Ready for take off. The wheels turning faster and faster below. The airport and parked planes flashing by as we pick up speed. Intense vibrations. Gravitation pulling me against my seat. I close my eyes and smile. We lift off the ground. Such a slow and heavy sensation, when the wheels leave the earth. It still seems so impossible to me every time. This is what I live for.
It’s noon on a hot September day in Bangkok. The view is not so different than any city you might see from above – houses packed tightly together, skyscrapers in the distance, a muddy river. But one thing does stand out. The bold and varied use of color. Orange roofs, red ones, yellow and blue. It’s as if a child colored the whole thing in. No regards for refinement. This is something you won’t see from an aerial view in America. And it’s fitting, because when I think of Thailand I think of tropical fruit. Bright yellow mangoes, orange papayas, green coconuts and pink dragon fruit. Perhaps the inspiration for Thai palettes.
Our flying altitude rises out of city view and suddenly it’s a world of only white and blue outside. As I look down at the clouds in their tight clusters, it reminds me of cottage cheese. My older brother James use to eat cottage cheese and canned peaches when we were kids. I thought it was gross. But now it reminds me of the 80s and tube socks and cotton shorts. A life without cell phones or laptops or jobs that don’t stop when you go on vacation. Chevy Chase and Mountain Dew. Playing outside with the neighbor kids. That’s all a million miles in space and time away from me up here. And at the same time, it isn’t.
Last week I was walking in downtown San Francisco on a sunny day when a guy walked up to me. He’d already passed, but jogged back just to say hello. He said I looked so positive and relaxed that he had to talk to me. I introduced myself and we talked for a few minutes. He was a nice guy. Upbeat. Childlike. ‘I know this is going to sound ridiculous,’ he said, ‘but you just seemed to have this brightness around you. Like a yellow aura or something.’ I smiled. It didn’t sound strange at all, in fact. It was the third time in recent years that someone stopped to tell me just that (perhaps living in San Francisco helps ;). Still, it’s a beautiful compliment. I thanked him for stopping to say hello. It was a nice gesture and he was not at all pushy or insinuating. I found myself wondering why we don’t all do these sorts of things more often.
I can’t help but think some of that sunshine others are seeing in me is coming from here in Thailand. This beautiful sunny place that nurtures me in ways I didn’t even know I needed. Like ripe fruit running down my fingers. I am so aware of how it envelopes me.
It seems to me it’s the pace of life that creates this peace, this positive energy. There is no need to rush, no big meetings or networking events. Plenty of time for a nap on a sunny afternoon or a little reading in a hammock or coffee shop. The goal for most people here is happiness, myself included. I think back to the kind stranger I met on the street in San Francisco. “You don’t seem like you’re in a hurry,” he said to me. I smile at just how right he was. I’m not. I’m really not.