There is a lot of sadness in me, these days. I am sad for my friends, Ian and Christy, who are going through such a hard thing. Ian has been told that he has hours to days to live. In doing life without Chinua, I feel the heaviness of every meal, every bedtime, every story. This is a strange, sweet sadness, because I am entering into being with my friends, entering into their suffering in the tiniest possible way. I am so glad Chinua can be with Ian.
There is sadness. But there is beauty around me, so much beauty, and beauty is a type of love from God that strengthens and keeps me going. We have reached Arambol, Goa, our old home in India. I am always surprised by the emotions I have, coming back here. At first I was seized by a sense of great loss in not living here anymore, and simultaneously a huge amount of homesickness for my house in Pai. But a nearly a week has passed and I am softening into life here. The Shekina Goa community is beautiful, and I have moved from the rhythms of Shekina Garden in Thailand to the rhythms of the meditation center here. I am on our rooftop again, looking out over the coconut trees and the fields that lead to hills, finding peace in the patterns of leaves and fronds. I am on the beach with Miriam and the kids, playing in the sand and the water.
Everywhere, things are changing. Level after level is added to the houses and guesthouses, until we are in a miniature city of tiled roofs and colorful paint. All the shapes are different, but there are all the same things as well. The neighbors calling hello and brushing their teeth and tongues in the mornings. The bulls being taken for their walks. The scuffle of pigs in the underbrush. Trash everywhere, marring every landscape. The huge eagle’s nest in the tree at our spot on the beach. Yesterday I watched the mother eagle chase crows away as they dove near her babies. I could hear the babies cheeping in the nest. And today I watched as the male eagle plucked a sea snake out of the water and flew up to the nest with it. There are green parrots flying through the coconut grove, and bee catchers sitting on trees, or fluttering from bush to bush. People say their evening prayers, babies cry, and the grandfathers in the village carry them out for an evening walk. Everyone greets us, welcomes us, asks how long we will be here and where Chinua is.
On the beach there are more travelers than I have ever seen. This place only ever seems to grow, and people sell macrame jewelry and silver rings on mats in a long line on the beach. The “standing babies,” as Leafy used to call the little naked Russian toddlers, are all along the beach, their hair bright in the sun. It is a healing extravaganza, incongruent and hopeful. There doesn’t seem to be anywhere like this in the world, so wild and teeming with people and ideas. I am glad to be back. We try to swim when we can, help with the community when we can. We sweep the house of its endless sand and I read aloud to the kids. All five of them sleep in one bedroom, and the oldest kids show patience when they can. I send them to the little nearby shop to get ice cream. I go down to a beach restaurant for an hour in the morning to use the Internet, because I don’t have WIFI or a working phone. I go to the markets to get vegetables, buy yogurt in bags that the kids eat like it’s the last time ever that they will have yogurt. I use curry leaves in everything I cook, radiating with happiness because I love curry leaves and can’t get them in Thailand. Everything in this house brings a memory. The kids were so little here. And now the first Christmas tree we had, a tiny little Charlie Brown tree, is taller than the roof. All the trees have grown in the garden we planted, and we are in a secret wonderland among the rising, towering buildings.
For years now, the kids sometimes mourn not having known snow. Last night Leafy was saying that we have to go back to North America during winter, while they are kids, so they can play in the snow.
“Listen,” I told them. “Everyone gets the life they have. Some people will never travel, some people will live where there are only cold oceans and will never swim in a warm sea or see a dolphin. Some people get to snowboard every winter. We all get our own life, and we don’t get everybody’s life. You have a good one, but you won’t have all the lives. You have a traveling life, but that means you don’t have another kind of life. When you are an adult, you can decide what you want to do, and you have all the time in the world.”
What we are given doesn’t seem fair sometimes. When I have struggled with my big family, or felt overwhelmed with trying to make do, or juggle so many things, I have been guilty of self-pity and comparison. And how hard it is that some people have a life where they face losing their husbands, far too young. How hard that some people have a life of not being able to walk.
It is looking for love and accepting grace that leads us out of self pity and comparison. God loves me in a different way than he loves others. I don’t get all the lives. I still struggle with this mind that betrays me. God loves me with a pile of kids and challenges. And birds in the coconut grove, and the smiles of neighbors, and time to write if I get up early enough. Oh, how he loves me and you.