I’m about to let you into one of my many secret rooms—in my head. I think everyone has these special little places that bring back memories of joy or serenity or fear or even contentment when the door is opened. They may not mean much to others but for you they bring on potent somatesthesias.
There’s a strip of road that runs along a deserted beach a few hours south of Bangkok that captured me and won’t let go. To either side of this road are shallow expanses where sea salt is made. I first came across it in the extreme heat of the day and was the only soul traveling. The entire area had square sections of pure white separated by low berms of darker sand. A few of the squares were filled with conical snow-white mounds, all in an orderly fashion.
I don’t know why but I had to stop and learn what they were. Perhaps it was the pure whiteness or the order or was it the unearthly quality of their appearance. No one was around so I returned to my little house but the vision stayed with me for the rest of the day and night.
I woke before sunrise and my motorcycle called to me telling it was time to go. I watched the sun rise out of the sea to bath the land with fluid color. The sky was a washed-out blue that only dawn can create.
As I approached this alien section I saw beings appear in long lines. I came to this apparition to find workers lining up and walking onto the field of white with long staffs on their shoulders and a basket attached to either end of the staff.
The early morning air was cool but with a hint of the brutal heat to come. I stopped and asked an old man what they were doing and he said gathering sea salt. All the people were burnt nearly black, bare foot or wearing rubber flip-flops. They would approach one of the small mounds and a man filled both baskets and they would lift the burden to their shoulder and start the long trek back to the roadway.
Over and over they completed the circuit and each man and woman would look at me and smile as they passed. I could see the hard labor of their strong bodies and the serene look on their faces.
At around 9 in the morning the field was once again flat and not as white as the surrounding fields. The people loaded themselves and equipment on to motorbike and left. I returned day after day to watch the process and the people.
The little squares of land were actually ponds that would be filled with seawater. As the water evaporated more water was added and then overnight a pure white film would form on the surface like a primordial work of art. The process continued until the crust became thick and then the water would be drained and over the days more water would be added and then squeezed out by the very people who I first saw. Their skin burnt dark but their smiles never removed.
It’s a bit hard to understand but in Thailand—as in many tropical countries—dark skin is not desirable—indicating the poorest of the working class, but these people seem to have no care of what others might think.
I’m not sure what it is about the scenes I have described: the work, the scent of the salt, the people or perhaps it was the fresh new day just beginning but each time I think of my trip I think of it as a passage to contentment. Does that make sense to anyone else?
As you can see my secret compartments are filled with strange bits and pieces. One day I may share more.
If ever you want to look into the frailties, fears and hopes of a writer I suggest my book, In Search of a Soul. Much too much of me slipped out. Or try Tyler Hill’s Decision for a look into the writers’ heart.
Once again I hope you enjoyed my little story. In this new year I will add some short stories—fiction—and book reviews and maybe even interviews with some most interesting people—you the readers and writers. I do look forward to that! If I can figure out how to add pages, lol.