22 September 2008

Letter 3.42

Wat Pah Barn Tard

A rough one hour flight in a sputtering 2-engine prop over heavy cloud cover up north to Udorn Thani -- spent more time on the ground going through formalities than in the air -- glad to land, 'cause I was getting tired of paddling.

Now it's noon. I'm sitting underneath the hut (in Thailand houses are almost always built on stilts: this one rests about 5 feet off the ground on 9 substantial concrete pillars) in a chair whose legs each sit in a cup of old engine oil, to keep the ants off. It's about 105°F, down here, and a lot hotter upstairs' A breeze is like sitting next to a giant 1000 watt hair dryer. About 1:30 we'll gather for a cold drink (assuming the ice that's been ordered has been delivered as ice, not cold water) to manage the peak of the heat. Mornings are crisp, evenings pleasantly cool, nights edging toward chilly. Lizards don't mind the heat -- they scuttle about in the sunshine, then pop down holes or chase each other about, seemingly not in play. They have green markings with an orange band on each side. Strange swift movements, then long pauses. Pineapple plants and mango trees (with fruit still too green) surround this hut -- others have bananas, coconut, papaya. Oddly, there are few birds, perhaps it's the off-season. But the continual squawking of a couple tame parakeets fills in. The sand here, too, is bored with hermit spider traps. The spiders live hidden below their traps, waiting for an unwary ant to slip in. There are plenty of ants, though I've yet to see one get caught. The other day I left out a square of chocolate laxative. Within a few hours the ants had eaten a large portion of it. For the next two days there was ant shit everywhere.

This place is more intensively directed towards meditation than any wat I've seen yet. There's no routine other than morning meal and late afternoon leaf-sweeping and water hauling. No chanting or other group activities. But the sun is fierce, and so too is the teacher here. I'll sit a while longer he then likely go to the South, although I've just received an invitation to go to a place near Chiang Rai beside a waterfall on a cool hillside, and this off is presently rather tempting.

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