We Are Both on Swingsets - We are both Pumping - We Are Friends
A Dialogue between Virginia McDaniel and Xie Yu across the Pacific
This is a story of how the internet can foster friendship across the Pacific between senior citizens from China and the United States, and also foster creativity.
One of the senior citizens is my mother, Virginia McDaniel, aged 95 as I write. She wrote a story on JJB called Now That I am 95, I Have Time to Reflect and Learn. Please take a look if you are interested.
In the story my mother speaks of growing old as similar to swinging on a swingset. Early on you are pushed by others in wonderful ways, but you must also remember how to pump yourself. Each age in life has its own need for pumping. It is important to keep swinging. My mother is swinging even today.
A man in China whom I have never met, Xie Yu, read it. He knew what it was like to swing, too. He is pictured on the left. He is retired and learning to work his way through the twilight of his life, too. He has lived through a century of struggle, as has my mother. He is a swinger.
Xie Yu read it because his daughter, Xie Bangxiu, is a translator for JJB and an author in her own right. Bangxiu had done a story on her father called Writing Poetry Begins After Eighty: My Father as a Poet in Process
Xie Yu has turned to poetry. He writes in a classical tradition called (sòng cí 宋词). After Xie Yu read the article by my mother, he felt inspired to write another poem for her. He wanted, in his words, to "convey my appreciation and willingness to share with her the spirit of swinging in life, though needing others’ help at times."
In diplomatic circles people speak of three kinds of diplomacy: Track One (government to government), Track Two (nongovernmental organization to nongovernmental organization), and Track Three (face to face.)
In the JJB community we feel that the third type is very, very important. When people get to know each other face-to-face, something good happens that far transcends the other two tracks. It is more concrete, more personal, more creative and affectionate.
And it occurs to us that, today, face-to-face diplomacy can occur with help from digital technologies. My mother will never see Xie Yu in a literal sense, and he will never see her. But a small friendship, with help from the internet, touches something as deep as life itself. When you read Xie Yu's poem below, which is translated into English, you will find deep feeling and also deep wisdom. You will also find a heart that reaches across the Pacific in friendship, just as my mother reaches across in the same way. My mother often speaks of an encircling spirit -- she speaks of this as a Holy spirit -- in which all things are loved. I know that when she received the poem from Xie Yu, she felt the workings of that spirit all the way from China.
Bangxiu and I share their correspondence and Xie Yu's poem below, with thanks to both of them for being our beloved parents. For the Chinese version of these opening remarks, please scroll to the bottom of the page.
An email from Virginia McDaniel to Xie Yu (with the help of his daughter Xie Bangxiu) on 20 June, 2013 (Thursday)
I am Jay’s mother and I want to thank you for all you do for Jay’s website. Most especially I want to thank your father for writing a song-poem. I thank you for reading an interview I gave my son, and was quite honored that he would write it. I send greetings to him in Gongan and encourage him to keep swinging, encircled by the love of his family and also a deeper love. I will keep swinging too, keeping in my mind my friend across the ocean.
(The Chinese version of Virginia’s email, translated by Xie Bangxiu)
A short song-poem Xie Yu composes in response to Virginia McDaniel’s email, on 20 June, 2013, Thursday.
 十六字令：在中国诗词文学中，宋词是一种音乐文学，兼有文学与音乐两方面的特点。按音乐，宋词有令、引、近、慢之别。“令”一般比较短，“引”和 “近”一般比较长，而“慢”又较“引”和“近”更长。依其含有的汉字字数的多少，又有“小令”、“中调”、“长调”之分。58字以内为小令，59—90字为中调，90字以外为长调。十六字令指一首由16个汉字谱写成的小令。
(The English version of Xie Yu’s short song-poem in response to Virginia McDaniel’s email, translated by Xie Bangxiu.)
A 16-Character Ling • Swinging
—--Dedicated to Virginia McDaniel
Xie Yu（from Gongan, Hubei, the P.R.C.）
On reading Virginia’s letter (the Chinese version translated by my daughter from the English original), I feel so happy and honored that I compose this short lìng (xiǎo lìng小令) to convey my appreciation and willingness to share with her the spirit of swinging in life, though needing others’ help at times.
Across the Yangtse and the Pacific.
Spiritual communication , out of borderless love, big.
Living through a century, struggles and self-improvement.
Amassing boundless kindness, with inclusive hearts.
Reading words that enliven the mind.
Most fortunate, enjoying stories, splendid.
Sharing harmony from across the ocean.
Lasting friendship, elder sister and younger brother.
 In Chinese poetry, the song-poem is a type of musical literature, that is, it has the characteristics of both literature and music. According to its music, it consists of four types, lìng(令), yǐn(引), jìn(近), and màn(慢), of which lìng is the shortest, yǐn and jìn are longer (than lìng), while màn is the longest. According to the number of the Chinese characters it includes, a poem can be a “short lìng (xiǎo lìng小令)”, a “medium tone (zhōng diào中调)” or a “long tone (cháng diào长调)”, among which a “short lìng” is composed of less than 58 characters, “medium tone” of 59-90 characters, and “long tone” over 90 characters. A 16-character lìng is a short lìng (a short song-poem) consisting of 16 Chinese characters.
 “swinging”: Originally, “swinging” refers to the action or situation in which a person swings on a swingset. In the context of this short poem, I use the term “swing” as a metaphor to help understand human life. In this sense, swinging is not limited to the swingsets, the ways we swing can be diverse --- we can swing by helping ourselves, helping others, or receiving help from others, and the spirit of swinging can be spread and shared anywhere possible. Hence, throughout our lifetime, and with time going on, we’ve got to become accustomed to doing things, big or small, by swinging, on our own or with other’s help.
 spiritual communication: referring to the situation in which two people, though not knowing or never meeting with each other, unconsciously regard one another as friends out of admiration for each other and thus communicating or having dialogue with each other by spiritual means, like reading each other’s written works or writing letters to each other.
 causing agitation in mind: referring to articles or books that are so touching and inspiring that they can deeply impress and greatly thrill people.
(Composed on 22 June, 2013.)
* Chinese version of opening remarks, offered by Bangxiu Xie on July 30, 2013: