retreat

September 2, 2014

Jianshan Wayao

We have a dream. A dream of clean, flowing water. A dream of air in which to breathe. A dream of space in which to wander.

You see, my husband and I live in a land where clean water is a luxury, not a norm. Where air is polluted and city-smogged. Where people bustle about in a rat-race to achieve some sort of perceived height of [Western] advancement.

« So what, exactly, do you mean, » you ask, « with all this poetic waxing? » Well, it’s really quite simple, actually. With his work in community development, my husband has spent much of his five-plus years here in China in remote, rural regions. His work is water—clean water. So he travels to villages in need of it, with the goal of seeking out the best water source and tapping into it. He then comes up with, uses, and maintains filter systems that will make this water accessible for daily life.

One day, while he was out surveying a particular region, he noticed the way in which the trees gathered in one particular valley, providing pockets of shade from the fiery, high-altitude rays of our province. He then saw the sun-facing hills surrounding this patch, and realized that a  stream of clear water flowed nearby. And he had a vision.

He pictured a cluster of small cottages, making use of the the plentiful solar energy so as to provide a self-sustainable center . . . a center of retreat. Later, mulling over the logistics in greater detail, he explained to me the specifics that his engineering background allowed him to work out in his brain—specifics that would provide mutually beneficial results for both visitors coming to recover from urban stresses, as well as for the longterm rural residents: visitors would come with technological knowledge that would help with practicalities such as education, medicine, and construction. And residents would provide a dose of « reality » in the form of the ability to slow down and take life one step at a time, valuing relationships more than just things.

At the moment, it is just a speck of a dream. A seed. But the more we think about it, the more we see the possibilities, and the practicalities that would make it potentially doable. You never know—you just never know . . .

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