The Karen always know the time. While living with them for six months it became clear to me that the only person with a watch and the only person who could never tell the time was, well, myself. To the Karen people of Thailand, the forest over the course of a day supplied a symphony of time, provided you knew the score. The morning held simplicity in its damp air, unlike the evening's denser wetness when steam and smoke thickened the air. Backlit by sun, a huge waxy banana leaf at noon became green-gold stained glass, cathedralising time. Barely one of my hours later, it was just a matt, bottle-green leaf, useful verdure, a plate for rice, a food-wrapper. Birds sang differently at different hours and, while the soloists of life are always with us, the whole orchestra of the forest altered, shifting with the sun's day, all the noisy relations between birds, animals and insects making chords of time played in all the instrumental interactions. The time on my wristwatch, squeaking its repeated identical numbers, seemed a thin, thin reedy peep of a thing by comparison.
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