Airplane thoughts

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The other day I was on a plane heading for Bangkok, where I needed to renew my passport, and as we flew, I was trying to wrestle with the churning in my stomach. The churning was not from the flight. I'm starting to believe that turbulence does not equal crash time. It was from fear. 

I'm planning a trip for next month. It's a month of teaching and guiding meditation, speaking, and sharing about my community at Shekina. It's something Chinua and I have been talking about and planning for months, but as the days fly by, it is becoming more real. Thus, terrifying.

Fear is no new thing in my life.   I know how to meet it and speak to it. Ask it questions. "What do you think will happen if you leave your family for a month?" They'll miss me. "Will they be unsafe?" No.

I watched the sky and the earth outside the airplane window. I saw the great shadows of clouds on the ground. I knew that it was very hot down there, in central Thailand at the end of March, and that the moment the sun went behind a cloud would be a little bit of respite. "Ah, that's nice," people might think. "I feel less like the sun is burning through my skull." And I was on the other side of the clouds. Looking down from above the shadow, able to see its whole shape. Maybe every one of those cloud shadows had a person, or two, or three, thinking, "Ah, that's nice. A bit of shade." 

There were many rivers and streams. I could pick them out by their impossible curves.  

There are many reasons I am afraid. I worry about what I cannot see, and things I have never done before. For some reason, I am worried about being somewhere for a long time without my family. I am worried about what it means. There has been so much emotional shifting going on in me lately. What if I shift beyond what I can understand?  

It points to my lack of control. I can't see everything at once. And to love people, I don't need to have them close. To belong to them, I don't need to be right beside them.  

From the plane, all of the Thai cities seemed to be built around rivers, following their impossible curves so that the whole city was shaped like a fat river itself.

Just because a thing is something we haven't done before doesn't make it not doable. Chin and I both felt it. We both felt it was time for something sweet, like a journey of sharing and teaching, reconnecting. I can count on this, when my feelings are about as stable as a plane in turbulence. 

The people in the shadow of the clouds could not see the edges of the cloud, the way I could, up there in my plane.  They didn't know what its actual shape was, from above, or that it stretched from them right to the next field. The whole world felt shaded to them, though they were in a small circle.

I cannot control things by seeing them. 

When we drew close to the city, things were suddenly square and grid-like, laid out in rows and rows, perfect houses and streets beside man-made square ponds.

I think I would rather follow the shape of the river, even if I can't see in straight lines. I think I would always like to do new things.


One Thing: Daughter

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Suddenly, swiftly, it seems, we are in the midst of giants. Tall, lanky people who stride through the world, rather than toddling after us. We are blessed. One of our giants is Kenya, the girl of our family, the one with four brothers who draws and designs her own world. Our artist girl. And she has turned thirteen. She is lovely, as she has been since she was a baby and held her hands up like a princess when she was carried from room to room.  

She has climbed, cycled, wrestled, drawn, and sculpted her way through her days. She is the whisperer of animals and babies. She is no stranger to the wild emotions of life, and yet she handles them with trust, emerging back into joy. I love my girl. 

One Thing: Traveling Home

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What is it about the road? I have always loved it. It is beautiful to be in between leaving and arriving. All the trees call out in bloom, standing on either side of the long, long road. We drove back from Koh Chang and it took two days and a morning. 

When we drive we listen to podcasts and audio books (on this trip we listened to A Short History of Nearly Everything, a big ol' science book by Bill Bryson) and we pause and talk and talk about them. The kids love this. I love it. Chinua loves it. And so time passes as we listen to our favorites (This American Life, of course, and TED Radio Hour and Tim Keller and Radiolab.) 

And there is tussling and fighting. And sometimes the teen in the car goes crazy a bit because everything is so loud and people are so annoying. And one time, after eleven hours of travel and a mistake where we drove twenty minutes in the wrong direction and my neck was hurting, it was me who went crazy. And it's always time to stop and eat. But how I love being in this space together, all of us in one place, in a car that moves from here to there. Because I know, as we drive, that we will get there eventually. And when we do, we'll break apart from this cluster and there will be more space between us, in our rooms. One of us in the kitchen, one in the bedroom, one off on a bike ride. It's beautiful in its own way, but so is the road, and being together. 

One Thing: Ocean

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We went snorkeling yesterday and it was glorious. Even Isaac got into it, floating along on the top of the water, staring down at the fish underneath. We went out on a big wooden boat with a bunch of other people and hilarious boat guides who sang "My heart will go on" at the front of the boat for laughs. It was the first time I've gone snorkeling since Chinua and I went, just after we got engaged on the Andaman Islands. And it was beautiful to take the kids, to see their delight and watch them diving down to get closer to the coral, narrowly avoiding urchins. 

On the boat, I was reminded of the sea. How it seems to stretch without limit, taking the curve of the earth. A gentle hand. I remembered fish striped or blooming like flowers, unaware, as they swim, of my grocery lists or unanswered emails. Unaware of heat, smoke, or forest fire. They swim closed in a quiet so true it is like a dream. 

This always exists here, at the bottom of the world. In full color, cool and lost to itself, light filtering down through jeweled blue. The fish swim, dreaming of food and tiny crevices in the rock, unaware of my longing.

One Thing: Nap

Something I love with the kind of longing and wistfulness a person has for very rare, perfect things, is a certain kind of nap. A kind I have only a few times a year.

The kind of nap you can have after lunch if you are not too hot, in a comfortable bed, and have no particular time that you need to be awake. You sleep, and the sleep feels draggy and deep, cool and dark and delicious. And then you rise out of sleep for a few minutes, and smile and dive back down. For a while you hover between sleep and awake, hearing little sounds around the house, choosing not to get up... quite... yet.  

And then you get up and make a cup of tea and slowly return to the land of the awake, remembering you sleep and how you dreamed strange dreams. Life feels very magical and full of possibility.