Loi Krathong

lanterns rising, Loi Krathong
Chiang Mai


On the twelth full moon of the year, the Thais celebrate Loi Krathong—loud fireworks, floats bearing young beauties, paper lanterns everywhere. There was an eclipse while I was in Australia, so I assumed that I’d missed the full moon in Chiang Mai (on the other side of the equator)! The night before last, hours of amplified pageantry music drifted across the city, and I began to rethink full moons. I hadn’t missed it after all, but I was too lazy to get out of bed.
Fireworks continued to explode all through yesterday. I retreated early to Veerachai Court (where I lived in June). The internet connection in my former room was poor, so I’d been using a net cafe. Maybe the wi-fi reception is better at this end of the fourth floor, I thought. The noise of the fireworks was getting to me. When you’re going down, do something! (a forty-five year old echo from my flight instructor, another story). I decided to buy an hour of internet time.
I dressed, hung my passport around my neck, stepped out the door, and was utterly astonished to see the night sky transformed. Hundreds of bright orange stars were ascending slowly and steadily, forming constellations that shifted and evolved in a curiously human movement, as though each star were a searching soul, a hope, or a dream.
The lanterns rose in the darkness for hours from all quarters of the city, tens of thousands, some disappearing into thin clouds that intermittently obscured the moon. Here and there, if you looked closely, you could distinguish gray lanterns like ghostly parachutes floating back to earth. How wonderful, how Thai, to fill the sky with prayer and celebration, humanity—gentle, glowing, aspiring.


Aussie Justice

Inge and I wait outside her Land
Cruiser while Mort fills it with LPG.
A sour-faced driver slides up behind
Inge to the next pump, too fast,
too close; she didn’t see him,
might have been hurt. Mort
fires the heavy fuel cap
at the back of the driver’s head,
“SORRY MATE,
DIDN’T SEE YOU COMING!”
The cap ricochets off the door frame
ten meters ahead to the asphalt.
Silence. Inge bemused, knowing
her sons capable of anything.
The driver stays in his car.
I retrieve the cap, hand it to Mort,
“Pretty good shot.”
“I reckon a centimeter to the right
would have taken his glasses,”
he says, calm, quite satisfied.


Jimmy

“Hey, just back from Australia. How are you?”
Jimmy (shining face): “Oh—safe again in the present!
He said that earlier he’d been feeling “negativities,” that people wouldn’t want to see him. He’d accepted the fear, allowed it, and suddenly he was free, back in the present moment.

Inge

I

barefoot, head up, striding,
sure & quiet

II

driving, one strong hand
resting on a slim thigh

III

Viking cheek bones,
light blue eyes,
wide mouth, smile
a shaft of sun through clouds,
lighting a gray sea

IV

green
sheltering mountains,
purple blossoming jacarandas,
grass, fruit, flowers,
herbs, vegetable gardens,
a pond and family of ducks,
singing frogs, silent snakes

redyellowbluegreenflash, parrots
to a tall camphor laurel

compost piles, nature
in rhythm and balance,
including Inge
planting, feeding, watering,
tending

V

on the ground,
hidden by bushes, an archway
of dried twigs & stems
carefully set side by side,
curving outwards
and back toward the center,
open at the top—
built by a bower bird
for a female to walk through,
choosing him for her mate—
originally decorated with scraps
of anything a special blue,
empty now, a masterpiece
for a season

Asgard
Gleniffer, Australia


Inge in Bellingen


Bellingen


Flowering Jacaranda, Asgard


It is a relief sometimes to remember life in the U.S., but generally I have trouble imagining being anywhere but where I am—at present, Australia! I’m visiting Inge at Asgard, her property near Bellingen, midway between Sydney and Brisbane. If you took the bad things away from Florida, added mountains, and changed to the Pacific (bigger), you’d have an idea of the area.

I’ve just ridden a bicycle from Asgard to Bellingen, 45 minutes over steep wooded hills, past cattle grazing in the early morning, along two small rivers that flood widely and quickly recede. The escarpment of the great dividing range is just west, green and rugged. I left the bike at the Belligen library and stopped at the nearest cafe that served breakfast—$14, yikes. Eucalyptus trees, purple flowering jacarandas, colored parrots, bananas. “Flat white” coffee. Thin cloud cover, a dark spell, an eclipse (for heaven’s sake)! Australians walk easily, upright, as though they’ve never been cold. They seem to be almost always cheerful, encouraging each other reflexively, speaking with a strong down under accent. I miss a lot of the slang. Some of it is clear (eat that bran, you’ll shit through the eye of a needle). Belligen is a friendly and altogether decent place.

Oranges, Asgard


Reminder

Reminder to myself:

Love is free; it cannot be earned.

Don’t bandage your pain, unbandage your soul.

The future is unknowable. The past is sculpted memory. Scattered artifacts. Only the present is reliable. Hold nothing back. Today is the day that matters. When you are fully in the present, you are time itself, a half step ahead of disappointment.


Soi


A soi, only fifty meters from a busy street. Commercial buildings block the sound of traffic. A man on a motorbike putts to a stop, brushes a flowering vine from in front of a meter, writes a bill, and leaves it in the mailbox. Wooden shutters open out on a second story balcony. Bananas are ripening in big bunches. Small birds enliven a tree that casts a deep shadow.


Notes from Chiang Mai

more Chinese than Indian,
more southern than northern,
more rural than urban,
everyone working, unhurried,
faces cocoa & almond,
motorbikes, monks, gold leafed Buddhas,
rice, sun, humidity,
bowing, Asian eyes always
mindful of the past,
strong/sweet woven closely,
a magnificent goose
sequestered in an empty yard
calls to his ladies
across the street