missives from the far east, part one

Non-fiction, 3/22/09

I woke to the day’s first call to prayer, broadcast via loudspeakers atop a nearby mosque. It was 5:30 a.m. and the sun had yet to rise; crickets and cicadas still carried on their nocturnal chirrings with admirable gusto. Through the mosque’s speakers rose an undulating Arabic tenor, beckoning the Islamic devout of Krabi to pay their respects. It sounded like a song, this prayer call, with soaring notes and subtle melodies dispersed throughout its 30-second duration. I closed my eyes to the music. Though the same recording sounded three times a day, every day, its mournful cadence never failed to move me—especially from slumber. I daresay a more melodious wake-up call could not be contrived.

After a breakfast of eggs and coffee I strolled the shoreline from my bungalow. Mynah birds chattered ceaselessly from the palm fronds, their calls a bewildering hodgepodge of dove coos, raven cackles and cell phone ring tones. By 8 a.m. the temperature had climbed to 90 or so degrees; before my eyes, the asphalt shimmered and buckled in a dreamy heat mirage, seemingly melting beneath the glaring sun. Sweating profusely, I walked back toward the bungalow, seeking shelter in the shade.

Despite the swaying palms, merciful breeze, and a neighboring sea as warm as bathwater, I began to think of home. Of bullwhip kelp, evergreens, and screeching Steller’s jays. Of cast-iron cookies and pumpkin pie. And of bumblebees, apple trees, garter snakes and the heady scent of lavender on a summer’s eve—all those trappings of the Pacific Northwest, or at least the ones from my microcosm in Bellingham. I suspect I’ll never tire of that region, and of Washington state in particular, with its forests and mountains, beaches and plains, rivers, ocean, sunshine, rain—not for as long as I live.

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