Pink Shells in Penglai

Daily Draw October 7th, 2012

I had a strange dream where I was supposed to visit a lady in New England to buy some figurines. I had picked out about a dozen of them as gifts for various friends and they were expensive. When I got there after a long 6-hour drive, I was taking them out of boxes and thought to myself, “These people are not real friends, why am I spending so much money on them, they don’t even know me?”

This seems to be something that came up with my journalling that the naturopath wants me to do. All this stuff about people who were never really friends, and often treated me poorly, yet I insisted on communicating with them, and making them things or giving them things. It’s a pattern that started when I was a teenager and the wonderful friend who used to call me “misery gut” if I didn’t do what she wanted to do. Her lack of respect for me was appalling at the end of our acquaintance, yet I still hung on, as did I with several online acquaintances who should have been given the bum’s rush long before I deleted them from consideration.

Still, it’s out now, I am myself.

TWO PINK SHELLS by Georgia O’Keeffe
Oil on Canvas, 1937
12” x 10”

Georgia’s O’Keeffe grandmother had a little whatnot shelf with shells on it and when Georgia was a child she used to go to the inner sanctum and touch them, fascinated by the shapes and the idea that you could hear the sea if you held some of them to your ear. In later years she often collected stones and shells, avidly looking for them when out and about in nature.

This is like a parent and child or perhaps the child grown up becomes a beautiful, fluted shell with many shades and colours. Looking back, the older shell sees a younger shell and says “I have come so far from that little shell.” Notice the slightly protective position of the larger shell.

And to go with this I will take a favourite passage of mine from The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura, which was a book that Georgia read over and over and when her eyesight failed, she would have people read it to her.

It was a quote from Lu T’ung (a.k.a. Lu Tong) a mid-Tang dynasty poet. In the Okakura book he cites it as a paragraph rather than in line form, with a slightly different translation than others, but I use it because this is what Georgia read. This poem is generally called Seven Bowls of Tea although that title is not referenced in The Book of Tea.

The first cup moistens my lips and throat, the second cup breaks my loneliness, the third cup searches my barren entrails but to find therein some five thousand volumes of odd ideographs. The fourth cup raises a slight perspiration, – all the wrong of life passes away through my pores. At the fifth cup I am purified; the sixth cup calls me to the realms of immortals. The seventh cup, – ah, but I could take no more! I only feel the breath of cool wind that rises in my sleeves. Where is Horaisan? Let me ride on this sweet breeze and waft away thither.

Horaisan in the Chinese form is P’eng-lai-shan, sometimes translated as Penglai, and it is a place of mythical islands in the Eastern sea often associated with immortality. They are important in Chinese and Japanese literary folklore and are referred to in the Taoist alchemical tradition, where the elixir of life was sought. During the middle ages, many expeditions went in search of these islands.

And I bet there are pink shells there.

It is this reflective, peaceful aspect of the ceremony of brewing a special tea that caused me to buy my herbal teas a few weeks ago. The wrong of all life passes through my pores and I contemplate the shells on the beach, and listen to the sea.




2 thoughts on “Pink Shells in Penglai

  1. Such a beautiful post .. and card.

    An interesting dream. Maybe the money spent on the figurines is about the time we spend thinking about and worrying about things that are not important. In terms of online acquaintances, I think you and I both learned who was worth worrying about and who was not a long time ago. We’re all the better for those lessons, I think.

    I like the links to the tea book paragraph.

    • Oh, I like that insight into the dream. The whole point of bothering over things that are not important is part of it all.

      That tea book is something else. It is about brewing tea but also history and insights into being human.

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