For some reason, yesterday was a mostly gloomy day for me. It started out all right I suppose. I woke up before the alarm and lay in bed for a while. Then, because my computer was sitting right there, I turned it on and picked up where I'd left off the night before, studying poems for the reading group. I find "preparing" Chinese poetry in this way very tedious. I never learned to enjoy Chinese poetry at all until I went to China and started learning it the way Chinese kids do, just by memorizing it and not worrying so much about allusions or hidden meanings. But for this reading group stuff, for me at least, it was back to the old way, the grad school way, lots of dictionary work. At least my classical Chinese has improved.
The reading group itself though... well, the Lama canceled at the last minute, so we had it without him. It's just never as fun without him. Add that to the fact that the subject matter doesn't do much for me... On the up side, I did sort of "lead" the discussion by virtue of the fact that I probably know the material best. Or at least the culture. Another positive aspect of the experience was that one of the group members, a painfully self-effacing "permanent adjunct" art historian--I'll call her SoSorry--really came out of her shell and gave us a bit of a presentation on our poet's connection with Chinese painting, complete with pictures. I like it when SoSorry does things like this, despite the profuse apologies that usually come with it.
Near the end of the session we got into an involved discussion of whether poets in the Tang edited or altered their poems (shi) after writing them. It's an interesting question, probably an empirical one, but none of us knew the answer so we argued from various related ideas. I argued that they didn't do much editing because of the occasional nature of the genre. One of the other members of the group argued that they did by analogy with Japanese poetic tradition, which he knows much better. Anyway, I ought to try to find out.
Another group member, E.T., followed me down to the el and wanted to chat. Periodically she gets lonely, and I feel for her. But she has a really difficult personality (previous post partly about her here). When I finally extricated myself, I was good and ready to go home.
Back at home, I put in a decent afternoon of work, but it's one of those ebb points in writing. I have the outlines of what I want to say, but to actually write it I have to put in some time casting about and finding some concrete evidence. I tend to feel back about myself when I can't put in the pages. So though I did some good investigations, no increase in the word count, sigh.
Another thing that was weighing on my mind was I got a call from one of the Chinese boys I met a few days ago (described here). In some fit of camaraderie, I'd exchanged phone numbers with him, and he called to see if I wanted to do some language practice. Mind you, I don't usually go giving out my phone number to strangers I meet at the bus stop. But sometimes you just have an okay feeling about someone. And in fact, I had a perfectly okay feeling talking to him too. He was perfectly polite and correct on the phone (also knows I'm married, I made sure of that), just a friendly gesture. So I decided to try meeting him for coffee and language exchange; I should really try to make more Chinese friends, and maybe I'd be less intimidated by people who aren't crusty academics. Still, after I agreed I felt very nervous. I always do when I commit to some social activity, especially with someone I don't know very well, but with pretty much everyone. I just have an unreasoning dread, though it almost always turns out fine. Pocket of Bolts, when I told him, encouraged me, saying it's a good idea and I should go for it. Well, we'll see how it goes.
I had a good long workout in the evening, and a late dinner: brown rice, a fried egg, some jangjarim (sp?--soy sauce cooked beef), and kimchee, sliced cucumber salad on the side. As for the evening, I just frittered it away. Can't be working all the time. I missed Pocket of Bolts.
In the middle of the night (i.e., around 3 AM) he woke me up with a phone call. His ankle was hurting again and he couldn't sleep. You'd think I'd be annoyed to be woken up at such an hour, but not a bit of it--it gave me such a warm feeling that he should do that. In Chinese, the sloppy concept we know as "love" has finer gradations. There is aiqing, the "in love" feeling, heart-thumping passion and all that. And there is qinqing, the intimacy of daily togetherness, a family-feeling which is even deeper and more constant. Don't get me wrong, there's quite a lot of aiqing in my relationship with Pocket of Bolts, but in this case I was very much filled with qinqing. When someone you love so much needs you, even in a small way, you are deeply happy to be needed.