Frances Leah Brown
I am a singer, a story teller on stage and in print, and a lover of family and nature.
- Top Story - August 2023
Through the eyes of a Traveler
The Beijing I saw nearly 20 years ago had a lot of old shops, cramped malls, stores crammed with clothes and goods, and bargaining was a must. The Beijing I live in now is very modern, has more high end stores in each mall then I've seen in my entire life to this point. There is a thriving middle class, and they can afford some luxuries. But I have been missing the tiny shops in the old hutangs. So I had a staycation in the hutangs, and it was wonderful.
Adventures of a Traveler
I have been an empathic, emotional person all my life. Those qualities didn't blend well with my pragmatic, get it done, stiff upper lip farm family, and I learned to hold it inside, or hide and let it out in private. I've spent most of my adult life trying to accept the feelings without judging myself, and it's still a challenge. I usually apologize when I cry in front of people. This week I've had an incredibly melancholy time of it. I am away from friends and family and home and creature comforts. I am in need of some dog, cat, daughter and husband couch time. I miss digging in the dirt and planting veggies and flowers and pruning my roses. But I am living in a city with 21 million people and a long way from the couch, or garden or friends or family. The things that have been bright spots this week have been walking home one night and watching little fruit bats zipping around. Hearing what might have been foxes in the fields around us. The people with whom I work being kind and funny and accepting. Guests who respond with joy and affection for being chosen. Basic kindness. Yesterday a few of us gathered for coffee. Foreign and Chinese performers, finding ways of connecting and chatting with one another in broken Chinese and English. We are all so curious and want to get to know one another, but the barrier of language is a big one. But we tried. We were introduced to one another and began to make our way to conversations. I met someone that is a dancer and I look forward to getting to learn more about him. He is not a local, and has just moved to a giant city, like me. This weekend I'm going to the Highland Games in Beijing. That's right, you heard me right...a group of Scottish residents are having Highland Games. The thought of being outside and watching the games sounds very entertaining to me. Last weekend they had a taco festival, but I didn't go to that. I come from California, the land where some of the best tacos can be found, and though I have craved Mexican food, I didn't think the Beijing taco fest would fit the bill. Cooking is limited where I live, and I would have to outfit my room with a lot of appliances and things for which I have no room, so...I don't cook. If I had an oven?! Oh great googly moogly, I'd been baking. I got a haircut last weekend. Um.... My hair is thin, and so I keep it short and try to give it the illusion of body. I had an acceptable haircut in March, but it was time to get it taken care of again, so I went into Beijing with pictures for reference. First, the stylist lifted the hair on top of my head and looked concerned. "Are you here for a perm?" He asked. "No. No perm." He lifted my hair again. I said, "Yes, I know it's thin. I just need a hair cut." and I showed him the pictures. Shorter on the sides and lower back, messy short on top. The salon was busy. I got my hair washed, he cut it, I got it washed again, he cut a bit more and styled it. I received what I call "The boys on the bus" haircut. It seems to be the style of the moment, because a lot of the young men I see on the bus have this haircut. VERY short on the sides, with a V shape of longer hair down the back of the head to the bottom of the hair line. No fade, no transitional length. VERY short to floppy. The stylist did a good job. He gave me the perfect boys on the bus haircut. I went home and got out my scissors and gave myself a fade into the floppy stuff. It'll grow, and I'll try again. Adventures in hair. It's one of the curious things of working in a place that has a requirement for maintaining a haircut, but doesn't offer to help maintain it....go out into the wild and find a stylist. I am going to begin studying HSK 1 this evening. The first level of Mandarin taught here in China. Not only pinyin, but characters too. I want to be able to answer simple questions, and I would really like to be able to read some characters too. I have no expectations of how I'll do on this language adventure, but it feels good to hold a text book and work book in my hands.
Eyes of a traveler
The tiny iris are blooming and so are the roses. My gardener's brain thinks that is odd. When I arrived in February there was no color but drab brown and grey in the trees, grass, bushes...all very dormant and colorless. It was cold and dry. My skin immediately told me I was no longer in the rainy PNW and rebelled. Now there are bright purple iris and red and pink roses along the roadside, the trees are filling out and the grass is turning green. It is an unreal transformation.
A Glint of Tender Light
The outside world was unknown to her, but she could see a glimpse of it through the window in his room. She would wait until mealtime, when she knew he'd be away, and slip silently along the old stone hallway of the abandoned bunker until she stood with her face pressed against the filthy, thick glass, straining to see the colors.
A Journal of Life
What do you get yourself when you are at the end of your tether? When the emotions are so overwhelming that they shadow your daily life? Therapy? Yes. Resources for coping? Yes. I have a lot of coping resources that I've learned over the years, and they've all helped in their way. Warm blankets, a calm and quiet space, focusing on the present with the 'five things' practice, (five things I see, hear and touch, counting down to one with each cycle) a place of my own imagining that I can visit whenever I have need.
A Basket of Mixed Fruit
We drove up the snowy, winding road towards the cozy A-frame cabin, peering through the foggy windshield and groaning in relief when we reached the car port. "I think my face has gone numb." Henry said as we jumped out of the parked truck whose heater gave up on the way into the mountains. My older brother Den had gifted us a rebuilt Chevy sidestep when we were starting to drive. Henry and I were grateful but embarrassed to drive it around town, but then it became a badge of honor and we held our heads high in the high school parking lot. We are now the 'can you help me move?' people in our friend's lives. Anyway, when the heater stopped working, Henry and I had to drive with the windows down to keep the fog at a minimum, and Henry was right, my body was stiff from the cold and my face felt tight. "I'll go open up and get the fire going." I said as I crunched across the snow covered gravel driveway to the front door and wiggled the key to open the old heavy wooden door.
A Taste of Time
Janet's morning was a tripping, sloppy, burnt toast and spilled coffee affair that had her standing in the middle of the small kitchen, the brown coffee spill soaking into her blouse, thinking about calling in sick. Maybe she should just strip, crawl in bed, beg her cat, Miss Kitty, to snuggle and hide for the rest of the day. She rolled her eyes and walked to her closet as she stripped off the ruined blouse, saying "Shit shit shit." as she went. She changed her clothes, put her shoes on and looked in the mirror. She looked as off center as she felt. "It will be fine." She whined as she grabbed her keys, stuffed her bus pass into her pocket and left the apartment.
Let me tell you a story of an orphaned girl. We met her when she was 13 months old. She, like thousands of girls, had been raised in an institutional orphanage. There were so many babies and so few care-givers in her orphanage that the babies were wrapped tightly in layers of blankets and clothes to keep them still in the cribs, and keep them warm. Each baby was picked up, fed, bounced in the caregiver's arms for a few minutes and then re-wrapped and placed back in the crib on schedule, as often as possible. When they got older, the girls would be placed in a high chair/potty chair, sometimes for hours, or placed on the floor with other babies with some toys.