"I feng shuied my house last weekend," my cousin wrote.
I thought, can feng shui be used as a verb? But I have a tendency to be overcritical. I read on.
"I was feeling overwrought, and decided to take a relaxing train trip. I had always wanted to go south in the spring and then travel slowly back up north, to see the season perpetually at that perfect stage of unfolding. You know, the little bitsy yellow-green leaves, and the first crocus before the deer eat them.
"Unfortunately, however, upon my return, I found my house in the exact same condition I left it. Exactly as if someone had thrown everything around helter skelter at the last minute trying to find her stockings and toothbrush and train ticket. Like a whirlwind struck it!
Luckily, I remembered that book on feng shui you sent me for Christmas. "Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life: How to Use Feng Shui To Get Love, Money, Respect and Happiness," by Karen Rauch Carter. Feng Shui - the ancient art of arranging your living space so that positive things happen to you in all aspects of your life!
As you know, feng shui is pretty complicated, but here's the gist of it, as I understand it, in case you haven't read the book yourself.
"See, your house comprises nine zones, called guas, each of which represents a different aspect - health, love, creativity, reputation, prosperity, and so on. Each of these guas is ruled by an element, but not the elements we learned in chemistry class. (Remember when we cheated that time and almost passed the test? I never will understand the carbon footprint.)
"The Chinese elements are fire, water, wood, earth and metal. Different from what Mr. Wilson taught us, or tried to teach us, in high school. There are colors associated with each gua, too. Also, each gua rules a different body part.
"The family gua rules the foot, so I figured hiking boots and socks would go there, which happens to be my dining room. The creativity gua rules the mouth, so a toothbrush goes in the hall. But not if it's red! No, that would be bad luck. You might get gum disease.
"See how it works? If you are having a health problem, for example, you look at the chart and find where your health gua is, and then hang a bell in it, or a star-shaped item. This is easier than preparing a lot of tofu and exercising and drinking eight glasses of water a day!"
At this point, I put down Cousin Sue's letter and paused to think. It sounded crazy, but was it any crazier than the doctor I was watching on television this morning. who said whatever you did - sleeping, eating, and so on - was OK, as long as you did everything regularly, at the same time every day? I picked up the letter up again.
"Sheng fui is trickier than you think, because if you put the wrong thing in a gua, it can really mess you up. Like the song: I was in the right gua, but it must have been the wrong item. Like, if you have a cactus in your reputation gua, it makes people respect you; but if the cactus gets accidentally shifted over to your love and romance gua, then you will be a lonely old recluse until the cactus dies off or someone kicks it out the door.
"You can write down a wish on an appropriately colored scrap of paper and place it in the appropriate gua and your wish will come true, but you have to be careful, because if you don't word it just right you'll mess yourself up, according to the book. For instance, as I understand it, you could write, "I want a Jaguar," meaning in your mind a car, and then a big cat might escape from the zoo and pounce on you when you least expect it."
Who interprets the way the message is worded, I wondered. The Feng shui police?
In the end, Cousin Sue went back to her old organizational style.
"It is dysfunctional," she allowed, "but at least I understand it. It's so hard becoming Chinese at this stage of the game."
And just in time, too, no doubt. You never know when a jaguar is about to escape from the zoo. I've heard they can smell fear.
Have a good week.