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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Lessons, then and now.

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I love koels. They’re not so much to look at, just a non-descript medium sized black bird, but their calls do something to my soul. They remind me of our first days in the jungle house in Goa, sitting on the porch, listening to the new strange sounds all around me, and the night that is never quiet. For a time, there, I thought I would die of homesickness. But I didn’t die, and I have found a sort of home in the world.

But back then, with all my little children, so cute and sticky, I studied the hard lesson of finding a home in myself. This is a lesson that continued, even now, with all the teenagers. With the terse language and independence, with the support of tall people. How to make a meal, offer something, perhaps be rejected, and then come back home to dwell inside my own house, my skin and bones and muscles. 

Not that my kids reject me. They’re the kindest people I know. It’s the shifting landscape of need that I find tricky. They need me in different ways. And I see the gaps in their experience, the ways we have not been all they need, and I can only pray that grace fills all the holes.

It’s no use to wish yourself different. I think the Internet is bad for this. A few hours on Facebook can have you wondering why you are the way you are, why life seems so effortless for everyone else. It has you second-guessing yourself as a parent, friend, human being. Other people seem to relax more, be less introverted, less intense. 

Come back to yourself. Sit easily here, you are made as you are, and you are allowed to be that particular bird, with your own call, sitting in your own tree. No one is as easy as you may perceive. We all wonder how to make our mouths do the right thing sometimes. (Is this a smile? Or am I grimacing again. Which words are meant to come out next?) 

God comes home to himself on a day of rest. He creates and then sits and regards his work. He makes a way for us to be at home in ourselves. At rest in creation, walking the woods, listening to birds, marveling at the veins under our skin.

***

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Dear Leafy, (to my 13-year-old son)

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Dear Leafy,

When you have this expression on your face, we know the next thing that comes out of your mouth is going to be good.

Is the world ready for you?

You’re thirteen. (A sixteen-year-old, fourteen-year-old, and thirteen-year-old is a lot of teens.) 

Your hands, feet, and shoulders are bigger than any I have seen on a kid your age. I’m calling it: 6’5”. Let’s see if I’m correct. I’ve been taking a lot of photos and video of you. I want to capture you before you change. 

Here you are in this magical moment, living on the line between boy and man. You’ve traveled well this last year, blooming and exploding into confidence. You have a natural, lovely way of looking at the world, as if you expect it to offer you good things. And it does. It offers you humor, light, invention ideas, and new flavor combinations.

You love: creating food, seeing how things mix together, one-liners, Stephen Universe, singing and playing ukelele with Kenya, baking hard-tack or frying biscuits, and your family. You don’t love bees or being unsafe. You may be the one on the ground, telling the others to come out of the tree. You love justice. You hate injustice and you always have. 

We have some moon clay or something like that, that someone gave you for your birthday, and you brought it to me and said, “Look, Mom! It has almost no tensile strength but incredible compressive strength.” You love Science. You still walk in circles when you think. You don’t love it when someone interrupts your thought process. (Especially a younger sibling.) 

Also, you are hilarious. You always, always make us laugh, and your timing is amazing.

You’re just the most incredible kid. I really love you, Leafy. Life would be boring without you.

Love,

Mama

***

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Don't Let Your Wildness Go.

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We went to the park (the new playground, a dream come true) and I sat under a tree with my books. Isaac and Solo played, but Solo had a hard time enjoying himself.

He wanted to make sure Isaac was playing well, not being unfair, that everyone had a chance at the slide. He kept running back to me to report on the slide situation.

He was taking on all the weight again. It’s a bit too much for a ten-year-old boy.

Oh, Solo.

I want to tell you this:

Try to stop worrying.
Let the others mess up their own fun and then figure it out. Only step in if someone is in danger.
Swing as high as you can.
Go and watch ants in the grass.
Dream your own dream.
Be a kid.
Learn it now,
before it becomes a habit written in the lines in your forehead,
before you can’t let it go
before you have to unlearn decades of trying to control outcomes,
and people
and whether anyone gets their feelings hurt,
and whether anyone is unhappy,
before you have built the entirely wrong idea of your role in the world,
Wise, beautiful artist son,
Wild One,
don’t let your wildness go.
Go and watch the clouds drift by.
You’re allowed.

Trust me.

***

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Links to here.

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Morning is light and cool air, cup of coffee, more edits. When I walk into the studio I light some incense and pray for God’s words and thoughts in me and through me all day long. The studio is messier than it should be. I am a messy artist, not a neat one, my mind is not tidy and neither is my workspace. I wish it was, but even if the space is not beautiful, beautiful things happen here.

We had an amazing conference last week. Introvert and sensory person that I am, I have needed some recuperation time, even though the conversations were lovely and the thoughts were deep. We were at a resort in Chiang Mai, which is a sort of floating space, not real life. Taking food from trays, not washing dishes. 

Back at home I drove to the market yesterday and on the way I saw an old friend who has moved to Australia. She used to work with her sister and mother at the noodle shop that is my second home. She waved me down and I hopped off the motorbike and hugged her. Her sister, whom I see several times a week, came and slipped her hand into mine and said “Rachel is my little sister now.” We clucked over one another, me over how big her little boy is, what Australia is like, and her over how tall my children are. (None of us can believe it, I hardly go out without someone remarking that they saw my son or daughter and couldn’t believe their eyes.) 

At the market, there were more friends. We talked and squeezed hands and touched each others arms. I bought things for salad (these greens are so beautiful, my friend said) and many bananas. I went to the laundry place later (I came home to find that my washer is broken) and told the lady that I had been away for a week and that was why I had enormous bags of laundry. “I know,” she told me. “Brendan has already been here to pick up his laundry and Christy has not come yet.” We talked about the best repair person in town. 

All of these things are links to here. Each neighbor, each smile. In this place there are one hundred kinds of smiles. Kind ones, cheeky ones from the motorbike, apologetic ones, ones that relieve tension. 

My landlords brought Wookie back after watching her for the week and she tore around in circles, yipping. My househelper brings her daughter over every day because it is term break for school. Yupa is four years old and a delight. Whenever Isaac comes to tell me something, she is right behind him, telling me a story in Thai, so that I have two kids talking to me at once in two different languages. 

Sometimes being a mother feels like being a nucleus, with different people whirling around with positive and negative charges of different intensity. Joe came over as well yesterday, a twelve-year-old friend. Later another friend, Siam came. And then our Japanese friends. And my landlord. So there they all were, each coming to talk for a few moments at a time. The teenagers. The dog. The little kids who spoke with words tumbling over one another. All linking me to the world, keeping me from floating off. God hemming me in behind and before.

Later I bought a canvas at an art store, ready to paint during my friend Leaf’s beautiful Devotion Circle. I found some white orchids and bought them too. Small conversations in each place. I went to get petrol and found the basket men sitting at the petrol station. One of them saw me and his eyes lit up. He walked toward me with his basket while I was taking the lid off the chariot’s petrol tank. He held a beautiful type of basket, hard to find around here, so when people come selling them, I usually buy one. (They’re nice and large and I use them for hampers—they slowly fall apart over time.) We chatted about price and I talked him down a bit. We joked back and forth. He went to get change for me, and I talked with the gas station attendants. “How much would you pay?” I asked. “You got a good price,” they told me. “Those are rattan, and handmade.” 

When he came back I gave him his original price. He ginned, the gas station attendants smiled, and he gave a little skip as he walked off. The light was very beautiful, then, making the trees glow as I drove over the bridge and up the hill in the chariot, my side-car holding one canvas, one basket, and dozens of small, shining moments. 

***

Now you can support my writing on Patreon. Patrons can give as little as $1 a month, and get extra vlogs and posts. I really really appreciate your support, it helps me to keep going with writing and publishing my work. Thank you to this month’s new patrons, Jemma Allen and Julie Wells. The patron extras from last month are up. Here are last month’s extra blog post, Thoughts after 17 years of marriage, and the September Creative Update Video.