In the moment
April 8, 2013, 11:33 pm
Filed under: travel

Sprinkling water on the temple

Originally uploaded by cobismith.

I had a plan for my Sunday morning. I was walking along a road towards the old city, where I had a certain yoga class in mind. Hearing music drifting from a laneway, I turned to see a brightly coloured temple with a golden Buddha smiling in the air.

I walked down the lane to take photos of brightly coloured flags against the sky. As I did so, I noticed wires running from the temple grounds to the top of the pagoda. There were people at the base, near the source of music. They were attaching something to the wires. A metal bird began its way tugged up the wires on a pulley system. How curious, I thought as I watched its ascent. As the bird contraption nudged the top of the building it opened, sprinkling water over the pagoda.

I took in this unexpected outcome with delight, and things fell into place. Ah! Songkran – the Buddhist new year celebration for which I receive three days off next week. Songkran, coinciding with the hottest, driest time of year, is a festival of cleansing water rituals. For Buddhist temples, this means many such ceremonies in which pagodas are sprinkled and Buddha statues are washed. For Chiang Mai city, it means the biggest celebration of the year, a five-day all-in cheeky water fight.

As I was rapt in the ritual, someone tugged at my shirt. I looked down.
“What are you doing here?” a familiar face asked. It was one of the children of fellow Australian volunteers I’ve befriended. I didn’t have a good answer, but the same question. In a city of two hundred thousand people of whom I know perhaps 30, it was beautiful happenstance.
“What are you doing here!?” I replied. The rest of the family appeared at the top of the lane, lugging large bags. They’re moving to Laos next fortnight and have been busy sorting and packing.
“We’re looking for Free Bird Cafe! Do you know where it is?”
In another stroke of fate, I did indeed. In my first few weeks I’ve become familiar with only a couple of places, but Free Bird Cafe – also a charity shop supporting Burmese refugee and Thai indigenous communities – is one of those places.
“Yes!” I walked over to lighten their load. Free Bird was only two street corners away.
It was approaching lunchtime; in my haste to get to the destination I’d originally had in mind I hadn’t though about eating. I was hungry. At the cafe the family donated bags of clothes destined for refugee camps on the border and we shared delicious Sunday brunch. I appreciated the brief chance to spend time with new friends busy with moving preparations.

I made it to a later yoga class, via serendipitous moments of rapt understanding and deepening friendship.

It’s worth living in the moment to notice the music.


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