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The man who loves her is an artist. He managed to shoot this picture of Laning, my mother, with a broken, old Leica more than fifty years ago.

My mother was born to a Hakka father and a Fujianese mother. Her ancestors had crossed the Strait from Fujian and Canton to eke out a living on the subtropical Island of Taiwan, where pirates fleeing from Qing Dynasty authorities found respite from the law.

Hakka, meaing “Guest People,” are dubbed the Jews of China by some. They fled northern China, crossing the great rivers in the Fourth Century A.D. as Xiongnu tribes rode out of the Steppes. (The Xiongnu were the same Huns who migrated west and pressed Germanic tribes into Rome.) The Hakka women did not bind their feet and worked harder than their men, who were reputed to be lazy and avid gamblers. Many Hakka villages consisted of ring-like, citadels with a multitude of small windows; they wanted clear view of attacking natives who wanted to be rid of the newcomers. Some Hakka were pushed so far off the land, they ended up living on boats—giving birth, living and dying on the water.

The man who loves my mother is northern Chinese. His ancestor, some nine generations back, killed a tax official and fled the Village of the Yang Clan near X’ian. This ancestor followed the course of the Yellow River as it flows east, married a woman who lived on the shores of the Yellow Sea, and, together with their two sons, left for Manchuria, with all their possessions in a wheel barrow, during a time of famine.

After I returned from my three year sojourn in China, I could see that my mother has, largely, a Southerner’s features, transmitted to her by her Fujianese mother: higher cheek bones and flatter nose. The man who loves her has typical Northerner’s characteristics with the fuller face and the straight nose.

Yesterday evening, that man was exhausted from trimming the cypresses, so Mother and I took our walk in the meadow by the sea. The yellow bush lupines have come into full blossom. The orange-flowered shrubs, which resemble wild chrysanthemums, covered the rocky slopes, punctuated by Indian paintbrushes, and low-growing purple lupines. But there were no birds. Not a squawk of a gull, no flapping of pelicans in the lagoon, no cormorants skimming the wrinkless sea, no squeaking blackbirds in the tule. And we saw no one. We were the last people on fogbound Earth.

My seventy-five year-old mother is slower, but she kept pace with me for the hour-long walk. Her face flushed as we ascended the hill, the cross at the apex, as if signaling Spanish explorer, Portola, to return. I could hear her breathing harder. I looked at my bodhisattva, with all the gratitude in my heart for the great good fortune of being able to walk with her, side-by-side, and to take her jacket when she grew warm.

Today is Mother’s Day, but it is just another day, a typical one in which I look at her with intensity like sunbeam through a magnifier, because each of the remaining days we have together is to be the most thoroughly cherished.

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is a superb artist, so not surprised he took a great photo of a beautiful and wonderful woman, Laning. Edward Weston would have been proud of that photograph.

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Beautiful Photo, Lovely Mother

What a lovely celebration of your mother.  I love the photos, helps me see them and you in a new way.

Your story of being able to see them more clearly after returning from China is so amazing, knowing their place in the world is a gift.



Jessica Barksdale Inclan www.jessicabarksdaleinclan.com

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Thank you for sharing....

...the photos, the love, and your special relationship. It warms my heart.


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Oh my--

You can tell that whoever was behind the camera was in love with the subject. Isn't that amazing? Beautiful images and words.

Kristy Kiernan

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Steve, Jessica, Darlen and Kristy--

Thank you for your comments.

I always think of May Sarton, the poet/novelist, who said she could always go to her parents and complain about "this pig of a world." Sarton was an only child like me. I dread the day I will no longer have my parents to turn to when I need to complain about this pig of a world, I saw a picture of a 104 year-old parent and his 75 year-old daughter and think, hey that will be us.

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An astounding photo!

What a moody, misty and mysterious photo.  Indeed world-class work.  All the technology in the world can't capture something like that. When I see something like that, I almost believe the world really is black and white.  (Of course, in the winter up here...it's pretty close!)

     It's art that gives us a reminder that not everything about the world is piggy.  We writers, photographers, painters, architects have a responsibility to de-piggify the world as much as within our power. 

     One of my heroes/mentors in this whole depiggifying business is Paul Graham.  He says that all good design is somewhat suggestive.  It leaves a lot to the imagination, with unsolved mysteries and possibilities.  This is just what I see in that photo.  It is both timeless and timely.

Golly...I'm starting to wax poetic.  I do have a good supply of poetry wax, but I'll save some for later. :)


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This is so lovely.  Pleased to know this about your family. -- William Poy Lee