When I return home from a long trip it leaves me with a curious sense of disbelief because my daily routine acts like an eraser, rubbing out my recent adventures. Everyday tasks and chores quickly replace my shiny and new sense of self with the same-o same-o.
I wonder if that is what Mr. Wu felt, sitting at his back table nearest the kitchen, carving peonies from parsnips. Did the long journey and the celebrations of his birthday and Chinese New Year seem so impossibly distant that they seemed like a dream?
It’s a testament to his healthy lifestyle that he weathered the long trip and attendant jet lag with seemingly no trace of tiredness. Although I did see him yawn.
Unfortunately, when he asked me what I’d prefer for dinner, I told him the shrimp with green tea sauce. I wondered why he just kept on carving and did not tell the kitchen. Finally he got up, and disappeared for for a while. When he reappeared, he was carrying my Wu boxes. Turns out he had to go into the kitchen and teach his chef how to make the dish–it is one of his own recipes. “Now he can cook for you, ” he explained.
In addition to bringing me my dinner from the kitchen, Mr. Wu brought me a gift from Japan. He said he spent about an hour and half in Japan, where he had spent some years as a young man as a chef. There in the airport gift shop he found a splendid figurine, a tiny geisha dressed in red kimono and ready to celebrate. Not only have I done much research on kimonos in the past, but I am equally enamored with the enchanting charm and grace that geisha practiced as an art form.
Mr. Wu and I studied the charm, and both of us remarked on the unbelievable detail that was lavished on the small acrylic figurine.
I told Mr. Wu that this attention to the detail of things seemed to be part of the
character of the eastern world. “We Americans tend to be more slapdash and in a hurry to get to the big picture, and if it means painting with a big brush, so be it,” I said.
Mr. Wu nodded and agreed. There are so many instances in which this is the case. The beauty of fabrics, the delight taken in a graceful line, the pleasure of ceremony.
Mr. Wu brought me back a great treasure. A reminder to fill my life with more grace and more appreciation of beauty.