Monday, June 2, 2014

Day 1 - The Distance of the Moon

The night train from Bangkok barreled onward through the night. By the sun finally woke me from my tumultuous sleep, it was already cresting the low mountains and throwing light down onto the clouds of mist, hanging low to the vegetation. The rains last night and the night before had left things vibrant and alive.

With my 87 pounds worth of gear strapped and hung all around my body, I tumbled off the train at into the city of Chiang Mai. Ong met me at the train station and we made our way the 20km to the town of Doi Saket and the short drive up the road to ComPeung. We parked in the drive and unloaded the luggage into the white washed earthen house, made with fish food packaging, that will be my home for the next 4 weeks. Two friendly little dogs greeted us, Lotion and Luna.

After a quick settle in and a much needed shower, the coffee was ready and I met the living mates at ComPeung. Ong, the one who picked me up at the train, has built all three of the earthen houses over the past 10 years. His houses is the main gathering area for meals and holds the library.  Helen is the other half of ComPeung and was born in Thailand to diplomats and has lived here on and off. Eva is a Dutch painter who has been living at ComPeung for 6 weeks already, with 2 weeks left. She lives in the house across from mine. And last but not least, Maureen is Ong's girlfriend and teaches at a local school and writes freelance. All in all, the group is a good one.

I headed off for a walk around the lake in the afternoon, which brought many ideas to mind which will be fleshed out in the coming days. The rest of the day was filled with sketching, writing, and meals with the group, which Ong skillfully cooked for us.

I started reading Italio Calvino's Cosmicomics. The first story is called "The Distance of the Moon", which I borrowed for the title of this post, after reading how "There was always a flight of tiny creatures". Looking around my humble little abode, there is certainly an appreciation curve to the array of life that shares this space with me. I keep remembering the butterflies I saw along my walk and outside on the porch earlier in the day. Each of those little butterflies started as a caterpillar, built themselves a chrysalis and disappeared inside there. We call this process Metamorphosis and to those unknowing this sounds like we as upright standing human beings have figured it out. The truth is, those caterpillars go in, disintegrate into a mucus like goo and somehow come out the other side as a butterfly. I cannot stop thinking about that - there is nothing identifiable inside that chrysalis. The caterpillar is not sprouting wings and simply turning into a butterfly, it becomes an amalgam of cells floating freely in the chrysalis. And somehow - these cells reorganize themselves into a completely new outward appearing creature who, through this whole rebirth, still retains memories from its life before its ability to fly.

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