Making the Old, New

6 Feb 2019 – 2nd Day of Lunar New Year

I wore an old blouse for the second day of the lunar new year. It is 12 year old to be precise.

This clothing item has survived many rounds of decluttering episodes because it sparks more than joy. It sparks mystery.

Power Dressing: When I put this on, I’m carrying highly stylised symbols of transformation & abundance created by ethnic artists of long ago.

The ethnic Miao (Hmong) motifs of centipedes, butterflies, birds and fishes on the fabric appeal to the animal soul in me.

I bought this book from PageOne Bookshop at Vivo City. The level of Chinese in this book is too high for me but the pictures make me very happy.
Only much later I learnt that these patterns are not randomly assembled. They are auspicious symbols of transformation and abundance. They are also graphic records of the natural world as seen through the eyes of fabric makers who were word illiterate but no less spiritual or creative.
The humble handmade buttons had helped mothers and grandmothers put food on the table and sent kids to school. I hope a revival of this skill will take place.

As I was pushing the red handmade knot into the loop to secure my blouse, flashes of my youth helping my grandma button her blouse came to me. I was so impatient with her then.

What I wouldn’t give now for a chance to help her put on her blouse without being unkind.

The fabric bag with me was bought at a Chiangmai market in 2014 when El arranged for us to visit the Elephant Nature Park. Each time I use this cloth bag I felt connected to Chiangmai and her elephants again.

Yesterday over coffee at the Botanics Gardens I asked Ron if he recalled giving me this blouse. He couldn’t, for over the years he & El had bought me far too many things to remember.

I told Ron that he was attending a teachers exchange programme in north-east China that year. It was winter and he had dumplings and a bottle of beer for $1.50 at a little cafe. Oh! He remembered. It was 12 years ago.

I think ever since I started observing the new moon and full moon, I’ve also develop the stillness to see newness in old things.

As unpredictable as life is, I’ve been granted a 12 year grace to see beyond the materiality of a blouse.

And in this age of easy discarding & speedy consumerism, relationships have also become highly disposable.

So to be able to wear this old blouse in the presence of its giver, and to celebrate our relationship under an old tree on the Lunar New Year, gives me a sense of newness that is uniquely mulled by the passage of Time.

Ron got me this indigo blouse 12 years ago when he was on an exchange programme in North-eastern China.

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