Loi Krathong – Or, Float, Little Lotus Boat

A month ago, I started a post on Loi Krathong, hoping to get it up before tossing everything in the car and heading off to California. I obviously didn’t manage that, so here we are!

So now I’ll explain my absence.

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Flower garlands in Thailand. Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash

I spent much of 2019 searching for the right job—something full-time, something that would have me writing, something preferably linked to my desire to help others. Something that would hopefully allow me to remain in Las Vegas, or at the very least, close enough for periodic visits. I felt ready to start my career.

In September, I came very close to landing a phenomenal job with an environmental nonprofit in Flagstaff, Arizona, but alas, was not selected. But my experiences in that interviewing process told me I’d identified the right sector.

A couple weeks after that, I applied for a similar job at another nonprofit, this one located in northern California. Two days before Halloween, I flew out for a final interview, and less than a week later was offered the job. The catch was, they really needed me to start working within the first half of November. Year-end is a crazy time in the nonprofit world. Andrew and I had to orchestrate a move with a very tight turnaround!

So for the past few weeks, it’s been all moving all the time! First day; first week; first projects; first commute; first everything! Finding an apartment! Signing a lease! Transporting the cat! Utilities! Groceries! Logistics!

Logistics! Logistics! Logistics!

Then Andrew headed back to Vegas to get the apartment packed up, leaving me to commute back and forth from an empty apartment. Over Thanksgiving, I headed back as well, and with a lot of help from family, we transported the household from Nevada to California. We’re both exhausted, but happy, and excited to be starting this new phase. We’re both looking forward to getting organized here in California and settling into a rhythm.

Life is good, and getting better all the time.

So all that, I hope, explains my absence. I apologize for vanishing without warning and I appreciate everyone’s patience!

Over the past few weeks, as I’ve stolen moments during my long-distance drives and lunch breaks and stop-and-go Californian commutes to consider this post, I’ve been struck by how appropriate my intended Loi Krathong post would have been to my current circumstances. Loi Krathong is my favorite Thai festival, one I’ve adored from my earliest memories, and if I’d posted this when I meant to, my missive would’ve gone live a day or two before the festival itself. This year, Loi Krathong was on Monday, November 11th. My first full day here in California. Andrew and I spent it touring apartments.

But now, I reasoned, Loi Krathong was over and I couldn’t introduce it to my readers after it had passed, could I? I’d have to wait until next year.

Sometimes I’m very silly with the arbitrary rules I invent for myself.

So now, as my own life takes some fabulous turns towards good fortune and possibility, let me tell you about Loi Krathong.

Loi Krathong translates roughly to float a little lotus boat. The festival occurs on the twelfth full moon of the Thai lunar calendar, which generally corresponds with the first full moon of November. Celebrants craft a small floating boat (or krathong) decorated with flowers, candles, and incense. They set their offerings free in the nearest river, stream, or khlong (think drainage canals or creeks), and make a wish for the future. If the candles on your krathong are still twinkling as they float beyond the horizon, your wish will come true.

Like many wonderful festivals the world over, the origins of Loi Krathong are delightfully uncertain. It may have its roots in Buddhism. It may have begun with Hinduism. Thai animism is always in the mix. Loi Krathong was possibly the brainchild of a Sukhothai poet or novelist in the 1800s; it may have been the romantic idea of an 8th- or 13th-century king’s consort. Here’s one legend. I imagine the truth is some beautiful, morphing combination.

I’ve loved Loi Krathong for as long as I can remember: loved the simple and the ornate krathongs, loved the twinkling armadas along the Chao Phraya River, loved the quiet wishes and the incense smoke and the seasonal singing. (Here’s the same song translated into English, with video including traditional Thai dance.)

When I an elementary schooler, our Thai teacher helped us make little krathongs out of paper plates, juice boxes, and craft flowers. We’d set them free in the reflecting pools near the high school cafeteria. Later, in high school, I sat cross-legged in front of the school during a free period learning to make real krathongs from a woman running an all-day workshop. We tore strips of banana leaves for folding into beautiful sharp patterns, pinned them carefully onto a lotus-stem base, then filled the center with jasmine and plumeria, a candle, stick incense, tiny satang coins.

I like the thought of crafting something lovely for carrying the weight of wishes. I’ve been known to do it all my life, making krathongs, birthday cakes, senbazuru, quilts for newborn babies, and on and on.

So I like the synchronicity of starting this fabulous new job—launching myself into a new and phenomenal journey, something I’ve worked for all year—right at Loi Krathong.

I’m still surrounded by boxes and trying to get the logistics sorted out, and the Western holidays are coming, and there’s still so much to do. I can’t promise I’ll be back to my normal schedule right away. But I’m working towards it. Thank you so much, everyone, for bearing with me!


What’s your favorite festival, from anywhere in the world? How did you learn about it? What do you love so much about it? Please share in the comments below!

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Happy witnessing!

Halloween! Halloween!

Here’s my earliest memory of trick-or-treating: Mom gave me and my siblings each a large cardboard box to decorate with doors, windows, and all the necessary amenities for modern life. Then, dressed in our lovingly-handmade costumes, we each took turns circling the little cardboard neighborhood, carefully traversing the pale blue rug with our candy bags extended.

From within our cardboard houses, we gave each other cough drops and homemade donut holes – cough drops because, in early-90s Bangkok, there wasn’t much other hard candy to be had, and donut holes because my mother thought the cough drop situation was a bit too sad.

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Wild Enraptured Exclamations

At the most recent full moon, on October 13th, I headed out into the Mojave to watch the moon rise.

It’s something I used to do in college. In Provo, I lived within a five-minute drive of several gorgeous hiking trails in the Wasatch Range. I’d park my pickup at a trailhead parking lot, climb into the truck bed, wrap myself in a quilt, and watch the silvery moon calmly slip between the rocky peaks above me to the east. All this without having left the city limits.

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Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

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Crystal Metamorphing into Something Dad-ish

When I was three or four years old, random friendly grown-ups started asking me what color this or that was, what my favorite food was, and what my daddy did for work.

“He’s a geophysicist!” I’d announce, and they’d look at my parents with something like awe, and make a comment about how smart I was to know a word like geophysicist.

I’ve always enjoyed a compliment, but if we’re being fair, I didn’t actually know the word. I could pronounce it, sure, and that’s not nothing for a pre-schooler, but I didn’t know what it meant. Flabbergasted I could use in a sentence, thanks to a Little Golden Book featuring poems about Sesame Street characters. Geophysicist, not so much.

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Left to right: Me, my oldest brother, Dad, and Katrina in 1992. Photo taken by my mother.

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Lemon Trees and Second Spring

Over the past two weeks, as much of the United States prepares for crunching leaves and dormant plant life, the second spring has come to the Mojave. And with the arrival of this second spring, I found myself tending to my balcony garden and marveling that I should have loose soil in my hands during the first days of October. Such is life in the desert.

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Photo by Ghislaine Guerin on Unsplash

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Inhaling the Vanilla Forest – Or, The Arboretum at Flagstaff

Before we get to the Arboretum itself, here’s a fun fact I didn’t mention last weekdendrochronology, or the scientific study of tree rings, was first founded in Flagstaff, Arizona, at Lowell Observatory.

How, you ask, did such a skyward-focused establishment stumble upon something so terrestrial?

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Ponderosa pine cross-section on display at the Arboretum at Flagstaff. Notice the particularly thick bark layer. All photos courtesy of yours truly.

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The Underworld and the Heavens – Or, Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona

I’d just completed the Pluto Walk: an uphill length of sidewalk stretching to the tippy-top of Mars Hill, where one finds the Pluto Telescope Dome surrounded by fragrant ponderosa pines. The walk demonstrates a to-scale approximation of the distances between the planets in our solar system, beginning with our Absurdly Bright Star at the bottom and culminating with Pluto. Each celestial body is marked on the sidewalk itself and is highlighted with panels featuring pertinent facts about the planet and its discovery.

But wait, you’ll object. I thought Pluto wasn’t considered a planet anymore. 

You’re not wrong. Pluto is now the best known of the dwarf planets, and is the namesake for plutoids (ice dwarfs) and plutinos (distant members of our solar system with funky orbital habits) found in the Kuiper belt beyond Neptune. The Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona knows this. Pluto is honored here not out of astronomical dissent, but out of pride.

You see, it was here that Pluto was first discovered.

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This building houses the actual telescope commissioned to discover “Planet X.” It succeeded in capturing the first images of Pluto in 1915, and the significance of those images was recognized in 1930! (All photos by yours truly.)

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Memento Mori VI – Or, The Gecko on the Ceiling

CW: Animal death, decomposition, grotesque imagery, grim humor

Sometime in the night, the tokay gecko had finished a battle mortally wounded, had climbed to one of the most out-of-the-way vertical surfaces in the parking structure, and had perished.

So it was that early Sunday morning, I spotted the mottled grey-and-orange corpse while walking with my family from our condo to our van. I was sixteen and living in Pakkret, just outside of Bangkok, Thailand. The tokay gecko clung to a cement support beam spanning the vast ceiling, on the face overlooking the cars, rather than the side facing the open air over the man-made Nichada Lake. He happened to be situated directly above our assigned spot.

We did not yet realize the lizard was dead—after all, dead things don’t cling to vertical surfaces on their own. We noticed him, figured he was hunting some morning insects, and forgot him in moments.

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Close-up of green gecko’s toes clinging to glass. Photo sources.

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An American Goth and a Belgian Designer Walk into a Boneyard…

When my dear friend Hannelore arrived in Las Vegas last month on her 1988 Honda Africa Twin adventure bike, I asked what she and her boyfriend, Jasper wanted to see. Both wanted to experience the Strip, of course—there’s an unspoken rule that you really can’t visit Las Vegas without having at least seen the Strip, just to say you did. Beyond that, Hanne listed two specific sites: Seven Magic Mountains and the Neon Museum.

As you’ll recall from last week, I hadn’t heard of Seven Magic Mountains until Hanne requested it. But the Neon Museum?

Oh, I had definitely heard of the Neon Museum.

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The Neon Museum’s newest acquisition, and the first thing you see when entering the Boneyard. Photo by Katrina Reinert.

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European Adventurers Discover Seven Magic Mountains, Las Vegas, Nevada

Sunset only added to the stones’ fluorescence. I had not expected this. Usually, dimming light can be relied upon to fade any colors within reach, but Seven Magic Mountains challenged the rule.

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Two Magic Mountains, with the sunset over the Mojave in the background. Photo by Jasper.

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