Thursday, June 26, 2008

not the way i pictured


I had no way of knowing what lay ahead when I wrote my last post - a week alone in a Thai hospital, dragging an IV around when I had the strength to walk, thinking my way down a long, long, long list of subjects while I waited for the other side of the world to light up enough to place a phone call.

It was infuriating - and bitingly ironic - and just terrifying. There were moments of such abject pain and fear that I had to talk myself through them out loud; moments I literally had to hold my own hand.

But y'know what? I found myself under the rubble. And even now, sifting through what I learned, I'm beginning to see what a difference it made to face a lonely death by hemorrhage and then come home, miraculously safe, to my lover and my cat and my routine.

It all looks different - as different as a piece of paper looks when you're holding an uncapped Sharpie in your writing hand.

It looks good.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


endangered


I.

I ran across this image today on Threadless (of all places.) It made my breath catch in my throat - so simple, but so affecting. I'd buy it in a second if it didn't hurt to look at.

Maybe I will anyway.

II.

I've withdrawn from the city and am tucked into a sleepy little river-valley town in the north.

Predictably, it's beautiful - borne here over the sinuous curves of a four-hour trip from Chiang Mai, I was treated to endless vistas of undulating mountain jungle. The entire town is just a little amble's length from end to end. I'm signed up for a yoga intensive tomorrow. Nice.

Monday, June 09, 2008

chiang mai


I'd almost forgotten this magical thing about the tropics - the schedule-massaging power of a clockwork daily rain in the late afternoon. It politely follows the same predicatable patter, so as not to catch you out: first, a battalion of dove-grey clouds appear on the horizon and advance to throw a shroud around the city. Then the air cools, thickens, stills. Then, the smell. These latitudes are full of intoxicating scents, but the heavy minerality that hangs in the air before the rain is a thing entirely to itself. At that point, it's as imminent as a kiss from a mouth poised an inch away; when you feel that first drop, dash through the first door you see. It's coming.

I've escaped this afternoon's deluge in the glass-wrapped womb of a Japanese noodle house, watching the less-lucky (or more ambitious) careen down the sidewalks with an arm held uselessly overhead against the soaking. The tall, green mountains to the north look proud and ancient with their crown of silver clouds, amber afternoon sunlight streaming through the fissures to heaven.

There's magic everywhere in this city. Its sidewalks stream with turmeric-robed monks. Plumeria blossoms, their perfect white pinwheels set with a yolk-yellow center, scatter the sidewalks. Stray dogs roam the streets like feudal kings - and, even after only a couple of days, I recognize individual mutts as they appear and reappear all over the city on their byzantine rounds. Everywhere, there's the chatter and laughter of a culture that lives outside and amongst each other, not sealed up in little steel pods. The air is full of wet smells and green smells and laundry smells and food smells - an enveloping, atonal cacophony written for the nose. The Thai ladies are such, well, ladies - sweet and quiet and polite, and their faces light up when I try my best to match their tone. I love that the locals absolutely beam at my butchered Thai. I've seen SIX PEOPLE on a single scooter, nevermind the baby-toting mum motorbike drivers and the dogs riding two-up behind the driver, sitting easy-as-you-please on the back of the seat. This city has its measure of offhand filth, but a much larger measure of poetic simlpicity and deep, genuine warmth.

It's quite telling that, of the scores of people I've met so far, none are staying in the country for less than a month. NONE are American. Many became accidental expats once they realized they couldn't bear the thought of returning home. I can't say I don't understand the sentiment, but I have the two best reasons in the world to return for.

Maybe I'll bring 'em both here - my bear and my tigress, and we'll live like royalty in this enchanted kingdom.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

emancipate yourself from mental slavery


Even though my little homeopathic jet lag chewies worked five hundred times better than I expected, due to the searing wet midday heat I'm still up for lateness. And guess what? Pretty much everybody here is up for lateness, too!

I spent the day learning how to cook Thai food (SO easy and lazy and non-chop-intensive!) on a beautiful farm, and now I'm just dragging myself home from going out to hear some butchered reggae with a delightful couple I met randomly on the street.

That's the most amazing thing about this place, so far - openness and friendliness and "why don't you come along?" at every turn. All you have to do is smile and be open to it, and boom! Your gift is returned. It's really quite magical.

Almost by chance, I even managed to catch the Moto GP race at Catalunya at the guesthouse pub next to my hotel. Of course, I was the token American girl in a crowd of Thai and British dudes. I think I scared 'em. When Rossi overtook Stoner in that last-ditch swoop...man. That guy could outbrake God. But poor Nicky in - what - 9th? Ouch. C'mon, homeboy. Don't let the robot get you down. You were behind De Puniet. That's not right.

It's almost 2am here. I have no plans for tomorrow. All I know is that I will be hungry at some point, that I will walk a great deal, and that I have no interest in 20-baht trinkets. It's all I need to have a great day.
(From the plane, yesterday)

Bibimbap.

Just say it - feels good. Bibimbap.

I'm deep into this flight. We're just a couple of hours out of Narita.

I've finished my vegan zucchini-something-or-other while the rest of the plane chowed down on reconstituted - say it with me now - bibimbap. I've narrowly escaped being broadsided by a secretly meaty dinner roll. My seatmate even shared a couple of her candies with me, unasked and unhinted. Even so, I still have a rumbly in my tumblythat rereading this guestbook is doing nothing to help; now, my gustatory imagination is all Thai basil and thick noodles and lime. Growl.

It's a shame that the practice of pretty stewardesses has fallen out of favour. It does add something to the experience.

Since I first picked up these tickets - on what I'll be honest in describing as a whim - I've had a constant ebb and flow of emotion about the endeavor. If I could stand outside of it a bit more yogically, I'm sure I'd find it fascinating. As it stands, I'm lying here and letting it all alternately wash over me and retreat, leaving me sputtering and coughing every time.

I'm aware of what it looks like on the outside: a trip. A little outing. Several times over the past week, I've wished it were that simple. For me, it's a beginning. It's clicking my freakin' heels together and doing what I should have been doing all along - feeding my spirit, so I can be a better citizen/partner/lover/friend/human and not a bitter something-or-other all full of stories about the things I used to do but don't anymore 'cause...well...you know.

Beginnings are tough. But, as my favourite teacher at the Bikram studio likes to say, "In order to get the most benefit, remember - If you *can*, you *must*." Ic you *can* get the foot over the head, you *must* do it or you'll never advance. Well, I've had this aching tightness in that part of my life for a long time, and I'm long overdue to stretch it out. Waaaay out. And I *can* do this, so I am.

This is the yoga of my life - to do intense things to reinforce the skeleton of my Self. To be more - well - me. And, like body connects to mind connects to spirit connects ot breath, stretching and strengthening my adventurer's spirit can only stretch and strengthen the rest of me.

(And now, for today's missive:)

I learned something really important about myself today. Actually, it was more "this morning" - at about 1 AM, after approximately 26 hours of travel.

I learned that I am not, in fact, a backpacker.

I admit some shame in this. I woould love to think of myself as a creature as hardy as kudzu, happily tromping around the amenity-free hinterlands without a hint of longing (for a pillow that isn't rated on the geologic scale, for instance.) Truth is, when I opened the door to my room to discover that it was *just* big enough to house the bed and my bag, and that the bathroom was sort of a toilet-shower combo that could clearly use a Lime-A-Way grenade round, I saw clearly my true self. My true self lives across the street in the backpackerless, no-cool-points-for-rough-and-tumbleness boutique hotel. My true self doesn't like to wear flipflops in the shower and wish she were wearing platforms. My true self is checking out of Bedbug Roulette this afternoon.

Shut up singing 'Common People' to me. I'm authentic - authentically spoiled.