Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Seeing What You Choose to See





Bangkok is definitely not a conventionally beautiful city, and when I first arrive, I'm always overwhelmed by the grubbiness of its streets, the grey gloom of its cement structures, the chaotic overcrowding of its sidewalks, and the truly hideous skybridges that festoon every street and have been painted a leprous shade of green many years ago.

At first I spend a lot of time looking at the sky.

And then after a couple of weeks I begin to notice small splashes of color and beauty in the middle of what at first seems relentless ugliness. My little soi is a good case in point. It has no immediate charm, other than the small children who emerge as the day begins to cool and play loudly and happily well into the night.

But there are flowers. The house below my apartment window has enough potted plants to fill a small arboretum, and many of them are blossoming bursts of color. I've begun to focus on them when I look out my window or when I walk down the muddy street. They make me look for other visual pleasures--a wall covered with a cascading vine of fuchsia flowers, the unexpected piercing white of blooming jasmine.

And I realize that my balcony, miniscule as it is, is the ideal spot for my own small collection of fragrance and flowers. As I fall asleep at night, I think of colors, living and breathing and growing, giving beauty to my tiny portion of a city that I love.

6 comments:

Katia said...

I was in Bangkok in 1993 and I imagine the city has changed quite a bit, since that time, but there is one thing that I remember vividly : I'd be wandering, ambling in small lanes - is this what you call soi? - and suddenly find myself in front of a gorgeous little temple. Don't ask : this is what your post brought back for me :)

Janet Brown said...

That is such a Bangkok memory--that unexpected beauty that catches you by surprise. I envy you being here in 1993--I didn't arrive until two years later and politically at least it was very different.
Thank you for that image, Katia.

Matt Brown said...

"...after a couple of weeks I begin to notice small splashes of color and beauty in the middle of what at first seems relentless ugliness."

So you DO understand what I see in Tucson! There really is a lot more to that place than just dirt, parking lots and a hundred different shades of brown, punctuated by endless cacti and palm trees.

By the time you came to visit, I was so aware of all of Tucson's hidden beauty that I was shocked when you didn't seem to notice it. Then I went back after spending a year in the Pacific Northwest and I had to learn to appreciate it all over again.

Janet said...

Oh, Matt--I'm so sorry! But I hope I let you know at that time that when you took me out of the city to see the unobstructed sweep of stare, that was one of the most beautiful and humbling things I had ever seen anywhere and is what I think of when I remember Tucson.

Alison said...

I love flowers. It's funny because I fell in love with them when I began to take pictures and look at photographs of them. I am glad that you are sharing the beauty and the chaos around you.

Matt, I love Tucson. Just fell in love with it when I went. Yes, the city part I saw looked like parts of Tacoma to me, but the desert. I love the desert.

Janet Brown said...

Oops--sweep of stars, not stare--sorry, Matt!