The black poster with the gothic lettering did not come under my range of awareness until the third morning that I woke up and crept on to the deck waiting for Taipei to wake up. The garden space has been created on the deck at the top of the 72 stairs and emerges to claim its place in the world of Taipei rooftops. A haven of plants, birds and secrets. The black poster asks “What kind of monster have I become”? It is positioned beside a photo on the beach of a pre-pubescent girl on a beach with a cigarette handing out of her mouth. The picture does not reflect all that is “sugar and spice and everything nice” but the survival of a young girl who has experienced loss, betrayal and anger. The image is not one of innocence but of Paradise Lost.
Beyond the protected garden paradise emerges the dichotomy of the old and new of Taiwan. Tiny green leaves emerge and begin their climb towards the heavens. Two shiny, stainless steel water tanks stand over the tenuously placed air conditioning systems and rusting out sheet metal, cracked tile and dirty brickwork.
Two pigeons take their place above a small area of red, clay roof tiles beyond and look down on me. The bird choice of my not quite related, paternal grandfather brings the warm glow of having been loved unconditionally. Only some people are able to celebrate the contradictory elements of innocence and respect the quest to emerge beyond mere survival. He lived dichotomies and he could understand them.
Traffic in the background is a steady, predictable hum. No blaring horns. No sirens. No persistent car alarms. Warbling birds and tiny chirps are different from the plaintive seagull calls and crow scoldings of my usual life, but somehow familiar and calming. A persistent sweeping of the broom establishes a rhythm. Exercise for a higher purpose. Cleanliness. Godliness.
There is no fengshui in my morning alcove. It is a creation of the mind where the green astro-turf under the table, the collection of textured, patterned and coloured blankets over comfy couches, butterflied and dragonflied pillows, real and fake plants come together with curios to feed the imagination. The space is not beyond the possibility of dark, twisty discoveries and fabrications.
On my flight to Taiwan, my viewing pleasure included the movie creation of Mary Shelley’s life. Many were disbelieving that an eighteen year-old girl could have authored such a book as Frankenstein. The bigger discovery is that the girl had already experienced such despair, disenfranchisement and had personal knowledge of the monster within by the time she was 18 years old. The Frankenstein book was made possible by Percy Bysshe Shelley, the poet she loved, her own loving father, a disapproving step-mother and the havoc they wrought with her heart and mind. Her strength was her ability to name her monster, chew on it and use it to make sense of her life.
The paint bucket with clean white paint drips emerges from a hiding place behind a couch. The ability to put a fresh face on the less than clean and sparkly. Imagine the possibility. Re-created the sense of self you want to project. Yet, is aware of the monster that lurks beneath the surface that is responsible for teaching us how to be resilient.