• Thammika Songkaeo

Planning for the Parks (Why I'm not in Thailand?)

I'm thinking again and again about walking over to the Apple store to get a new phone that will better function for Switzerland. I still have an iPhone 7. Leaving home with it is to also carry anxiety about when the battery might die. But iPhones are not cheap, and their environmental costs still unclear. I can live with the one I have, with a power bank on standby. But on a day like today, where I wanted my purse light, I instead plan to come home and recharge my phone midday. On a post-prandial train, I rubbed my belly while reading about where to picnic in Zurich, careful that the battery should wane.

I like the thought of space, physical and mental, which a park provides. Many people think about museums on holidays, but for me, museums give me a textbook-like, rote-vacation feeling. A park feels like truer recess. Most parks have no implicit itineraries. One goes to be, to sit, to crunch leaves, if there's enough for a small footwork orchestra. A park, in other words, is my understanding of flexibility, a venue as close as I can get, on earth, to the feeling of lying on a cloud, buoying along, letting go, seeing the present and letting it be.

This sense of expanse probably lies in the wordlessness of a park. A park is a place where words seldom exist, and if they do, they tell you what you absolutely need to know—where the toilet is, what potentially aggressive animals to look out for (wild boars, in the case of Singapore)—but other than that, a park lets a mind roam through air and space, towards people, places, and things that stimulate mental free-play.

Unlike in a museum, in a park, I am not told by predecessors, experts or their followers, what's important, what not to miss. I might be at Rechberg, on the grass with a bunch of university students, watching how they wind down; the Old Botanical Garden, to be with those searching for old-school quiet, or Irchelpark, watching locals bond over barbecue with friends and friends' spouses they might be having affairs with (a clandestine pinch I see from afar would tell). Parks bring out people, who, on the grass, a very flexible psychological terrain, perform life live, diversely.

The dearth of parks may be why I'm not in Thailand with my husband and child, who have just landed at Suvarnabhumi. There isn't a culture of parks in Bangkok. That ship has sailed, unless someone will green up and cool Bangkok fast. (Right now, only those who need to urgently melt ice would sit in a park between 8 AM and 8 PM; to be at a park, one also has to figure out how to get to the park, preferably before 8 AM, which is, of course, to try to get to a park during Bangkok's notorious rush hour). When I am there and need to stretch my legs, I will end up in a mall or walking up and down my soi, laps even birds tire of after a few.

A good friend, Swiss, asked why I wasn't in Bangkok, and I said that it's because the city makes me sad. As I said so, grey—normally my favorite color—rose in my mind like smoke and choked up my gut and brain. Bangkok is grey, and there is not even greenwashing. A city should be called out and made responsible for urban greenwashing, but I wonder if the alternative of living openly wedded to grey (until the pollution also greys one's snot, as one would see, blowing one's nose in Bangkok) isn't more pitiable, a surrender that would turn even my tears that color, synonymous with fossilized gloom.

I don't yet know what my daughter and I will be doing in Swiss parks, but I know that I'm excited to be in them, watching lives—human, plant, and animal—do what they will. Zuerich.com describes the parks as "shiny," "(as yet) unknown," "stately," and much more—a multitude that whets my breath searching for well-roundedness of an environment as nourishment.

My daughter has asked that my new phone be green. I wonder if that isn't already telling, of what we need.

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