Those who stand at the threshold of life
always waiting for the right time to change
are like the man who stands at the bank of a river
waiting for the water to pass so he can cross on dry land.
– Joseph B. Wirthlin
Large, wise eyes keep watch over the Mekong River’s descent from high in the Himalayas as it winds 2,700 miles through six countries out into the South China Sea. The River of Nine Dragons, with it’s nine tributaries’ mouths’ swallowing and spewing the endless passage of boats coming and going is both a benevolent and greedy overlord. Sometimes calm and giving, sometimes angry and hungry, people here have learned to live with it in all it’s forms.
If one were to stay still at the banks of the Mekong, it would reach out it’s claws to draw you in. The river is the provider. Drinking, washing, planting, fishing, trading, getting from here to there all depend on it. People not only live along it’s rich, green shores, but upon the water itself.
The people of the Mekong are well aware of the water’s dangers. They paint large eyes on the front of their boats to scare away the numerous predators amongst the 430 mammals, 1,200 birds, 800 reptiles and 850 kinds of fish that share their home. They build houses on stilts, crops are planted during fresh water season (there is a salt water season), Water Hyacinth is planted to fight erosion, lights of red and green intermingled with rooster crows and barking dogs guide pilots through the night.
Rusty tin roofs, orange clay roofs, flat topped roofs decked with water tanks and satellite dishes; motorcyc!es and bicycles crossing the river by ferry; ornate 19th century temples with white washed modern Buddhas; the past flows along with the new with the Mekong. There is no right time to change here. It is always changing.
Nothing is wasted here. Rice husk is used to fuel the stoves that heats the rice they eat. The ashes fertilize the fruit they grow. A purpose is given to everything. That purpose is to keep the living living.
What shall I do tomorrow? Shall I stand at the banks of the river waiting or just jump right in?