If you asked me to make a list of the great things about the city, life, relationships of Chiang Mai, I probably wouldn’t be able to finish it before the final boarding call. This abundance is a good thing, is a blessing, is the best-case-scenario. It’s also damn hard to think about leaving.
And, at times, harder yet to imagine myself back in the states. There were months in the beginning this year when I would wake up with memories of brick buildings, the metallic smell of subway poles, the wind on Venice Beach or through orange groves, the silence in a late night cab. I would feel a calling to go to those places, return to their people. Around that time, though, a teacher told me that the first instinct in times of fear is to contract, to turn in on ourselves. The body does the same. I don’t know when I shifted from retreating to the familiar to reaching out some roots instead. But the roots have reached. And they keep growing. I guess that's how you make a home.
Since I finished my job and travels, I’ve been on a Monastic Days, Party Nights plan. Days alone to work on songs and stories, then slipping back into the night to be around tables or on dance floors, on balconies or in bars. In company. If I could write the world a thank you card, it would be for these past weeks. Time to prove to myself I have the discipline for this writing thing, this recording thing. Time to go and grow further in my friendships, my vocabulary, my understanding of values, politics, perspectives, เกรงใจ in Thai culture. Time to shoot the shit and time for heart-to-hearts. I don’t have a calendar on my wall and I don’t want one. Nevertheless, when I date a journal entry, this time just feels like a tease, or a trailer for a movie I won’t get to see. Why so good now, right before I leave? But the goodness would have been there two months earlier. It’s just richer now. I’d take a peak over a lull any day. And days are what I’ve got. It’s timely after all, timely yet.
Another lesson from Evita was that we have the choice to build something up or tear it down. When I feel most apprehensive about leaving, I try to remember that choice. My friend V-Dub said, “Okay, there’s a lot you’ll miss. Why not make a list of what’s good to come back to?” I woke up the next morning and pulled out a piece of paper from my sketchpad and got to work.
It felt good to be positive. Optimism—the faithful fallback despite my occasional lapse. As I try to prepare myself for what’ll probably hurt like hell, at least I know that some lessons don’t change and some foundations you can carry, always, with you. Gratitude. Good friends. Art and impulse.
And poems, like this one from a book a Thai friend (whose nickname’s Art—go figure) loaned me. A collection by 8th century Japanese women who wrote these killer 5-line stanzas for their beloveds. So, since I already wrote a thank you card to the world, I might as well throw in a love poem too. This one's by Ono No Komachi, translated by Jane Hirshfield and Mariko Aratani.
The autumn night
is long only in name—
We’ve done no more
than gaze at each other
and it's already dawn.