My Own Stranger

Shanghai Bikes

Shanghai Bikes

A couple of winters ago my husband and I had the opportunity to visit three cities in China, one being Shanghai.  It was in rainy, cold, snowy January, certainly not tourist season, and most faces on the streets were Asian.  After a few days of exploring the city on foot, I had an even more novel experience, starting with my observation of a strange-looking woman walking in my direction through the throng on the sidewalk.  At first I couldn’t place what was so unusual about her.  Then I realized the oddness was that she was ultimately of European heritage- like me- and in that moment, I became my own stranger.  How startling it was to see that my likeness was foreign to me!

After being in Chinese cities for a couple of weeks, our return to the U.S. seemed marked by emptiness, even in Los Angeles.  In the airport I briefly wondered, “Where are all the people?  Has there been a catastrophe?”  It took a couple of days to adjust to not seeing a saturation of humans every time I went outside.

This pastel painting was a baby shower present for friends, an example of the irregularities that occur when one befriends artists.  As events turned out, the little guy who was born and has now morphed into a toddler knows no strangers, loves crowds, and wants to meet everyone he sees.  He might do well in China.