Virgin's Guide to Burning Man

A Virgin's Guide to Burning Man can be found here.

Friday, August 7, 2009


The yogini walked around the class dabbing essential oils in our palms; some mixture of roses, citrus, and yleng yleng. As I rubbed the oils between my hands and brought the scent to my face, I was hit, forcibly, with the scent of my grandmother. She died two years ago, and still her scent has the power to undo me. Overcome, I lay there, crying in shavasana.

My grandmother was the salt of the earth. Raised on a farm in Supunburi, Thailand, she knew what it was to till the soil and set ancient roots. She gave birth to five girls, and when her husband met an untimely passing, she raised them on her own. She was solid, heavy-boned. Her skin looked like worn, browned leather, but felt like soft butter cream. Barely 4'11", she was compact in size, but dynamite can come in small packages. She didn't talk much, but she never hesitated to tell it like it is.

She used to tell my father, who had quite inappropriately never paid a dowry when he married my mother, that proper Thai women will massage a man's feet when he comes home from work. My dad would eye my mother and say, "I don't get any of that." My grandmother would retort, "You get what you pay for."

Because we lived on two different continents for most of my life, I never spent much time with my grandmother, and most of the time we did have together, I was fairly young - around 7 or 8. She spoke only Thai, and at the time I spoke only English, so most communication revolved around sleeping, eating, and making funny noises at each other until we both heaved with laughter. With such little verbal communication between us, I don't suppose I can say I knew her in the way most people know others. But somehow I don't feel that I needed to. Because sometimes, when it comes to family, words are superfluous. I feel in her my blood, and in my bones, and it is there that I know her.

My Asian grandmother was like a solitary storm cloud hovering on the south east horizon. She was silent and steady, heavy with the volition of ancestral spirits. Though diminuitive in size, her presence was larger than life. She was hardened, tough, and weathered by the processes of time. But there was a depth to her; a depth so profound that one couldn't help but always keep her in the corner of one's eye, even when she was far away. She was the matriach. It was foolish to make a move without first considering her. All of life moved below her, under her watchful eye. When she passed, it was like the heavy storm cloud dissipating into the light. Though she is gone, the memory of her is an indelible imprint; like a footstep pressed into sand.

1 comment:

  1. This post reminds me of a conversation I had last night with my boyfriend.

    While talking about the fact all his favorite women were born in the same week (strange) he said what he really liked about me was that we could talk about why we are here on this universe.

    My first reaction was why? I don't think it really matters why we are "here".

    Than I decided I knew why we were here. I said we are a part of the universes evolving conscious.

    Some cultures have tapped deeply into this. Others only learn about it through mistakes. The other ones are maybe lost and wondering why they are here.

    Sounds to me she had it :)


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