Monday, March 26, 2012

I had to buy cigarettes, nature had a gun to my head

Does anyone remember that early line from the film Wonder Boys when Michael Douglas says, "I don't drink, usually... but this was turning out to be one fucked up day." Ha. Sorry for the expletive (Fr Doll) but he said it, not me.

I wouldn't consider myself to be a smoker. But consider this. It's not yet the rainy season in Bangkok. But I have heard thunder for over an hour as the sky gets darker outside my office window. I automatically have "Kathy's Song" stuck in my head by Simon and Garfunkel.

I hear the drizzle of the rain
Like a memory it falls
Soft and warm continuing
Tapping on my roof and walls.

And from the shelter of my mind
Through the window of my eyes
I gaze beyond the rain-drenched streets
To England where my heart lies.

This song is like a verbal version of the beautiful melancholy outside my window. Even now the wind is picking up and it's getting dark grey outside. Almost like tornado season in Omaha where the anticipation trumps the actual weather.

My mind's distracted and diffused
My thoughts are many miles away
They lie with you when you're asleep
And kiss you when you start your day.

And as a song I was writing is left undone
I don't know why I spend my time
Writing songs I can't believe
With words that tear and strain to rhyme.

So, obviously, I had to stand on my balcony with a cigarette, welcoming the rain whenever it gets here. I didn't really have a choice in the matter.

Sometimes, when I have a song stuck in my head, I put it into this bank of songs I have in my brain that I someday want to sing to my children. My parents sang to me and it's one of the things I really look forward to when I'm a parent. I like this song, mainly because it's easy to sing and sounds kind of like a lullaby. An honest, slightly mournful lullaby, but a lullaby at that.

And then I start talking to this daughter I have yet to meet. About thunder storms and why we shouldn't be afraid of them. That we should be grateful God gives us these big storms to remind us how small we are and how it'll be gone in a few hours and we''l still be here.

And so you see I have come to doubt
All that I once held as true
I stand alone without beliefs
The only truth I know is you.

And as I watch the drops of rain
Weave their weary paths and die
I know that I am like the rain
There but for the grace of you go I.

And I think it's a good one to sing to your children, even if Paul Simon meant it for Kathy, who I assume is an adult. "The only truth I know is you..." seems so fitting for a mother to say to her daughter. So, to my someday daughter, I'll say this, knowing it's true before I even know you, "There but for the grace of you go I."

And now you know why I wanted to smoke on the balcony. It just adds that last bit of romance to an already romantic day. Anticipation, thunder and smoke rolling into the wind.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

How would Leonard Cohen have written about this moment?

Something to the effect of, "When the light had abandoned them they shared small white candles to brighten their way. And their goods glowed with brilliance of something I just couldn't say."

So I was walking down this street market in Luang Prabang, Laos on holiday with Julian. He was sleeping at the hostel and I was looking for a cheap massage. This is the average street market in SE Asia. The kind where, in Bangkok, I get sick and tired of the same cheap stuff being sold stall by stall. But in Laos, on holiday, I can't get enough.

The electricity had gone out on the street, as it does in a third-world communist country. And all of the street vendors began distributing small white candles to each other, just as the night was going from dusk to total darkness. And almost instantly the market started to glow. And all of the brightly embroidered bags and scarves lit up. And immediately it changed from a market to a what looked like a holy place. It felt like a holy place.
Julian and I were talking the other day of how we experience something so beautiful. Since I experience things through a religious, spiritual
lens, and he doesn't. After all, in the past few days we have seen stories-high waterfalls pouring into turquoise-clear water, suttees behind limestone cliffs, full moons glowing orange over old French colonial architecture, lit up ancient wats, dark caves and misty rivers.

But that's not what we're here to talk about.

We're talking about street markets… I think.

The point is, after seeing all those incredible things, I was most in awe of this glowing street market and the people handing candles to one another.

So how do I experience it when I see something so incredible?

Gratitude. Just utter gratefulness that I get to be there to see it and that I have the capacity to experience it.

So thanks.