I took the first of my five necessary day trips out to Santa Barbara today. “Necessary” in the fiduciary sense because I bought a ten-trip Amtrak Surfliner pass that expires on September 6. “Necessary” in the personal sense because the move out to Port Hueneme has separated me from the dance communities down in the Santa Monica area, and if I don’t dance, I think that I’ll curl up and die. The nearest substitute is the Santa Barbara Dance Tribe that meets at the Gustafson Dance Center on Sundays from 11-1.
I thought that the weather was auspicious for the 4-mile pedal up to the Oxnard train station, but the fog burned off early, and my clothes were pretty damp by the time I pulled in to the station. Fortunately I had a number of shirt changes in my backpack, so the ride out to Santa Barbara wasn’t unpleasant.
Once in Santa Barbara, the sun was a little less harsh, but it was humid. The three mile ride out to the dance studio was up a slight slope, as well as going under the freeway in a couple of places. The footpath routing algorithm in Microsoft Maps also left me in a cul-de-sac at the bottom of a hill that carried the road over the freeway. Again, I was soaked with perspiration when I arrived.
The celebration was really nice. Two moments in particular stand out. The most energetic of the women danced joyfully with a number of men, and then settled to the floor to rest. I had been moving through the gathering, and found myself in her vicinity when the DJ put on Etta Jame’s At Last. The lady had settled on her shins, hands swaying gently in the air over her head. I swooped past her in a low lunge and then spun around behind her, and the air around us burst with energy. She accepted my attention as I filled the air around her for the next two minutes, smiling at me once or twice, but she didn’t get up on her feet.
The second was towards the end, when many of the dancers had settled to the floor to ground the energy we had raised. I found myself scooping the air on one side, reaching up and out to gather in the messages that were waiting for me, curling my arm over my head before pulling them into my heart, and then doing the same on the other side. It wasn’t easy – just a lot of sorrow. When I had taken as much as I could bear, I lifted my hands to the heavens, and felt something enter from above, providing my heart with the responsive energies it needed.
I couldn’t schedule the bike passage for the mid-afternoon train back to Ventura, which left me six hours to fill until the 6:59. So after the dance I pedaled back down to the train station (fortunately mostly downhill this time). After checking my backpack, I backtracked to the Neighborhood Bar and Grill, where I had a great veggie burger and honey wheat ale.
The train station is only a few blocks from the beach, so I rode down to the shore and took the bike path up the strand. Santa Barbara has an art walk every Sunday. A lot of what I saw was touristy, until I came to Yin Ping Zheng’s booth. The work was classic Chinese brush calligraphy and painting on rice paper. On the edge of the booth, a typical vertical nature study caught my eye: a cluster of starkly colored peonies – deep red, yellow and pure white demanding the eye’s attention – anchored the bottom of the strip. They were subdued from above by a delicate pink cluster, annotated in the classic Asian style. The obvious contrast of masculine and feminine energy also seemed to suggest the contrast between Western and Asian art.
I ended up buying this piece and another that also displayed Zheng’s unique sensibilities. The second is a panel of ungrounded bamboo poles, rendered in rich green but punctuated by black-fingered leaves with white speckles (snow?). Two sprays of pink blossoms enter the frame in the upper left, cupping a featureless moon set against a pale ground of blue-white snow. I noticed the calligraphy on the right side, and Zheng shared that it was the last line of a poem that offered the moon’s witness and solace to two lovers sundered by distance.
Zheng is devoted to his art, and as we waited for BofA to pre-authorize the purchase, he talked about his training, confirming my sense that he was attempting to introduce strong Western color to add tension and dimension to the introspective style of Chinese rice paper painting. He also kept offering concerns that his devotion was not earning him material rewards – a point that resonates deeply with me.
It’s my birthday tomorrow, which is my way of justifying the extravagance of the purchase. But I did so with honest pleasure, and was gratified that Zheng accepted my stumbled expression:
Thank-you so much for being here today. It added a special aspect to my day to have had the opportunity to buy two such beautiful works of art.
Zheng has a blog out here at WordPress, but it only has one photo. I’m too tired tonight to unroll the pieces to take pictures of them, but I’ll get some details posted on Tuesday night.