POSTCARD #238: Chiang Mai: I got to the airport too quickly, no Bangkok traffic on the route out of the city, so I had to wait for the check-in staff to arrive at the desk. I must have been the first passenger. Okay, good, more than enough time to make it to the departure gate. Stop for a Starbucks Cappuccino on the way, check my emails, and then it’s an amble rather than a walk. A very long, straight corridor, reaching so far, the end of it truly is a vanishing point; it disappears into nothing. As you get nearer, the vanishing point slowly becomes visible; there’s a yellow sign pointing to a left turn. You make that turn and finally arrive in the busy departure area sticking right out into the large open runway, seen through huge windows on either side. I see the flat horizon line all around and a few aircraft standing at different gates. Various things happening, aircraft service vehicles, passengers’ luggage being loaded.
So I stroll along to gate 54 and there’s my plane, Thai Smile Air, bound for Chiang Mai. Interesting, take a photo of it because, no reason, that’s what you do these days. Examine the photo; zoom in to see the opening where the luggage belt enters the aircraft. It really is so much like the body of a bird, plumage shifted to allow her little chicks to sneak under that soft belly and warmth of the nest. The surprise came when I noticed the red bag going up the belt was mine – the first to go up, because I was the first to check in. Was it really mine? (See photo), I had to enlarge the pic as far as it would go to identify the white ribbon around the handle, the purple Thai priority label and small white sticker from inspection scan at the entry to the airport.
Yes, it was mine, bearing all the characteristics that defines it as ‘my’ bag. I notice how that’s a whole thing in itself, of course, the action of searching for your bag among other bags coming along the luggage belt and reaching the point of seeing it, the identification – the familiarity of that whole event, the taking-place of it . The difference now is, I see it in this unexpected context. There’s the coming together, the re-cognition of parts that were separate before I saw how they became form – unknown until I see it now.
A curious returning to the observer effect in physics. Ground zero, everything spreads out from here. The coming together was preceded by the slow amble along the corridor and pause for a moment in a place we normally ignore in the rush to get to the gate. Taking the photo of the plane for no reason other than there was plenty of time to do it. And this action coincided exactly with the movement of the luggage handlers placing my bag on the belt.
A fortuitous crossing of paths, you could say, an event occurs that has no name until I make it so, I decide it is mine, it becomes something, and “curiouser and curiouser” (said Alice) that this should occur on the Winter Solstice (21 December 2016) identified as Christmas Day in the Fourth Century AD by Roman Emperor Constantine.
Having seen it like this, the memory disappears totally in the one-hour flight to Chiang Mai. Quick to get out of the plane and waiting at the luggage belt for the bag to arrive, waiting and waiting… all the other passengers get their bags and leave. Has mine been lost? A moment of panic, then it comes along the belt, the last one out because it was the first to go in.
“I looked in temples, churches and mosques. But I found the Divine within my heart.” [Rumi]