Color- A New Poem.

My thoughts have been emerging most easily in poems, lately. Here's a new one.

Color

Stop,
she said.
The dog might bite you.
but I walked through the door
anyway
as softly as I could
and I stood there
and I waited.

It always makes me catch my breath
an error
a step where I shouldn't have made one.

He watches the tiniest muscles
in their faces. 
A flex in the jaw, 
love and desire in the flaring of a nostril.
I look at his hands, 
a ripple of muscles and tendons
   I see unbearable sorrow.

We try to be brave and good. 
I want to flip tables.
I want to burn the house down. 

I will hate the day that I can't hear his laugh. 
For now, I stop and listen, 
as though from across the galaxy: 
I hear it. 

She sat across from me,
tapping her chin with her pen.
In our culture, we wear black to show we are suffering,
she told me.

And yes — we wore color, it's true
Bits of color under tall trees.
   But oh- how we were suffering.

 

Five steps

Chinua and I went to California for four days, flying in a sky that we normally see from the ground. Beautiful people made it possible for us to go to Ian’s memorial, just the two of us. We drove through redwoods and I rolled the window down to breathe their beautiful, spicy scent. It was the first time in 13 years that we went away together for more than a couple days. 

We held hands a lot. I cried. I hugged Christy as much as I could. She still fits under my chin. Chinua spoke at Ian’s celebration of life and he told all of us in that great giant room about his friend. My heart hurt a thousand times. I laughed, too. Christy laughed as well. I wanted to get up to say that Ian was very, very kind to me. But there wasn’t time, because people rushed the stage to talk about their friend. There were so many of us.

We slept on a soft bed and ate good food. We saw people we haven’t seen in years, people who know our story. I sat in the sun in the cool air and felt like the most blessed person in the world.

Back at home, in Thailand, the kids were well taken care of. Our friends took turns watching them, and they got a full education in rock and roll, they played a game called Abandonment, where Kai, Kenya, and their friend Taran were driven out to a spot, blindfolded, and had to make their way back home. They did it easily. (I would call it Survival, but they love to proclaim that they were Abandoned, loudly and dramatically.) They were loved and fed and bathed. Our house was the hub of hospitality and fun. We are back home now, relearning to embrace the chaos, saying hello to our neighbors.

And why do I feel so lost? Perhaps I will always feel this way. Blindfolded, trying to make my way home. I am surrounded by love, by friendship. And I’m scratching my way through the dark. I can feel so good sometimes, like I’m clearly not mentally ill. And then the tiniest of things, just one small surprise brings the drums of doom, fear without reason. (I don’t like surprises.) Ah. 

God loves me anyway. I’m pulling out all the tricks. Drawing, walking, getting up to write in the dark. Cups of tea, lots of hugs. Maybe if I can line up all the days, just get through it, God will form a life of triumph in me. The darkness encroaches, but I speed away on my bicycle. This could be grief. Not only for our friend. But for the world that I thought I knew. Why did I think friends don’t die? It was certainly never guaranteed. I grew up in a home touched by death, but still I was blind to the fact that it can happen. I didn’t believe the facts, the numbers. 

But the butterflies are amazing lately. We live in a butterfly land. Clouds of them rise up to meet us when we walk through the grass. We are sojourners in this world, like them, only here for a moment. We are strangers in a different land, wanderers who are beloved. All the paths have led to this point, they lead on from here. We are not forgotten, we are not finished. We are not Abandoned. 

He pursues us, he runs for us. We speak quiet whispers and he is already listening. We convince ourselves of our solitude, but it is untrue, because he is taking five steps to our one, every time. 

This and that...

I went for a walk this morning. The world is coming back to life in shades of green. Perhaps if I tried hard enough, I could fly.

I may have looked a little crazy, muttering prayers as I walked. That’s okay, I’m used to looking different, even crazy. Maybe I am crazy. Certainly it feels that way sometimes, as though there is a zoo inside rather than just a girl. The elephants won’t shut up. And the gibbons! Oh the gibbons.

We started school at our house four weeks ago. It’s the Thai way, to start again after the holidays of April, which is the hottest month. May was hot as well, but we lived through it and now I walk in the cool mornings and stare at the tamarind fruit in the trees by the road. The trees are tall, too tall for fruit picking, but I imagine flying up.

I thought of starting another school year and all it means. With homeschool it’s possible to get caught up ticking boxes, or to get overwhelmed and I like to remind myself of what I believe about learning every year. The future isn’t an endless parade of days. I whisper these words to myself in the mornings, I say them out loud to the kids: To play, to learn, to explore thoughts and ideas, to read new stories and write new stories, to learn how to express and how to listen. To dream and make things together, to discover what life is really about, how things work, and what things lift the heart. To explore and grow, to do good in the world and care about others because we have learned something about them.

It beats ticking boxes, though we do that too.

I’ve been having trouble with my neck lately, the old accident wound that still bothers me, thirteen years later. More trouble than usual, but it makes me realize that maybe there’s a word for my type of pain, and maybe that word is chronic, which is a scary word. But using that word doesn’t mean anything different from what I already experience, does it? It’s another sort of meditation; on the body and pain and what can happen outside of pain, what pain cannot control. Paul, a writer in the Bible, calls the body a tent. And though I work from my tent, I run and walk and exercise and eat will, I will not have it forever. And I am very brave. 

And perhaps it is pain, perhaps it is four years of being here, but I am restless. I feel a longing for something that feels like home, though home is here. Maybe it is the forested islands of BC that I long for. But if I was there, I know I would long for Thailand, for Asia. This great discontent is another sort of meditation. My home is in God, my home is in God, my home is in God. My home is in the great, otherworldly Being who shapes mountains, who is the force behind the feeling of belonging, who lifts and soothes and challenges. He is my home. I belong in him. I am in his story.

Ro guided a Devotion Circle about beauty the other day. We talked about beauty and what it is and what it guides us to. We thought about beautiful things. I shared the prayer that Leafy prayed, “Thank you God for creativity, curiosity, and the soothing taste of water.” —one of my favorite prayers ever. I think now of the light in the garden, of Leaf when she wears her bamboo basket to pick basil or chard from the veggie patches, of the birds in the morning, of the painting Kenya made for me, of Isaac’s crazy smile, of China playing the piano, of the fact that we can talk to God and he leans in close to hear us. There are so many beautiful things, more than I can count. I whisper them to myself in the morning, I say them out loud to my friends. It makes me imagine that I will become comfortable with the zoo, perhaps, even the gibbons doing all their gibboning.

Birthday thoughts.

I just had a birthday, and it was my 36th

I love the way a birthday makes me think about the years; what has been working, or not working, where I’ve come from, all the corners and edges and horizons of my life. 

I’ve been writing it all down for a while, now, almost 11 years of writing in this space. It has changed for me, become something different as I’ve grown. Writing a book has gone from a dream to a reality, a few times over. I’m no longer the mother of three preschool aged children. I’m a little more stable, a little less desperate. But I still battle anxiety every day, and sometimes depression too. I have found many, many things to be joyful over. I still seek beauty. I’m a little less whiny. I’ve lived in many houses in a few parts of the world. I have used a squat toilet on a moving Indian train while 36 weeks pregnant. 

God has led me down many paths, and stretching in front of me, as far as I can see and beyond, are more paths, roads, mountains, rivers. I love him so much, I have been carried and kissed by the Lord of the Universe. I am thankful for the fields and valleys he has guided me through. For the family that is larger than I imagined, the different countries of my mind, the different countries in real life. I go through hard and dark things, and they sometimes leave me gasping, but the softness is there, the love, the way God is so tender and good. I wish my anxiety away, and it does not leave me, and neither does my confusion about the way people work, or the sensitivity I curse sometimes. 

And then the morning comes, with its light and birdsong, and Isaac comes to surprise me and there are all these children in my life, keeping me humble and sharpening my sense of humor. It is a beautiful chaos, with a thousand ways of being, living in a culture that isn’t mine (for SO many years now), always trying to understand, always with the chance of being a little more loving, receiving and giving a little more love.

We are often hard on ourselves. (I’m sure you are too.) And because of my mind and the way it works, I wrestle with the meaning of life, with suffering and messing up, with why on earth we exist, what it’s all for. (“Just sing the Mini Coop Coop song,” my Superstar Husband would tell me.)

If your mind doesn’t ever seem to want to let you rest, here is my advice for you. (From the wise old age of 36.) And I will try to take my own advice.

Imagine yourself on a hillside, surrounded by birdsong. The warm grass you sit on is the stable love and understanding and acceptance that God holds for you. The sky above you is filled with a thousand tiny birds, swooping and diving and singing for you. This is all the joy of the days ahead. You are surrounded by love, both inside and out. 

Write stories. Draw pictures or make something the way you love to make it. Play with your kids. Sit on the floor with them. Being with God, receiving and giving love, this is the true meaning of life. Giving love in all of its forms; to the people you touch during the day, to your friends and family, to those in need. Inject small moments of love. Reading aloud for half an hour, picking flowers together, family drawing time. Look for the beauty, look for the tiniest shining things. Fill your mind and heart with thankfulness for these things, because this is presence of God with us, this is Jesus walking beside us, saying, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” The dishes when they’re done, the teasing of a 13-year-old, the hugs of a 10-year-old.

 

It means everything. It will form another beautiful year. Thanks for reading, dear friends. 

A Poem for Mothers Everywhere

I couldn't find a poem that said what I wanted to say for Mother's Day. So I wrote one. Here it is, this is what I want to say. This is for my own mother, and for all the mothers, especially the ones I know and love. But it's also for you.

Mother

She was caught
smiling
in a net of sleep
cushioned in the softness, down and down,
diving under, lost in it, turning
stretching, weightless, anxiety free
unconscious of desire or
loss, unfettered.

until
the cry. 
It came from the darkness, razor-like, cutting
through the ribbons that suspended her from
her life and
she crashed back down
opened her eyes, rubbed them, remembered.
hauling herself to her feet,
she remembered love,
again and again she remembers
she falls out of sleep and into 

love, 
the hopeful eyes
the waiting mouth, the full breast
she holds and soothes and gives the perfect answer
I am here, 
I am exhausted, I am irritated, I am barely awake
but I am here.
She will always be here
in the night, in the early morning
In the dog-tired noon of the hottest days,
for small, soft, little ones
for the big ones, the sun-warmed long limbs and anxious tics
for gulping and burping and the most annoying questions
to untangle the knots of the arguing siblings
to lose it, and apologize, and sit quietly
to play, sometimes, hopefully

she remembers upon every waking,
that love— its ribbons can never be cut—
And like a lion she says it again: I am here.