This past weekend I was in New York City, auditioning for a summer music festival. As you well know, Chinese New Year was last Thursday. Because of the lunar calendar and my being a college student, I am away from home during these times of celebration that welcome in the New Year with hopes of prosperity and health. This time, more than any other in Chinese culture, is meant to be spent with family and eating copious amounts of delicious food in preparation for a new cycle of seasons. While on the subway in Manhattan going uptown to visit an old friend, I remembered that China’s mass transit shuts down for the New Year because it is assumed that everyone is already home and I felt an intense longing to be back in Tucson, playing baseball with Julian, helping Zhu Ping with dinner, and sharing stories with my dad. As I got off the subway and walked into the street, the deliberate impersonality of the surrounding bustle struck me as being, in that instant, inappropriately strange. That old Emersonian voice started in my head,” Oh where is the humanity! Where is the love!” until I passed a vendor roasting nuts. The smell reminded me of biking down Seventh Avenue last Spring, smelling the sweet cinnamon and honey, thinking to myself, “I’ll have to buy Julian some of those when he comes to visit.” Olefactories have that amazing ability to arrest our thoughts, allowing memories that we once thought inconsequential to thrive and enliven us. Today as I drink a fresh cup of Da Fo Long Jing, I am reminded of my family and our home, where the most unforgivable act is forgetting to re-fill the hot-water machine.
Happy New Year!