The sun climbs slowly and seemingly walks up the steep hills – most of them still drowsing and covered by a blanket of fog. One can almost see the air moving through the deserted streets, raising furtive clouds of dust that trudge through the emptiness and follow an invisible trail. My gaze is roaming, riveted on the horizon and even tries to climb the imaginary rope where the blue of the sky and the muddy brown of the earth seem to collide, unite. The bigger the silence, the farther the gaze seems to travel, floating between the contrasts, eager to find a place to rest.
Not only the restrained breeze is persuading me that the momentarily solitude is shared. A strange monotonous humming pervades the surrounding landscape. Trying to paint this soundscape would result in a straight line; only an intermittent chirp smudging the stroke of fresh paint with a finger every now and then. I like mornings like these. Moments where I feel like being able to keep pace with life, with my own mind. Morning walks and silent talks. Like following the trail of your thoughts, which seem to leave nondescript traces while tiptoeing through the dust of your own past.
One can feel how the air gets heavier with every step the sun climbs up the hills. While the day slowly unfolds, I don’t have to carry the weight myself. A few more souls amble out of their doors and seem to sweep the porch of their makeshift houses with a broom made from bundled indifference. The man opposite is hunkering down on the steps of his home. A lit cigarette in one hand, the other one supporting his head, seemingly brimful with thoughts as heavy as rocks. The cold smoke circles his face and only the glow of the butt watches him eagerly like a clandestine firefly.
My gaze takes another stroll down the dirt road and comes to a halt at the massive bridge that somehow seems out of place. Connecting the two fragments of land to both sides of the river while dividing the landscape. To me it seems like a border; one that splits the scenery like a massive blade. Especially in the morning hours when tiny uniforms seem to pile up at one side of the bridge, waiting to cross – their smiles seemingly drawing an invisible curtain, revealing teeth even whiter than their shirts. Some children approach on bicycles, the one on the carrier holding an umbrella in order to shelter both of them from the sun. However, a few clouds in the distance seem to be the heralds of a soonish change.
The humming of the morning turns into a mechanical noise. I can’t see the dirt road leading straight to the bridge, before my mind’s eye there’s a trail of dust approaching the end of the bumpy road. I watch the red scooter turn around the corner and pass the lines of white shirts, which seemingly form a moving human balustrade. That’s the precise moment when a strange “mind cinema” kicks in and projects following scenario on the screen in my head: a close-up of the little boy at the back of the scooter clasping the body of his father, the daydreaming facial expression of the little one framed by the back of the heads of the uniformed children… The only thing they seem to have in common is a similar age. Yet their faces tell a different story and the road they take now is metaphoric for their lives – developing in opposite directions while crossing the same bridge.
The scooter vanishes where the trees seem to swallow the road but it takes a while until the sound of the engine trails away and escapes the mind. My gaze is now chasing the string of white shirts down the other dirt road that follows the course of the river. My imagination starts drawing a picture of frolicking children bustling about the schoolyard, defying the midday heat. In the distance somewhere on the other site of the stream the sun peeks elusively through the clouds, watching father and son at work – the little boy in the tempest-blue trousers barefoot on the families rice paddy.
The river is more than a flowing recess in the landscape. It not only divides land, but also fate – the bridge a crossroads in life. Eyes which meet day after day, determined to pave the way for the future. Learning on one side of the stream, earning on the other. Life being bound for future, breaking away from each other in opposite directions…
Beautiful writing about a very special place – love your site Oliver!
Hi Natasha! Thanks for stopping by and your lovely compliment, much appreciated!!
Laos is a fascinating place indeed – even though there are so many “mundane marvels” to soak up in the entire region. South-East Asia will always have a special place in my imaginary vintage suitcase brimming with travel memories… 🙂