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Monday, July 29, 2013

Buckminster & Amber 66 – Amber Croft — Kat Kung Fu – Part 5

Amber Croft  A Cat of Nine Tales


 Tale 2  Part 5

            “But, I’m not ready, Sifu. Next week maybe.”
            “Next week like mirage on desert, certain to fade as one draws closer. You are ready now. Have mastered Poking Feet to some degree. Have also had White Eyebrow training, also Gouquan Dog Fist, which may help you. I am hoping you remember classes that you did not sleep though on this day.”
            “Wait, Sifu. It’s too soon. Let me explain why.”
            “Talk will not cook rice, Grasshopper. Dog is waiting. Do not fear. I’m sure you will survive.” Is certain, but I cannot tell him this. Dog is good friend named Morris, lives in cave near temple gate. Not dangerous . . . a vegetarian.  We have discussed the matter. Dog will make aggressive threatening barks, then run away, as if in fear.
            “Must not be friend of hesitation, Grasshopper. Use what you have learned to defeat demon of fear.”
            “But Sifu . . . .”
            “Never mind. Must go.”
            I push reluctant student into practice yard where dog is waiting. Then close door and watch to see what happens. Nothing can go wrong . . . I think.

            Have seen few amazing things this lifetime, but today is one. Fear has awakened memory of Gouquan Dog Fist. Am so sorry for poor Morris who was not expectant of aggression.
Can only hope peaceful dog will not become angry canine. Now only silence. Time to open gate. Am feeling sympathy for Morris. What to say? So unexpected this.

Buckminster lies quite still. Is dead perhaps.
            “What have you done?” I say to Morris.
            “Sorry Sifu. Didn’t mean to do it. It was just a reflex. Have you never taught him how to duck?  He hit me first! Look here, I’ve got a swollen jowl.”
            “So sorry, Morris. Will bring double portions of fried rice for you this week, in hopes you might forgive.” As we are speaking Grasshopper returns to consciousness.
            “What happened Sifu?”
            “You forget to duck, but are okay now, I believe. Am proud of you for having fought good fight. Defeat is unimportant. You may leave Golden Amber Temple with new face of honor.”
            “Thank you for being patient with me Sifu. I will not forget what you have taught me.”

            So it was Buckminster then returned to honored parents. Great relief to humble teacher who made mistake of accepting lazy student.
Trouble is like first love, teach many lessons.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Buckminster & Amber 65 - Amber Croft - Kat Kung Fu 4

Amber Croft – Cat of Nine Tales
Amber Croft Open Photo

Part 4

    The Dog of Death
Another dawn at Golden Amber Temple. Buckminster sleeping off catnip hangover on front steps. “Wake up Grasshopper.”
            Awareness struggles to take shape in brain of lazy student. “Time has come for final test,” I tell him. “If you pass today, you can leave dojo with respect. Return to worthy parents as one who . . .” What can I say, “. . . has passed test.”
            “What test?”
            “Test called ‘Facing Dragon.’
            “Facing Dragon? Isn’t that a bit over the top? I only weigh five pounds.”
            “There is no dragon. Dragon retire many years ago.”
            “Too bad,” Buckminster speaks. “I would have broke his toes . . . twisted his tale.”
            “Good fortune you have missed that opportunity. Today is much more simple, test of courage. Is called, ‘Facing Dog of Death.’ Dog not so big as dragon whose tail you would twist. Dog maybe fifty pounds . . . more or less.” Buckminster courage disappears with speed of rabbit chased by fox.
            “But, I’m not ready, sifu. Next week maybe.”

Observing Sweden - 27 July 2013 The Church at Stora Tuna – Borlänge

Dala Church 1
This church is a few miles from where we live, was completed in 1469., was the religious and political center of Darläna (the area in which we live) at that time. It is a three hall, Gothic style design.


Created by an unknown Swedish woodcarver, early 16 century. It comprises both medieval and Renaissance features.
Altar piece:
Dala Church 4

Copy of 1659 painting by David Klöcker Ehrensstrahl. It is of the baroque style. Frame is carved and gilded wood.
Dala Church 3

Made in Stockholm and transported by sled to Stora Tuna. Wood is painted to look like marble. Installed 1757.
Dala Church 5

Installed 1969. Has 3 manuals an 43 stops. Note Spanish trumpets, Hard to see unless you enlarge. They are at the bottom of the top center pipes.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Buckminster & Amber 64: Amber Croft – Kat Kung Fu – Part 3

Amber Croft  A Cat of Nine Tales

Typical Chinese morning, blue sky, smell of rice between the lotus blossoms. Buckminster of Beijing napping as usual. Time for graduation approaches with speed of greyhounds. Students practice many hours, wanting to learn.

Cat Fight

But this Buckminster is great problem. No way he can wear robes of Golden Amber Temple . . . yet, it may be possible to keep young kat from wearing robe of shame. I must create a test of courage, one he cannot fail, to bring possibility of his future employment, perhaps as rat catcher . . . or bookend if he gains a few more pounds.

Will holy lamas forgive this Kung Fu falsehood?  Humble teacher must accept responsibility for act of saving Buckminster face. What name shall test be called? ‘Facing the Dragon.’ Yes, sounds good, means nothing. Name is easy, test not so. Must take time to ponder this. Hasty conclusion like gunpowder, easy to explode.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Buckmister & Amber 63 - Amber Croft: Kat Kung Fu 2

Amber Croft  A Cat of Nine Tales

It was typical Chinese morning, blue sky, smell of rice between the lotus blossoms.
Buckminster of Bejing also typical, taking nap at when others busy learning skills.
            “Will you not be practicing again Grasshopper?
            “I’m too tired, Sifu. I was up late last night, yow-ling at the moon.”
            “Kat who yowl at moon by night miss lessons under sun by day. This is not good.”
            “Whatever,” he replied.
            Only foolish kat waste words when argument is lost. But what to do when pupil has not learned respect for elders. Is great problem for this humble teacher of the warrior’s way. Were he of common stock would be back to worthy parents long ago, but father is close friend of emperor and has made great contributions to my Golden Amber temple.
            Perhaps is best unsuitable student not to follow way of warrior. Mud turtle in pond safer that kat on horseback. What to do? Is an enigma. I began my morning practice, Praying Mantis - Chow Style, with this troubling thought in mind.

 Buckminster does not hear the sacred call of discipline, but to remove unworthy student would cast shame of many dragons over field of life.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Observing Sweden - Missing America

Things Left Behind 

I’m starting to miss a few things. Had my first doctor’s appointment here in Sweden. Office was, how should I say it? Adequate. It was adequate, nice, something like a doctor’s office would have been in the U.S. 15 years ago. No high tech stuff. They were having trouble with a computer system newly installed. It took 40 days to get an appointment. Dr. was nice, spoke academic English and understood at about the same level. Not good when you are trying to describe a weird pain that is hard to describe in English.
             “Is this pain in my fingers arthritis?” I ask.
            “Ah, who knows,” Doc says. “We get older. . . .”
            Right. In the States they would have run at least a thousand dollars worth of tests . . . and probably given me the same answer.
            I am to have an x-ray. No idea how long I will have to wait for that. I was given blood and urine tests in another surprisingly Spartan room. Results came back in 5 minutes. That worries me. How sophisticated is lab work that gets done in 5 minutes? Life in the 2nd world. Better than 3rd world. I am still damn lucky, but figure Swedish heath care will shave a year or so off my life.

And then there’s groceries.

Quote from Stanley Meisler—S.F. Chronicle:

“The cornucopia on a U.S. supermarket shelf numbs the sense of choice. A shopper searching for a salad dressing must now choose amongst French, honey French, Italian, creamy Italian, zesty Italian, robust Italian, blue cheese, thousand island, Caesar, sweet and sour, ranch, buttermilk and herbs, celery seed and onion, dill and lemon and more. There are at least 11 brands of dog food. Even bagels come in a host of flavors: garlic, onion, rye, pumpernickel, honey wheat, bran sesame, poppy cinnamon raison and plain.”
The variety used to drive me nuts, now I miss it. How is it possible there are no saltines in Sweden? No crackers! And no peanut butter! There are some canned soups, not much variety. I miss my 20 different kinds of Campbell’s. Lunch meat is astronomically expensive, but there’s lot of fish available. Some that would be expensive in the U.S. are bargains here. I guess fish are better for me than crackers and peanut butter, but still. . . .

Also lots of cheeses, most are better than we found in the U.S. and also not expensive.
Below see just one of three isles.

30 Kroner = 4.59 Dollars

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Buckminster & Amber 62 Amber Croft - Kat Kung Fu ... Part 1

Amber Croft – Cat of Nine Tales
Tale 2  Chapter 1  Kat Kung Fu

It was a lifetime ago, my third as a matter of fact. I’m on my fifth life now; four more to go. But that’s another story. This one is from China. I was the Master Kat at Shaolin Temple. My students called me, ‘Paw of Death,’ but I was really very kind. A teacher must be strict or lessons will be lost, and lost lessons mean lost battles.
            I remember one of my most difficult students, Buckminster of Beijing. He meant well, but had only modest skills and receiving instruction was not one of them. He was not, how should I say it . . . clever.
            We were in the courtyard where I was attempting to teach him Kung Fu Black Tiger Fist. He had managed to understand a bit of the Springing Legs style, but Tiger Claw was beyond him.
            “I don’t see why I have to learn this,” he complained. “It’s so much trouble, and hard to do.”
            “Life is always trouble, Grasshopper. Also hard to do. You must not dishonor venerable ancestors with lazy behavior.”
            “But, I’m perfectly able to take care of myself, sifu.”
            “Your courage is like that of young kat at dentist—most evident after tooth extracted,” I said as I stroked my fine white beard bemusedly. Such fools some felines be.

Observing Sweden 18 July 2013

Culture Shock – Phase 2

It’s not so much about Sweden exactly, or leaving America . . . the end of basic things: the culture, ways of thinking, loss of friends with at least the potential of body nearness—almost never happened. Some I haven’t seen in person, twenty years, or more. We keep in touch with e-mails . . . Skype. These new technologies are wonderful – and scary . . . weird. I’m old. The young will never question the reality of Skype. Few stray far from their cell phones, Face Book, texting, SMS, these virtual realities. What’s next? You can be sure that something will be. I’ve digressed. 

            The shock, culture and ways of thinking— subtle things. After five months in Sweden my major challenge seems physical. The act of moving kicked my ass. Before the move I was going to the gym two days a week: free weights, machines and swimming. I felt good. Then came the endless days of packing, moving, lifting . . . so much shit we should have left behind. We loaded and entire, full sized, container, filled so tight some boxes had to be abandoned, left behind.

            Then in Sweden after two months living on lawn furniture, construction, ten hour days of nailing, sawing, painting walls . . . minor repairs. Then all our stuff arrived, a long day, took four men eight hours to unload, and then the great unpacking, still more ten hour days of lifting, moving furniture, arranging. Feels like I’ve run out of gas and still not reached my destination. Feet hurt. Back hurts. Shoulder hurts. My fingers are killing me after opening some three hundred heavy-duty taped cardboard shipping boxes. Have I got arthritis? Never had this finger pain before. I feel older. Some of you have been here, gained this less than joyous self awareness. Shocking. Guess it has to happen sometime . . . cold hard fact of life.

            A Swede would never tell you all of this. They’d tell you things had gone just great, “Oh ja, was hard work, but we got it done.” That’s all a person really needs to know. They are hard workers, those I’ve met. Dependable, always on time. But this is just a shallow dip into the Swedish psych—a very fast five months. I’m in Phase 2 of culture shock. The honeymoon is over . . . more hard work, getting to know my way around, and Swedish. Uk, they make such funny sounds. How do they do that? Language class begins September, back to school. I’m too damn old to go to school! I already know everything . . . except Swedish.

            I don’t know how long Phase 2 of culture shock will last. Phase 1 was three months, book says 2 is four of five. I’ve never looked at the Phase 3 descriptions, seems so far ahead. I dream of a white Christmas, with most of the above resolved.