snow in Thailand


POSTCARD #107: Chiang Mai: It’s not real, of course, but quite convincing. A large display arranged next to the MAYA shopping area [maya: illusion (Sanskrit)]. MERRY CHRISTMAS BLOGSTERS! It feels like a special day. Memorable too because it was the first time I heard my 10 year-old Thai niece M use the English word ‘artificial’. M knows what real snow is, she experienced snow in Japan. This is ‘artificial’ – pronounces all four syllables: ar/ti/fic/ial – it’s not snow it’s what it looks like. I think it’s sand, bleached white by some harmless chemical process; children sit down, play with it as if they were on a pure white beach. Most people in Thailand have never seen snow, everybody here taking photos of themselves smiling against a snowy white background. A great shower of digital flashes flicker in the blindingly bright reflected sunlight; flash-click, and a small piece of the experience of snow is captured. The group hurries to look at the picture, then they quickly regroup and take another one.

IMG_1860In Eskimo languages there’s not just one word for snow, there are many (‘Smilla’s Sense of Snow’ by Peter Høeg). But it may be a linguistic characteristic (Washington Post), words are added on to the main word ‘snow’ to describe its qualities. Slushy old snow would appear like this: ‘slushyoldsnow’ or if the adjectives and modifiers of the noun are arranged differently, it could be like this: ‘snowoldslushy’ so it looks like a new word if you’re not an Eskimo. It doesn’t alter the fact that there are all kinds of snow, of course – I remember from a childhood in the North of Scotland – but I can’t find words for this kind of snow; dry, warm, and light cotton beach-wear…

IMG_1861If M was a bit older we’d be able to talk about what is real and what is not, and how ‘artificial’ is a word, a label, a concept. There isn’t anything in the world that’s artificial… everything is something. It’s only artificial when we compare it with the agreed-upon ‘real’ – another concept. You could just as well say the whole thing is artificial, and ‘nothing is real’ (strawberry fields forever). It’s all about words, doing their thing, like what HTML coding does for everything in the internet; we’re ‘linked’ to what we think is real, everything is a living representation of what it is.

M is 10 years old, speaks English as a second language, she’s a Buddhist, goes to a Christian school and the Santaclausism of Christmas is what makes it a happy event. Same for all children. I can only hope that in a couple of decades from now she will have good English and return to this posthumous blog (if it still exists) and understand some of the things I cannot discuss with her now. Also all the other things I haven’t thought of yet; all of it, both/and, neither/nor, flickering between this and that, and I don’t know why it keeps on doing that – maybe because the Oneness is also the many; everything is everything – words cannot reach that far…

‘That which has no boundaries and is unnameable has been termed the “Void,” although this is a mere code word for something that eludes any kind of description or verbalization. Being outside space-time – that is, Infinite – means that is the Whole, invulnerable, and immortal.’ [‘The Observer is the Observed’, Robert Powell, p165]


21 thoughts on “snow in Thailand

  1. Funny you mention it. Not 30 minutes ago I was reading an article describing how the author’s childhood Santa illusions were dispelled by fake snow in the tropics. Christmas is particularly illusory in Australia.

    I was 23 when I was first touched by snow. It was a few days before Christmas and I was hiking up a ridge above McLeod Ganj (near Dharamsala) when the little white flakes kissed my clothes and hair before disappearing. A week or so later I was in Manali and emerged from my hotel room one morning to find drifts of it had silently covered the landscape as I slept.
    It didn’t seem real to me at all, but it was.

    • Thanks, interesting article, I never thought about how one could be conditioned in childhood by only the idea of snow; not the thing itself. And it’s not until you leave Australia that you experience actual snow. Different for the Thais, who don’t have anything about winter in their culture and no Christmas, may be simply curious about it, and find the only example of snow and icy cold is the freezer section in a fridge that hasn’t been defrosted for a long time 🙂

    • Hi Michael G. I didn’t see the Smilla movie, read the book, but now I’m thinking I’ll get it, for the sense of snow here in this place where there isn’t any. Many thanks for these greetings! I hope you had a lovely Christmas, best wishes for the new year.

  2. Merry Christmas, Tiramit! (I’m late I suppose, but it’s a feeling after all, not a date…) I couldn’t resist your line, “everything is a representation of what it is…” What a glorious sentiment– the only sentiment I would need were I caught out on a desert island– and as it applies to the better nature of this strange custom called Christmas, I am reflecting upon the notion that it (Christmas) is a representation of the gift of Love. That turn of phrase can perhaps lead to Christian notions, which was not my intent, for I think Love is a universal experience, a universal “reality”, and strange and awkwardly overblown as the holiday customs have become, it is a swelling to the foreground of that ever-prersent Love and Possibility that underwrite experience itself that I think of when I think of the heart of this season.

    It is a representation of what it is.

    Much Love

    • Hope you had a good Christmas Michael. Thanks for this wonderful observation on Christmas as a representation of the gift of Love as a universal “reality”. The seasonal glitter masks the depth of its true meaning; giving and sharing all the joy, generosity, acceptance, community, peace, love, and hope. Thanks too for reminding me that it’s this that underwrites experience itself – this thought sweeps away all the stuff that it isn’t 🙂 Best wishes for 2015…

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