Our kitchen is outdoors, with a garage door for one wall, a three quarter wall on the side where the sink is, and a three quarter bamboo wall where the stove, shelf, and fridge are. The fourth side is open. The bamboo wall is the one facing the street, and this morning I looked up from taking fruit out of the fridge to see an old man's face directly opposite me, floating above the wall.
First I almost screamed, and then I almost fainted. I gasped and jumped, very loudly. The man laughed politely, and I laughed too. Politely. I waited for him to tell me what he needed, but he only stood there with his chin propped on the wall, watching us. I realized it was a curiosity visit and went on with my breakfast preparations. He asked me in Thai if I had four kids. I said yes. Solo played hide and seek with him for a while.
Distracted, I let the milk I was heating for yogurt boil over. While I was cleaning up, the old man walked away, as quietly as he had arrived.
Lonely is like a flavor. No different really, from happy or silly. Lonely is like the flavor of tamarind. Spicy and sharp, you can't eat it all the time. I'm trying to adjust to lonely. There's been a lot of lonely in the last few years, but lonely comes with peace, and that makes it palatable. It comes and goes. Friends come and drive it off with their words and laughter.
And in lonely, you appreciate every small gesture. Our neighbor across the street brought us banana muffins today. Banana muffins! How could anything be more perfect?
I've been writing all day. It's my much loved writing day, known in less educated circles as "Mama's Day Off." Fine, I think. I'm finally accepting that everyone in the world will call my writing day my "day off," though I'm fond of calling it "work."
But happy work.
I'm working on two projects. One is my new novel. How can I express how much I love writing fiction? I love how I lose myself in it. The other project is a compilation of the best of my posts from over the years. This is actually a really hard project to work on. I'm cast back to these moments that I captured very clearly, as well as swimming in all the undercurrents that I didn't write about, but can remember. Just a word can bring it all back. 2007 by far wins the award for the year of suckiness. Boy, that year sucked. It was my fire year.
Except that I met Mark and Tj. That was a brilliant shining star in that year. There were also many beautiful things...
And we get through the suckiest things, don't we?
I remind myself of this now, as I spiral around myself. Weepy, today, maybe from reading too many old, sad things. Maybe from feeling as distant as a faraway desert. Maybe from reading about places that I haven't seen for years. You know how I am, anyways. Love and longing are all wrapped up together.
Chinua and I have big dreams. He's such a Superstar, he has the most incredible soul. I'm privileged to dream of far off and impossible sounding things with him. But then I start trying to make things happen, and one thing I should remember about a life path with God is that you can't just barrel in and MAKE things happen. Trust and hope and surrender need to be folded into your dreams. Little dream crêpes. They're like light that changes quickly in the late afternoon. It's the best time of day for the light, but pull out your paper and paints and from moment to moment the colors elude you.
Does that make sense? Our dreams involve land and a larger meditation center, a center of Christian practice, a place of peace, of work, of devotion, of service. So I go looking for land that we have no money to buy, and every door slams shut. But if I learn to listen, learn to balance the dream gently in my palm, I can follow a thin thread from one place to the next. (I think I first got the image of the thread from Timothy Keller, who got it from George MacDonald.) This thread that God gives us, we follow it to find him. It doesn't seem like enough to go on, sometimes. But then neither is our own sheer force of will, so there you go.
I always drive, for a while, on my writing days. Today I drove right into a storm, hoping the rain would blend with my teary eyes and wash me off. But the storm stayed just in front of me and the best I got were spatters. And that's all I needed, really. I thought I needed a storm, but feeling the way I did, I may have melted away. Spatters were enough to revive me, to cool me off. And there was a red flower in the road. I paused to pick it up. I knew it was there for me, God whispered it to me, evidence that the thread is intact.
There were people fishing and laughing. There was an old man (not my curious old man) in a field with his brahmin cow. He bowed his head to me after I bowed mine to him, and I felt strangely, wonderfully joyful.