Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Jewel in the Crown


...and many other things besides. on a trip to Laos this winter good friends delighted me with a full moon watch. they took friendly wagers on when the full moon was going to fall. we were staying at a resort not too far from the city, Ban Pako, on a bend in the river and the winter moon was rising behind us, waxing and as full of promise as an expectant mother. before us the Nam Num river spread its broad currents west toward the Mekong and all about us were the fervent fireflies and insect night life of the tropics. in the late afternoon, crickets posted in the tree barks like sentinels pushed out their strident calls, one calling to another and back, setting the air to vibrate with all the fury of a forest fire. it was turning into another perfect winter evening in the tropics with crystal clear skies and the liquid pinpoints of the stars now beseeching overhead. beers were served, the cylindrical hollow ice-cubes tinkling in our glasses as is the way here. Aulne and Swanny, Pierre and Isa and Pascale, as gentle as church-mice had all jumped on an airplane to come here and so, in this corner of the Far East we were able to recreate the charm and delight of our little French peninsula, our circle of friends, always open at one end. the old stone farmhouse with its massive hand-hewed oak beams, crackling fireplace, flagstones and terracotta tiled floors was far from us. Molières! and yet here we sat on the banks of the warm river listening to the rustling insect life.

talk soon turned to the question of the full moon and here I was able to fall in love all over again with this little handful of friends; they had brought with them the peasant concerns of the marvellous Southwest and with all the delicacy of wood elves had dedicated much thought, conjecture and speculation into guessing when the full moon would be. there she is, I thought looking over our now light-drenched patio, as she rose, the conquering seductress. there she is spreading her share of doubt and joy over our mixed company, spreading her shadow-like light in hues of dull polished orange over all of us, over the woods behind us and the flat expanse of river before us and the forest beyond. a boat flowed down the river almost silently, its stark attention marked by a frantic spot light searching something in the underbrush of the far bank. we laughed and talked and smoked, our talk going far back in time, searching also for indications and time anchors, remembering parties and dinners and crises, births, deaths, scandals and songs all out of our mutually shared past. and this is when the subject of the full moon came up and, as I said, all the magic and intimacy of the great French Southwest came to me as if I had been a refugee.

all the peasant folklore pertaining in those sun-kissed and winter-drenched hills, where generational vineyards meet vegetable gardens, corn fields and sunflowers, orchards of plum and where the air is heady with the late summer ripeness of falling fruit, falling on dried grass and fermenting there in the warm shade making whole gardens smell redolent with the scent of eau-de-vie ... the peasant folklore, donc, of that enchanted Tarn et Garonne is that the weather on the night and day of the full moon will persist until the following full moon, and so for our friends, tourists with one shot of the wild, the question is very important indeed. Pierre, with his soft eyes, soft sad whimsical eyes confirmed in accents as sturdy as pebbles entre-choqués in a stream bed, that this was so.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Quiet Days in Clichy

Pee-May has come and gone, and with it the scores of revellers have quit the streets and gone back to their shops and houses to seek out the shade.

Is it only my imagination, or my weariness, or do the New Year's celebrations become more manic with very passing year? The throwing of water, the drinking and dancing on the streets, the loud crash of the hypnotizing techno music seem to be driving everyone into their own collective tropical oblivion.

And so it has passed and the city settles back to normal, although the summer heat has yet to break. Miles and miles of ugly urban sprawl dot the torrid city-scape and temples, as graceful as felines, flower in intervals.

And the heat bears down. On the scooter, the rushing air burns our skins and the sun is a joyous wunderkind. The Mekong, low, waits to be delivered by the monsoon rains and the throbbing Chinese floods.

Full moon, quarter moon, new moon. Waxing and waning. New floral patterns are presented to gods and spirits; old ones are thrown away. The most interesting lives are those that have been lived, be they in continuum or in passing: spring comes but once, but autumn is forever.

Sabadei Pee-May.