I don’t know her real name, just know her pen name – San Mao (三毛). She picked up this name since once she was struggling through a difficult time with only 30 cents left in her pocket.
In the middle of 1980s, I was still in college and following a routine which I was not really enjoying. During the same time period Mainland China and Taiwan started communication and connection. Then the cultural products were flying across Taiwan strait into the Mainland. At that time since the economical status at Taiwan was way ahead, it was much easier for the people at Mainland to accept anything from Taiwan. I still remember that those popular music from Taiwan was playing in every corner at the campus, could be heard at every store along the street. I am seriously doubt that anything from Mainland was going so popular in Taiwan (can anybody confirm this?)
Besides music, literature and art from Taiwan also found a broad market at Mainland China. San Mao became my favorite writer. Her books, which were reprinted into simplified Chinese, grabbed my heart almost immediately after I started reading.
The style, the words, and the logic of writing were different from what I learned or what I read before. Through the stories she told in her books, I not only peeked into the life of a normal Taiwanese, which was also not the same as what we were brain – washed, but also followed the growth path from a rebellious child to a insightful woman. They opened a new door for me to see a remarkable outside world and to arouse my desire to live my life in a new way.
I especially admired her decision and her courage to explore the world by herself, not only through her sight but also through her heart. In her childhood one day she was punished by not getting a good grade in math, she refused to go back to school since then. She started dig into mountain of books at her parents’ home and meanwhile discovered her passion and talent in writing. She was so excited after being told that her first article was accepted for publication by a magazine.
Boring schedule was never for such a free soul as her, a photo on a National Geographic drove her leave home for a new place – Span. She met her true love there, who gave her a family and spiritual support. They were traveling across many countries and regions. Those marvelous journeys provided her with rich experience, and she generously shared what she saw, heard and felt along their way by her extraordinary skills in writing.
Her stories were sometimes exquisite sometimes bold, sometimes grieving sometimes humorous. I could feel the bumps and downs on her trips just by reading her books. Several times I weeped as she was in her stories. Besides I was wondering how she was brave enough to carry one suitcase, hop onto plane and move from one place to another, while I even couldn’t go to nearby city alone. A dream, which was close to impossible at that time, was born inside me – see the world with just one backpack.
Her life was vibrant, filled with excitements, sadness and deep grieve from losing her loved one. Her soul need constant nutrients to stay alive. After she found that she had enough, she chose to go to meet with her love of life. It was early 1991.
Her final departure put me in sorrow for a while, since I was expecting more stories from her.
But my dream turned to a determination. I took my first step to get away from the environment which I didn’t really appreciate. During the first couple of years after I landed in US, I tried hard to fit into the new cultural environment. Sometimes I got confused and lost. Somebody from her hometown sent me all her books available on the market. I lived with those stories through the time when I was in graduate school. The books were printed in a vertical typesetting and in traditional Chinese, from them I got closer to the root of real Chinese cultural.
I have moved several times around the country, and usually got rid of a lot of personal belongings during each move, but those books from her hometown are still with me. Once a while I opened them just to scan a few pages, and to recall the calmness by reading her stories on those lonely sleepless nights years ago.
It was almost 25 years since she decided to join with her husband at heaven. I can still see an energetic woman walking towards me, her long black hair flying in wind. I can still hear the song she was singing to me “Don’t ask me where I am from, my home is far away……” 不要問我從哪裡來，我的故鄉在遠方…….
San Mao, hope your soul has finally settled peacefully, in the arms of your beloved husband!