The moon was smiling a slender crescent-curved smile in the western sky yesterday evening as I sat outside at a rooftop bar with a friend. Five full days after the new moon and Chinese New Year, that moon was still looking new and fresh and fragile. Tonight, suddenly, the smile is much fuller, almost a half-moon. How does that happen, a slow-seeming gradual evolution becoming “suddenly” a quick change? Maybe I’m asking the same kind of questions as all those philosophical ones about when is one plus one plus one, etc stones no longer some stones but a pile? What’s the turning point amount at which a bunch of stones is a pile or heap?
Oops! How did I get here?
I meant to start out with that skinny smile-in-the-sky and move on. I wanted to talk about the luck of being here in Chiang Mai and being able to feel each day that I’m a beginner, always looking to understand the human and physical landscape. This state of not-knowing is a privilege. It enables me to ask questions without embarrassment, and to continually feel that lovely edge that happens when I’m challenged. Is it a kind of adrenaline pleasure? Is there dopamine secreted when we engage with the unknown and try to understand it? Must be something like that, surely, because I love that feeling of edge so much.
Today, this evening, we started a week of immersing in culture through food. We began by eating and talking, moved on to the market for looking and shopping and eating, and more shopping, and ended with eating back at the apartment, and lots more talking. A great start.
The good will of people who are curious about the world, who want to learn more about food and culture here in Northern Thailand, and are prepared to be challenged, is a lovely thing. It means that people come together and make something new, a temporary world of cross-connection and mutual appreciation. And it’s exhilarating to watch and be part of.
This week is also the time that the first galleys of my Burma book, PINCH OF TURMERIC, SQUEEZE OF LIME are due to arrive. Nothing like having all my most intense obligations happen at the same time! I’m told I can take two weeks with the galleys, and I’ll need all of that and more. But first, before I start worrying about corrections and amendments (for example, given the recent movement toward more political openness in Burma, the history section, happily, needs altering), I want to take a day or two to just enjoy the galleys. I want to hold onto my sense of wonder and pleasure that they exist, rather than leaping straight into practical tasks.
I’m sure they’ll be beautiful, too, for the sample early pages I saw three weeks ago were stunning.
Perhaps all this good stuff – the start of immersethrough with all its good energy, and the imminent arrival of a FedEx parcel of book galleys (oh, and getting a Burma visa for another trip there) – is what that moon has been smiling at. I like to think so…