The Garden – Dandelion (Prologue)

One day, the sun named Sunflower found himself once again at the gates of The Garden — a galaxy at the far ends of the universe, and where he had turned from a sunflower into a sun. The Gardener, keeper of the The Garden, was there.

(Now if you had read about the Sunflower in his tale, you would remember that we had left the Sunflower and our dear friend Flare in a beautiful ending in the Garden. How is it, you may ask, that Sunflower had left The Garden and went elsewhere? What happened to Flare? What I will tell you is this: that all stories are real and truthful but at the same time, they are allegories. This is a big way of saying that every story contains a truth about the world we know, even when the story is about impossible things. You will grow up to understand that truths in this world are complex, and writers like myself try to make them simple and beautiful by writing stories that even children like yourself can understand.

When I told you that Sunflower and Flare were left on a beautiful planet in the Garden, with the dying embers of Flare forever kept alive as a sunset in a painting, and with the Sunflower always rising as a sun on it, it was my way of saying: what is important to us will never diminish. But truly, Flare felt the stilling of his gaseous heart and his last light ray of light dim. You might be very sad to hear this, as the Sunflower was, for a long long time. And it was during his deep grief that the Sunflower returned to the Garden.]

“Hello,” the Gardener greeted him. “You are back. Are you here to stay?”

Sunflower thought for a moment and replied, “No, not yet.”

“Then what are you looking for?” the Gardener asked.

And because Sunflower was still very sad about Flare, he answered, “I would like to be with Flare once more, on the golden planet. Can you do that?”

The Gardener gave a small smile and replied, “When Flare first found you, he had to complete a task so that he can stay here, in the Garden. To fulfil your wish, you too, must complete a task.”

“Tell me what it is, and I’ll do it!” Sunflower said eagerly, glad for the chance to see Flare once more.

“On the way to the golden planet, Flare passed by ten planets of dust and snow. One of them, the closest to the golden planet, lives a flower named Dandelion. Speak to her and help her with her wish, then come back, and I will tell you how to meet Flare again.”

And so, Sunflower blazed into the outer reaches of the Garden once more.



Every Breaking Wave

“What is it that pulls a man in many directions all at once… but which at the same time also holds him together?”

Although I could not have truly comprehended it then, I remembered this line — overwrought sentiments are always memorable for impressionable sixteen year olds.

Years later, I came to understand — it is our contradictions that define us.

How we may yearn for piercing connections and impenetrable solitude, in equal measures, all at once. How we chase new suns, again and again, even as the shadow of nostalgia and loss nips and lengthens at our heels. How it is the unfulfilled — closed doors and only-ifs and 错过了 and endless possibilities blown away in the breeze — that possess terrible enduring beauty. 幸福需圆满,但刻骨铭心的是遗憾。

Who I am, at any one time, is a shift in the kaleidoscope of the tensions between solitude and camaraderie, change and constancy, simple joys and terrible beauty. And they have shifted, they keep shifting.

How can I hold on to the joy and contentment of a simple life; while seeking to be moved by the unfinished?

I don’t know that I will ever know. Perhaps the contradictions are their own answers — in living out a quiet life I may never plumb the full depths of what I can feel. And the exquisite disquiet of the knowledge then fulfils the need for an unfinished desire.

And perhaps it is in this way, that we are kept together, and pulled apart — within our souls, by our own inscrutable hearts.

Daily Routines!

Now that Isabel is a bit of a fusspot and is awake much more often, my daily routine consists of a fair bit of holding her!

6 – 8 am – Isabel wakes up sometime in between 6 – 8 am. I nurse her, and she usually goes back to sleep, sometimes for a short half an hour, sometimes longer.

8 – 9 am – Isaac wakes, we snuggle a bit. We both have breakfast then Isaac gets prepared for school and leaves with Ning between 8.30 to 9.

9 – 11.45 am – Isabel will wake by this time, and is usually fussy. My helper Lyn gives her a bottle and her morning bath, then tries to get her to sleep. I spend my morning on checking work emails, expressing milk, a quiet prayer session, writing, an hour of piano practice, half an hour of exercise and a shower before leaving to pick Isaac up. I would like to think of this as me-time, but it’s a very packed and busy one!

12 – 2 pm – I pick Isaac up from school all three of us have lunch at some point. Isaac gets an after school shower and I put Isabel down for nap. For now, a supervised nap on her tummy works well and she sleeps for 2-3 hours!

2 – 3 pm – I play with Isaac or do some quiet reading, then he’s down for his nap!

3 – 5 pm – I take a short nap with the babies and read or check email for the rest of the time.

5 – 8 pm – At some point, both babies will wake. I spend the evening in some variation of playing with Isaac, nursing Isabel, bringing her around the house to entertain her and put her on various surfaces. Usually we end up with Isabel sleeping or nursing in my arms while I watch TV and Isaac runs around talking about his windmills or fans.

8 – 10 pm – Ning is back by 8, we have dinner while Lyn gives Isabel a bath. Then I nurse her while Isaac gets his bath. Isabel sleeps by 9.30 usually, then I snuggle with Isaac until both of us falls asleep.

10 pm – 6 am – Isabel wakes twice for her night feeds. For now, most nights are fairly straightforward affairs. She wakes between 6 – 8 am and the whole cycle begins again!

I am really grateful for my helper, who allows me to have some precious me-time. It sounds a bit mad to use the maternity leave period to do things like prepare for a piano exam — but if I didn’t have some personal goals I think I’ll be awfully bored!

In other news, Isabel sleeps very well on her tummy and is still sound asleep despite having moved from being vertical and half a foot lower on the bed to where she is in the picture. Isaac is very entertained by all the fans in the house and pretends he’s the narrator in various how-to videos and teaches an invisible audience on how to use a fan.

Let’s hope this routine can last for a bit before the next change!