This Journal 2022 sprang from two Facebook entries on Akha courting music in my series on ‘Courtship in the Golden Triangle’, one of many daily posts created from November 2021 through November 2022. Preparing such photo-essay-recordings had me digging deep in my personal journals.
The following piece is the outcome of my posts on 4 and 5 October 2022:
The Value of Journaling
Ninety-two Field Trips – Hundreds of Mountain Villages – Four Countries
Thousands of People – Nineteen Years
Something revelatory happened while preparing two Face Book entries in November 2022 on Ae Phiyo wooing Beu Bo in their Loimi Akha village in Myanmar. In reading my journal notes from 2006, the first time I have done a deep dive since writing them, I came upon the following reflection that speaks to the value of documenting everything that I experience on my forays—professional and personal. Committing to memory and page my encounters and observations in mountain villages in Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, and China these past two decades has illuminated my understanding and enlightened my life.
Excerpt from VV Journal
The Last Day of the Year of the Dog, 30 December 2006, Myanmar
“I have never been someone who journals. It requires much time and wearisome labor. But while doing research on tribal music, I felt it a necessary task to archive my work properly. I find though that once I am in the flow and digging deep into memory, I lose all sense of time, place, and self.
Most intriguingly I am amazed by the surprising and valuable disclosures that are revealed from going through the process. It is as if everything is connected – my encounters, readings, experiences, thoughts, feelings, relationships. Had I not written these down I would not have made correlations between them.
Whatever becomes of these vague notes in the future, many of these revelations leave me personally with an immense feeling for which I have no words, but which is deeply, sublimely fulfilling.
I give as a tiny example, the transformation I saw in Beu Bo—the comical moment when she yawned at the end of Ae Phiyo’s courting song, which, after I mimicked the gesture when filming had stopped, caused her to laugh unabashedly. Beu Bo’s reaction was a perfect bookend to my initial observation of her tranquil, impenetrable demeanor. The enigmatic queen is just a girl after all.
It is not the event itself that was so meaningful, although it was funny, but rather the awareness that every experience has a story—a beginning, middle, and end, whatever that end may be. And I receive it as such. Like a great novel, symphony, or film, like an epic poem, myth, or legend, life has an arc. Writing out this journal, with all its insipid details, allows me to see these arcs.
I have even begun to notice this phenomenon recently taking over my dream world. I thought dreams were floating coincidences that had no blueprint, no plan of consequences or motivations, where one event logically leads to another. But in fact I see that a sense of destiny is happening in my dream-state.
It seems unfathomable that my subliminal mind could design such journeys, and yet I have marveled many times at the knowing trajectory, be it unpredictable, of my subconscious flights. I must leave off giving an example here, for at the moment all my visionary reveries have escaped.”
(Excerpt from VV Journal, Myanmar, The Last Day of the Year of the Dog, December 2006)