A Dog Reminded Me

Unlike many of Taiwan’s older cities, Kaohsiung, where we resided from 1982 to 2007, was built to a plan. Streets follow grids that make sense. They’re not laid out along where property lines fell based on paddy field drainage systems of the 19th century. Broad boulevards separate neighborhoods in sensible patterns. Main main roads are numbered in a literary fashion: One Heart; Two Sages; Three Abundancies; Four Principles; Five Fortunes; Six Directions; Seven Tenets; Eight Moralities; Nine Possibilities; and Ten Completenesses. 

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A long stretch of Four Principles Road is lined with Kapok trees, which have beautiful white and pink flowers. These emit a scent that attracts bats, which facilitate pollination. The trees are very fruitful, and each ripe fruit produces up to 200 seeds. When the fruit bursts open, the seeds, attached to silky fibres that resemble cotton, spread widely. In wild settings, kapoks colonize open spaces and quickly turn them into more forest. .

From 1995 to 1999 I attempted to start a storefront church under those trees. I wish I could say that it is still there, but it’s not. The project failed. I was sad about that for a long time. A passing dog caused me to remember it fondly last week. One Sunday after church the air outside was filled with cottony fibres from trees, drifting past on a gentle breeze. In places it rolled up into drifts strangely resembling snowfall.The dozen or so people who had gathered for church that day were all happy together. 

Walking along with a breeze at our backs last week, I noticed some white fluffy stuff coming by. It was too warm for snow, and there’s no kapok growing around here. It turned out to have been from a shaggy white dog out on a leash.  

David Alexander remembers his 39 years of life in Taiwan from a perch in Holland, MI.