A Fire at the Center

I wandered back down to Hualien last weekend. So far, it’s one of my favorite places in Taiwan. It’s quiet, but not dead. People are friendly, and tend to speak more Mandarin with me. It’s a great place to relax, maybe a place to retire one day, but I’m nowhere near that yet. Miles to go before I rest.

There was a place near the hostel I was staying in, a cart with what I was told were egg pancakes. It doesn’t translate properly, since it is actually a deep friend pancake like object and a deep fried egg stacked on top of each other. I hear the words and I expect the two to be mixed, but I’m always fascinated by the images and ideas that words can bring to mind.

I wandered the beach at Dong’Ao, skipping rocks into the ocean. There were a lot of dead fish lying around, but they didn’t really smell. The typhoon was still on it’s way, and I can’t imagine what left them to die on the shore. Birds should have eaten more, the insects hadn’t begun to eat them yet, and there were no fishermen around who might have abandoned them across the beach. There were at least four different types, bottom feeders and hand sized silver fish staring into the sky. Death is such a simple thing, and yet so monstrously complex.

It’s strange to see how different the world is away from what I know. Dogs wandering the beach, roads that lead to hidden beauty, and the chance to face my fear. Traveling alone is nice, but any injury becomes so much more of a threat. When children play, the usually don’t have the fear that we do as adults. I know I had less fear back then, or maybe I just never came across things that really scared me. Fear can be a great teacher, but most of the fears we are born with aren’t really a threat to us as adults. Sometimes all of our nightmares come true.

I do miss staring into a fire at night. There is something about fire, in a pit, on a grill, foe warmth or for cooking, that is amazingly peaceful to me. The patterns and colors are so predictable, and yet completely chaotic and so easy to lose control of. It’s like watching a waterfall, order in the chaos. For all of it’s power and danger, fire has been at the center of so many amazing memories for me.

I am, by nature and choice, water. I don’t have the passion of the flame, but there is something that I am looking for there. I have always been content to settle into where I am, but I want to become more, to do more, and to leave some kind of mark on this world. Maybe the only mark I will make is on the people I meet along the way. Immortality, in it’s own way. Then again, the typhoons that keep hitting us are based in water, and they have all made their mark on the world here. I’d rather be known for compassion than destruction, but it’s hard to know what we will become,

I have begun to make a lot of friends in the city, people to trade languages with, people I randomly talk to on the sidewalk, and other people who cross my path. It eats up a lot of time, but there is something invigorating about talking to people, or at least talking to the right people. Maybe it will all work out, maybe it won’t, but there is no way to know a culture like making friends with the locals.

I find the question of finding a girlfriend keeps coming up, finding a local to be with, but my answer is always the same. I get attached. I want friends, but I don’t want to end my travels just yet. I wonder if it’s selfish, or if it would really be worth finding something that would only last as long as I was here, but I still remember what happened before. I find someone, I get attached, and I give up my dream for love. It’s not a bad choice, but it has a cost, and I never want to resent someone for the choices I have made.

There is a lack of justice to our emotional responses, just as there often is to our ideals and thoughts. We do what we want, or what we fear, and so rarely take responsibility for our part in it. The Buddhist in me is still trying to find a way through the mire, but I really don’t know if I ever will. I need the right teacher, the right person, before I can continue down this path. I may find it on my own, but some paths are too dangerous to be lost on.

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