Monday, May 25, 2009

More Dramaturgy of Dzi



This weekend my friends from Boone, Hank & John, came for an overnight. On Saturday we went out with four more friends to a restaurant situated on the river in Radford, one where none of us had ever been before--a big, cedar-beamed building with a vaulted, cathedral ceiling, but no river view from inside. It's called River Company Restaurant and Brewery, and going there was a treat, with excellent food and margueritas!

Earlier in the afternoon we'd cruised around and ran into a vintage car show on the main street of Christiansburg, visited TJ Max and a couple of plant nurseries, and stopped for frozen mochas. All the peonies in the garden are out--it is their shining moment of the year. The rest of yesterday was about changing sheets and heat-pump filters, spraying weeds, eating watermelon, and watching Colin Powell on Face the Nation. I also read Time magazine's cover story about Michelle Obama. (I haven't got round to remembering the fallen soldiers yet.) But I did especially enjoy hearing Michelle talk about the family's dinnertime ritual of playing "roses and thorns." You go around the dinner table and everyone recounts in turn one wonderful and one awful thing that happened during their day.

Then I got this email from my friend Gilah Yelin Hirsch, an artist who lives in Venice Beach, CA. She was responding to my last blog, the one about me buying a sofa and our Tibetan friend Tsampa finding a precious dzi bead in Roanoke:

"I happen to know a good deal about dzi beads AND happen to have been on a life-quest from the first time I beheld and held a "9-eye" dzi bead in BodhGaya in 1986. The Tibetan that I was led to regarding the bead wore his under his arm. All Dzi beads are passed down from generation to generation and are very great treasures indeed. Just holding it was quite an experience. I subsequently bought a piece of a 3 eyed bead in Leh, Ledakh, and during my search became quite an authority on real vs all sorts of knock-offs. Yes, the tooth banging is very much part of the ritual. My last big Dzi bead event occurred in Katmandu (2006), when my flight out was cancelled and I had an extra two hours to roam. I happened in to a Chinese antique shop in a very old part of Kadu. The shop was stuffed more densely than a Dickensian novel, but there, behind the "counter", in a tiny cabinet loaded with treasures, almost invisible as it was mostly hidden by all sorts of stuff, I spied a necklace of dzi beads and other valuable stones. I tried not to seem excited and asked to see it. The vendor was astonished because unless you know what it is, it doesn't look like much. I asked what he wanted for it - 22 beads, each a unique and amazing piece. $100, 000, he said, non-plussed.

"By this time I had less than an hour to get back to the airport. In record time I bargained down to $800 ( I have never spent anything more than $100 on anything, ever!) but didn't have the cash, only credit cards. No one on that "street" had ever seen or heard of credit cards. Word of a huge sale was spreading rapidly in the hood, and someone at the tailor shop down the lane sent a kid to find his cousin who had a motorcycle who could bring the credit card to the bank and me to the airport. And so it went. The amazing necklace hangs on my wall - too heavy and way too juicy to wear. (Normally, those Tibetans who have ONE dzi bead wear it on a leather lace as a collar around the neck and never remove it.) I recently showed the necklace to Kuno (who has been headquartered here since April and will be until October), who also bit each bead. Although I think he sees it with prejudice as I bought it from a Chinese person - he is definitely impressed.

"I am still after a 9-eye. "Simiku", of my own. I have a 3-eye dzi, several 1-eyes, as well as a "sheep's eye" and a few with rigorous geometric designs, not quite eyes; also a couple of other patterned dzis. Everyone is a gem."

So, if I had my very own dzi bead at this point, I'd lie on the bed and play with it and think more about this warding off of old age, a topic whose geodesic forces are obviously of some historic interest to me. Since I don't have a dzi, however, I will play around instead with synchronicity--always my favorite way of moving full tilt ahead without really knowing where I'm going. I'm on the prowl for any hidden nestling of significances in my new puzzle box of dzis. Without even blinking, the universe leads me straight to another unread book on my bookshelf. It's called "The Book of Life," written by Marsilio Ficino, a Florentine doctor and philosopher who was born in 1433 near Florence. At a quick glance, it seems to be a kind of encyclopedic compendium of herbal concotions, healing poultices, and charms intended to help people steeped in the occult tradition of Renaissance Florence have long and healthy lives.

So stay tuned, and I will regale you with some of the more fantastical suggestions it offers for warding off old age in my next blog.

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