Meditation: On Hunting and Gathering

Our remarkable poet laureate, Shannon Holman, is away in Indonesia for a few months of R&R. In the meantime, we'll be revisiting her earliest meditations. This one goes all the way back to February, 2006. Enjoy!

Photos of Awa hunter-gatherers

There are two kinds of travellers: hunters and gatherers. Hunters seek peak experiences at the expense of personal comfort and even safety:

"It was fantastic! We trekked uphill for five days and ran out of food after two!"

Gatherers, like me, tend to domesticate our environment, collecting favorite coffeeshops, restaurants, and walks in every locale, replicating the rhythms of home-making no matter how far from home we go. And we tend also to bring a little totem from home along with us--I like to think of myself as a light packer, but my slippers always make it in the carry-on.

The trouble with making yourself at home everywhere is that you can end up feeling homesick for every place you've ever been. My morning tea shop in Yangon, the backstreets shortcut to my favorite park in Bangkok, the sublime noodle stand in Savannakhet, the world's best muffaletta in Lafayette: I miss them all.... Here's what's important in this world: people, places, and things--and in that order. But people can be photographed and emailed and Skyped. Things are useful as mnemonics, but best when useful also in themselves (so I sleep under Laotian blankets, store my unmentionables in a Burmese basket, and scribble in a Thai notebook). But how do you capture the sense of a place and bring it to another place? You can't. Bangkok air is a heady and not altogether pleasant amalgam of diesel, jasmine, and chilis, and it can't be bottled and shipped. Jets notwithstanding, the world is still large.

(RePublished from 2006-02-04 - MGR)

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