Monday, June 22, 2015

Double Fives Peace to You!

Saturday, June 20th was Dragonboat Festival in China. You might already know about the tradition of this day that falls on the 5th day of the 5th month of the Lunar Calendar, thus known as Double 5s Day, from the entry titled Seven Pony-Tailed Heads, posted in June of 2011.

Only this year I learned it is not proper to say “Happy Double Fives Day!”, as one might wish a jubilant celebration for most any other Chinese festival.

Let's recap: Poet Chu Yuan's great love for his country, and his intolerance for the emperor tearing it apart led him to pitch himself in the river in a fit of agony. Villagers, horrified at this spectacle, threw rice in the water so that the fish would not eat Chu Yuan's body. They paddled boats around to further distract the fish. The custom of eating zong zi – glutinous rice dumplings filled with either meat or  sweet paste, and racing boats evolved from this legend. Needless to say, a venerated being pitching himself in the water is not cause for happiness, therefore the standard greeting on Double Fives' Day is: Double Fives' Peace to you! - duan wu jie an kang. No happiness expressed, although one can smile while delivering the greeting.

Side Note: I suppose it would not be appropriate to wish any Chinese a happy Tomb Sweeping Festival, either. They are anything but gleeful about their dead. I'll have to wait till the next Qing Ming festival to find out if I should say 'kuai le' – happy, or 'an kang' – peace.  

My Double Fives' Day was anything but peaceful. Quite the contrary: I was flying high on excitement!

The one thing I love to do more than eating and playing with my grandkids is riding my bike. I'd been denied that simple pleasure since February, when I broke my leg. These past 4 months have been filled with despair and depression: nothing worse for an active person than forced immobility! My leg's healing has been so incrementally gradual that I didn't think it would ever get better.

And then, one day, I was able to walk without crutches. Believe me: from that point on I worked and worked at making my leg stronger! All while doing squats and leg lifts and ankle flexes, I was eyeing my bike,stored just off the living room. If I could  walk, I could ride, I reasoned. Last week, I finally abandoned the crutches altogether.

The temptation was too great. I sat astride my pretty red bike. Getting on wasn't too painful or hard. Now, to see: can I ride? I backed up to the bathroom, at one end of the hall and rode the few meters to my living room – about 2 pedal strokes. SUCCESS!!! Over and over, up and down. I rode my hall like it was the prettiest bike lane ever made. At some point, I felt tears on my cheeks. Unaware, I had started crying at the sheer joy of again being able to do what I so love. “Tomorrow, I ride outside!” I vowed.

There was only one problem to my riding outside: the four stairs down to ground level. I barely make it up and down those stairs on my own. How to get the bike down and then back up?

Turns out, it was not that hard. Bracing myself against the wall, I rolled my bike down the stairs. At one point it was in danger of getting away from me but in the end, all was well. There we were, my steed – leaning on its kickstand and I, for the first time in a long time together in the great outdoors.

The next problem was the kickstand, on the bike's left side. I would have to stand on my mended leg to disengage it, and then the natural impulse to swing my right leg over the saddle... too much for my formerly broken limb, I thought. But I did it anyway, and it worked!

I cannot describe to you the joy I felt with each pedal stroke. For you it might be just riding a bike but for me it was the end of my tyrannical confinement. With wheels, I could go anywhere. I can build up my strength again, and get some exercise – something that had been severely lacking in my hobbled condition. The wind in my hair! The sun on my limbs! It was like rediscovering a treasured but lost aspect of myself.

I only rode for about 1 hour, and only around campus. I could have ridden longer but I didn't want to risk my legs turning to jelly, and not being able to get off the bike. Elated, I pedaled back home, managed a somewhat graceful dismount and carried my precious bike back into the house. I sat there, sucking down water, and thought: “Reverence to you, Poet Chu Yuan, but I sure am happy today!!!”   

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