The Power of Refuge

Monday, November 27, 2017
I have been in love with vintage bubble lights for many years, but now those have been upstaged in my mind by Terrain's Stargazer bubble lights--they are truly gorgeous and come in stunning colors.  And their winterberry lights in white or red?  Beautiful and lovely.  I will say that in the world of bubble lights, one string of seven vintage bubble lights is the perfect length for one fireplace mantle, and looks amazingly homey when paired with evergreen trim (this also hides the cord).  My tried and true string of seven will have to do for now, as I'll have to save up for the Stargazer strands!

Now to shift gears, as I have been wanting to share with you the wonderful story of the Kam Wah Chung Historic Building and Interpretive Center in John Day, Oregon.  It is a story of refuge in suffering and healing in sickness and pain.

Kam Wah Chung means "Golden Flower of Prosperity", and this place was a hub for Chinese immigrants in the late 19th century.  During a time when many Chinese communities were attacked, this place, started by Ing Hay and Lung On (originally from Guangdong Province), was a haven for many and a support system for the local mining industry.  OPB made a short documentary about this place, which can be found here.

Ing Hay was a master pulsologist, establishing an herbal medical practice with at least 500 herbs, and was skilled at mixing these herbs into curative and/or restorative solutions.  He treated Chinese and non-Chinese patients, and was known as "Doc Hay"--some in the area can still recall their grandparents or great-grandparents telling stories of being treated by him.  At Kam Wah Chung, you will find a rattlesnake immersed in rice wine, also known as "snake wine", which produced a tonic utilized for medicinal purposes.  Later, many un-cashed checks were found in a trunk as many of Doc Hay's patients were very poor.  Lung On, his partner, would often assist those who were facing persecution, writing letters or translating as he was fluent in English and a sharp businessman.  This place was multi-functional, serving as a post office, library, and lodging quarters in addition to being a general mercantile and office of Chinese medicine.  

Picture from Kam Wah Chung Museum's Heritage site

When visiting John Day, be sure to visit both the Historic Kam Wah Chung Building, as well as the Interpretive Center.  The place has been frozen in time and contains one of the largest Chinese medicinal collections in the United States.  This place is an example of how in the face of great persecution, human beings are able to create a haven, giving rise to something good in the midst of great adversity.  I have always felt a great sense of internal gratitude for our Chinese ancestors who helped build this country through hard labor in an intolerant and unjust environment.  I feel sadness at the great hostility the Chinese were subjected to during a time when they were trying to escape an economic depression and famine during China's Great Migration.  The Chinese immigrants found a healer in Ing Hay, a helper in Lung On, and a haven within the walls of Kam Wah Chung. 

Today is a different time, but for many, it is a scary, unstable, and unpredictable time.  I notice people every day rising up, creating something good, and standing up for what is right.  We all need a place where we can go to feel safe.  My refuge is my backyard, where Nature flourishes and many backyard birds flit back and forth between their feeders and nearby trees.  Where is your refuge?

Niki Brantmark uses this quote in Lagom, and it seems apropos here:

"There is a pleasure in the pathless woods, There is a rapture on the lonely shore, There is a society where none intrudes, By the deep sea, and music in its roar: I love not Man the less, but Nature more."  

--Lord Byron, Childe Harold, Canto IV, Verse 178


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