A good day. I have been making longer and longer walks out from my home base, as I grow in sureness. Today was one of my furthest expeditions, down Longyin Lu, towards the Yangtze, which as ever was misted. It is a long road that winds into the river valley, guided partway down by an ornamental balustrade. On either side of the road are industrial buildings, but also many old houses, often tumbledown with tiny shopfronts and kitchens, streetside cooking fires, mah jong gatherings, rubbish gatherers, hillside gardens, building sites.
The air is bitter with fumes from the trucks that rattle by and the power station and the many fires. It’s a road I love to walk down because I each time I venture on it, something happens and I don’t quite reach the Yangtze. Generally, I get lost – I have an almost supernaturally bad sense of direction. But interesting diversions occur too – I ended up in conversation with a shopkeeper, swapping compliments about how young we both looked. (A day later I was to try the walk again, only to be suddenly overtaken by a mild bout of diahorrea which necessitated a scamper to the flat.) I tried another turning but still no Yangtze. It has become a symbol to me of the elusiveness of all that we try to know.
Today was good for my own writing. I’d woken early morning with a string of words winding thru my head and the only way to straighten them was to jot them down in a notebook. Through the day, they were rewritten into the computer and reshaped until they became a draft poem. It is a luxury beyond compare to have nothing more pressing to do than birth poetry.
On the Longyin Road you will find gangs – many of them women and older men - breaking huge clods of soil with hoes, shifting sand across fields using shovels, chipping the mortar off old bricks for hours so that they can be reused. Their faces are hardworn.