Ruiyun’s epidemic dairy “The year is Quiet and Peaceful”
By Luo Yang Fu
Tr. Shadow Snake
Though there’s epidemic, there’s also love to cater.
There are feelings of true affection and the love is much greater!
Though there’s isolation, we’re separate but not apart!
The separation is only physical, the connection is from the heart!
There is an elderly lady named Ruiyun who has gone through isolation twice during the years of pandemic, once in China and once when she came back to Canada. During her isolation in Canada, she turned her life of isolation into a poetic adventure and turned herself into a ray of sunshine.
One day in July 2020, Ruiyun` returned to Toronto from Beijing. The moment she entered the apartment for the seniors, she realized that the epidemic situation was very severe; there was no one inside or outside of her apartment building, the usually noisy entrance area of the apartment was empty, and the normally busy apartment hallway was dead silent. After realizing how bad it was, she quickly walked into her room and began her 14-day life of self-isolation.
Her elder daughter who is in Canada has already stored food in her refrigerator during the isolation period, while the second daughter, third daughter, her younger brother’s family, her students, relatives and friends are all far away across the ocean. There’s a saying: “If you want to be safe at home at night, you should talk to people who have travelled far away.” This means that even one person travels afar, all her family and friends will miss and care about her.
Sure enough, all her friends greeted her with love and laughter on WeChat and on the phone; her brothers and sisters in the same building quietly hang food and fruits on her doorknob; Hand sanitizers, facial masks, lunch boxes and sweet cakes were sent from the community many times to her, and the government provide the elderly with relief subsidies … As an elderly person who was isolated alone in her senior home, she was not as lonely as Robinson in the novel “Robinson Crusoe”. On the contrary, she was surrounded closely and warmly by family affection, friendship as well as social warmth.
Attend Internet classes, train in Tai Chi, practice calligraphy, writing articles, recite poems … She arranged her isolation life in a well-organized room and gained the joy of learning: She won many awards in Tai Chi, and an article won her the highest honor award in an essay contest and was selected as a Toronto headlines article; At the same time, Ruiyun gave back to the society: she participated in the online Lantern Festival poetry reading and delivered full positive energy; Practice, care for others, and turn herself into a ray of sunshine, illuminating the society and warming others.
With love in her heart, and poetics in her pen. This diary of isolation records the poetic life of an elderly person in a senior apartment in Toronto, and it is also a charming and brilliant reflection of this wonderful city.
Days in Tranquility (2)
-A Back Glance at the Days of Self-isolation in Toronto of an Eighty-Year-Old
By Zhao Ruiyun
Canada, in January, 2020, was not plagued by the Covid-19, but I had to go back to Beijing, with which the pandemic was wreaking havoc. I was then home-isolated along with my family. “Days in Tranquility (1)” was written to record the touching moments in Beijing. Six months later, the reported active cases returned to zero, but for some reason I had to go to Toronto, where, this time, the virus was rampant, alas, I had to be home-isolated again in a Senior Citizens’ Apartment, and I felt again I need to write down something.
On the day back in Toronto from Beijing, I found myself on a deserted street-not a single pedestrian in sight but only sporadic vehicles whizzing by. As I went to the lobby of the apartment, I was greeted by no one, but the mute shining floor. Gone were the helpful Yang and Li sisters and gone was Mr. Shi; gone were the usual cheers and laughter. I was submerged in a sea of absolute stillness.
The pandemic was acute and menacing, and I hastened to my little room, where fourteen days of strict isolation awaited me. An eighty-year-old elderly, whose life was like a flickering candle light, now was sharing the same building with more than four hundred of her peers, facing the merciless pandemic. Could I survive? And be healthy enough to enjoy the rest of my life? God knows I had never been any good at tiding rooms or cooking. Luckily, my worries did not ferment into anything like sadness, rather I realized solidarity did not necessarily mean eccentricity of any degree, but was the independence of the soul, as well as the requirement of each citizen in this crucial fight against the virus. Moreover, tranquility can make one think, reconcile with himself, and do things he really yearns. After all, a person’s life is mostly spent with the company of himself only, and as long as there is warmth and gratitude in his heart, he could feel his life is fulfilled.
The warmth first came from my fridge, which was stuffed with fish, chicken, duck, meat, vegetables and fruits-they were the excellent work of my eldest daughter, Linda. Far on the other side of the Pacific ocean, her two sisters often texted messages to tell me how much they missed me, and I always responded, “Yes, my daughters, I miss you too.” It was not isolation-it was care and warmth. The three girls’ messages preempted my WeChat, cautioning me this and that, as if I were a baby. Mum, watch your steps, don’t catch a cold, mind the slippery floor, be careful with fire, close the taps, etc, etc. Back in Shanghai, my younger brother, also over eighty, cared for me so much that he and his family’s love was completely unforgettable. I felt I had never been far from my students and friends, despite the numerous mountains and vast oceans between us. As for my part, I knew what’s left to do was to protect myself-the only way to cherish the blessings of family love and friendship, because I knew my safety meant a lot to my daughters and friends.
I knew it through WeChat and phones. The menacing pandemic stopped us from seeing each other at the doors or in the lobbies, but it could do nothing about the caring words in WeChat messages and the charming laughter via the phone, or about some unexpected blessings. One day, I heard something at the door. When I opened it, I found on the knob was a parcel, through which the aroma of fresh meat moon-cake wafted towards me! I thrust out my head in the corridor to see who had delivered it to me, but there was no one. This little favor had melted my heart! I spent each of the following days finding delicacies on the doorknob-sweet steamed sponge cake, baked gluten, seafood-flavored instant noodles, pickled amaranth and fruits, and you name it. These were trickles of love from people in the very same building, out of their silent best wishes for an elderly, leaving me nothing else to do but write down my gratitude here.
The property staff in my district often sent us necessities, such as alcohol disinfectant spray, masks, fruits, packed meals and sweet cakes. But I could neither pin down who they were or tell the names of the providers. At the end of each month, the elderly would find there was some extra money on their monthly statements- it was pandemic subsidy from the government for the elderly. It was not just money, it was a token of love from the kind to encourage the grey-haired to win this smokeless but bloody war against the pandemic.
I also knew that back in the garden, the verdant twigs were swaying in the breeze and the lively squirrels and birds were scampering on the ground or between branches. Along with the silent piano in the lounge, the sports facilities, they were quietly waiting for the return of the elegant elderly. However, the Covid 19 was obnoxiously importunate and soon our district became the hardest hit area. Worst of all, all sorts of news streamed in on the screen, bringing another wave of shock to the seniors. Some wise ones pointed out some of the news were fake, some had been exaggerated versions of the true story and some were wrong accusations because people were hanging the wrong blame on our district. They appealed to others not to believe a word of the make-believe. As a result, none of the elderly was extremely panicked, and this was what we often say “Rumors come to a halt before a wise ear”.
Since then, the elderly became much more cautious in their prevention endeavors. Still unfortunately, an old lady fell victim to the virus and had to accept medical observation at home. Her case had once again startled many, especially those who were in her building, sharing the same lift. Two long yellow caution tapes were added to the original ones on the public lounge gate, as if the gate were the most notorious criminal captured on the spot. It was not just a bit terrifying, but very, very terrifying.
The pandemic loomed right before us, but fear or fuss did not help. The elderly knew more than anyone else that an old guy should not have an old mind, and a weak body should not have a weak will. In the threat of let-go of life, we have to put up the toughest struggle and only an active and meticulous defense procedure can secure our survival. The white-crowned people in every home tried their best to keep their homes and themselves clean; no drop-in, no chat, no party, no dining together; mask-on outings, two-meter social distance; washing hands and face upon each return from public places; be self-disciplined and good stay-at-homes.
Several months later, the old lady recovered and in the building there was no new confirmed case reported. It seemed all’s well that ends well. A united effort can move mountains! All proved that strict prevention activities work, and an elder’s apartment could become an Elysian land for us.
What delighted us more was we were offered on-line courses, which attracted many of us. We rushed to opt for those subjects and activities in which we were interested. I enrolled in programs organized by CICS, on basic computer skills, cellphone apps, programs for new immigrants and the community. I learned in the special program about the maltreatment of the elders, and I thought it was an unknown aspect of this society but very instructive, so I forwarded the outline to my friends, hoping the elderly would learn to protect themselves.
During this period, I was invited to participate in an online video contest of 24-Move Yang Style Tai Chi, an event co-organized by Master Du of a martial arts group and CPWC (Chinese Professional Women of Canada). It was organized for the elders because we were confined to our rooms, where exercise may not be adequate, and we need to entertain ourselves. Since I had learned Tai Chi with Master Du, I was invited.
My daughter Linda is a fan of Tai Chi, and she had won many gold and silver medals. I asked her to come to help with the video. The two of us practiced non-stop from 4 pm to 10: 40pm , completely forgetting our dinner. Linda was afraid the drilling might tire me out, she then said, “Mum, sit down and watch me doing it.” Many times she showed me the moves and explained them. I rehearsed many times as well until my legs trembled and wanted to have the video made the next day. But my daughter encouraged me again, she said, “Mum, you can do it, just try one more time.” This time it worked – I played all the moves non-stop, so you see triumph comes always at the last minute. It was tiresome indeed, but I was very happy. Finally, the judges awarded me the second prize of the Mount Tai team and Lilac Manner Prize in the Friendly Match. Of course, I know the prizes were not for my excellent performance in the contest, but encouragement and respect for an elderly.
On another occasion, a good friend asked me to write something for the Eve of Spring Festival writing competition. It was near the entry deadline and I thought perhaps I’d better give it up. Yet the idea of a Spring Festival grand dinner kept popping up in my mind. Eighty such grand dinners had fleeted away from me, and the most unforgettable ones were spent with my grandma beside me. Oh, how much I missed my grandma! The mere thought of her caused my eyes to trim with tears. I could distinctly tell how she knelt on the icy cold bluestone courtyard, praying to all passing deities for my recovery from a serious illness. She piously burned the incense and muttered she would like to give all her rest blessed days to me…I couldn’t sleep any more-I was so eager to pour out my sentiments in an essay “Delicious Food, Delicious Love”. When I typed in the sentence, “I am not lonely, because gratitude drives loneliness away. My heart is always stirred by the strong family feelings at the dining tables in Suzhou”, it had dawned and I fell into a sweet sleep as if I were still nestling in the arms of my grandma.
This was really an impromptu piece, and I sent it to my friend after several drafts. Luckily several days later, they asked me to read the last part of it on the award ceremony. It was not until the last moment of the ceremony that I realized that the organizer had presented me the “highest honor”. I felt much flattered and I took it as their special encouragement.
The organizer was so considerate that they asked the chairperson to compose and inscribe a seven-character quatrain on the crystal award, it reads,
An elderly with a clear mind, a pen with her love for hometown,
She’s sailed through her life’s ups and downs-still loving in her snow-white crown.
A calligrapher from the event organizer wrote down a famous poetic line for me, “The path ahead of me is long and hard; for truth I’ll duly pursue up and down”-my favorite motto. He was my tutor in the seal script of Chinese calligraphy, and his piece warmed me. This precious award and the calligraphy work, along with delicious cakes from a restaurant were sent to me by the event hostess, who drove to my apartment twice from 50 km away. What moved me most was that I had never known any of the people in this organization, but they had recognized my work and showered me, an ordinary elderly, with such care and encouragement. The pandemic was cold and raking its way without check, but the affection people gave me had been most sincere and unselfish, as beautiful as the fireworks.
The hostess also gave me a personal gift before she left. It was a verdure small tomato tree, with over sixty crystal tomatoes. These shiny green elves whispered to me that as long as I was tough like the tree, believing in sincerity and strife, my efforts against the pandemic would come to fruition.
Later this essay was reproduced by some websites, and even grabbed the headline of Toronto Chinese Headline News Media.
Another time, people had shown their care on the Online Lantern Festival, when I was invited to recite the modern poem “A Part of the Picture” by Bian Zhilin in 1935.
On the bridge you stand, enjoying the view,
But for the sightseer upstairs, you are the sight.
The moon has adorned your panes,
But you have adorned others’ dream.
These four lines were not just about landscape really, but about the aged philosophical notion of “relativity” that all things are related in one way or another. When the Covid-19 ferociously attacks our global village, the most important things is that we begin to realize what it means by “sharing the same sky” and “a united will is as strong as a wall”.
On another occasion, at the Spring Festival Eve of Literature Association, I sent my new year wishes in 48 Chinese seal script calligraphy.
By the way, on mentioning the seal script, I had written a short poem (a doggerel indeed) in this style of handwriting, and I entitled it “An Eighty-Year-Old Learns Her Seal Writing.”
When an eighty-year-old takes to seal script-
In Taigu store, she gets her well equipped;
On paper, ink and vermilion seal pastes-
A hundred Canadian dollars she wastes.
She carries them on her back, in her palms,
And she finds it hard to embark on trams.
But she takes no heed to the ache on knees,
Smile takes that away and it’s all she needs.
Some say, “Look, how is her folly so keen-
She must’ve forgotten how old she has been.
I’d rather take a stroll or watch TV,
Or I’d enjoy myself and be carefree.”
Others say, “Confined life is hard enough,
Why should we add burden and make life tough?
Writing and calligraphy are boring,
And whom are we elderly rivaling?”
Aged I am, I know, and weak knees I have,
So I’m rivaling none and it’s my salve-
Easing all my aches and soothing my mood-
A recipe for all in solitude.
Besides, there is so much culture in it,
Nourishing our mind and keeping us fit.
In horizontal and vertical strokes,
We grow to be healthy and strong old folks.
I took on seal script writing by chance. My good son-in-law in Beijing saw that I could not write straight strokes, neither the horizontal ones nor the vertical ones, so he suggested I write the seal script and he himself instructed me at the beginning. When I returned to Toronto, I asked teacher Shi Fu to further instruct me. Later when I was cornered by the pandemic at home, I could no longer follow Mr. Shi, but I could quietly and happily practice handwriting in this room.
As for the other elderly, they all busily and happily immersed themselves in all sorts of online classes. Each day, via the WeChat, the heartfelt laughter and melodious songs of the friends old and new floated out and lingered in my little room.
At present, it seems that the main thrust of the pandemic has passed and Toronto is recovering, with each citizen’ heart growing sunnier day by day. Though the threat of mutant viruses is hanging above our heads, some elderly have started to stroll in the park.
Now, I’m standing on the terrace, watching the blue sky and drifting clouds. May this tranquility perpetuate and may all be healthy and happy!
TORONTO BUSINESS CLUB
RECITER: ELITES OF OVERSEAS EDITORIAL BOARD
· International Chinese Writers Association of Canada (ICWAC)
· Canada Chinese Alumni Literature Research Society
· Pacific Literature Association
Honorary Presidium of Social Organizations:
· President, Council of Newcomer Organizations: Edward Han
· Chairman, The Confederation of Chinese Canadian Organizations: Guo Ning Weng
· Chairman, Federation of Canadian Chinese Chamber of Commerce: Harris Wang
· President, Atlantic Culture and Arts Exchange Association: Charlie Yu
· President, Canada China Overseas Exchanges Association: Tony Luk
· President, Multicultural & Folk Arts Association of Canada: Jennifer Shen
· Director, Toronto Art Creations Centre of Canada: Xiangping Liu
· President, Chinese Professional Women of Canada: Angela Liang
· President, Canada-China Economy Trade & Culture Exchange Promotion Alliance: Ted Zhou
· President, Canada-China Realty Professional Association: Steven Sun
· President, Centre for New Immigrant Well-being: Pei Zhong Wang
· Chairman, Canada International Photographic Art Exchange Association / North America Mobile Photography Association / Geometry Art Center: Hooper Chen
· Chairman, Canada International Health & Culture Education Industrial Alliance: Jiong Cheng
Honorary Presidium of Entreprises:
· President, Canhome Group of Companies: Tony Luk
Honorary Presidium of Media:
· Chairman, Chinese Headline Toronto New Media: Liangjian Peng
· Directors, Global Chinese Convergence Media: Ruijun Wang, Cela Xiang
· CEO, Fenghua Media Group Inc.: Xiaomin Liang
· President of the World Chinese Micro-fiction Research Association: Ding Nian Ling
· Producer: Jiong Cheng
· Editor-In-Chief: Shadow Snake
· Editor: Mandula，Jia Li Shang，Zhen Zi
· Managing Editors: Gen He, Junmin Liu, Timur ci Tartar, Wendy Lang
· Translation Editors: Yiren, Shadow Snake, Wendy Lang, Jia Li Shang，John Zhao, Sibin Lu, John Zhao, Chunxiao Wu, Leanne Li
· Recitation Editors: Chen Yang, Salina, Helen, Er Fan, Ling, Erin Liu, Jane, Sophie, Qing
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· Executive Editors: Shadow Snake, Jiong Cheng, Gen He, Mandula, Cassie Zhuang, Johnny, Yiren, Timur ci Tartar, Junmin Liu, Jack Sun, Erin Liu, Andy Zhao, Jiali Shang, Christina, Wendy Lang
· Photography Editor：Frank Guo
· Sound of USA
· Living Water North Reading Group
· Tianjin Authors Association of Canada
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