When COVID has run its course at some point (we have to hope in the next 12-15 months), I think we all must have an inkling that on some level there is going to be an explosion of change – in personal lives, in work lives, in who we keep close and who we move on from and we can only hope, because humanity’s future is dependent upon it, in the organization of our society.
It’s good to pay attention to the thoughts that come up for you at all times. That was not so easy to do in the busyness pre-COVID. It’s even more important to pay attention to the thoughts that arise during times of crisis. I really believe these thoughts are signposts about a vague vision of your future that is already formulating inside of you.
I’m not sure if this happens to others but there are places I’ve visited that keep coming back to me. For years! I think of them as places as visitors, ringing the bell of my consciousness, calling out as if home is a part of their imagery.
One of those places that keep visiting me is a little village I spent time in when I went to Thailand in 2013. I got on the train in Bangkok. I got off the train about 3 or 4 hours later farther south. While journeying there, the train was open air, and all the seats were taken. Uncomfortable seats, very upright, if my memory isn’t playing tricks on me. We stopped once or twice to let passengers on and off and at one stop vendors selling food came on during the stop. There were women carrying bags of ice, Thai ice tea, in different colours, pastel pink and orange, and noodles as well.
It was beautiful, rural countryside, the opposite of Bangkok’s frenzy. Tall palms dotted the grassy landscape. The breeze, extremely warm, was blowing in through the windows and the tracks clacked as we moved farther south. I was one of the few foreigners on it, or at least that’s what I recall about the compartment I was in.
A middle aged white woman alone always piques interest, pity, admiration, curiosity at the very least, especially in those countries organized around the sanctity and cohesiveness of family.
I got off the train and walked, late in the afternoon, towards the sea because I had been told that’s where the best old hotel (owned by the Russians) in this small place was. I had been told by someone who recommended the place to me to ask for a room close to the top floors in what was a five or six-story very sparse building.
I checked in, English not really spoken, except in gestures, and took the stairs up four flights and opened the door to my room. I inhaled quickly, a gulp of heat shocked the inside of my mouth and my lungs. I went to the balcony and the view from my tiny deck was stunning. Limestone cliffs rose from the blue grey of the Gulf of Thailand and the heat, mist like, fogged the scene in a mirage of heat waves. Boats that looked like Chinese junks were in the distance. There was no denying I was in S.E. Asia.
Over the course of four days I explored the small place. There was a daily market that ran the full length of an alleyway. There was a 7-11 on the corner, or a store that resembled it. The entire length of the waterfront had a walkway where early in the morning, individuals would dry the catch of fish from their nets, small squid I think. I remember, even then, thinking to myself that this was the kind of place I could just hang out for a while. To just take in its rural version of small town Thailand, a version I’d enjoyed more of than any other place I’d experienced in Thailand.
I walked along and there were children in uniforms behind big gates, running through a dusty courtyard and I said Hi to them through the gates of their school.
There were smaller Stupa-style temples with gold and turquoise tile works and small clay elephants and roosters arranged like offerings on the tile around ceramic elephants standing three feet high. On Friday evenings there was a local market on the waterfront and I spoke with a Thai man who spoke English. He was curious about where I was from and of course I had to correct his immediate impression that I was American.
Along the waterfront there were a few local Thai restaurants, and further along, past a military checkpoint, there were beautiful stretches of beaches that had lots of room, the softness of murky waves rippling along the sand-coloured shore and back out again, melding with the blue-green sea.
I could image going back there. It keeps poking at me. I always pay attention to those places I’ve visited that never leave. Oban, Scotland is another one.
I could imagine renting a place to live and just being in this small Thai town for a while at some point in the future. One thing I’ve learned from the pandemic, although I sort of knew this beforehand, is that I can be in the world, by myself, and be relatively okay regardless of where that might be, especially in the age of Zoom.
I’m genuinely curious to know whether any of you have places you’ve visited in the world that accompany you psychically and you’ve never really been able to explain precisely why.