The Parallel Parliament

Glen Pearson

Voices But No Voice

Posted on October 7, 2018

Helping all that along were technological advancements – economical transportation, the internet, cellphones and social media.

But something happened along the way, to the point where it seems most now believe the world is coming apart and the tech tools have just as much alienated us from one another as they have helped us understand one another better.

We no longer know what to make of our world. With more money than ever in its history, more exposure to other cultures and ideas, and global communications now possible in a millisecond, we have somehow found ourselves in places of anger, racism, poverty, conflict and hatred. History has returned and all those things we believed our modern life had put away have broken their bonds and re-emerged to tear us apart.

We see this played out among nations and nationalities, in politics and the media. But the front lines of the disruption are located in our communities – those places where people remain in closest proximity to one another. Sadly, many cities, like London, are learning it’s not so easy to come together.

That is especially true during election seasons, when animosities become exaggerated and community respect is eroded. The important process that results in every person having a voice doesn’t necessarily meant we listen and understand. We speak, but we can’t hear. As we grow increasingly opinionated, we are discovering there is a troubling trend toward alienation.

The word “politics” comes from “polis” – an ancient Greek term denoting well-minded citizens working out their community life together despite their divisions. It’s meant to provide for an airing of opinions and policies, followed by willingness to strike compromise to achieve progress.

But all too often these days it is politics that keeps us divided and angry – the opposite of what it’s supposed to achieve. And the more strident the voices in attack mode, the more excessive the response, leaving us in a devolving cycle of dysfunction.

Or, as author Vera Nazarian puts it: “Don’t let a loud few determine the nature of the sound. It makes for poor harmony and diminishes the song.”

The downside of all this is that an increasing number of Londoners are deciding to go silent. And those who use anger or division to secure the vote are likely not the best at pulling all the pieces together again when the dust settles after Oct. 22.

London is rapidly becoming a city of voices without a voice. A collective vision eludes us, even as we seek politicians to help us achieve it. Those moments when thousands of Londoners came together to hammer out their future in what became the London Plan are being put at risk by office seekers endeavouring to undermine it. Many had compromised to create it, while many of those opposed simply didn’t show up to participate.

A modern community isn’t worth much if it can’t include everyone. Voices, opinions, insights, learned experience, aspirations – all of these require all of us.

We have lived long enough to know that vision doesn’t come from one person’s mind, but from the difficult democratic work of citizens showing up, modifying their own views when necessary, and building what they seek. Those who have done this work desire leaders who can accomplish this by bringing us together. But if we seek only power, dysfunction or a rampant ideology, then we cannot learn and grow together.

We have dreamed together in the past and built on those shared visions. It’s time to do it again with leaders seeking to understand us, not office seekers manipulating our frustrations.

We’ve done it throughout our history, when we eventually found our one voice – the final product of many talented voices.


This post was originally published as a London Free Press article on October 6, 2018

The Secret Nook – Chapter 9 (Teacher and Student)

Posted on October 7, 2018

She heard the shuffling of his feet a split second before the door opened.  For the first time in years, the two looked at one another and both felt the tension.  Duyi Koay appraised the woman in front of him and immediately detected sadness.  Gone was the brightness of those eyes that once shone, not with innocent youth, but curiosity and the desire for insight. Meadow appeared to him as her old teacher thought she might.  Still pretty and appearing in good health, he nevertheless detected the faint stooping of the shoulders and the weariness on her countenance.

“If you had not left your note, I might very well be in cardiac arrest at this moment,” he said with a smile.

Meadow moved to him with a gentle hug, feeling the emotion rise up within her.  “Mr. Koay, I had been told you were no longer here or I would have tried to reach you.”

Her former teacher understood, especially after all she had been through.  The pain she had endured in the years following her parents’ death must have been a terrible ordeal, and there was no point in going all through it by revisiting those difficult days and weeks.

“Well, it’s true that I moved – from the middle of the town to this spot a few miles away.  So, technically, you are right.  I was no longer where I was.”

It broke the tension, and they fell into an embrace once more, no longer tentative.  She studied him.  Clearly older and with his arms atrophied from years of disuse, he nevertheless appeared vital, his eyes shrewd, like a hawk’s, or those of an owl. Somehow, he seemed smaller than she remembered, more frail, and perhaps too much on the thin side.

“Come.  Come through the place and we will head to my studio – the reason I moved here.  Leave your shoes on.”

Meadow followed his slight figure as it moved its way through a living area complete with a rustic fireplace and wooden chairs, past a bathroom lined in tongue and groove pine boards, into a kitchen replete with wooden cupboards and beautiful case windows, and finally through a door and into the studio.

Meadow was prepared to have her breath taken away, and there was no question that the tall windows, skylights, and post and beam construction were striking.  Yet the entire area, large and vaulted as it was, looked more like the room of an aesthetic – which, she realized, was how he always had been.  Art was on the walls and bookshelves, strategically placed.  She smiled when she spotted a traditional Chinese tapestry yoga mat rolled up and leaning in a corner.

“Here, I’ll make us some tea.  Come, sit down,” he offered.  “You take sugar, I remember – a terrible practice,” he added with a grin.

“Actually, Mr. Koay, I have seen the errors of my ways and no longer take it.  Working in a restaurant for all these years has shown me how damaging sugar and salt can be over time.”

He looked up and she was surprised to see genuine curiosity on his face.

“A restaurant?” he inquired.

“Yes – in Charlottesville.”

He was clearly confused over this, attempting to make some sense from what he had just heard. Meadow sensed what was happening. Despite the horrific tragedy of her parents’ deaths, he had merely assumed that she would have continued in her artistic pursuits and, because of her gift, would have a prestigious profile by now.

For a half-hour, and over two new pots of Chinese tea, she told him everything. It was painful for them both, but mostly for Koay, since he had no knowledge of what had transpired following her departure.

In a lengthy silence she would find difficult to describe, she scanned his face as if it were a canvas covered with conflicting strokes of the brush.  Her old instructor made no attempt to press further, likely knowing that it would be a painful journey.  He rose, quietly walking across the oak plank boards, and then stood in place looking out through one of the large windows.

Meadow felt the heaviness of the moment.  She knew it would arrive at some point when they met, but it was difficult nonetheless.

“I know what you’re thinking, Mr. Koay – such a waste of gift, perhaps even a wasted life.  I don’t blame you, for it’s true.  Life just took it out of me and I have felt aimless since.”

He turned, then, and proceeded to his chair in front of her.  Meadow was surprised to see what she could only describe as a determined smile on his features.

“Some things must be corrected from what you say.  First, gift might be wasted, but no life is ever useless.  Second, in one who finds their passion so young, it is always a difficult thing to maintain the disciplines of gift – it remains, but how to uncover it can be lost in tragedy.  But it makes its home in your heart and will not relinquish its hold – it remains yours and yours alone.”

She sat in stunned silence, aware that more was coming.

“Third, life will not take out what it has put in.  It is a gift, a treasure.  One can bury it, but will never lose it.”

“But you did!” she blurted, immediately regretting her impulsiveness.

“It is true that paralysis seemed to rob my youth and my potential.  But as long as one respects the gift, especially over the hard years of living, it will find new ways of breaking through hard ground, even when ability seems gone.”

Sitting in silence – both of them – it was difficult to knew where to journey next.  The fates of life had taken his gift away through paralysis and hers through pain, and here they were – dried up and empty vessels and reminders of what life could have been if it hadn’t played its devastating hand.

“Come,” he said briefly, as he stood.

Meadow followed him to the far corner of the studio, where two large windows joined in the corner, displaying an expansive view of the Blue Ridge mountains.  With what mobility his arms could use, he pulled back a drape and exposed a number of easels, each containing a variety of canvasses painted in what clearly was his unique style.

“What do you think?”

She was unsure what to say. “They are a joy to my heart, Mr. Koay. They are clearly yours … and beautiful.”

He nodded respectfully, in traditional Chinese fashion, and, nodding his head in their direction, asked, “Can you tell when they were painted?”

“From your youthful phase,” she answered automatically.  It was an easy guess.

“Look closer, please.”

Not knowing what he hoped to achieve from the invitation, she stepped closer, analyzing the intricacy of the brushwork.  Only then did she discover the strokes were different from those of his youth, sometimes dramatically so.  Meadow went from one to the other, uncovering a series of revelations.

“Mr. Koay, these are … are … current.”  It was said as if the heavens had suddenly opened and everything had changed. There, at the bottom and below each of his signatures, was the date of completion.  All of them were dated within the last eight months.

Meadow looked up to see wonder on her teacher’s face.  He, too, was entranced by his work, but she wondered how it could be.  The paralysis had finished him, as far as any serious artistic endeavour went.  Perhaps he used his mouth,she thought, as some other famous challenged painters had done.

“How?” was all she could say.

“Software,” he whispered, almost inaudibly.

“How?” she said, almost matching Koay’s quiet tone.

“It is amazing.  Come and learn – see the wonders of divine and human creation – just as I did.”

The Secret Nook – Chapter 8 (Light and Valleys)

Posted on October 5, 2018

The next morning, on a whim, Meadow emptied a tank of gasoline driving around the region she had known and enjoyed so well as a child, then as a precocious young teenager. Clifton Forge, she remembered, had a rich history that dated back to the 1700s, even before the great Revolution. It had remained a small town until the 1820s, when iron was discovered, resulting in a burgeoning industry thriving on both sides of the Jackson River.  One of the key citizens of the community owned the largest iron forge and named the town “Clifton” in honour of his father.  Clifton Forge, as a name, became official.

She remembered portions of that information, since it had been part of local lore when she was a kid – just as she recalled how the arrival of the Chesapeake and Ohio railroad established a major maintenance facility, employing 2,000 (mostly locals) for steam locomotives.  Almost overnight, Clifton Forge turned into a boom town.  Following a few good and prosperous decades, diesel engines slowly phased out steam and the railroad transferred its maintenance sheds to West Virginia, across the border.  Suddenly a vibrant railroad town was reduced to Amtrak service only three times a week. It was all a bit disillusioning for the town and brought on years of decline – the years in which Meadow grew up in the area.

Now as she toured the region she could see that both state and federal assistance had partially succeeded in turning it into a tourist region, with parks, a cleaned up Moomaw Lake, and national forests named after George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. There was kayaking, hill climbing, nature trails, local arts and craft exhibitions and, naturally, a railroad museum.

As she drove in a northerly direction, she came upon a developed area nestled in a valley that sported tennis courts, fly fishing, horseback riding, golf, and what looked like cross-country ski trails.  She then spotted a number of ski tows angled across the slopes.  A large sign with carved letters denoted that this was “The Homestead” – something which hadn’t existed when she lived in the region.  At the bottom of the sign it described itself as a “five-star world renowned resort.”  She was happy for the town that this sign of new life was likely changing the local economy.

She drove to the border between the two states, stopping to look over the White Sulphur Hot Springs – part of the Greenbrier Resort – a West Virginian complex that had hosted guests from around the world since 1778, and was also a National Historic landmark.

Meadow got out and rested on the front bumper of the truck, craning her neck as she looked up and down the entire valley between the two states.  It was the more shaded time between winter and spring, so it didn’t light up as brightly under a more distant sun.  Still, it was beautiful and she admitted to herself that it would always be the area she would regard as home.

Peering across the valley she began to spot various little hamlets and even some buildings – all at different elevations.  She spotted a couple of farms she thought familiar, but then saw two churches almost five miles apart but each positioned on top of hills and easily seen.  It brought back memories of her dreams, her father’s hand, and the small building that was situated much as the churches were. Was it a church, maybe?  She had to consider that possibility.

On a whim she began driving aimlessly along the winding roads, the truck easily handling the climbs. Meadow knew what she was looking for – a small structure with a severely pitched roof, run down and perched on top of a hill – but had no way of knowing where to go.  She found all sorts of odd buildings, many of which had been around for over a century, but nothing that matched her quest.

In a strangely mystical moment, Meadow realized that she was appraising light – just light.  How it fell on the spruces and pines, how it elevated the top of the hills, and how it played with the broad surfaces of the valley floor, moving in an out in coordination with the clouds.  In a sudden moment, she pulled to the side of the road and scanned the panorama of light before her.  I’m reading it.  I’m reading the light,she said quietly to herself. To the average person this would mean little, but Meadow realized this was the first time she had performed the task since … since the accident.  What does it mean?she asked herself.

In a moment of poignant awakening, Meadow Hartley understood instinctively that something had cracked open in her soul – a kind of fissure that permitted some ray of light to escape through to the outside world.  Her imagination began to run ahead of her as she was realizing that the artistic impulse was making itself faintly known after all these years in stasis.  It was a wonder – and a shock.

A car’s sudden passing pulled her out of the moment.  Just like that, the fissure closed up once again.  But in that brief moment she had felt more alive than she could ever remember in recent years.  It took her a moment to collect herself and resume the drive.  Nothing she found in the next hour resembled the building in her dream, and as she watched thunderclouds coming across the ridge from West Virginia, Meadow though it best to head back to Clifton Forge.  Yet, for one brief moment, her essence had been catapulted to the surface and even if it was just for that alone, she realized, the trip had been worth it.

Photo credit: Foreign Policy magazine

Middle Class vs. Middle Class

Posted on October 4, 2018

It was a report that didn’t get enough coverage yet was fantastic in scope. For the first time in human history, slightly over half of the world’s population is identified as either middle class or richer – over 3.5 billion people.  That leaves a slightly smaller number as vulnerable or poor, but, still, the rapid advancement of the financial status of half the globe serves as a remarkable moment in time.

Released last month (September 2018) by the Brookings Institute, it serves as a reminder that much is happening in our world that is good and angles towards hope.  Perhaps more interesting is the speed by which it is all transpiring.  One billion people are being added to the middle class every seven years.

This was not some random bit of research but a look at the shifting economic dynamics of 188 countries. Each of those nations exists in varying economic circumstances, but the standard used by Brookings registered the vulnerable or poor as households that must spend less than $1.90 (US) per person per day – less than two dollars. The middle class are households that spend between $11- 110 per person per day. The vulnerable are situated between these two.

Brookings defines middle class as those households who have enough discretionary income to buy higher-value goods like large appliances or vehicles.  “They can afford to go to movies or other kinds of entertainment,” says the report.  “They may take vacations and they are reasonably confident that they and their family can weather an economic shock – like illness or a spell of unemployment – without falling back into extreme poverty.”

Here’s a chart from the report.  A link to it can be found here. 

The majority of the people entering this new middle class ranking – 9 out of 10 – are from the region including China, South and South-East Asia, and India.  Africa will follow soon enough.

But this isn’t happening in isolation.  The rise of these billions is transpiring at the same time as the prosperous nations, mostly in the West, are entering a period of stagnation or decline.  These were the countries that flourished following World War Two and whose middle class vaulted them into some of the most stable nations in the world.  There has been no major war between these nations and in issues like trade and interdependence they were undeniably successful.

That’s not the case anymore. The middle class in these nations is now restive and voting in ways that destabilizes much of what had been built in the post-war period.  It’s a telling sign of how ironic things have become when leaders celebrated when Amazon announced it would begin paying its thousands of employees a minimum wage of $15 (US) an hour.  Naturally, that’s a good thing, but it begs the question: why was it that the largest company in the world, led by the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos, is only getting around to this now?

There was a time when wages were decent, benefits were part of the deal, and companies valued their employees for their quality of work and productivity.  Now they mostly demand the productivity but with little reward.  In stripping the workers of their true worth, the path was set where the Western world would begin moving in the opposite direction of the billions the Brookings report is talking about.

The East is thriving and the West is taking on water.  And yet most of the wealthiest corporations are stationed in the West.  They chose to pursue profit by shifting resources, including jobs, overseas to Asia, which ironically helped introduced billions to a middle class that the West was letting deteriorate.  We understand that business is business and that competition drives its activities.  We have also been learning how our own good fortunes here in the West were frequently accelerated by our exploitation of the East and elsewhere.  But in permitting this moving forward from pillar to post rationale, we have created a world in which one group of middle-class is now battling another half-way across the globe.  We have permitted capitalism to play favourites, to pit citizen against citizen, in order to maximize profits.  And now, for the first time in history, two large middle- class entities are entering a war with one another that will result in a few gaining more riches through promoting such activities.

This is not how equitable societies are supposed to live or deal with one another.   We are global citizens and that should mean we are learning lessons as to how wealth should be shared in a spirit of equality and poverty reduced in a spirit of humanity.

The Brooking’s report is one remarkable piece of good news, but once we put it up against Western decline, we realize that this “winner take all” mentality continues to leave us in conflict and destroying our natural world in the process.  We must all learn from our overindulgences or willingness to accept poverty and begin building a sharing world that results in prosperity, sustainability, and social justice.  Just shifting it around the globe in endless pursuit of profit is actually splitting the world and leading to alienation and environmental decline.





The Secret Nook – Chapter 7 (Duyi Koay)

Posted on October 3, 2018

She was downing her scrambled eggs and toast in the Inn’s restaurant the next morning when a voice at the counter asked, “Meadow?  Meadow Hartley?  My God, is it … you?”

She looked up to see an old woman, wearing a spinster sweater with tiny pearl buttons and intricate weaving.  The woman looked impeccable, but the creases on her forehead and under her eyes spread out in directions across her face that she could never control.  Her hair was blue-rinsed but perfectly coiffed. For a moment, Meadow thought she recognized her but it was only fleeting.

She rose hesitantly before saying, “Yes, I’m Meadow Hartley.”

“I know … I know.  I can tell by your eyes, – Mediterranean blue,” the woman said, approaching slowly with the help of a shiny wooden cane.

“I’m Sarah – Sarah O’Connor. I taught with your Mom at Jackson River School.  Well, to be more precise, I was the librarian.  I still remember you asking me to get more art books for the shelves – which I did, even though none of the other students were interested.  You were so talented and your Mom …”

Everything descended into silence, neither woman knowing quite what to say.

“Well, thank you for being so understanding with me, Miss O’Connor.  I remember you now,” Meadow said through a tight smile.

“O dear, I’m so sorry about your Mom and Dad.  I mean, this whole town was devastated.  I couldn’t believe it.”

Silence again; it was getting awkward.  Eventually, Meadow asked if she would like to share a coffee at her table.  Rather than responding, her guest laid the cane over the next table and took a chair.  “I’ll take tea,” she said, once settled.

They spent the better part of an hour together, reminiscing and helping each other to catch up.  The older lady had retired once her arthritis flared to a degree that she could no longer grip any of her books.  She was never married, except to her audio books, which she listened to most of the day, every day.

“And what about you, Honey? I mean you must be some famous artist by now.  God, you were so good.”

Meadow gently broke the news.  “Actually, I never picked up a brush again after the crash.  I just couldn’t do it.  Brought back too many memories.”

The woman reached out and took her hand.  “But the memories can’t be all bad, surely?  I mean, your parents were some of the best people I had met in all my years of teaching.”

“No … no, they weren’t all bad,” Meadow responded.  “But they all ended at the same place – in a crushed car.”

It was said so starkly that they both sat stunned at its crudeness.   Miss O’Connor, unsure what to do or say, picked up her cup and began drinking while looking down at the table.

Meadow chided herself for her insensitivity.  “I’m sorry – honestly.  Being back here occasionally results in the revisiting of old wounds and I was just caught in one of those moments.  Honestly, it was stupid of me.”

The tension was broken and they drifted back into conversation about the past.  At one point, Meadow said she was sorry to have learned of Mr. Koay’s passing.


“He was my art teacher at Alleghany.”

“I know that, but who told you he was dead.”

Thinking back, Meadow couldn’t recall and said so.

“He’s very much alive, I assure you, Meadow.  In fact, he’s probably no more than two miles from here, either working in his garden or reading some book.”

“Wha … what?” Meadow’s heart had jumped from its usual place inside her chest.

“Seriously,” her old librarian exuded.  “He retired a few years ago and now lives in an old log cabin with a studio he added on after he moved in.  Saw him a couple of months back when he was in getting some groceries.  Looked great to me.”

They had offered friendly goodbyes, but Meadow was grateful that this chance encounter had opened a friendly door to her past.  She had asked for directions to Koay’s house, and following a quick shower and change of clothes hopped into the truck and made her way east, out of town.

Meadow had hardly thought of her old instructor in recent years, especially once she learned of his passing.  And how did she get that wrong message anyway?  She couldn’t place it, but she was happy to learn that it hadn’t been so. Outside of her parents, Mr. Koay’s influence on her was the next best thing in her life during those earlier, happier days.  Something about him had proved exotic – not just to her but to all who knew him.  He had been gently quiet, reflective and kind of spiritual in some way – like many would regard the older Chinese mystics of another time.  He had drawn her out of her child-like enthusiasm for drawing and colouring and disciplined her to be more ascetic and contemplative about her work.  His student didn’t rebel against it but, instead, flourished under the instruction.

That discipline had brought deeper elements of her personality, a deeper refinement, to her brushes and to the canvas.  The effects were immediate.  Soon enough her parents had negotiated with Koay for some extra lessons outside of the school hours.  He assented, but said in a more personal moment: “I cannot accept payment for this extra work.  Your child has a gift from God and, like the great natural beauty of our world, it can never be bought, only appreciated.”

Strangely, the extra lessons tended to focus more on philosophy than art, and the discussions Meadow and her instructor enjoyed tended to be as fulfilling as putting paint to canvas. She first attempted to imitate his style after he showed her some of the work he had done prior to his paralysis. Unlike anything she had seen before, Meadow immediately sat down to recreate the drawings out of a desire to please her teacher.

Walking into the classroom shortly after school had ended, he was surprised to spot a vivid painting of water lilies under an arched bridge on one of the easels.  Meadow waited nervously to get his assessment.

“Ah, you have almost captured it perfectly,” he said.  “The lilies look as fragile as they are in real life.

But to her 14-year old sensibilities, one word of his reply stuck out and troubled her.

“I worked hard to make it as identical to yours as I could,” she began.  “But you don’t think I quite captured it?”

Koay turned to look at her, pulling out a stool with his foot and faced her.  “It only lacks one thing, Meadow – something that the young can rarely capture.”

“Tell me.  Show me.  I want to learn it,” she responded nervously.

“It is soul – something which can never be drawn or painted but is more essential to art than any stroke or detail.  And soul comes with the years.  It will come to you, in time.”

The insight irked her, enough to mildly lash out.  “Well, you could teach it to me if you wanted to.”

Looking back at the respectful work she had put on canvas, he sighed.  “That must come in time,” he said.  “Just like a writer cannot put pen to paper until he has a thought, so the artist has to have a vision before she raises a brush.”

“But I did have a vision,” she blurted.  “There. Look at your work and mine.  They are similar, yes?”

“No, they are not.”

To his surprise, Meadow walked straightaway out of the class and made her way back home.  Koay smiled to himself, reminded of what he was like as a boy.  She will return tomorrow,he thought, and as he foresaw, her slightly slouched form made its way quietly into the room and sat beside him.

“I’m sorry, honestly. I talked to my parents last night because they could see I was upset.  They helped me to see that I couldn’t possibly understand what you understand, or have been through the experiences you have endured.  So how could I possibly paint like you, since I have not been through the life you have lived.”

The moment served as the opening of a new door or the vision of a new path for her.  She stopped attempting to imitate his work and sought to understand it.  It was a major shift in direction for her.

“Your work is different from how you teach us,” she noted a few days later.  “You teach us colours and types of strokes, but your paintings are …”

“Lines,” he said.

“Yes, exactly – lines. I’m trying to understand.”

He poured some water for himself, offering her some, which she declined.  Meadow could sense he was about to say something important.

“Chinese painters were always aware of different art forms around the world, but for 2,000 years they have built on their own unique style.  One of the key advancements in our art was the use of lines.  We learned to use writing brushes to create shapes and forms using such lines.  Europe took a different path and their artists adopted light and shade to create images, using special techniques to create their images.  It was wonderful and these are the ways I use to instruct my students here in America because this is what Western art instruction requires.

Meadow’s head was spinning, but looking at her painting next to his, she now saw that she hadn’t quite captured what he had put on canvas.  She had started with space whereas he had expressed himself conceptually through lines.

“The use of lines is the most important accomplishment in Chinese art,” he continued, as if reading her mind.

“I understand that now,” she noted, “but your paintings don’t use as much light.  Is that normal for Chinese art?”

He smiled, not to encourage her, but at the inward recognition that such questions were coming from a first-year high school student – queries that were often missed completely by the less curious adult painters.

“Meadow, painters in this part of the world like to emphasize the rendering of light in a consistent way within every piece.  In China, that’s not so important.  Light is obviously present in Chinese paintings, but there is little desire to use it in a consistent manner.  And because light and its sourcing has been important to Westerners, colour is of primary interest.  To the Chinese, that is not the case.”

“Your paintings don’t have many people in them,” she said, by way of observation.  “Is that normal?”

“It has been vital in the West, especially to Impressionists, but not so much in Asia. Look at Western landscapes and you will see people almost in oversized form on the canvas; in Chinese art it is the other way around.  Chinese painters are more interested in abstraction, whereas Western painters practiced representation.”

Meadow was confused by this and set off with another series of questions that took up the entire length of what would have been art lessons.  She realized now, as the Ford neared his cabin, that he had never begrudged the foregoing of actual lessons in order to explore the meaning of art itself and its importance to the human condition.

She recognized the place long before she saw the address.  It was a greying log structure, with angled notches in the corners.  At the rear, a larger more modern wing, structured with skylights and large floor-to-ceiling windows, must have been his studio.  Interesting, she thought, that he would have such a fitting studio when he could no longer paint.

She chose to walk to the studio door at the side instead of knocking at the front door.  There was no sign of life – no lights, shadows moving, or even any noise.  Rapping on the plank wooden door confirmed it, when no one answered.

Meadow worked her way around to the front and lifted her hand to the door when she spotted a notice beside the wrought iron mailbox.  In perfect penmanship, which she realized had be the result of a computer printer, a few words said: “Home by Friday.  Leave a note in the mailbox.”

She considered this for a moment and decided to just leave it.  But then she realized her old professor would be in for a shock should she suddenly materialize.  In the truck she found a pen and a scrap piece of paper and wrote carefully for effect.


Hello Sufi Koay:

I have returned, as if from the dead – which in many ways is how I felt since I left Clifton Forge. Not sure how long I will be in the area, but it is important that we see one another again – if you are willing. I will return on Saturday afternoon and hope to find you here.

Meadow Hartley


She smiled, enjoying her idea to use the salutary term for a Chinese master, traditionally known as a wise instructor of the young.

A moment later she started up the truck and took one last look at Koay’s house before putting it in reverse and heading back to the Inn.  She had to acknowledge to herself that she was feeling a mixture of yearning and dread – emotions that stayed with her for the remainder of the drive.

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