Category: Creative Non-Fiction

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Prayer Wheels, Labrang Si Monastery, Xiahe, Gansu Province, The People's Republic of China

Prayer Wheels

Clockwise. Always clockwise. Clockwise round. Walking, spinning. Always clockwise. The wheels turn, continue turning, after they pass. Some turn and turn and turn while others fight against the inertia. Pilgrims, bright and tattered, or bright, or tattered. Some of these too will turn and turn, always clockwise, round the cluster of buildings capped in gold and brass at Labrangsi.

I will not count them: the prayer wheels, the meters, the pilgrims, the steps, the number of times I will feel the smooth patina of wood against my palm. I say to Emma: “I want to do this.” She assents.

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Near Joshua Tree National Park, California, United States of America


The world reels by, unfurling at 90 miles an hour. At this speed, travel gains the sense of dance even on a relatively straight, flat interstate such as this section of I-395. I am aware of the countryside, the gentle undulations of the valley floor contrasting the angular gyrations of slowly eroding hillsides; I am aware of the thinning stands of Joshua Tree and can pick out a few individual shapes for their magnificence or their decrepitude; I notice the snowline band so evenly frosting the hill tops, that I am climbing toward the line, that I am now above it and that the snow along the roadside proceeds from spare dollops to a thin crust with mesquite poking through.

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Wat Arun, from Tha Tien, Bangkok, Thailand

Tha Tien

I am sitting over a bowl of Tom Yum soup and a Singha, both a perfect antidote for heat and humidity. Large prawns spooned out of an oily, spicy broth. Baby corn cobs, fresh picked, are an explosion of flavour, like an entire cob of spring corn in a single bite. I chill my burning lips with a draft from the Singha, an ice cold lager which makes up with chill effervescence what it lacks in taste.

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Amber on Red

Amber on Red under Blue

We rolled up to Devil’s Marbles in the heat of the afternoon, the sun high and hot, the gravel parking lot kicking up dust with every step. Too hot to unpack. Too hot to clamber over the enormous stands of neatly stacked, smooth-edged boulders. Too far from Alice Springs to move on.

There was a little breeze, a few roofed camping platforms, so we parked ourselves beneath one while the ’79 Holden Gemini baked out in the sun.