So, Are You Still Able to Walk?
I just got back from San Pedro, where I had a great Thanksgiving Dinner with my friends. Naturally, I had to load myself up with insulin, because you know that sugar is one of the main ingredients of the holiday. Still I had a good time and met some new people, who were very nice.
Schoolchildren with Teacher in Lima’s Plaza de Armas
It is now almost two months since I’ve returned from Peru, and it’s beginning to seem as if it all happened years ago. When you replace one present with another, it becomes part of an ever-diminishing past. Well, I have no intention of jettisoning some beautiful memories, such as:
- Seeing Peruvian schoolchildren, such as the ones above in front on Lima’s Palacio de Gobierno. (You can see the security personnel in the background.) Kids always make me feel good about the future, even if I don’t have any of my own.
- Being awestruck by the Volcano Sabancaya in eruption from Colca Canyon.
- Reliving my past by visiting the most ornate and gorgeous Catholic Churches I have ever seen.
- Experiencing heartfelt gratitude in Puno when I bought a handmade alpaca scarf from an old Aymara woman.
- Eating delicious wor won ton soup at a Peruvian Chinese restaurant, or chifa, on a cold day.
- Interacting with the Peruvian people in my broken Spanish, and finding it no bar to communicating with them.
- Feeling that the Inca moment in history is still going on, especially in the Sacred Valley.
Because today is Thanksgiving, I will give thanks for Peru and for all the other wonderful places I have seen, all the kind people I have met, and that I still have it in me to want more.
Winter Landscape by Sesshu Toyo
Years ago, at the opening of Dartmouth College’s Hopkins Center, I saw an exhibit of Sesshu Toyo’s Long Scroll and fell in love with it and with the Chinese landscape artists it was imitating. That was the beginning of my fascination with old Chinese landscapes and poetry.
The following lines by Fu Xuan (A.D. 217-278) are as good as the best:
A gentle wind fans the calm night:
A bright moon shines on the high tower.
A voice whispers, but no one answers when I call:
A shadow stirs, but no one comes when I beckon,
The kitchen-man brings in a dish of lentils:
Wine is there, but I do not fill my cup.
Contentment with poverty is Fortune’s best gift:
Riches and Honour are the handmaids of Disaster.
Though gold and gems by the world are sought and prized,
To me they seem no more than weeds or chaff.
Perhaps this Thanksgiving, we should be like the narrator of this poem. Living in the midst of abundance, perhaps we do not need to fill our glass with wine. As the poet says, “Contentment with poverty is Fortune’s best gift.” There is something to that. Today, and always, enjoy your dish of lentils.