me in the piazza

I'm a writer, publishing both as SJ Rozan and, with Carlos Dews, as Sam Cabot. (I'm Sam, he's Cabot.) Here you can find links to my almost-daily blog posts, including the Saturday haiku I've been doing for years. BUT the blog itself has moved to my website. If you go on over there you can subscribe and you'll never miss a post. (Miss a post! A scary thought!) Also, I'll be teaching a writing workshop in Italy this summer -- come join us!
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It's very pity

We've been seeing caves and grottoes like crazy. For a thousand years, Buddhists dug into the sides of limestone cliffs out here in the western desert, and painted and carved images, sometimes spending thirty years on a single wall. Some of the statues are gone, some of the paint has faded or flaked, but considering the great age of most of these things -- the oldest are 2,000 years old, the most recent 150 -- they're in extraordinary shape.

And extraordinarily beautiful. Over so many centuries styles changed enormously. On some walls, delicate flying apsaras hover over the holy images, trailing ribbons of silk and playing pipas and flutes. On others, a repeating pattern in soft green, black, white and ocher covers the wall with a thousand buddhas. Bold black outline strokes mean Indian influence; Tang figures are plump, Han ones thin. The sheer number and beauty of these things is overwhelming. In the Magao Caves, one of the most extensive and gorgeous of the cave systems, we had a researcher for a guide, a young woman with a wide knowledge of and deep love for these images. Every time we came to something that had been damaged by the human hand, whether it was the work of Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960's or bandits during the late Tang in 800ish, she would shake her head and say, "Ït's very pity."

I agree, in terms of the art; but the damage itself is a part of the history of the place, isn't it? And isn't it one of the main points Buddhism makes that nothing is permanent? Everything rises and falls away. You just have to look at the sand dunes to know that. But I'm glad I'm here at the same moment as some of this beauty.

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