Sunday, December 09, 2007

A Sampling of Life in Retirment

We were invited to view the paintings of wify's Arts teacher, Mrs. Fan, yesterday. And that's what we did, via a huge detour by way of I-275 and then northwards along Dale Mabry Highway, discarding a much more direct route that I would find out later while going homeward bound. However, I am the only one to be blamed on the wasteful, both in time and in energy (fuel), trip, dismissing as it were wify's prompting in the belief that I know our way around best since I'm the only one in the house who drives. Serve me right! But I took my lesson well, the folly of being overly self-confident and dismissive of others, another human foible surmounted.

Mr. Fan and Mrs. Fan, both retired, greeted us at the door, and we soon settled into the living room. While wify and Mrs. Fan shared more arts tips, Mr. Fan gave me a useful lesson on gardening, especially planting orchids: terms like genus, species, hybrid, naming conventions and concepts like triggers for blooming and pigmentation (for example, a blue orchid is a relatively rare one), and thresholds for frost. I learn that the orchid is quite a robust species, able to withstand both torrid (up to 100 degrees F) and near freezing temperatures (32 degrees F), albeit for a short duration.

The three pots of flowers that have been moved indoor when they bloomed. The ice-cream stick in the lower right image bears the name of the plant following a standard convention.

There were several oil paintings up on the wall of the living room, which they bought from one of the many street artists that line along both sides of a river bridge in Paris. They are of very high quality in terms of the arts content, but I'm no arts aficionado and have to defer to him. That reminds me of my only trip to Paris in the late 90s as part of the fact-finding mission sponsored by the Government of Malaysia to gain insight into the design, testing, and application of the so-called Accropodes units (a kind of patented armored stone with a definite shape cast from concrete) that are arranged into a solid embankment called breakwaters for coastal protection (see image below for those who are scratching their heads).

From top left going clockwise: an Accropode unit; a river-mouth breakwater made from accropodes, Kuala Besut, Terengganu, Malaysia; a cast Accropode unit ready to be lifted into position (images courtesy of the marketing company, Concrete Layer Innovations.)

I remember sauntering along one such river bridge (Seine, I think) and marveling at these artists going about their business of manifesting an image in their mind on to the canvas on a propped easel.

But I digressed. Then it was time to be shown around the house to look at the paintings and calligraphy hung on the walls. Some are the works of Mrs. Fan while some are arts pieces bought or received as a gift. Our graceful hosts provided full narration on each and everyone, seemingly able to recall any details at will, a testament to the fact that these are their prized collections and that they have left a lasting impression on them. It took her about a month to complete one especially elaborate painting, reflecting the perennial truism in the saying that no pain, no gain.

Because of the lack of hanging space, most of her drawings of elegant Chinese ladies in traditional dresses are still rolled up and tied into a neat bundle. Mrs. Fan unrolled everyone of them for our benefits, the exquisite strokes, the impeccable color contrast, and the harmonious overall blending of the various elements, be it the lotus flower, the rock, the vertical column of the structure, the leaves of the pine trees, and the intricate design on the dress. These were all done back in her student's days in Taiwan. And now she laments that while she has the time, her eye sight and eye-hand coordination both work against indulging in the same.

Our hosts and us in a comfy setting, and CE did the rest.

Outdoor, we were shown more of Mr. Fan's hobby, which to me seems like a full-time devotion. The mountain tea flower, the staghorn hung from the tree, and other ferns in muck (see right image) or just a small wooden crate hung from tree branches. Some of these have thick roots that wind through the openings in the crate from which moisture and nutrients are gathered from the surrounding air for their sustenance.

On the way home, I can't help but thinking that both Mr. and Mrs. Fan have their retirement lives nicely cut out for them, each indulging in their hobbies and sharing them (Mr. Fan volunteers twice a week at the Arboretum in USF). That keeps me mulling on my own retirement plan, which is not exactly light years away. But when it comes, I think I will be ready.

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