Out of Office – Qingming Festival

I don’t often come into AIVA to teach on a Saturday…it’s only usually happens for one-off events, assessment periods, or in this case, a National Holiday. It’s the Qingming Festival, 清明节 (Qīngmíng jié)…more colloquially known as the tomb sweeping festival bringing “pure brightness”. It means I get a four-day weekend starting tomorrow…well from tonight…and I can’t wait. I had to frustratingly miss ballet class today so my ballet legs are itching to stretch, move and dance…I think I might have to run tonight instead…get another 5 miles down on these Shanghai streets.

Qingming is the fifth term in the traditional lunar calendar and is a festival to hold memorial for the dead…a time to express one’s grief for lost relatives, a time of happiness and sadness. During the festival, people visit cemeteries to clean and sweep tombs offering food, flowers and favourite’s of the dead, then burning incense and paper money before bowing in front of the headstone. People also go and fly kites and plant trees as it is seen as a time of vitality for the land where sunshine and rainfall increases (I’m hoping not the latter this weekend). Some people carry willow branches with them, often putting them on their gates and front doors as they believe they help to ward off the evil spirit that wanders on from Qingming…the lost souls that can’t lay to rest.

Here’s to my Grandma and Grandpa, though I was very young when they passed, Grandpa was an incredible pianist…he used to play the teddy bears picnic with his hands backwards (if that makes sense)…here’s to my Poppa (Grandfather) as I called him, my creative inspiration as he was a photographer, a key motivational driving force in my future who also gave me a taste for travel, expensive drinks and good whiskey (Oban or Islay), smoked salmon, fresh fish and fruit cake…here’s to my Gran from whom I got my love of good cooking and baking, the renowned and addictive ginger biscuit recipe (if you haven’t had them yet just ask…you are missing out), the physicality of handmade craft and a like of ginger beer, muesli, honey on toast and fish finger sandwiches…and here’s to my Great Aunty Edna who gave me my addiction of reading and beautiful books, she had a phenomenal library where she used to hide monetary notes between the pages…and my love of melon, she’d always have some there to eat when I visited…I swear I could eat a whole honeydew in one go. It’s making me want one now, maybe for lunch (?). She had the longest hair I’d ever seen too, beautiful long poker-straight locks. I lost Poppa, Gran and Edna all in the year 2008-2009 and they remain always in my thoughts…more often than not reappearing in my mind in full force taking my breath away at the realisation they are not here anymore. I’ve just realised how much they have influenced my life…maybe subconsciously, maybe not. I’m also thinking of my friends who have recently lost one’s close to them…may you find peace in time…and time to breathe deeply.

The mourner’s heart is breaking on his way

路上行人欲断魂 (lù shàng xíng rén yù duàn hún)

…but one day may you have “pure brightness”. So from my bedroom sunshine views to my teaching office sunshine views below, I’m not going to work over the next four days…just work on Rachel and perhaps Rachel creativity…taking time to fill my soul with light, warmth and strength by going on urban city adventures filled with no doubt surprises along the way, re-fuelling on Vitamin D from the sun’s rays, spending time with sincere friends, smiling and laughing, eating wholesome good food, listening to new music (that I think is creating a Summer soundtrack – I’m sure I’ll blog about it), but annoyingly not cycling as my bike is KO-ed from a near miss of what could have been an epic bike crash on Monday night…such a close call, maybe why I’m being so self-reflective today at the end of a long week. I’m going to say it now (as its pretty inevitable) that I’m also likely to get sunburned, right? I’m just so British. So look forward to that treat photograph of my scorched skin! I’ll fill you in on recent meetings, happenings and exciting stories sometime next week…until then, I hope sunshine hits your soul this weekend. Shut your eyes, take a deep breath and count to ten.

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