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Yang and Yin — and Serendipity

Life often has strange coincidences!  I’m currently reading writings by my mother, Joan, from Thursday Sept. 29, 1938 when she was 15 years old.  This passage, not in Home Front Girl, begins with Joan taking a walk after fighting with her parents.  She’s soon cured of her anger.  

Passing the houses, it seemed that they were all part of my dream, the people and lights and voices in them—the man pausing to light a pipe under a street lamp — the boy on his bicycle through the friendly night, the woman humming as she passed me with her bundles—all these part of a dream of mine, I thought.  Passing courts where the lights made clean shadows—clear cut shadows on the cement—grass, only a colourless dark mass in the night—trees, the strange shapes of them silhouetted against the dark sky.  All, all was a dream.

When Brahma ceases to dream

Say the people of India, heaven

And Earth shall pass away.[1]

            But this was my own dream—personal—yet not of me—by me, perhaps.  So I walked home through the night and reaching our court, paused, breathless, seeing the stone seat framed like a part of a dream under the unearthly lantern lights.   The light was such that it fell nowhere, yet enabled you to see clearly. I entered the dream of the light and sat on the stone ledge….

            I watched the people go by and somehow they were far outside of me—they did not seem to see me.  The shadows lay like long, grey dreams on the street, crooked and moving with the wind.  The shadows of the leaves were large enough for me to lie upon, so the light magnified them.  I watch my own indistinct shadow upon the wall.  Then my eyes fell on the dark bush beside me.  It, too, was part of the dream. I remembered when I had dreamed it in the spring when the scent of the young grass was still on the air.  The leaves on the bush had been many and moved lightly in the fragrant air.  Now the bush was dark and all but leafless.  It moved a little in the hazy-half-light.  It looked real—perhaps it had a dream of its own.  It came over me that only the things that were real were in my dream, and that the minute I acknowledge them as real, they became a dream, unreal.  And yet all things were seeming to fit into my dream. 

            A car pierced the night.  Some people passed, a dog barked.  I got up to go in—Looking back, I could see the hazy circle of light wherein I had sat.  It looked complete without me.  I went into the house convinced that all was a dream.  (Incidentally, I’ve been reading Yang and Yinil_75x75.369214797_py8jnot that this could influence my train of thought.)  I went to bed and lay looking at the black night….

I’d never heard of a book named Yang and Yin so I googled it.  And it popped up on an Etsy website:  Jen’s Closet with cool vintage stuff.  You can check Jen’s site here.

Jen has [well, had; I bought it!] a first edition of Yang and Yin, a book by Alice Tisdale Hobart, about an American doctor in China.  It turns out Alice Tisdale Hobart went to China as early as 1908 and later as well as the wife of an oil executive.  And she went to (but never graduated from) the University of Chicago, where my mother studied!


I let Jen know why I was buying the book and she’s written beautifully about our conversation.  Please read her blogspot here.  She writes, “Yes, one of the reasons I have my Etsy shops is to make money, of course, but it goes deeper than that.  At least once a week I hear a story from one of my customers about why they have purchased a certain item.  Often I hear from my customers that the item brings back special memories from their childhood.  I love that!”FotoFlexer_Photo2

Is it serendipity?  Coincidence?  Who knows…..

[1] Paraphrase from Kipling’s The Bridge-Builders.

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