And the cockatoos laugh. They know he would never hurt a feather of anything that belongs to a flock. They come to visit him every day, and wonder if perhaps he is the humanised form of their leader who unfortunately flew head on to a jumbo jet as it was coming into land, at that airport they visit every September. Chiang Mai International is its name. Len remembers that.
The temples of Chiang Mai are never far from his thoughts. They are a symbol of the perfection he experienced with his wife. He cannot quite explain this, except to realise they gave the impression they had always been there, they were completely open to anyone who wished to experience their grace, and the holiness and silence inside them always refreshed his soul.
But nobody had ever asked him to explain it. In the first year or so after he came back to his village he did entertain some conversation with people, but as time passed by those conversations became more and more stilted, less revealing of his inner self, and more tormenting for him to enter into to. He supposed he missed the ease of conversations he and his wife had had, and the joy of her wanting to listen to his soul, and the joy it gave him in listening to her and the silence all around them as they shared their spontaneously arising joyful thoughts. He cajoled himself in those times, telling himself he should not compare. That was then, this is now. He never quite convinced himself. After experiencing the ease of soul communion who wants to hang out in contrived and distancing pretence?
In the temple the monks are intoning their prayer. Len and Belinda sit silently towards the back. Some backpackers are fidgeting nervously. They are young. They are interested in this experience but it is really the bars in the early evening they will remember of Chiang Mai. And for many of them, the love affair they entered into there. The one with the straggly beard looks at his watch and he nods his head to the other young man and their girls. Without a word they stand up, respectfully facing the front for a few seconds and then sidling towards the exit, whispering to each other that it could go on all night!. They are laughing as they put on their shoes. He can hear them. And she is smiling, but she holds his hand firmly and he knows she is ashamed of their lack of grace. She cannot quite separate herself from the spirit of the place, and she does not even realise that, she just takes responsibility for everything around her. If they were disrespectful towards the Buddha, she hangs her head in shame. He notices this and hangs his head also. He knows he has found the perfect woman. The monks continue to intone their prayer.
He had not visited the Temple of the Soulful Goddesses for many sun cycles, having found the recent incumbents rather stern, and in their stern-ness lacking any power