POSTCARD #171: Zurich airport hotel: Hard to believe that, as I write this, everything in our old house in Delhi is being folded up, layered, packed, sealed into boxes and labeled with a number. When I return, all our possessions will be cubed, diced up, chopped into boxes and stacked on top of each other inside the waiting truck. Larger items will retain some of their shape; a chair will be recognizably ‘chair’, swathed in corrugated cardboard and bubble-wrap. Upside down table will be recognizable by its legs sticking up, wrapped to protect corners but its upside-down-ness, disconcerting… tables shouldn’t be seen like that. A bit strange, but we’ve moved so many times and it’s always like this; as if a surgeon removes a part of the mind/body organism, it’s taken away and never seen again, then strangely a new organ grows in its place, exactly like the old one but different… after that there’s no memory of it happening.
Except, of course, if something is broken or lost during the move and this thing, this object, is mourned and held in the memory for a long time. It must have been something like this that happened to me when we moved from the house in Japan to the new place in Bangkok. I was still working when the movers were boxing up everything and Jiab reminded me that if I wanted to get the bus leaving at 16.40 I could run down the hill and probably get it – if I left right now, She called out as I went that we’d all meet afterwards at the station. So I rushed out the door, ran downstairs and off down the path. Suddenly I remembered something, stopped, turned around and looked up at the house; top floor of a small 2 storey house – I’d stayed there for 3 years, and this would be the last time I’d ever see the house… how could it be so sudden like this? I would never be back here. Tears sprouted from the eyes, what to do? Just look and try to remember it… at the same time, turn my head away, a wrench, something torn – no time, against my will I continue running down the hill, almost as if I’m running away from the house… but focused on getting the 16.40 bus. The last image of the house clear in my mind for a moment then dissolving away and forgotten. Next day I was on the plane to Bangkok and that’s the last time I was ever in Japan.
In Bangkok a few weeks later, I was telling a friend about this, Curtis Cairns – his name was, and sadly I lost track of Curtis in the end… so if you’re reading this Curtis, please get in touch old friend! Anyway I was telling the story about the house to Curtis and he was just listening. When I finished, he nodded and looked at me, felt my loss. Asked me where the house was, and what was the address. It happened he was going to Japan the following week and when he got there, unknown to me, he took a few trains from Tokyo and got on the bus up the hill, walked the last bit and came up to my old house, took a photo of it (before the days of digital images) had the film processed and put the photo of the house in an envelope, stamped it and addressed to me in Thailand. A week later the post came to the house in Bangkok, there’s the slim, letter from Japan, opened it up and pull out the photo of the house, no accompanying note, just the photo. I still have it, pasted in an album – something lost regained.
Our own life is the instrument with which we experiment with truth. [Thich Nhat Hanh]