat it and go "oh." Xiao Wang's place's food was good, but like that - we had two mutton ribs each (Dongbei spices), and split a plate of fried tofu in sweet-and-sour sauce (Chinafood), green beans and pork (Northern cuisine), and shrimps-with-pinapple (Chinafood). it was all very tasty, but it was all very "intro to China"-like - like it you went to an American restaurant and ordered ribs, coleslaw, and vanilla ice cream. They can be cooked well and taste fine, but they're not eye-popping foods.
Anyway, then wandered and talked a bit, and got invited to a din, then parted ways. I zoomed to NLGX, the Hutong Street, and had a wander down it that culminated in the umbrella shop and the purchase of something I've bene wanting to buy for years - my own, Chiense-style serious umbrella. Rainproof and properly made, this thing is tung oil (haha, tongue :P) and bamboo and can withdraw a pretty pile o preticipation, if you know what I mean (and you'd better). I bussed it on over to my hostel, outside of where, SURPRISE!, the post office hadn't yet shut.
it was 5.30. They clsoed at 6. I hot-footed it on back to my roombs and picked up my mailing stuff (lightening my luggage considerably) and hotfooted it on back (a real run through the hutongs - a route I guessed at throuhg the grey walls without windows, all windy and dead-ending despite parallel to the main road; all filled with the boilers and detritus of the restaurants out front of them, and then the subway and the jian bing lady cooking her pancakes there), and made it in time to post my brella and stuffs with ten minutes to spare. WHEHW
then out to Sanlitun, where i found one The Bookworm and met Wendy again, and we met a rather effusive friend of hers and listened to an entirely wonderful guitar-and-cello duet concert. Nice.
back, sleep, up I bussed to the art district 798 around 10AM, and spent three hours in zipping in and out of galleries. I tried to see as many as I could, and managed over twenty - nice! - then bussed back and lunched and tea'd in Dongzhimen. Found a waving cat for 38元 - nice! - and bussed then to the bank, money'd, hostel, grab bags, airport. Zoom, onto plane.
There were so many white faces. It was really just weird. I had an window seat and enjoyed hte hell out of it, particularly after dinner, by when hte lights had gone off and it was dark outside. We were, by then, flying over the Kamchatka penninsula - always one of my favorite parts of the flight. This night was particularly excellent, because, aside of being 30k feet overtop the cold land - there was a moon out.
It was a gibbous moon, and there was almost no cloud. I first started watching out when I saw, below us - but not so far as it could've been - mountains like sand dunes. This place hadn't unfrozen since - well, hell, for all I knew it didn't unfreeze even in the summer, by hte look of those mountains. They were like drifts of sand, only white, with a bluegrey cast from the night. They were sharp and long and along the edge of them was the edge of the land. We were flying right along the coastline most of the way, and you could see how the mountains' white turned into the white of the lower plains, and back up again, and all along their edge they ran into the coast. It was scalloped like lightning. You could see it in blue and white lines of broken ice and clumped is, all floating close to the land, with some openings of sea between them.
The sea showed more often as we flew further north. The mountains again, and over them a haze of diamond dust - high-altitude ice crystals falling slow and flat - that reflected the moon hazy below as well as blinding bright above. Then hte mountains stopped and there was te sea again, this time breaking off the ice into shoals and then large reaches of black water with a little sheen of moon over it. There was one place where I could see, below us, if I concentrated, darker patches -- land? islands? an archipeligo that hadn't been iced? -- but when the moon's reflection rode over them, I saw in their place, giant waves. They must have been monstrously huge, because I saw them moving, tiny and ribboned, even from 30,000 feet - and between then, the normal sea waves were like little lines acrosst the surface of the planet. You couldn't see horizons - everything went to dark mist along the edges - but you could pick out the stars beautifully. I saw Orion rise - first low and large on the horizon, early in the journey, then creeping up and Taurus after it, and the Pleiades, and meanwhile the moon, brighter than you could ever see it from the surface.
Past the huge waves, we continued over land, long and snowy, broken by lakes ice-edged and black. Then plains, with rivers, whiter than the scruffy white around them, flowing down to the water. Once, on one of these, I saw one yellow light. Only one. Monitoring station? Border? Fishing? How did they have power? How many people - five? Two? One? I watched that one til it fell behind us, and then watched for more. There were few others - one, one ,and then nothing for a long time. I got excited when I saw two, within - I guess it must've been miles of each other. One was toward the end of one of those twisting, giant rivers of ice. One was somewhere in the haze above the black water, a couple lights instead of one. Once, later, I saw a whole row of lights - five? six? twenty people? fifty? it was out on the black water, and then we returned to white land again, and stay for a long time.
The east came to us after 8 hours in the dark. I'd forgotten that, so far north, even later afternoon is black. We flew into the lightening sky for an hour, and after a time I could take pictures of the blue and white and blown land. Here there was all land and no sea, and the lakes were frozen over, and the rivers were so old that they had oxbows on their oxbows and curves overlaying their curves, all those extra tiny, unfinished flows and round little loops looping back in; they looked like if I left my braids in for three days.
The stewardesses made us close the windows, then, because the sun was finally up, and this far north, it shone in our starboard windows from two fingers above the horizon, brighter than you'd ever conceive of below. But it almost didn't matter anyway - three hours later the sun was setting behind the plane wing, and the darkness we'd just flown out of came back over us from in front. By now, though, there were orange splotches below us, spread out and patched across the land. It faded into cloud, and only at the end of the flight could we see again - lowering over the capital, flying over the Kennedy Center and the Potomac, and the spread-out suburbs of Reston and McLean, and then finally coming down into Dulles airport.
I suppose I have written now, and i suppose that's good. I have been reading so many books, but I will tell you about those later. I have many thoughts and feelings about them. But I suppose the one that resonates most with me right now - and how could it not! - is Ursula Le Guin's Left Hand of Darkness. I've read it before, yes. but this time I knew the cold, and I could understand the ice.