Who is Chuck and why does he like to travel?

I was born to be a writer and when I wrote my novel Wild Point Island, Chuck, my orange and white recently rescued feral tabby, got it in his head that he wanted to travel to the island and see the place for himself. Well, of course, Wild Point Island, can only be seen by revenants (you'll have to read the book to find out who they are) and Chuck is no revenant so instead, I concocted a plan to take Chuck with me when I travel around the world, which I do frequently. Not an easy task. First, I have to deflate the poor kid of all air, stuff him in my carry-on bag, remember to bring my portable pump, and when I arrive, I pump him back up. Ouch. But he's used to it by now and given the choice to either stay home in his comfy cat bed or get deflated, he pulls out his passport, ready to travel, every time.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Chuck's Magical Mystery Tour of Yu Garden

Classic view of Yu Garden, showing the water and greenery and the buildings

        This week, students from all over the country marched back to school.  Back to books and studying and as the days go by, back to those dreaded exams.  
The Chuckster is lucky--no school and no exams, and yet, even though he had a reprieve, he still exhibited signs of high anxiety.  
        His brief dalliance with Tai Chi helped a little, but because I sensed he needed more, we arranged a stop, when we were in Shanghai, at very special place in the Old City of Shanghai, China.
Yu Garden.  
Like most places and things in China, Yu Garden is old, very old, and the way it came about--this lush garden smack in the middle of Shanghai--is quite interesting.

A view from Yu Garden looking out toward Old City, Shanghai--the crowds of people

        The garden was first conceived in 1559 during the Ming Dynasty by Pan Yunduan, after failing one of his imperial exams.  He began constructing the gardens for his father to give him comfort.  Now, I’ll stop here to comment.  They had exams even as far back as 1559??  In China??  So, we’re doomed, of course, to never rid our system of them.  
         Anyway, Pan Yunduan was appointed Governor of the Sichuan Province, and he had to postpone construction of the gardens for twenty years.  Eventually he did resume construction. When completed, the gardens were considered to be, in his era, the largest and most prestigious in Shanghai.  But it’s also said that the final cost of the gardens helped to financially ruin him.
The gardens, at first, were kept in the family. Over the years they suffered damage during several different wars.  They were rebuilt by private citizens and the government, and they were eventually opened to the public in 1961.  
I’m glad they survived, and I wanted Chuck to see them, to experience them, because I’d been to the gardens before and I remembered how peaceful, and magical and mystical they made you feel as you walked through them.  
This time as Chuck and I left the hustle and bustle of Shanghai and entered into the peaceful retreat of Yu Garden, I thought of that story--realizing that this was no ordinary garden.  It covers five acres and includes six different areas, each one separated by a dragon wall, built of gray tiled ridges and ending in a dragon’s head.   Each area can include:
rock peaks or cliffs or caves or gorges or chambers or ponds or pavillions or towers or actual buildings where tea is served.  

Keep in mind that this garden is in the middle of the city, but it feels like you're in the middle of the woods

the exquisite rock designs that line the buildings 

The air inside the garden was cool and sweet.  I knew that Chuck would enjoy the pond, which is stocked with fish--goldfish--so we sauntered along the stone path until we found a quiet area where we could stop and peer over the edge.  

This is where Chuck was looking down, mesmerized by the goldfish

When we’re home, Chuck loves to watch the squirrels and the birds.  Here he immediately became mesmerized.  The goldfish floated by, and if it wasn’t for the fact that cats hate getting wet, Chuck would have dived right into that pond!
But he didn’t.
Instead he did actually relax for five minutes, extending his body along the rocks, resting his face on his paws, gazing contentedly into the water.  
Until, of course, a tourist came by.
“Come on.” I motioned Chuck to follow me.  I knew of another place, a secluded place where we wouldn’t be disturbed.  
That’s the beauty of Yu Garden.  You can follow the paths, and then veer off and find a special place to sit and just be.  

We followed this pathway to our secret retreat

We found that place and I would like to say that Chuck reached perfect contentment, but the kid is truthfully a nervous wreck.  He sort of relaxed.  Chuck almost found peace.

The further we walked, the more secluded the area became

He found a rock, laid on his back, got into his “Chuck meditative position,” and closed one eye.  
Something popped in the distance.
No, not a tourist this time.
A squirrel.
Luckily, Chuck just followed the poor creature with his gaze as he scampered up the tree.  
But the moment was lost.  The kid was hungry.  It was time to go.  
Was Yu Garden worth it?  Most definitely.  Peaceful and Magical and Mystical.
Even Chuck would agree.  

        To read more about Chuck's adventures, log onto www.katelutter.com

         My paranormal romance, Wild Point Island, has recently been released in paperback and ebook.  It can be purchased on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com   
         If you're looking for romance and adventure, with a bit of mystery thrown in, you'll enjoy this story of a girl who returns to the place of her birth to rescue her father from imprisonment, only to find that nothing is as it seems.   
         She must decide who she can trust as she bargains with the Island Council: the sexy revenant (who vows to help her but who has his own reasons for getting off the island) her identical twin sister (who follows her to the island and offers her assistance but who seems to thwart her at every turn), her uncle (who appears to be helping her mother, but then holds too many secrets), or the Island Council itself (which seems politically motivated against her).  
          Readers are calling it a page-turner as they race to uncover how far Ella is willing to go.  Will she find true love? Will she rescue her father?  
          Wild Point Island.  
          You deserve a fun read.  

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