The Pilgrimage Part One

November 28 2011

Day - 4

The thing I remember most about the conversation was the angle of the couch. Me, sprawled out in some Brooklyn apartment somewhere in 2003, virtually drawn and quartered between different realities. My mind moves back to that place and tries to crawl back into itself and fails miserably. I can’t remember who I was then, what belief systems were in place, what kinds of things made me happy, what moved me. I can’t put in place the driving force behind my being, I can’t remember toward what I oriented myself. I can’t really locate me in space.

“Laura, you’re an intelligent person, a reasonable human being,” He said, “Do Yoga, go to India, but you know and I know that you’re not going to start worshipping Vishnu and believe all that crap, so what are you looking for?”

 

And it must have touched me somewhere, because I remember it…but I cannot for the life of me remember why. I don’t know what I thought, or how I felt, I only know that some piece of my machine labeled it ‘significant’ and filed it away for future reference.

I sit on the floor of the wooden hut that I’ve called home for the last six years, all my belongings strewn about like archeological finds. Love notes from boys I never think of anymore, course papers from the beginning of my Yoga study, journals full of finished stories, half burned candles, my bindi collection, all the relics of the newly erected civilization that I am poised to Vesuvius over forever. I am leaving. It is over. Just like New York ended in 2003, and although still alive for many, remains the realm of ghosts for me, Thailand, and more specifically Koh Phangan is about to move into the past tense.

And the fact that my first destination, my first other place will be to go on Pilgrimage to worship the Goddess Kali seems poetic, poignant, and like I’m fucking asking for it.

But to be in on the joke you have to know who Kali is…

In the Tantric tradition we imagine the whole of manifestation divided like the most scrumptious of pies into ten slices. We have the possibility to see things from the vantage point of any of these ten, each of them bringing a new dimension to reality. Some of us have problems and seek to solve them through understanding, some through diverting the mind and focusing on pleasure, some through hard work, some through humor. Each of these options is a different slice, and we all have our preferred kind of pie. 

Kali is a personification which has been placed on the slice of reality called time. Time is the great leveler, what seemed important in the past may seem insignificant now, there is nothing that withstands time, it will consume the sun eventually and long before that every one of us. Kali is your steadily encroaching death.

If you’re of the opinion that all you are is a physical body and an amassed array of treasure then Kali’s reality is a bummer indeed. For those that believe that they are a constantly evolving spirit shackled with the task of ditching attachments and moving toward perfection in an ever changing array of incarnations; she is home.

Kali can speed your evolution. If you fear her, she is a gruesome force who will rip from you all that you love most and leave you with nothing. If you love her you realize that she only takes what’s standing in the way of your growth, she can cut through all the habits and patterns and ego to show you that you are eternity.

Break-ups are Kali. Car accidents are Kali. Tsunamis are Kali. That’s her way of waking you up. If you’re asleep, moving through life unconscious, letting patterns determine your actions she will visit. It will most likely not be a visit you relish. If instead you are with her, conscious, wanting growth instead of comfort she will be your ally, moving with you. It’s your choice.

Somewhere between that Brooklyn couch and now I realized that I want life to be full of magic. Somewhere I realized that living in the realm of believing only what you see and being reasonable and rational all the livelong day bores the shit out of me. I read Sartre like a good little New York Nihilist and filled my head with Camus and Kant, I danced with the idea that it was all meaningless, that it was a colossal mistake; we came from nothing, achieved nothing and then were extinguished. If I’m honest, though – I never believed it for a second. Part of me leaving that world was me allowing myself to think what I actually think…and I have become something I never thought I would be – full of faith. I believe in God, I believe in the supreme order of Reality. I believe in things that my mind can’t wrap around. I even believe in Vishnu the Preserver and would happily worship him any old day. I believe deeply in a shadowy, incoherent world which has nothing to do with what I see. I believe in Black Goddesses wearing necklaces of severed heads who love me so much they will diligently and definitively end any story I make about myself that I start to believe more than the real one.

Which brings us back to now. Now. Me, like a mischievous child poised to kick over the sandcastle she’s been building all day. This thing that I’m doing. This leaving. Anything important that could come from all these years of study and search, all this amassing of information and all this sitting naked to myself in inquiry is mine now. Anything that I need I have swallowed whole and will come with me, anything else I will leave.

And so in this supremely Kali moment I realize that as I am the most fulfilled, the most content, the most connected I ever have been in my life and that I am also starting to stagnate. She’s come. Though I’m not sure how I could actively choose to leave the only place that I’ve ever felt I fit, the only job that I’ve ever really been good at and the only community who’s values I can fully embrace for the vague hope that I can create something even better that is precisely what I’m doing. Kali tells me that I have everything I need. And I believe.

Day - 2

I wash roach and rat out of backpacks and move heart heavy and forgetful. I know this is really happening…somewhere I know it. Last mango run to the stinky shop, last auto-timed pumpkin rice, last chance to put in laundry and actually get it back before leaving, last veggie burgers at happiness. Last of this place. Wash the spider webs out of shoes.

Today is brisk and businesslike, today is no love.

I swallow sentiment and move. Keep moving. Touch things, recognize them, put them in the right pile. Objects join forces and create entities in the corners of the house, the ‘going’ entity, the ‘totally not going’ entity, the ‘once a thing, but now garbage’ entity and the ‘I don’t know what to do with this’ entity. Touch. Recognize. Place. Wait for the pop on the rice cooker, for the red light to move from ‘cook’ to ‘warm’ and it will be break time.

One bag is packed.

Day - 1

Last moments of being a person with a home. Last of this. So sad and so exhilarated. The only change I seem capable of is drastic change. Since the house next to me was built I’ve never loved it here like I used to…but I stayed because it was still better than anything else I could find...I’m like that. I settle.

Day 1

I don’t travel well. Slumped on a broken wooden chair in the hallway of my guesthouse, I realize that I am quite possibly not a person any longer. I don’t travel well, just very often, which might imply some level of prowess, but in reality I am utterly wretched at it. Yesterday (which bears a striking resemblance to today as I haven’t slept, and sleeping – not the rising and setting of heavenly bodies as science might imply – is what creates a tangible separation between days) was a brutal marathon of taxi, ferry, bus, songtaew and all night ice box train with no sleepers, so we were forced to sit up all night, which lasted almost twenty four hours and which rendered me exhausted and empty.

I type with my right hand and with my left stroke a bunny rabbit, fat and renegade, that has emerged from one of the rooms. If I were a person I may be surprised by his appearance, but as it stands I have been beaten out of expecting some comprehendible reality and just assume the role of bunny stroker that’s been so obviously assigned to me.

In the bar below the window ‘Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” blares (because I’m free…nothings worrying meeeeeee) sealing the totality of the moment. The bunny’s ears are really soft and his side quivers at an impossible velocity, perfectly synchronized with the ceaseless vibration of his nose. I wonder what the fuck bunnies think about.

I know what I’m thinking about. My uterus. My focus is mighty, the rest of the five senses have retracted like wee turtles in shells. Soft bunnies and achey limbs register decibels below the relentless cries of my lady parts contracting, sending pain as far out as lower back and tops of thighs. This sucks. 

I have a paranormal capacity for synchronizing extended travel with bleeding. One might, from the looks of it, think that I even try. What seems, from the outside, to be an exercise in masochism or self sabotage (I mean, what human would choose to do something hard on a day when they feel the worst. NO ONE that’s who!) is something much more insidious. I will deliberately schedule travel for non-menstrual moments and it will move. By its own choosing. It has been known to spring up weeks ahead of schedule or to wait, quietly lurking until the worst possible moment. It’s like nobody told my uterus that she and I are on the same team. WE ARE ON THE SAME TEAM, LADY! Messing with me is messing with you! Stop it. Let’s be friends. Things are hard enough for both of us without us being pitted against one another to boot. Truce, uterus?

(During the open letter to my uterus rant the bunny became very exited and ran away, then came back, then tried to chew on the computer monitor, then ran away again, then pooped, then ate his poop. I am officially less enchanted with the bunny. Perhaps the bunny also has a uterus that he’s at odds with and felt that was the only way to communicate solidarity? We’ll really never know.)

So this is me…in pain, depleted, exhausted, filthy and beyond thinking. So I will simply surrender to my exhaustion and go to bed.

Day 3

Bangkok.

Bangkok is a want machine. So much. So cheap. A completely contented human could enter the gnarled claw of Bangers and emerge riddled with wanting, streets full of tasty treats, intoxicating beats, pretty frocks, two dollar wallets in the shape of irresistible owls, affordable surgery, you name it and this city dangles it.

Also it moves fast, and I like that.

Bangkok has been the portal for the past 8 years. The first time I came to Asia I landed in Bangkok, and it has since 2005 come to mean either impending adventure or en route back home to paradise. Both are always good, and so just like Delhi means India, Bangers means Thailand. Welcome back and peace out.

 Don't mind if I do, Vishnu. (Whatever, even if you're Krishna right now.)

Don't mind if I do, Vishnu. (Whatever, even if you're Krishna right now.)