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We’ve had the most beautiful day at our local Songkran celebration. My son, who is three years old and too young to remember last year’s celebration, was so excited but didn’t really know what was happening as we walked from the car towards the noise. He even looked a bit nervous as we entered the crowd and asked to be picked up. So, to give him something to focus on, I asked him if he’d spotted the big Buddha yet.
“There he is! He’s yellow!”, he shouted.
He took the offering very seriously and watched intently as we poured water with flower petals over the Buddha. There is something about a toddler stood in a wai that just chokes me up, but I tried to concentrate on what I was doing. Come back, Monkey Mind.
As we collected some food and chai yen we realised that Poom still hadn’t noticed the water pistols. But when we settled down on to our blankets, his little friends approached, soaked to the bone and donning tubes full of water. I started to regret not bringing one for him when a friend said she had a spare one. Here we go, I thought. But, really, he just wanted to play on the playground so off he went. 10 minutes later he came back saying,
“People spraying water. Not do dat! I told them, not do dat!”.
So we told him it was OK and that it was fun, a blessing. His eyes travelled back to the previously offered weapon and then it clicked.
Super soaker in hand…the rest is dripping, sodden, history.
Although I dislike getting up for mornings, I do like being out in them. My ideal morning is early, in a hot country, preferably with lots of activity to watch in slow motion while holding a hot drink. I don’t even mind the annoying nights beforehand, sweating and swatting away mosquitoes, by the time morning rolls around because the calm that cool morning air brings on invades the mind to the point that all else falls away. You know that it is soon to be unbearably hot, but right now it’s easier to watch people lighting incense and the cool breeze blowing the smoke into shapes that last a millisecond each.
Milky light is what photographers call it. Everything softened. Even hands seem to be efficient yet somehow graceful and leisurely. It’s as if the thick light can lessen movement without slowing it down. But once the sun hits a particular angle, it is time to go out, start the day, and forget. The magic is over until tomorrow when you see it all again as if you’d never experienced it before.
It’s been a crazy week and I can’t believe it’s Friday. You know things are hectic when you go to bed on Monday night and then suddenly realise the week is over. It’s easy to forget yourself. My husband and I moved to New Zealand 10 years ago and after a few years abroad in Vietnam and Japan we realised that New Zealand was calling us back. We missed the green and the fresh air, and the more relaxed lifestyle that doesn’t happen in Japan and Saigon where life is quite full-on most of the time. Time to come home and start living at a healthy pace again. However…
A couple of days ago I read and commented on David Miller’s article about raising chickens and it got me thinking about how, in the craziness of re-settling it’s like my husband and I have forgotten why we came back. We spend our days rushing round to work, on errands, getting the shopping in, doing washing (Well, OK, he does most of the washing.) and pretty much occupying our time with thinking about the next jobs we’ve got to do. So, what the hell? I mean, we’re living a Japanese style life right here in New Zealand.
I have this old photo of a tree covering our room in a guest house in Malaysia. A severe storm had passed through during the night and when we woke up, we had to remove this bloody tree that had been strewn across our entrance in order to get out. After all the hard work, we settled in to breakfast at a local cafe and then on our way back into the room we noticed a hornet on the wall outside. We only noticed it because we could actually hear it crunching. Loudly! We both stood there mesmerised by this hornet crunching on the wall and then spitting it up in order to make its nest. After about 5 minutes of this we decided to get comfortable. We pulled a couple of stools out of the room and sat ther for no less than 45 minutes watching this little thing work. It’s the kind of situation that you emerge from feeling like you’ve had a nap. You are aware that your blood pressure has gone down and there is a clarity in you thinking.
Why did I write this? Well, that’s where I want to be. Back in that mindspace where time is elastic and the smallest things encompass the brain to the point that you realise all this stuff we occupy ourselves with is not necessarily what we need. I want to regain a clarity of thought and a relaxed feeling about life. I know me. I know I get this from meditation or creativity.
This afternoon I’m leaving my computer and all the stuff in the house behind to take some closeup photos. Then, when I get home, I’m going to find that photo of the guesthouse room with the tree covering it to remind me that what I can’t see is the little hornet that taught me how to return to myself.
I’ve been here before. Very lucky not to have been directly involved, but deeply affected all the same. Flashback to South East Asia. I knew something bad was happening before my students as yesterday morning I saw the earthquake on the morning news before heading off to work. My students start at 5am so I knew they had no idea. It seemed that the shaking was all a bit scary, bit there was no reported damage and there was no tsunami. By the time I got to work, the reports were getting mixed with some saying there was nothing to worry about and others giving eyewitness accounts of villages being flattened. Of course, student after student came and went and I never mentioned a thing. I didn’t want them to be upset at work all day if there was no reason for it. But, by the time I got home and checked the news the mood had changed completely. The death toll was already rising and many were missing.
This morning when my first student arrived in my room (I teach one-to-one)I could just feel the sadness before he sat down. I asked if he was OK, no answer. When I asked again, with as much English as he could muster, he said, “I don’t know what has happened.”. At that point he pretty much broke down crying and although I’d been practically holding my breath until that point I, too, started to tear up. I got up to get a box of tissues out of my drawer so we could each partake.
His Aunt, either his sister or sister-in-law, and his 5 year old niece are missing, but since his village has been wiped out he’s already decided they are dead. I felt ridiculously helpless…and sad.
I think he just wanted to sit down for a while and talk about life in Samoa. In effect, his reflections seemed to be asking why he is here in New Zealand when he should be back in Samoa where life is simple and you don’t have to pay for food, housing, and water. You just build your house, grow your food, and spend time with your family.
Later I found out that another employee has heard that his father is dead and one more has a brother who is in critical condition. There’s also a lovely young guy who is always singing in the cafeteria. He was reading the paper this morning at work and recognised three names in the headlining story about the deaths. Those were his three little cousins. Shocked, he changed into his street clothes and headed off home in his car.
I really don’t know what to do. I know there’s nothing I can do to fix this, but I guess it’s human nature to keep thinking it through as if you could actually come up with something. All I can do is write this. Write to process, write to inform, and write as a memorial to those who are so loved and missed.
1. Take a week off work.
2. Air out your sleeping bag,waterproofs and boots.
3. Pack up the station wagon.
4. Get out of the city and into the wilds.
5. Make a small plan but be open to changing it completely.
6. Put boot to Earth and breath the fresh air in deeply.
7. Put ski to snow and hurtle down a volcano.
8. Spend time with old and very dear friends drinking wine and laughing.
9. Observe the beginning of spring.
10. Revel in the feeling of calm and contentment!
We have bigger houses but smaller families; more conveniences, but less time; We have more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge, but less judgement; more experts, but more problems; more medicines, but less healthiness; We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor. We build more computers to hold more information to produce more copies then ever, but have less communication; We have become long on quantity, but short on quality. These are times of fast foods but slow digestion; Tall men but short character; Steep profits but shallow relationships. It’s a time when there is much in the window, but nothing in the room.
The 14th Dalai Lama