Excellent music to accompany an all-nighter at the luxurious Hong Kong International Airport. My current state of florescent-lit animal alertness fueled by an appalling mouthful of instant nescafe seemed, as I considered my options this morning, a better alternative to parting with three hundred HK dollars for a taxi at four in the morning. At this moment I do not regret my initial decision. Here I sit among late night and early morning travelers such as myself, trying not to listen to the rip and tear of masking tape as a fellow traveler protects the contents of cardboard boxes from the carelessness of baggage claim staff.
What is time? Time is something that passes, sometimes passing me by. Late and early are the same, whichever it is just depends on whether I look at it from the day before or after.
I have not typed raw words through a keyboard for a while. Usually, thoughts process smoothly while fingers dance over strange square lettered keys, playing out scores of verbs, conjunctions, adjectives. We are truly a digital generation. Though this summer I have found sanity in putting thought on lined paper through a pen, I have not and will never shed that skin. I am in love with the magic connectivity of a wireless hotspot in an organized, near-perfect city, with a warm, lonely place in the sand and the biting ants of the sea almond tree, with the insatiable insect hum in my ears and the constant worry of palm spines and a terciopelo. In an odd and temporary way, I am making peace between all these warring factions, all these cantankerous parts of me.
It’s strange how memories are easily surfaced by the products we buy. Yesterday we walked into two stores to stare at the shelves; first a corner store with little cut open boxes stacked full of erasers, permanent markers and color pencils and that memorable layered shelf of pilot pens that could have been a miniature design prototype of a space shuttle. Waves of images and memories from another country came creeping unbidden into the bay of my mind; sitting in the classroom watching better players flip thin country erasers, furiously scrubbing out old marks on the table to create eraser dust (only this brand is good)… one barely recalls if we even had lessons back then. Feeling full from the floodwaters of memory we left the store and turned the corner only walk right into one filled with Japanese food products - you know, pastel-themed packaging, impeccably designed fruit logos and block character font. Tall glass shelves with cubby holes of gummies (coke, berry, sour, rainbow!); oddly enticing milk, coffee and tea flavors (melon milk?) and long plastic tubes of frozen flavored water to be savored after walking home sweaty under the hot sun (10c for one back then, but now more expensive already); chocolate pellets in rectangular plastic boxes that were doled out two by two from the opening at the top. Right from our first classroom days, we’d already begun to learn lessons of money, power, influence - that kid whose parents could afford the fanciest Pocky (almond and chocolate coated) or the bar of Meiji chocolate was the most sought after; that kid who always got the first pick.
(wrote this many months ago)
There were always funerals held in fields, ceremonies under massive aluminum structures with dark blue tarp draped over it to protect the mourners from the elements. There were also always children, children who were old enough to walk and demand sweet drinks but not old enough to shoulder the weight of loss. These children sat by downcast faces, whose hands slowly, slowly folded and burned rough, powdery, cream-coloured paper with gold, silver squares in their centers.
The two children were a strange sight, her with short black hair in a bob and denim overalls with strawberry shapes and him, in funeral-issue white cotton t-shirt and dark blue cotton pants. They waded through a field-forest of grass beside a sad ceremony, intent on their quarry.
Though they did not understand loss and therefore could not yet buckle under its weight, they must have smelled it in the acridity of burning paper and the thick odor of smoldering joss sticks. The open field flush with tall grass proved an ideal escape. The grass came up to their stomach and surrounded them in a sea of grass, a gently rippling sea of blades that felt rough on the palm if stroked the wrong way. Knowing the name of a fellow grasshopper-catcher was not necessary, only concentration; their eyes learned to fix upon trapezoid shapes grasping an upward growing line. When caught, the grasshoppers expressed their discontent; strange-smelling brown liquid emerged in a bubble from their pursed mandibles and stain the skin.
All of a sudden there was a shape in the grass, neither the shape of grass nor hopper. She closed her fingers around it and on opening her them found in her palm a curious looking thing, a moving green leaf with thin leaves for legs. So curious that it could not have been real, but it had to be! It had eyes and legs and everything, and it moved. She would have shown it to him but she knew what he did to the grasshoppers and she wanted to spare this moving leaf, strange and beautiful it was.
Crimson-speckled flunkey (Utetheisa pulchella), proof that some of Australia’s insects never got the hang of camouflage.
Or perhaps it’s *~APOSEMATIC COLORATION~*
This spider was trapped in tree resin about 20 million years ago. Over time, the resin fossilized to amber, preserving the animal inside. Specimens like this are helpful given that spiders don’t fossilize well in sediment. They offer researchers good information about the group’s more recent history. The oldest known amber specimen is from around 130 million years ago. This specimen was collected in the Dominican Republic.
Learn more in our exhibition, Spiders Alive! open now.
AMBER. PREHISTORIC SPIDER. WOW.
It was a challenge to picture 故宫 (the Forbidden City) unmolested by throngs of tourists. The Beijing summer is indeed hot, heavy and muggy, weighing on the body like a fever. It was grand though, to stand in the middle of 人山人海 and mentally photoshop away the umbrellas and audio-guide carriers and microphone-toting tour group leaders. I close my eyes, a silly tourist who barely speaks mandarin with a 南方 southern accent. Imagine myself an ancient assassin, making my away across, alone, in the middle of the night.
A giant metal bird descends in circles in the sky and cruises parallel to the landing strip. The moment before touchdown, just as the creature unfolds its rolly metal legs to meet the tarmac, always gives me a minor heart attack. It’s difficult to watch from the windows cut into the belly of this giant bird. I think wildly, this could be the moment before impact. But a few thundering rolls and bumps later the Boeing 777 completes its landing unscathed. I send a mental cloud of grateful thank-you balloons to the maintenance crew and wind speeds.
This is Miami, Florida and I step onto soil that I have been away from for half a year. Not my soil and not too sorely missed, but nonetheless familiar. After some little incident at customs I recheck my bags, head to my gate, and am startled by this sudden, new understanding I have of airport announcements and the surrounding hustle and bustle. Realizing I have barely eaten since the previous day I buy an expensive cupcake (¿puedo usar mi tarjeta?) and enjoy the swift change in the expressions of the entire counter staff, from routine politeness to surprise (¿de donde eres?).
A jolting reminder that city hostels will never be my thing.
My thoughts are with the forest that ends abruptly in dark, jagged rocks half buried in sand, that the tide cleans and reburies with regular certainty. Being in the city, if not for people I need I meet, only impresses upon me where I actually need to be. I hold in my mind an infinite palette of shades and shapes and textures of greens and browns and blacks, and the occasional peeking splash of golden light. I hold in my mind the leaf-litter rustle of perturbed land crabs that one might at first take for a snake, the cautious backwards glance of a black-throated trogon, the strange, mixed coffee-dog smell of a puma. I hold in my mind an eleven year old who taught me to be young again and seek for starfish surprises in tidal pools.
The advertisement of the wild nutmeg (Myristicaceae: Virola), marketed both towards canopy-dwelling toucans and spider monkeys, and creatures favoring a more down-to-earth lifestyle like guatusas and tinamous. The advertised message is simple: Disperse me!
But what happens after that (Who takes the bait? Where does the seed go? Does the seed get destroyed and if not does it germinate?) is a puzzle buried under a mountain of uncertainty and possibility.