Treasures.

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I brought some of my treasures out, missing the forests and oceans of my other home(s).

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I've always had a problem with waking up in the middle of the night and thinking too much. The Psalmist says, “I meditate on you in the watches of the night.” I wish for it. Sometimes, when I am in those unforgiving hours when every problem feels like a life sentence, I try to visualize being completely surrounded by God. I am floating, suspended in grace and love. I am weightless, safe, and tiny, a speck in the river. The river is mercy, purpose, and good heartedness toward me.

I drift off to sleep eventually.

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Can anyone overcome a life of bad patterns of thinking?

Sometimes it is lifted, and I feel free and like I’m completely changed. Other times, it plummets back down on me. Anxiety. A pounding in the heart. A quickening of the breath. Danger! Danger!

Gertrude is back.

Gertrude, my anxiety dragon. She’s rather sweet and lovable sometimes, curled up asleep in the closet. But she can be a regular pain in the bum if she wakes up while I’m trying to write a book, or go shopping (she hates shopping) or talk to Chinua about plans (she hates making plans.)

She worries too much about danger.

“Go back to sleep, Gertrude,” I tell her.

She responds with a gust of flame and wraps around my heart, making it hurt.

“Or don’t,” I say. I can’t make her do what I want.

I want to love her, like I want to love everyone. Nothing can be too scary if it’s loved. But sometimes I’m preoccupied by what ifs- what if I didn’t have a pet anxiety dragon? What if she toddled off into the forest one day, never to be seen again? What if instead of an anxiety dragon I had a confidence rabbit?

Can you love something and want to exchange it for a rabbit?

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She’s here at the moment, trying to warn me of imminent danger. I’ve tried to convince her that these woods are safe, that the trees are our friends, but she’s nothing if not vigilent.

Sometimes when Gertrude is here, she locks up my neck.

Sometimes I may have to go to bed for the day.

Today, I have a plan. Fifteen minutes, not thinking too much, tricking the dragon.

Fifteen minutes of work at a time.

Live in my body, hugging my family, not thinking about what I cannot control.

And tricks, lots of tricks, tricky tricks.

Like:

A cup of tea.

A drive on the motorbike for the breeze on my skin.

One small task done.

Pretending work is not work, so Gertrude doesn’t blast me.

And noticing every little thing, to mark it, to make it physical, to not let fear rule me. 

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We’ve had rain lately, and the skies have been gorgeous. Soon Isaac will wake up and come to find me and hug me. Leafy has been making sugar glass. I’m learning a new song on the clarinet, and working on mandolin scales. Today is gardeniing day, and I think I’ll head over to Shekina to work in the garden for a while, then come back with my friend Claudia to work on sorting and packing.

(We’re moving house, which is rather big news. Gertrude is worried about it. I’m excited.)

I made granola the other day, and there’s nothing like granola and milk with mango sliced into it. Or maybe I’ll have a smoothie, with coconut milk and strawberries. I’ll burn a candle. Maybe work on my blanket. Later Kenya and I will watch a show or listen to music together. Chinua will move a few boxes over to the new house and in between working, practice his trumpet. Solomon will dance and hug me. I’m here. These trees are friendly. The animals are safe. The woods are only woods.

It’s been this way for a long time.

God is ever and always beside me, his breath in the wind that swoops through the leaves overhead. His kiss on my face. I have nothing to fear.

River thoughts.

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It was forty degrees and we were baking, so I took Solo and Isaac to the river.

Don’t forget this, I whispered to myself.

The river was warm, shallow, and full of algae in the late hot season. I trusted in our well developed immune systems. Flowers from nearby trees floated along, and the only other people there were a bunch of kids; the children of parents who work at the guesthouses along the river.

I was there with my boys, who took turns curling into me while I sat on the floor of the river. Every so often I climbed the bank and ran over to the garden to move the sprinklers. (I burned the bottoms of my feet on the hot pavement, not discovering this until later when I found it hard to walk.)

The river, the boys. Isaac attempting to skip rocks. Solo floating and diving down. These are the stories we will tell about our lives. I drive the chariot through town, we walk along swaying bridges. A man walks along the river with a snorkel mask and a spear gun, looking for his dinner.

Back at home, I went to the afternoon market and picked up some chopped pumpkin and made what we call Pumpkin The Egg, after a Thai menu board we saw ages ago. I made carrot juice and we were all tired after too much sun. Isaac lost his first tooth. After dinner, Solo practiced trumpet with Chinua and I practiced my neglected clarinet. Isaac tried to play the clarinet for a while, he’s fascinated with it.

We read together and then prayed for our friends, near and far. Every single thing we did was interrupted. Every thing I planned was edited with some other need. My teenagers are going through hard times. (Not Leafy! Ah, hormones come for all.)

Every time I tried to read or pray, Isaac would suddenly have a thought and HAVE to share it and it drove me crazy. Solo had a rough day in many ways.

But the river, the long hot afternoon, reminiscent of so many hot season afternoons through the years, the little tiny beautiful moments. The sun finally bright again after the smoke. The hope of rain. Change on the horizon. It is such a beautiful life, more intense with joy because it is so fleeting.

A Tangle of Cousins

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It’s a tangle of people, a pile of cousins. It’s beautiful and sad, because we live far away from one another. Distance heightens our happiness at being close to one another, and brings a sadness that a goodbye is coming.

Nieces are: help in the kitchen, talks about books, Harry Potter trivia, warm squishy hugs, a little hand pulling mine, being called “Auntie Becca” (not my real name), making big batches of mango shake, imaginary land rules (Dragon only breathes fire and ice, not water), quirk for days, and a lot of laughing. I love watching the cousins together, the older ones being great older cousins to the younger ones. It’s a mishy mashy pile of love.

Time with my brother and sister-in-law is: quickwitted jokes, quips and laughs and their very generous hearts. Lara looking out for me, my brother equal parts wisdom and stupidity (little brother forever). Chinua and Matty wrestling, a more even match than they have ever been. Game nights of wink murder and charades, Seven Wonders and Monopoly. Street food and water play for Song Kran.

We cram every possible moment in, because we only have two weeks. We lose sleep, the kids get grumpy, we keep them up too late and eat under the fairy lights strung in my tree. We invite our friends over to show each other off. (These are our amazing friends- this is our amazing family.) We swim nearly every day, because the heat is incredible.

Sometimes the joking or sarcasm becomes too much and then we return to softness. We check in with each other and reassure each other.

I love them so much I feel like my heart will burst with it. Love touched with sadness.

Thanks for coming, beautiful family. 

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Hot Season Days.

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Chinua is back and we are in long days that start off cool and, by mid afternoon, are hot in the way that makes your clothes feel like they just came out of the dryer. Pool time. Sitting under fans eating fruit. Cleaning and painting and writing and planning.

This is the smoky/hot season. A different kind of time.

People give each other nods in the street. I see you stayed. I stayed too. Much of our international community has fled the smoke for the islands. We wear masks sometimes. Sometimes we forget. It’s not so bad, it will be better in a week or so.

At the garden, the grass crunches underfoot no matter how much we water it. Dried leaves pile up. The new leaves are sprouting. Josh and Neil put in a new watering system in the food forest and it’s a delight.

Isaac has a loose tooth and tells me, “I love my loose tooth.” A long time ago Kenya told me she wanted to keep her loose tooth as long as she could because she would miss wiggling it with her tongue. We are a fidgety people.

I finished my final paper and have taken a quarter off to finish writing World Whisperer 5 and other things. I’m trying to pace myself more. It’s a bit nuanced for me: I either want to do all the work or none of the work, but I’m trying to learn how to work in a relaxed, sauntery fashion.

I painted Kai’s room. He moved from the very back of the outer house to the front of the outer house, and his space looks much better. Things I still need to paint: the back outer room, the kitchen, the downstairs back room. Things I need to clean and sort: everything. The car is in the shop getting prepped for a trip to Chiang Mai. The boys washed the motorbikes and themselves.

Life during a break is good. Ordinary grumpiness in the heat. Teenager stuff. Everyone tripping over each other. The good kinds of irritation, springing from a full house and a lot of love.

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Under the mango trees.

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It’s been a while. A few days ago I came out of the wild. Well, not exactly the wild, I guess. But a wildish sort of place. 

I volunteered at a Japanese music festival up here in Northern Thailand and it was such an interesting, rich experience. Sleeping in a mango orchard for nearly three weeks, looking at the stars at night, watching the sun rise.

I was with Kenya and our friends Tayna and Aya and spent a lot of time with them, especially for the first nine days, before the festival started. I was on a deco team with lovely Chinese and Japanese artists. We made a lot of signs, all translated into Thai, Japanese, and English. “We need a sign, three languages,” is a phrase I used a lot. I painted live and organized other live painters. 

I watched my husband play music. I sat behind our bhajan band on the main stage and sang in the response to our Jesus bhajans. 

Our car got dustier and dustier.

I learned how to say “good morning,” in Japanese.

I guided a meditation in a campsite, attended one, and kept the kids quiet for a couple.

I studied and wrote papers in a teak forest.

I went to the hot springs almost every day.

It was a busy time, full of wildness, adjustment, and lots of activity. But I came out feeling ready for the next season, and somewhat like I hit a reset button. 

Chinua leaves tomorrow for India. The kids and I will stay back, do school, and make art and writing. Tumble around, deal with smoky season, cook, water the garden, and swim. I’ll write my final research paper of the quarter. We’ll try to be creative and loving and patient, even as the days grow hotter and drier.