Monday, November 5, 2012

Countrytown Temple

This photo was taken at a little temple in Song Be back in 1996. I was taken there on an agonisingly long trip on the back of a motorcycle, but when we arrived the temple was closed and there was no-one around.
Seeing a foreigner poking about, one of the neighbours came out, and someone was sent to fetch the monk, who was nearby.
He came back beaming, a frail, thin and elderly man. He unlocked the temple and showed me around. The whole place was dusty and uncared for, and the nighbours swept the shrine room so that we could bow to the Buddha without blackening our foreheads.
When I came to offer incense at this side shrine, where the statues were all very old and covered in years of grime, I was suddenly overcome with a kind of elation. It was one of those rare moments of transition, of self-discovery, and is impossible to put down in words. For me it was a memory, a feeling, a strange sense of belonging. I had been in this place before.
You could my response mystical, romantic, even hormonal. It may have been a practical emotional response to being accepted as family amongst all of this exotica.
But when I look at this photo it describes for me a change in lifestyle, and the beginning of an obsession.

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