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Amber Paulen

John Cowper Powys in Ko Phayam

At first it felt almost wrong, opening John Cowper Powys in this heat. The setting of England in January would appear ill-fitted to these tropics; shivers have long fled along with cold fingers, and clothes. Yet, such incongruity was hardly enough to starve away the excitement of finding Weymouth Sands perpendicular on a one-hundred baht shelf.

At least the title is a better fit for the location, for many sand particles have lodged between it’s covers and certain pages have become sprayed with salt-water. On Ko Phayam, John Cowper Powys was able to prove Nature’s ultimate congruity. When one reads a paragraph like the following it makes no difference if it’s Andaman Sea or English Channel.

The sea lost nothing of the swallowing identity of its great outer mass of waters in the emphatic, individual character of each particular wave. Each wave, as it rolled in upon the high-pebbled beach, was an epitome of the whole body of the sea, and carried with it all the vast mysterious quality of the earth’s ancient antagonist.

When I looked up in Ko Phayam our black basin was all a glistening Milky Way, brighter and lesser and countless constellations writing ancient’s stories that I am in shameless ignorance of. When I looked down it was the ebb and flow’s frothy white ribbon; and blue jellied phosphorescence illumined the black waters when I kicked at them, sparks flying and crashing into the tide’s low strung stars. In Ko Phayam nature is All.

The bungalows on Ko Phayam are very atmospheric affairs, with their loose structure serving as home to many more creatures than just us. I have to say, the beetles are monsters when compared to their cooler Michigan relations and make an excellent feast for rats, or was its carcass cleaned of all tasty insides then abandoned, by a more friendly frog? When back under Nature’s subjection, it’s best not to worry about such tropical abundance.

Because I really didn’t mind the rat as much as the polyester sheets. While the yellow-eyed tree frog who remained so elegantly perched atop our mirror was superiorly well-mannered and the other frogs residing in the sink pipe only took one surprise to get used to. Of course I was quickly enamored with the cat who came around asking for food, though the white rabbit was unexpected. If only those monster beetles didn’t make their suicide run every time we turned on the lights. No, even though I feel as if I have had a full introduction to nature, it was nothing compared to that. And all the while I had John Cowper Powys with his long-winded prose feeding me with how wonderfully universal it all is.

So it turns out that Ko Phayam is more similar to John Cowper Powys then I supposed: with a super-abundance both are loaded and thriving. And as I sit here drinking a beer on the curve of a traffic circle in Phuket Town, it seems that all of us are as loaded and thriving too.


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