Entering the darkness of the unknown as smooth as water

In seven hours my American summer will end. In sixteen hours I’ll be arriving in the Netherlands. I’ve spent the day in a flurry of activity: packing, buying last-minute things, re-packing, checking airline schedules, gently reminding my kids that we’ll soon be in Holland, re-checking that I applied deodorant.

All of this activity reminds me of the moment of departure in Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies:

“… The long-planned-for rituals of departure were forgotten in the confusion, but strangely, this great outburst of activity became itself a kind of worship, not so much intended to achieve an end – their bundles and bojhas were so small and so many times packed and unpacked that there was not much to be done to them – but rather as an expression of awe, of the kind that might greet a divine revelation: for when a moment arrives that is so much feared and so long awaited, it perforates the veil of everyday expectation in such a way as to reveal the prodigious darkness of the unknown.”

My bundles are bigger and I’m not traveling by ship as a poor emigrant two centuries ago, but the moment of departure is upon me.

Already in Holland, but feeling my anxious preparations across the Pacific, my husband has reminded of the Bruce Lee wisdom I gave myself several months ago:

“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.

Be water, my friend (Bruce Lee) _ expatlingo.com

Ready, steady, go.

14 responses to “Entering the darkness of the unknown as smooth as water

  1. Dear Jennifer,

    Safe travels to Holland. I’ll miss you in HK. if there’s anything I can help you with, I am happy to help!

    Be like water my friend!


    Sent from my iPhone


      • How are your new digs, Jen?

        I look forward to your reports on Amsterdam’s Chinatown and should it exist (in that city…it must), a Chungking Mansions-equivalent.

      • My new town and digs are pretty damn sweet!

        I’ve heard there is a sizeable Chinatown in The Hague. Will have to explore at some point. As for Utrecht: I’ve cycled past a few Chinese-signed shops. I’m not very hopeful restaurant-wise, but there should be a couple of Chinese grocery stores that could prove handy.

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