30 June 2008

Letter 2.23

Well, we've finally exhausted the supply of old grey aerogrammes ('the old grey aerogramme, it ain't what it used to be), and I can write on a much more legible blue.

I left Island Hermitage about a month ago and I've been at Ñānasumana’s kuti in Bundala ever since. We spent some days talking over what needed to be talked over, then he left for Godawaya, and I've been here alone ever since, which is exactly why I came here: what a relief from the bustle and rush of such a major metropolitan centre as Island Hermitage. But, alas, in a few weeks, I'll have to return there to attend to final details on the book – i.e. getting a complete printer's typescript prepared (a beginning has been made already), after which we will be prepared to go to press. There will be no trouble at all with support: a number of people have offered/requested to finance it (one of them is willing to go as high as 100,000 Rs.), and it is only a question of choosing the most suitable -- or, possibly, least unsuitable -- person (who can also attend to various details with the printer). No -- finances are not the hang-up at all, but rather coping with the amount of work involved (the book will be in excess of 400,000 words, which is a pretty big book).

So here I sit in a comfortable net chair -- the only piece of furniture in the kuti -- watching the chipmonks hurry to gobble up what they can of the leftover rice I put out for them before the mongooses, monkeys, hens, and other jungle wildlife come along to gobble it up themselves. Even had a glass of milk today, which is a rare treat here (and an impossibility at Island Hermitage, where the shelves are filled with tinned dried condensed and virtually useless Nestomalt), which I poured all over the rice and had milk rice. There's been some very out of season rain here this month, so everything is nice and green and the cisterns are full and the bathing area is fresh (and, also, the cows are giving milk -- they're usually dried up by now).

The weather -- when it's not raining -- is sunny and even a shade (if that's the word) on the hot side, and the wind is constantly from the east, so I get the sound of the surf very clear even at the kuti, which is a half mile from the sea (by the rather circuitous jungle path -- certainly a bit less for the crows). Some days I go out for long walks in the afternoon, but the ground is too hot in the early afternoon to walk on (with bare feet), and later on I have to return by about 5:00, at which time one of the villagers brings me a flask of tea -- and it's not polite to make him wait too long. Now, though, we're entering the bright half of the month -- the moon is waxing and does not set until – tonight -- about 10:00 (and later by 50 minutes each night), so it will soon be possible to go out for walks at night: during the hot season (which this is here) that seems to be the only time at which it's comfortable to move about. Otherwise -- whether at the kuti or in some part of the jungle -- during most of the day one just stays put. Which is also fine.

In the year since I've last been here a few changes have been made in the kuti itself -- primarily that one whole wall has been removed so that there is now no barrier (except a bamboo curtain which rolls up) between the kuti itself and the ambulatory, and the place is much lighter and more open. I don't know how well that works out in the season of heavy mosquitos (March/April), but in May it's quite nice: the few mosquitos that do show up are tolerable.

So: there you sit reading this, among your tulips, with the days growing longer and longer (not much difference -- only about an hour's total daylight -- between even the extremes of December and June this close to the equator -- 6 N.), warmer and warmer, and greener and greener (Never much shortage of greenery in this part of the world -- also many jungle flowers of very fine and exquisite pattern and color, but they are usually a bit hidden and one has to learn how to see them; on occasion I've espied some lovely tiny orchids growing near my kuti at Island Hermitage).

Anyway this month is turning out to be a very welcome break allowing me to do a lot of sorting out and seeing new perspectives. I should be well prepared to return to Island Hermitage and get back to the other perspectives. How's your perspectives?

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