I’ve lived a good life. A long life by some estimations, or in some century or another culture. 41 years. As I sit here in the land of maternity leave, I’ve had a lot of time to just be. That’s my only focus right now, is to be with this person who is new to the world, who is seeing the world for the first time. Every ray of sunlight, every falling leaf, every honeybee wandering through the yard, every red finch, every succulent blooming, every scent of star jasmine and brugmansia wafting in the yard, every tassel of corn, every gust of fog and mist.
I wonder if she’ll focus more on being than doing. I wonder who she’ll be, where she’ll go, what she’ll value. What lessons I’ll share with her but she won’t really learn until it happens the hard way.
This being has created space to be with my memories. I wish I could drop them all – the ones that really matter – into her mind, like a library card catalogue organized alphabetically. Maybe that’s not fair though. She’s her own person. She’ll create her own way.
But some of those memories – the ones of people, the ancestors whose fires are now the stars, the laughter that love can bring, and of places that are three-dimensional – those are too delicious to keep to myself.
I can feel the warm of the rising sun, even through the cotton blanket tucked around my legs. the splash of water droplets on my bare arms we glide across Inle Lake in a slow-moving motorboat. The light breeze carries a salty taste with a hint of smoke and decomposition. The smell is algae and water lilies and briny fish. The carp, catfish, and intha darting in the inky shallows. We make a wide berth around the silent fishermen, out at first light, with broad-brimmed conical straw hats. Balanced on one end of their dug-out outrigger canoe, perched like flamingos on one leg, using the other to turn the long wooden paddle and steer, their hands busily pulling in the fine net with small silvery catches. The whole basin of water, surrounded by the agriculture and morning cooking fires of villages. The season is sandwiched between monsoons and drought.
We are headed to the market. The one tourists do not go to. To walk and marvel and wonder and get out of the way and ask questions and mime to get answers and feel like an other, a minority, a person who does not know the context but by being still and small and quiet can pick up enough to strike flint together and start a fire. The pulse of a place, that beats and glances of shared humanity.
I hope her memories hold this vastness too.