Est Bonum Vitae

Mother’s Day, 2017

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Picture: My sister, Gail with Lukas, Alexis (daughter), Lily (age 9), me, Emmy (age 5) and Manuela (daughter-in-law), and Kaiya (age 2 and a half)at  the beach on Mother’s Day

Carl Jung believed that, as we get more mature, we are able to identify with more and more of humanity, with the planet and, ultimately, with the Universe. We have stronger feelings of being connected to everything. I think I’m finding this to be true. This month, it includes feeling more and more connected to my Mother who died in 2001. It hit me a couple of mornings ago, watching myself put on make-up in the bathroom mirror. I suddenly though of all the times that I stood in the doorway of her bathroom, watching her put her make-up on in the morning and take it off at night. Last weekend, my granddaughters stood around and watched me get made up in the morning.

My Mother would say things like “Never wash your face with soap,” as she rubbed Lady Esther cold cream, swiped from the jar with two fingers, on to her face and began scrubbing it off again with Kleenex. “And put lotion on your whole body every day,” she’d say as she pulled the bottle of Jergen’s Cherry Blossom Body Lotion from under the sink. She went to bed with cream on her face and lotion all over her body every night. She always took a shower at night. So do I. We learned to get into bed clean. A shower in the morning is a nightmare in my book.

That feeling of connectedness is sweet. I felt it again the other night as we watched a program on CNN called “Jesus: Fact and Fantasy.” Each show begins with a recent archeological find and pulls back to the political and economic situation of the time and then zooms in again on the details of living every day.

Apparently, they have recently found a site where they believe Joseph and Mary lived when Jesus was a boy. The narrator casts Joseph as a successful artisan, who had a nice home (several bedrooms) and would have had disposable income (modern terms seem so odd in this context). Mary would have had some jewelry (glass beads, twine, shells). Mary was probably a spinner—an artisan herself, he notes. She probably owned some cosmetics—kohl around her eyes and something to pink up her cheeks. I suddenly felt like Mary could be the woman next door. The narrator speculated that she would have read the Torah to Jesus. He noted it was the responsibility of a Jewish woman to school her children in the Tanakh, the traditional texts of the Jews. Now, this point is disputed and one of my friends has argued that she was, most probably, illiterate. Nonetheless, being in charge of Jesus must have been a challenge, what with him running around arguing with the rabbi and so on.

It came to me that I felt connected to all women, back to Eve with her fig leaf, flowers in her hair or an African woman with rings in her ears and her nose. Cleopatra with kohl around her eyes. Women have been painting their faces (as my mother would have called it) and teaching their children since the beginning of time. It feels like these daily rituals are the ones that trigger that connected feeling. Funny how small actions link us to the largest feelings. Jung argued that we connect with the ancient archetypes of human race—Eve (mother), Cleopatra (warrior), Spider Grandmother (fire carrier for some native people), Empress, Crone, Sage.

In those moments of connectedness, I am filled with a sweet calm that is rare in this bustling house with friends and children and grandchildren. It’s a floaty feeling, a little nostalgic, maybe, certainly a faint longing. You can notice your breath go off into the universe. The Yogis tell us to breathe out compassion. Sounds like a good plan to me.

Here is a poem for Mother’s Day that I wrote maybe 30 years ago:

Second Thoughts

They take the last pickle in the jar,

drain cartons late at night and leave

juice on the window sills where

I can’t see it until it sticks to the glass.

Also, I have no juice in the morning.

They start stealing real small,

pens and pencils, working up to

five and tens, not to mention

twenty-five years from the middle of my

grown-up life including one track

of my mind even when I am supposed

to have a weekend to myself.

I hate them because they don’t know

how much better it is to have me for a mother

than my mother. They can’t imagine life

without Palm Springs or MTV, because

they don’t pull weeds or wash windows,

because I would rather die myself,

because I won’t ever know how it

would have been without them.

 

mothersday2

mothersday2

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Equinox

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Sitting in a cafeteria-style diner that sells soup in New York City, having been served Asian Ginger Mushroom Soup with way too much cornstarch, I’m waiting for an 8:40 flight on Virgin Airlines to deliver Larry and Lily to JFK. Larry was seventy last month. Lily is nine. I will be seventy-three in March, and you know what? It is very fine—excellent, in fact.

There is a certain sense of joy and relief at being over seventy. I will, no doubt, find many things to gripe about and sorrows aplenty, just like in the rest of life. But, to my relief, I have turned out all right. It has all turned out, and I am as satisfied as a fat cat in a sunny winter window. Oh sure, things go wrong in my life, but the thing is, they cannot any longer have gone wrong early. ‘Early’ in my life has been over for a while now. No matter what happens from here on out, I’ve done all right, and I no longer have the time to really mess it all up. My kids are interesting adults. My grandchildren are handsome, healthy, and (of course) gifted.

I know that the world is in a state, and it troubles me often. The knowledge drives me to join up, to donate, to get trained, and so on; but I no longer worry about it  so much. The world has been in a state for all of my life. From Hiroshima (when I was not quite eighteen months old), through the Cold War and the War in Vietnam, right on up to the Clinton/Trump election, the world has always been in a state. There is so much to be done. There always has been, but I’m convinced that you can’t stop it from being in a state. Old age brings some certainties.

Meanwhile, I find much to appreciate. For instance: the people of New York, despite their harsh demeanor in restaurants, have been friendly to me at every turn. Maybe it’s my age. And I’ve noticed that these days the highway patrol peeps (especially the young ones) take one look at my license and then gently remind me to drive safely, preferably at under eighty miles an hour. (The frequency of this response is increased by mentioning that one is going to pick up, or coming home from dropping off, one’s grandchildren. And this has happened to Larry, too, so it isn’t only that I’m so insanely good-looking—for my age, of course.)

Having time to do small things—to read labels in the store, to nurture seeds, to go the extra block or two with the dog, to talk for an hour with a four-year-old—is lovely. Not doing things is also a luxury. Being able to take a nap in the middle of the day on a Tuesday is terrific. I used to say things like “What do you think I do all day? Lie around watching television and eating bonbons?” Drop by these days, and you might just catch me with a bonbon or two.

Furthermore, I have few regrets. I could have made other choices, taken different turns at many points; but since it’s all turned out pretty well, The Way It Could Have Been doesn’t haunt me. When I first began to study aging, I was struck by a piece of research that concluded that women over seventy worry less. I’ve been waiting ever since to see if that was true. Seems like it may be—though I am loth to tell you this, in case doing so should trigger a curse that then gives me something to worry about. Like how my mother used to warn me that she’d give me “something to cry about”.

So: I’m not crazy about aging, and I’d just as soon it stopped right now. But old age?

Old age—like old friends, old love, and many kinds of old cheese—is just fine

Dancing Penguins

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photo: Larry Severance

I thought I’d skip over the whole Holiday/Christmas/Hanukkah/ thing and go right for New Year’s Eve.  December can be intimidating.  For example, Muslims hold the traditional commemoration of the birth of Muhammad, complete with home and street decorations on either the 11th to 12th of December (Sunni), or the 16th to 17th of December (Shi’a). Did you know that Buddhists celebrate the Day of Enlightenment, referring to the day the Buddha was enlightened, on December 8th? Hindus celebrate the five-day festival of Lord Ganesha, the Patron of Arts and the Guardian of Culture, during the second week of December.

Of course, the 21st is the shortest day of the year, the Modraniht or Winter Solstice festival of the ancient Saxons. The Romans honored the deity Saturn on the 17th. Modern Humanists call December 23rd HumanLight Day, and Kwanzaa runs from December 26th through January 1st. The current tagline “Happy Holidays” certainly seems to underplay the gravity of these three weeks for the human race. Perhaps we’ve always wondered if the sun would actually return. What if we are abandoned in the dark?

It is so deep in our bones to yearn for light about now.  We have to inundate ourselves with errands and To Do lists just to stay awake. I certainly feel like hibernating when the sun starts to set at four‑thirty— or, in Seattle, even earlier. So, tonight, my dear friends, I have decided that something cheery is in order.  One of the great things about celebration, regardless of what you call it (or even what time of year it is): we get to dance.  It’s the dead of winter, and people all over the world are dancing.  So here is a poem for you about how much I love to dance.  I hope the New Year brings you ten new things you can love as much.

Judy

I can never hold still when
there’s a beat, even if it’s
ballet.  I feel my arms float up,
my calves tighten.  I want to
leap, to whirl, to grab my
tiara.  When it’s foxtrot, my feet
shuffle without my permission.
When it’s tango, my spine
stiffens, my head snaps, but
OH, when it is rock ‘n roll,|
there is no way to shut
down the need to wriggle,
to stomp, to fling myself up
hard against the music.
When I am a hundred and two,
I’ll be on the floor, face all
nonchalant, limbs akimbo,
wheelchair afire with
rhythm.  I’d die for sure
if I couldn’t dance.

RMP

Residential Moving Psychosis

Downsizing.

I’ve done it before, at least twice — once the second time I was divorced, and then again the year I moved to Seattle. But the thing is, I’d only owned each of those places for a year or two before I sold them.

Larry and I have owned the house that is our Seattle home for 27 years. Larry owned it by himself for three years before we married, and hasn’t cleaned the basement once in those 30 years. After the first time I fell down the basement steps, I never ventured down there much. But Larry accumulated 30 years of papers, photos, tools, sporting gear, old office machinery, paint and oil and cleaning fluid, and nice wood he might possibly use one day. You cannot help a person who considers sorting paper clips and rubber bands worth the while.

Moreover, basements are evil incarnate. (Can something inanimate be incarnate?) They’re full of dust and old spider webs. Sorting out 30 years of stuff that covers the whole spectrum from Completely Valueless Object to Prized Souvenir is a nightmare. The basement, attic, or garage where you do the sorting is only the dysphoric landscape where the monster lives. The box you haven’t opened since you stashed it there 30 years ago is the monster itself.

At first, I tried to help him. It was useless. After collecting a few relatively full bottles of Pine Sol and ammonia, I abandoned the project. Larry trudged on. Three days later, he had maybe a dozen boxes. Such a struggle we have with our stuff. People I’ve talked to about it, talk about cleaning out the house after their parents died. All right!

I’m never moving my own stuff again. They’ll have to dig me out of this house with a stick. Now that I’m old enough, I’m planning to leave all of the boxes that now reside in our garage in Santa Barbara for my children to worry about after I’m gone.

I’m beginning to feel that way about a lot of things lately. There isn’t really enough time left for me to fix anything that’s gone wildly wrong (and a few things have, for sure).

There’s a certain relief that the running of things is now off my shoulders. There’s a woman running for President this year, something I never thought I’d see; and I feel personally responsible for part of that, at least inasmuch as I pursued my own ambitions. I’ve put in my time as a feminist, and as an ally of the LGBT movement; I’ve tried to support the people of color I’ve encountered. So. Now I guess it’s up to Gen X and the Millennials. And they are so young! Egads, and so forth — as old people always say.

Layers

layerspainting by Lily Burdick, age 5

June was my last month as a member of the doctoral faculty at Fielding Graduate University. I am officially retired. I still have a few students as an adjunct and few projects to complete, but I feel retired. My friend, Kjell, is retiring too. It’s not the loss of the work that’s hard, he says, it’s the loss of identification. There is professional identification, of course, but there is also the identification with an institution. For many of us, loyalty to an institution and belief in its mission are important parts of life whether you create quality ice cream or change out hearts. You are a member of the faculty, of the bar, of the team.

For me, finding a new institution is an important part of my retirement. I have just finished training as a hospice volunteer and I see that one of the reasons people volunteer is not just to serve others but to serve an institution. I am passionate about the mission of hospice and I feel renewed purpose, enlivened curiosity and the desire to pull together with other people toward a worthy goal. Not being paid for it is, in some ways, the best part. The admiration and appreciation you feel from other people, especially the people who recruited you, is flat-out amazing.

More about hospice later, but, for now I must say that I hadn’t realized how many layers there are to this retirement business. It seems like the first frenzy is about money and health insurance, dental and long-term care. You will probably have those replaced by the time you actually leave a job (at least you should).  You have to have to replace it by the day after you leave because, if you wait, you could lose the chance to buy supplementary insurance.

There’s a layer about friends and routine and getting dressed in the morning. Some days, I miss my work clothes. It’s surprising, however, how easy it is to fill up the day by taking time with your tasks: reading labels, comparing prices, using a clay mask on your face. But I miss those casual work friends to grab for lunch, or to roll my eyes with when the boss is being a jerk.

Then there’s a layer about choosing bigger commitments than working out or watching Survivor with your spouse (sister, friend, grandchild). Volunteering is a commitment, but so is seeing the world.  It requires time and money and a certain kind of passion. There are hours spent booking a trip from Barcelona to Antarctica (Larry’s doing that in November) or trying to learn three words in Chinese. Getting good at anything (golf, tennis, piano, blog writing) requires commitment. Puppies and grandchildren count. There are jillions of choices.

Oh yeah, and then there’s getting old itself. You are old at 72, I don’t care how healthy you are or how good you look. My friends and I have multiple inexplicable symptoms. My teeth hurt; my eye twitches; a shaft of pain makes its way through my occipital lobe. I have various digestive problems. I can’t get up as fast as I used to, and things bag and sag and bulge. All of us see more doctors and (just like we said we never would) we talk about our health.

At the bottom of it all, of course, and in a completely new way, lies the giant hereafter, no longer a distant possibility but a near-term inevitability, which isn’t (as they tell us at Hospice) a bad thing, really.  Just a new thing that can deepen the experience of being alive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chinese Spring Part 2

Shanghai

Chinese spring: part 2

Shanghai is called the Paris of the East for good reason. Farmers’ houses, new and neat as baby teeth, give way to apartment megaplexes between the airport and Pudong side (still Shanghai, though) where buildings shaped like bows and spirals, topped with spires, domes and crowns line one side of the river. French and British colonial buildings crowd the opposite bank. Bridges boats and ferries carry lively commerce between the two. Underneath, one of Shanghai’s new subways roars through a tunnel.

 

Shanghai is beyond words, beyond beautiful, bustling, brash. It sparkles like a sapphire on a fine day, broods like a child in the rain. In a 19th century set of trade agreements, the Chinese government ceded land to the French, the British and the Americans along the river. The chic French concession offers shop after shop crammed with silk dresses, soft leathers, fine jade in rainbow colors, much of all the tea in China. Old town is thronged with gawking Spaniards, Aussies, Brits and Koreans. A Swedish festival is on offer along with thousands of red paper lanterns and rows of plastic cats sitting on their hunches waving one arm up and down.

Our guide tells us we must just say “no” to all the vendors and beggars, but Larry slides a few yuan into the bowl of a woman who reminds us how unfathomable fate is and how privileged we are.

 

We figure out how to take the subway, forcing our ears to pick up unfamiliar sounds, our brains to focus on words that have zero meaning even when translated into Western letters. We struggle to make the sounds that convey “please” and “thank you, good morning, yes and no.” All we really master is Nihau, “hello.” We fall into bed at night, mindful of blurred impressions, bellies full of pork and noodles, pickled green sea creatures and watermelon.

 

Suzhou

suzhouboat

 

My students, Jane and Wendy, both live in Shanghai. They invite us to visit Suzhou, a city of several million an hour and a half from Shanghai by car. We plan to spend the night at the ancient house and garden of a famous scholar that has just been renovated and renamed Blossom Hill Resort. We follow Jane and Wendy down a narrow alley paved with smooth stones, lined with low whitewashed houses that sport black tile roofs.  Hung from the end of each row of tile, pewter medallions shaped like fat arrows appear where simple gutters are lodged in American homes.

Through a carved lattice gateway, we enter a modest looking lobby that opens on a quiet garden. A garden is the pride of the Chinese courtyard home. We roll our luggage past the middle building and climb the narrow steep stairs in the back of the second courtyard. Through another latticed gate, we find a lovely sitting room with bedrooms on either side. This was the quarters of the scholar’s wife 700 years ago. Our room lies behind an old wooden door. An antique table and chairs greets us, a carved wooden sofa in a nook beyond.

A silk screen, 10 feet high and embroidered with the mountainous landscape serves as a headboard for the king-sized bed. The ceiling is beamed with polished mahogany. The mahogany is carved at the corners and where the beams meet to form a cathedral ceiling. The bathroom has a Japanese toilet (if you don’t know about these, look them up) and a frosted glass shower that reaches to the cathedral ceiling. It’s possible that we have died and gone to heaven.

blossomhillbed

The first afternoon, we visit the Humble Administrators Garden, a place with Chinese lupines and azaleas. We wander over the smooth rock pathways inlaid with frogs, cranes, bats and flowers. We wind around the streams, over the bridges, through the tiled roofs; each turn offers a new perspective. Willows drape down from banks lined with boulders, each chosen for its color and shape. Mosses and vines grow from cliffs and crevices. Wood ducks float in the ponds.

humble garden 15

On the second day, the highlight of the entire trip arrives in an invitation to a private luncheon at the Suzhou Art Institute. The Institute features the work of a multimedia artist and we are about to understand what that means. We are ushered into a long, dimly lit room.  A dark wood table, long enough for 8 chairs on each side is set with only four places. Jane and Wendy sit across from us. Lotus leaves flow down a blue river in the middle of the table, projected, in brilliant colors, from the ceiling. Gold and white Koi swim among the leaves. For some reason, I reach out for a tiny Koi. It darts away, we all catch our breath. Larry lays his hand in the stream. The water ripples out from his fingers. We giggle like six-year-olds.

Suzhoulunch

Eight video screens come to life on the walls behind us. The theme of the lunch is the Lotus, we are told by the narrator in Chinese with English subtitles. Most of the film recalls the history of the feast, of feasting together, of music and dance, art and wine with food, fine cognac and theater. It is not just what you eat, the narrator explains; it’s with whom you eat it. We feel in fine company.

There are 13 courses: lotus soup, lotus seeds, lotus pods arrive, some as food, some as decor. Of the 13, three are fragrance courses. A small ceramic pot, topped with a ceramic lotus, opens to release the heady scent of a lotus flower. At some point, we are served a tiny portion of vegetables, perfectly plated, accompanied by two tiny goldfish in a shot glass that sports a lotus sprout. At another moment, I cannot stop the tears from streaming down my face.

Wendy sits silent through most of the meal. “Words are powerless”, she says later. “Yes, there are none,” I say. I feel like I have seen the future of art, a sensory fusion beyond some thin layer of words. We are all deeply touched by this work. I am honored that somehow, the universe has delivered this experience to my doorstep.

We trail out through the exhibit. Two dozen steel lotus blossoms rise up from a pond in the courtyard. A larger number of blown glass lotus seed pods stand side-by-side in another room. The walls are hung with life-size photographs of the artist. Bound by wide gauze strips, she struggles to free herself. In one piece, her arms are tied to her side by bras and garters that stretch tight across her belly, her thighs, her shoulders. Her life’s arrow has found my heart.

I know that we will have other wonderful meals, love other artists, but this experience will never happen again. Travel helps you appreciate the singularity of things, the importance of being open, the power of culture and energy of life.

terracotta warriors

Spring in China

chinese spring

This blog is going to appear in two parts because it’s a little longer than usual. It’s about my adventures in China over the last month since so many of you have asked about the trip.

Arriving in Beijing for the first time, made me feel like a newborn baby. As John Thorndike said of newborn babies, “the environment is a blooming buzzing confusion.”

What hits you first is the scale of it: gigantic, crowded, noisy, high and wide, brash, yes but the scale is not in two dimensions or three. Time, the fourth dimension, is palpable here, moving along the path that has been civilized for the last 6000 years. Before we went, people asked me why I wanted to go to China. On the one hand, I was surprised by this question since it seemed obvious to me that everyone should want to go to China. On the other, I couldn’t really say why. I think it is because I love the ancient history of the human race.

The Forbidden City dominates the soul of Beijing. It was built before Columbus arrived in America and for 500 years, no one ever entered it but royalty, high government officials, their servants and concubines. Just before the last of five hand carved gates reaching maybe four stories tall, lies a moat at least as wide as half a football field. Inside, there are 9,999 rooms (it is an auspicious number). Every piece of wood seems to have a hand carved pattern; every tile is painted: every stone is hand laid. Every wooden or stone creature has a meaning. All the numbers on every building have been crunched. If there are 12 pillars, there is a reason. If there are nine monkeys on the end of a roof beam, it is significant. There are omens and symbols, talismans and signs everywhere. For the ancient Chinese, the natural world was alive with indications.

Off an alley just northeast of the Forbidden City, houses built around courtyards cost millions of USD because persons of high rank owned them hundreds of years ago. The houses have no bathrooms. Neighbors share public bathhouses that serve dozens of residents. Kitchens barely qualify as functional. These courtyard houses are surrounded by new high rise apartments and hotels that stretch for blocks and tower over even the office building shaped like a 30 story Dragon.

Back in the city, it becomes clear that crossing the street is going to be a major adventure. We have been told that the best way to cross a major street in Beijing is to stand on the corner until a crowd gathers, take a place in the middle of the crowd and move at the moment they do. There are cars, trucks, buses, scooters, motorbikes, bicycles and carts. You need to look both ways because scooters, motorbikes, bicycles and carts are not considered vehicles. Also, driving in Beijing is such an aggressive sport that cars weave in and out of pedestrians regardless of the color of the signal.

We are the only Americans at the Marriott City Wall. The other travelers are East Indians, Chinese from other provinces, and the occasional Aussie or Brit. The breakfast buffet offers six or seven different tables set around the edges of the room. There are scrambled eggs, fried eggs and omelettes served with hash browns, sausages, bacon and ketchup. There is one entire table devoted to Congee and its accoutrements, one devoted to miso soup and its accompaniments, one that offers an American-style salad bar, one where you can make the European breakfast of cheese, bread and meat. There is a cereal bar, four espresso machines, a table loaded with various kinds of juice and one with French pastries. There are baskets full of dumplings, there are fried and steamed noodles and Indian pickles. It is awesome. Breakfast in all the other hotels we visit is similar.

We have the great good luck that our group tour never filled, and so we now have our own guide and driver who shepherd us through all the highlights of the city tour and take us for a walk on the Great Wall. After reaching the fourth tower on our upward climb to the top of the first hill, the guide and I decided to have some tea in the gift shop while Larry continues ever upward to the eighth tower, where he believes that he will be able to see forever and there will be no people. There are not ever “no people” in China.  The Chinese believe that if you walk along the Great Wall, you will be a hero.  Near the eighth tower, a cable car delivers scores of tourists that our guide calls “lazy heroes.”

Each night, we stumble into bed by 8 PM and struggle to stay awake at least one more hour so we won’t wake up in the middle of the night. We are jetlagged, sure, but we are also exhausted by the struggle to understand at least some of what has been laid before us. Furthermore, since Google has been outlawed in China, along with Facebook and twitter, and, it now it appears, iBooks and iTunes as well, we have no way of finding answers to the questions that beset us over dinner. It is also tiring to be in a country where the language makes not even the slightest bit of sense. I cannot tell when one word ends and another begins. In Europe or South America, I know enough Spanish or German or French to catch a phrase or two. In Chinese, I can’t remember how to say good morning because it has no relationship to any sounds I know. China is a big experience.

Just an hour and a half flight south west of Beijing, Xian, a recently industrialized city of 4 ½ million, has hidden (literally) one of the grand amazements of the world, the terracotta warriors. You’ve probably seen pictures of them, or seen a few on loan to an American Museum.  I saw them about 15 years ago (Lord knows, probably longer) at the Norton Simone Museum in Pasadena.  Just a few of them leaves an indelible memory, but believe me, seeing a thousand of them standing in trenches a few feet below the viewing platform, is ineffable, though I will proceed to eff it a bit.

First of all, you have to realize that the heads come clean off of these life-sized statues (maybe a bit bigger than the average Chinese warrior of two thousand years ago). Each of these heads was individually carved. Each one is, basically, the head of the real person who posed for the carving.  Numerous molds were used to create the bodies of these soldiers, so they appear to have varied stances, some with a foot more forward; one leans backward a little; one’s arm is slightly more raised, and so on.  So many thoughts come roaring through my head.  This was a real person!  This person stood still for this portrait.  This portrait has been here for nearly 2,300 years.  In a way, they remind me of Romans.  They stand in about eight rows with walls between each row that have not been dug away by the archeologists because there is nothing in those walls but dirt.

Each soldier was reconstructed in place. That’s why they are so far below the viewing deck (which is below the level of the street).  They are standing exactly where they stood thousands of years ago.  That’s how much the earth had grown since then.  There are 6,000 of them and only 1,000 of them have been reconstructed.  The first thousand are so awesome, though, that the rest hardly matter.  I don’t think you could be more awestruck.  And, that’s just the first pit.  There are three pits.  In the second pit they have uncovered the archers and the chariots (complete with charioteers, of course).  The chariots were made of wood, long since deteriorated, but the horses are as exquisite as the warriors themselves.

In the third pit, the high-ranking officers and generals seem almost casually arrayed. Because they weren’t all facing each other, the walls between them seem like the partitions of an office building.  They even seem to meet each other outside one of the offices.  The Emperor has not been unearthed, and may never be.  There seems to be some sentiment that one ought not to disturb the dead.  In fact, the Chinese are pretty sure about this.  In all of the buildings we have seen so far, the threshold of the main entrance is about 6 inches high and two inches wide because, apparently, Chinese ghosts have their feet tied together and can’t clear a threshold that high.

Anyway, they say that under the tomb of the Emperor, is a small scale model of the entire city including its rivers, represented by streams of mercury, which everyone feels may be dangerous. This may have been the Emperor’s way of scaring off grave robbers.  It appears to have worked.

 

 

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