Thursday, September 29, 2005

A MOVEABLE, ROTATING FEAST

Over here, even when it's cool it's hot. The rainy season is reluctantly drawing to a close, sporadically, in sloshy spurts, and soon the late-afternoon showers that have become a familiar midday treat will disappear. Just like that. No more water descending from above in the hours before dusk, falling and swaying in drippity-drops or extended sheets, like natural, liquid licorice, minus the red. No more temporary respite from that savage sun, how it daunts me so.

Even in the Cambodian cold, the heat. Just think: One can wear nothing more than a t-shirt and shorts all day, every day, year round. No exceptions necessary. Flip-flops, every flippy, reliably floppy, are footwear of choice in these here parts. (At work, of course, one must don the tie and the pants and the shoes shined black, but in a simple, rural land like this, such attire seems foolish, even arrogant. In old countries, poor countries, one feels ridiculous wearing more than the bare necessities of life. A country that was once the focal point of Southeast Asia, that developed its own language, whose people labored for decades to build temples that rival Egypt's finest monuments -- in this ancient place, of what real use is a well-tucked shirt, a slick taut tie?)

Such are one's thoughts on an average day, for what is commonplace in Cambodia would be considered a sign of bereavement anywhere else. (And what would we mourn over here, you ask? Dark clouds threatening snow. Early-morning frost on dew-slicked windows. That howling winter wind, that icy shriek, primal and midnight and bellowing.)

Reliable reports state that elsewhere, somewhere, autumn has arrived, complete with falling leaves and cross-country races run through winding trails in hidden forests. Could these electronic accounts be authentic? Difficult to determine, when here the sun stays high, the air hot, the blades of a fan alive in constant, rotating motion. In other lands, the temperature is checked daily, if not hourly. Its continual ascension and decline must be monitored and assessed, for what is at stake is nothing less than the emergence of turtlenecks and gloves, scarves and slippers. (How cold those Canadian kitchen floors can seem on a frigid February night!)

There is something almost tragic in the daily loss of one's own, remembered weather, as if the very cadence of life itself had decided to subtract a few errant, useless beats. Consolation comes with the gradual realization that the heat -- still mysterious and intricate t0 a sweat-sodden western soul -- has its own unexpected, beneficial allures. A day of sun. Perpetual sun. Tranquilizes the soul, it does, in its own bludgeoning way. It trivializes the mere notion of melancholy, eliminating all self-indulgent emotional artifice. How can one embrace a melancholic view of life while steeped in such sweat? The messy liquidity negates such dramatics. Leave such glum and gloomy notions for Russian winters and Scandanavian nights. Here, the sun assumes its position, daily, and one must accept its radiant, overbearing personality.

Which is easier than one might think (the aforementioned histrionics aside). After all, even over here, the sun must set. And when it does, wrapped in the dark cloak of night, we wait, patiently, till morn, confident it will return. In Cambodia, one cannot count on much, if anything. But the sun is a moveable, rotating feast that is loyal and true.

1 comment:

Le Will said...

It is so liberating not to have your feet constricted by shoes and socks. Now that I've moved back to Calgary from the West Coast, I see what a difference the amount of sun we get has on my mental state. Dour no longer!

Great post.