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.

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.

Crystal Anderson Halloween 1991a.jpgCrystal Anderson Halloween 1991b.jpg Continue reading “Halloween! Halloween!”

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.

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

Continue reading “European Adventurers Discover Seven Magic Mountains, Las Vegas, Nevada”

All the Profound Clarity of the Gods

Communication did not become a problem until I moved towards the register. The woman behind the counter remained stationary, hands on either side of my donut box, giving me an urgent, confused look and gesturing with an open hand to the donut display before her.

I mimicked the gesture, my hand indicating the register. “Okay kha,” I said, nodding. “Finished.”

Multiple assorted donuts. Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

Continue reading “All the Profound Clarity of the Gods”

The Cranes Were Not the Strangers Here

For my ninth birthday, just weeks before my family left Bangkok, my best friend gave me a sheer pink sash screen-printed with cranes in flight.

This friend was Japanese, but, like me, she’d spent her entire childhood in Thailand. When you’re small, you understand too little of the world to comprehend cultural provenance. You simply absorb. You exist where you exist. You believe you belong until given reason to believe you do not. Continue reading “The Cranes Were Not the Strangers Here”