POSTCARD #203: CHIANG MAI/DELHI: It looks like this tuk-tuk is moving but it’s not. Shadows of overhead cables create the effect. It feels like this present moment is just one screenshot taken in the making of a video about my whole life… well, I suppose it is, but if I hold everything on the pause button and examine my surroundings in detail, I find they’re not held in the moment I’m in. I’m distracted by two large birds zooming past my window, one bird chasing the other. If the whole thing was tracked by time-lapse photography, the trees could be seen growing up, extending their branches, leaves, closer to my window and blocking the daylight. The flight of birds would be like bees buzzing around in a cloud, and my movements in the apartment, a flash of shadowy comings and goings. Then stillness for the times I’m not there, only the sunrise and sunset light illuminating and darkening the empty living space.
The mind was in this time-lapse mode and I allowed a whole day to pack and tidy up the apartment. More than enough time, it was a night flight, so I’m moving in slo-mo action and at the same time watching a video posted by a Buddhist blogger friend. The packing was uncomplicated because it was all clothes for laundry – my washing machine stopped working the other day and the repairman will come after I leave (somebody will take care of it). So packing your bag is easy if it’s all stuff headed for the washing machine. Mostly it’s just getting it all in, squeezed into all the corners and close the bag with one all-round zip-zip-zip. Carrying 20 kilos of laundry across international borders and through X-ray machines and the officer stops me at the Nothing To Declare exit: ‘may I see inside your bag sir?’ “Carrying clothes for laundry into the country, are we then sir? [Aha, a likely story…]”
That didn’t take place, just a story inside my head with different versions of the same thing played out again and again. I got to the house, said hello to everyone and excuse me for a moment, into the laundry area and put the entire contents of my bag into the washing machine in one swift unpacking movement. Add detergent, select the program button, and close the door click! That’s it, done. The whole point of the journey was to get to the washing machine, you could say.
But, before that happened, M and her mom turned up to say good-bye. They brought with them a friend who is a masseuse, so I’m saying how about this pain in my head and neck? (PHN) and in seconds she had me face down on the bed, embarked on a full body massage, she’s on my back, twanging ligaments and tendons like guitar strings. I was in a daze, just enough time to shower and put on the only remaining set of wearable clothes, into a tuk-tuk for the airport – and there was no pain as such, just an easing because the ligaments and tendons’ twanging had stopped.
All the way through this, there were pictures in my mind of getting to the destination but having to correct these images because what I see is the old house, not the present house. I’ve spent more time since last November away from the place than living there. So I have to consciously delete these old remembered places and try to bring the present house to mind. Strange how you have to think things back to how they are right now rather than how they used to be. But the actual destination doesn’t show on the mind’s screen, hasn’t been updated yet… and sleep sweeps me away. Hardly noticed the arrival at 2.30 am, time brought forward by one hour and a half. I’m shoveled into the car by circumstances prevailing, and everything pushing me along in that direction. I get to the house, into the laundry area and put the entire contents of my bag into the washing machine in one swift unpacking movement. Add detergent, select the program button, and close the door click! And there’s this déjà vu thing about it.
“The timeless in you is aware of life’s timelessness. And knows that yesterday is but today’s memory and tomorrow is today’s dream.” [Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet]