Monday, December 28, 2009

Red Lanterns

It rained during Jia Li's wedding.  But her old uncle told her this was a good omen and that her married life would be lucky.  Her mother, certainly hoped this was true.

~posting from Chiang Mai where the newly weds have joined us. They are radiant.

Monday, December 21, 2009

My Daughter Weds

My daughter Leigh and her honey Scott the night before they wed. 
We are sending off our best wishes.

Koh Samui, Thailand
Dec. 19, 2009

My dear friends,
I have been so busy for the last few weeks getting ready for my daughter's wedding.  Friends and Family from all over the world have assembled here in Thailand to celebrate her marriage to Scott Powrie.  Today we are lounging around lazily and beginning to share photos.  My two sister in laws provided some of these. Tomorrow we head north to Chiang Mai where I hope to get my hands into some plaster and paint quickly.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Gods and Generals At The Door

Li Li thought she had very good fortune to work at a residence where mighty gods and legendary generals stood at attention guarding her courtyard.  Even though they were painted on red paper and and then glued on with yesterday's left over rice paste, she felt protected.  She felt safe, even from Merchant Huang, who had made his intentions for her quite obvious.

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Full Moon and A Red Thread

Dear Friends,
I fear I concluded the story of my boy with the red ball too abruptly. My last night in Pong Yaeng came quickly and I was in a hurry to notify my family of a discovery.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Red Ball III

The boy, Little Red, traded in his ball for a broom. His ball had been recycled many times transforming itself into a helmet, then a bucket, a slingshot and finally a bicycle's tire patch. It was the eye shaped patch, the unmistakable color of a faded red rubber ball, glued to the back tire of his mother's bicycle, that quickened my heart and made me realise that I had hired his mother to be my parttime house keeper.

~my last night in Pong Yaeng

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Red Ball II

A Giant Leap Forward

When Little Qui stepped over the threshold of her new home she had no idea what a grand adventure she had begun.

Red Ball II
~ I saw him! I was at the bicycle shop across the street from the Primary school when it let out at 2:45. I feared I might not recognize him. But in the time it took to blink, There he was. You cannot miss him. But I must continue first....

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Red Ball I

Shiao Lu Buys Rice

Granny sent Shiao Lu to the market to buy rice. She gave him four kwai and told him there was no extra for a red bean icy.

~~Dear Fiends,
I am posting from Northern Thailand where I have a second home. Tonight I went to the Post Office for dinner. In our town the Post Master also runs a small restaurant and bar to the side of the stamp counter. Thus, his establishment is called, The Post Bar. As is my habit each time I come here, I stop to see Kuhn Aong and to pick up any mail that has come for me. There has never been a letter, not one in three years, but it is an excuse to say hello and to catch up on what is happening in town. He is also witness to a relationship I have with a small boy in this village. No one knows much about him as he is most likely the child of an undocumented Burmese refugee. There are a large number here, but he also may be from the hill tribes of Hmong and Karen. No one knows.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

She Grows Paprika

This painting has no story and yet many tales. It isn't finished. I returned to my home in Northern Thailand two days ago and was pleased to find this on my easel. I started it a year ago and completely forgot about it. It is of a girl who lives across the valley. She carries her brother on her back to and from the fields where she and her mother tend Paprika plants. I have watched this trio for three years now and have many stories about their comings and goings. I watch them from my studio. They cannot see me.

~~from the hills of Pong Yaeng, Mae Rim, Chiang Mai~~~Northern Thailand

Friday, November 20, 2009

Going Home

Deng Zi Mei was pleased she had sold everyone of her Granny’s cabbages. Her last one went to Lao Bao for dumplings.

~~Dear Ones,
I have been in Zhong Shan and Hong Kong this past week working. While in China, it is hard for me to blog and this trip, the weather was freezing cold and seemed more so because in Southern China the buildings aren't heated. I woke up in the morning and could see my breath while still in bed!

Tonight though, I am in Taiwan. As soon as I step off the plane my pores fill up with the musty humidity of home mixed with a tinge of sesame oil. It is the aroma of home(some would call it stinky) but to me it is the most wonderful smell.
After a good bowl of Taiwan Noodles, I powered up to see what you have all been up to. Tonight I travel on to Thailand.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Shiao Li and Bao Bao

Bao Bao, the youngest of all the Wu children, loved his Ah Yi more than anyone in the world. In fact he adored Shiao Li. This feeling, he described to his wife many years later, was more urgent than love. He went on to declare that the years he had spent tied to his nanny's back were the happiest of his whole life.

~posting from Taiwan. Sigh. Home again.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Su Ling Sits Still

When Mr. Ma arrived for his appointment with the Han’s of Tai Nan in order to finalize the purchase of their 50 hectors of terraced land, he could not help but notice the surprising presence of their youngest daughter. She sat very still next to her father and this made Mr. Ma feel uneasy. He thought Miss Han might lurch faster than a grasshopper to stop her father from reaching for his chop.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Late Night Return

A Late Night Return

It was only at major festivals that the Huang’s baby was brought home to join his family. Otherwise he lived with his Ah Ma. After The Autumn Festival, his elder brother’s usual chore was to take Bao Bao back to Granny.

~from New York. Returning home tonight. My husband Peter's Mother, Satia Hayes passed away yesterday at the good age of 95. She has returned home.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Clear Direction

Mei Mei had been waiting in the bamboo grove at the end of the lane for some time. She was waiting for a good omen, hoping that the way the bamboo leaves fell at her feet would indicate to her how she would begin her trip. All she needed was some clear direction.

~from New York

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Ah Ma had a terrible time staying awake past dinner time.

~for QQ

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Quiet Chat

A Quiet Chat

Jade and Moon had a quiet chat over tea. They talked about calligraphy and growing vegetables. It seems they also had a few things to say about their daughters.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Warriors of Exceeding Joy

Warriors of Exceeding Joy

~I have been quite busy since I returned from China and have had little time for "quiet chats" myself. I had a show that opened Saturday night at the OPEN DOOR Gallery and have been consumed with getting all my Wu Fung Road portraits ready in time. This show was for my dear friend Shaista who bravely fights, but with Exceeding Joy.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Fly Home

Miss Bao had been here and there and everywhere. She was glad to be back from her long trip and to see that Exceeding Joy was waiting to welcome her home.

~From Whidbey Island

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Late Night Song

After everyone in the household had used up all the hot water for baths and gone to bed, it was finally Ah Hwa's chance to do laundry. Perhaps it was the sound of water that drew Exceeding Joy, now a free bird, to stop by for a visit.

"So, what are you doing here?" The old servant inquired.

~from Hong Kong's Lamma Island

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Returning Home

Ah Ying had many important things on her mind as she herded her flock from Third Uncle’s pond. She could not remember if she had tethered up the water buffalo earlier this morning or if she had fed the chickens at dawn. She was confused about the chilies she had laid out in the courtyard and still was not clear if she was suppose to take her brother to Granny Chen's or go to the market. She was not sure how she would manage all her chores.

~from Zhong Shan, China

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Lucky Pearls

As Moon Festival approached, Mr. Wan's mistress wondered if she would see her lover, even if just for a few hours. It was doubtful though, given all his family obligations. Just in case he should surprise her, she wore her red envelope slippers and her lucky pearls.

~sold to anonymous buyer. Proceeds went to Home Sweet Home in Shanghai, a home for the homeless.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Lin Brothers Get Paid

When the Lin Brothers had finished sweeping the Wong's courtyard it was late and Mrs. Wong, who controlled the family purse, had already gone to bed. The Wong's gate man refused to wake anyone in the household who had authority to see that the boys from Chai Yi were paid. It was also too late to walk back to town for dinner so he offered the brothers the stone floor of his guard house and a bowl of luke-warm tea.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mrs. Tan's Gold Ring

Mrs. Tan was highly respected by all her neighbors. She was good with money. She could not resist any opportunity to show off her gold ring. "Wa! I tell you what! When I fled from Shanghai I came here with only one small piece of gold my Ni Ni gave to me for the trip. I sewed it into my red padded coat. I had nothing! I have sold and bought it back many many times whenever I am low on the cash."

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Third Brother Ponders

Third Brother was pondering his life. He had suddenly become homesick.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Autumn Festival

When Mrs. Huang gathered her children and prepared to take them to her parent's home to pay respects to their ancestors, her only son, Little Brother, refused to go unless Shiao Li, his nanny, accompanied them. Huang Tai Tai sighed, but finally agreed.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Don't Be Afraid

When Li Mei was about to set off to work as a kitchen maid for Mrs. Chen, her auntie told her not to be afraid. "You'll see. It is a very very lucky arrangement. The Chen's have many sons."

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Exceeding Joy

When Uncle Tu finally returned from his trip to the big northern city he was informed by a very nervous Mrs Chen that her third son had carelessly let the old man's beloved song bird, Exceeding Joy escape. She went on to tell him that every resident of Wu Fung Road had spent two weeks or more trying to either catch the bird or coax it back into its cage. She hoped that Uncle Tu would not be angry and demand compensation.

Exceeding Joy had flitted here and there, eluding them all while she flew about exploring the courtyards of Wu Fung Road and singing as she pleased. At last the wayward bird alighted on the outstretched hands of Little Kite, a child with no known ancestors but in the care of the Chen family as a possible future wife for one of their many sons.

When Uncle Tu saw his bird and the little girl together, he was suddenly glad to be back in Chai Yi and even happier to live on Wu Fung Road. The big northern city had been a disappointment and he had found no happiness there.

"Chen Tai Tai," he said turning to her. "It's alright. Sorry for the trouble my bird has caused you."

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Fitting Tune For a Fleeting Return

Exceeding Joy was glad to be back. In truth, her daring escape from Uncle Tu's courtyard and subsequent travels had only gotten her as far as the end of town. When she heard Little Wang, Teacher Li's poorest student, reciting ancient poems for his class, she suddenly felt the need to sing. Exceeding Joy came willingly to the boy and pondered for a moment as to what would be a fitting homecoming tune.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Not everyone on Wu Fung Road was listening for Uncle Tu's return. Some were at school. Chang Fei had just been called upon by Teacher Li to recited a passage from Dream of the Red Chamber when he was interrupted by the gleeful singing of Uncle Tu's bird, Exceeding Joy, who had been loose and free for more than a week.

Never had a student felt more relief.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Don't Miss A Thing

Lee Huang Lai gobbled her lunch while keeping an eye on the road outside the Forever Prosperity Restaurant. She could not wait for her sisters a minute longer, afraid she would miss the return of Uncle Tu on the 12:25 bus from the big city.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Mei Mei Follows Her Brother

Mei Mei thought is best to follow her brother to the bus terminal to greet Uncle Tu.

Di Di Waits for Uncle Tu

Di Di, the youngest boy in the Chen family, agreed to go to the bus terminal to wait for Uncle Tu. He kept his eye out for hints of Exceeding Joy.

~Farewell my dear Leigh. Your brother has spotted your exceeding joy too.
~ Mama

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Coral Earrings

Shao Pang was very proud of her coral earrings. Many had guessed that Mr. Wang-Tu Lee had given them to her the night she sang a lovely tune during the Feast of Excited Insects. But Shao Pang was no longer sure that this gift from Uncle Tu was something to be proud of. All week, the escape and subsequent joy ride of Uncle Tu's bird, Exceeding Joy, had unleashed a string of discussions on love and freedom among the women of Wu Fung Road.

When rumors flew that Exceeding Joy had been seen on the edge of town, Shao Pang was sad. "If it were me, I would have flown ten thousand li away and never returned to sing for Uncle Tu, no matter how nice my cage. Stupid Bird."

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Good Omen

Jya Lee, the eldest daughter of Mrs. Chen returned from the market and went straight to her mother to announce very good news. "I have seen Uncle Tu's song bird at the edge of town. Don't worry Mother, I am sure Exceeding Joy will return before Uncle does."

Mrs Chen sighed deeply. "Ah, my daughter. This is certainly a good omen."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Uncle Tu's Bad Trip

When Uncle Tu made his journey to the big city, he would never in ten thousand years imagine that his bird, Exceeding Joy, would be lost.

~home from the big city.

Friday, August 14, 2009

No Idea

Mrs. Sung's kitchen girl answered the door just before dinner. It was one of the many Chen boys stopping by to inquire if she had seen Exceeding Joy, Uncle Tu's wayward bird, flitting about.

Little Kwai answered. "I have no idea where that bird has gone. Why would you expect it ever to come back?"

~writing from New York

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Suzy Sung's Choir

In her youth, Mrs. Sung had sung in the Peking Opera. It was to her dismay that her husband, an official in the Kuo Ming Tang, had to flee for his life to the island of Formosa. It later became even worse, when he fell out of favor with Taipei authorities and was assigned to our small village as a magistrate. Not only did Suzy lament the loss of face, but the lack of dramatic opportunities. Still, the enterprising singer was quite successful in starting our first operatic troupe. The fact that the choir was made up mainly of members of her own household staff and a few disgruntled veterans did not diminish our enjoyment.

The only person who missed the performance of The Lonely Maiden was the Magistrate.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Miss Chen's Red Comb

Chen Shiao Jye was not a fan of Uncle Tu’s bird, Exceeding Joy. The song bird, however just loved Miss Chen's shiny lacquer red comb and was drawn to it. Exceeding Joy dreamed someday of having a comb just like it.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

A Warm Night

Lee Shiao Jye was bored. So far, not a single customer had dropped in at the Forever Fortune Tea Room. Perhaps this was because Mrs. Soong's new opera, A Lonesome Maiden, was to be performed tonight for the first time in the courtyard of the Wu Fung Temple. Or it could also be that everyone had been preoccupied with the escape of Uncle Tu's song bird. But finally Miss Lee decided it was just too muggy to drink hot tea.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A Wife, Perhaps

When Exceeding Joy, Uncle Tu's escaped bird began to sing to Lau Da, he finally understood why this song bird made the old man so love sick. He thought that perhaps he might suggest to his mother that she find Uncle Tu a wife.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Exceeding Satisfaction

When Mrs. Chen's youngest daughter realized that her brother had let Uncle Tu's bird, Exceeding Joy, escape, Mei Mei could not believe her good fortune. She had been quite bitter that Uncle Tu and her mother had chosen Lau San, instead of her, to be the bird's caretaker. She could not help but feel her own exceeding joy and satisfaction. "Ha!"

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Tai Tai Hears The Door

Tai Tai was waiting for her neighbors to join her for a night of tea, foot massages, and mahjong. It would be a long evening of clucking and clacking.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Rice Instead of Milk

DiDi loved his Ai Yi very much. There was only one thing she could not provide him and that was her milk. So on the rare evenings that his mother went out for Mah Jong and did not nurse him to sleep, his beloved nanny would cook him his favorite dinner of chicken and rice.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Rabbit Rabbit

When Shaio Li married Mr. Bai, her old Ni Ni confided to the bride what she believed to be the secret of a long and happy marriage. "Dear Grand-daughter, whenever there is a full moon, look at your husband and say Rabbit Rabbit. "

Monday, July 27, 2009

Flitting About

When Eldest Brother Chen's head became a resting spot for Exceeding Joy, Da Ge did not think this was a good development. "Wa Wa," he said to himself, "I think my little brother may be in trouble."

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Mrs. Chen Reconsiders

Before Uncle Tu embarked on his annual trip north, he made an appointment with Mrs. Chen to discuss arrangements for looking after his home during his absence. Over tea and dumplings he flitted about from topic to topic until alighting on the question of which of Mrs. Chen’s many sons he should select to care for his beloved bird. She whole-heartedly endorsed Lau San to make sure Exceeding Joy did not escape.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

An Open Door

When Uncle Tu made a short trip to the city to exchange money, he hired Mrs. Chen’s third son to watch and care for his beloved bird. He had only one instruction to the boy, “Make sure the door of Exceeding Joy’s cage is never opened.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Waiting Aunties

The three maternal aunties of Little Envelope were gathered at Elder Sister’s home to await the news. Any moment now, they would hear about the condition of fourth sister.

Little Envelope, the only girl to be born to the clan, enjoyed unrivaled freedom and access to the table of her ah yi’s. She loved these gatherings of gossip and speculation more than anything in the world. The family had been fortunate, for a long and prosperous run of boys had been born. So it was fitting when fourth Uncle sent her to advise the waiting aunties that a daughter had been born.

For Leigh, my own Little Envelope

Monday, July 13, 2009

In My Studio