Saturday, February 7, 2015

Sop Bao

Joy in every pore.

    The road had not one inch of pavement on it. I passed over paths of white stone, finely ground to near dust, ke

eping my tires above the rain gullies. The landscapes were above majestic. Green feminine hills rolling in ancient luxury overlooking terraced rice paddies ... The dry season means that the plots are in rotation, some are in repose while others are being replanted and others yet are being torn from their bearings by hand-held ploughs. Those being replanted are presided over by bending peasants holding a flock of rice stems in one hand and plunging their other hand into the dark brown earth.

    Near them, on an ancient mud butress stands a bushel of stalks awaiting plantation, מֶשֶׁךְ הַזָּרַע . The plots being laboured are having their guts wrenched up by the fanatic blades of the machine as it hauls, first this way then that, line upon line of dark brown sopping earth.

    The separation between the plots seems haphazard, with off-angles and lines broken by indentation. But knowing the intricacies of man and our fervent attachement to dirt I cannot believe these delimitations to be the fruit of chance. No, these borders were inherited, fought over, exchanged, squabbled and squandered –  with each trade and transaction noted in a register somewhere, and this for hundreds of years.

    The plots under flood stand flat and steady. They reflect like giant mirrors the hills lurching above them and as dusk approaches they attract leagues of cranes who come to feed. The long-winged white birds land and take off in graceful cacaphony, hampered by nothing. No wind comes to unsettle them and no children come running through the paddies. Their flights, like the hills above, are mirrored in the still flat waters and so from a distance look like a graceful puppet minuet. They land large feathered and furrow their wide white wings alongside their bodies in time to peck at something in the waters. Then, just as unpredictably deploy and beat them just once to break with the ground. They circle above and below, twin images; one real and the other only seen until they come closer and join as lovers anew on another flat expanse.

    This coupling could continue forever and possibly beyond, long into the dusk. I could stay there mezmerized by the longing of it, but am compelled to move on since sunset carries with it its own imperatives and I must be safely parked and showered before darkness and the cold set in.

    I mount Charlene and set her tires once again facing the North, to a town I know will have a guest house and maybe even a warm shower.

    As I cycle the visa angles vary as though I were walking in moon light. Children run along a paddy's mud embankement in the exhiliration of youth, the abandonment to joy. Some others sit in groups gazing out onto the mountain void beyond the rushing river. Their silence is shattering and communicates itself to me even at this great distance. They are meditating, the little ones, and breathing slowly, sitting on their earth.

    For above them the first moon sliver appears, we are in the first quarter of the new lunar month and it hangs there high in the transparent blue sky, a blue of azure boldness, a blue of faded eyes, a blue of closing.

    I make my way slowly, regretfully, to the town. The birds' flight reminded me of earthly complicities and human needs. We bond and seperate, love and hate, forever renewing or rupturing our allegiances and energies, always stepping out into a void. 

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