A Tangle of Cousins

IMG_6316.JPG

It’s a tangle of people, a pile of cousins. It’s beautiful and sad, because we live far away from one another. Distance heightens our happiness at being close to one another, and brings a sadness that a goodbye is coming.

Nieces are: help in the kitchen, talks about books, Harry Potter trivia, warm squishy hugs, a little hand pulling mine, being called “Auntie Becca” (not my real name), making big batches of mango shake, imaginary land rules (Dragon only breathes fire and ice, not water), quirk for days, and a lot of laughing. I love watching the cousins together, the older ones being great older cousins to the younger ones. It’s a mishy mashy pile of love.

Time with my brother and sister-in-law is: quickwitted jokes, quips and laughs and their very generous hearts. Lara looking out for me, my brother equal parts wisdom and stupidity (little brother forever). Chinua and Matty wrestling, a more even match than they have ever been. Game nights of wink murder and charades, Seven Wonders and Monopoly. Street food and water play for Song Kran.

We cram every possible moment in, because we only have two weeks. We lose sleep, the kids get grumpy, we keep them up too late and eat under the fairy lights strung in my tree. We invite our friends over to show each other off. (These are our amazing friends- this is our amazing family.) We swim nearly every day, because the heat is incredible.

Sometimes the joking or sarcasm becomes too much and then we return to softness. We check in with each other and reassure each other.

I love them so much I feel like my heart will burst with it. Love touched with sadness.

Thanks for coming, beautiful family. 

IMG_6318.JPG
IMG_6317.JPG
IMG_6319.JPG
IMG_6320.JPG
IMG_6323.JPG
IMG_6321.JPG
IMG_6322.JPG
IMG_6315.JPG

***

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. A new Patron only post (An Illustrated List of Good and Inspiring Things) is up now.

Hot Season Days.

IMG_5943.JPG

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.

IMG_5881.JPG

Under the mango trees.

IMG_5433.JPG
IMG_5432.JPG
IMG_5434.JPG
IMG_5431.JPG
IMG_5426.JPG
IMG_5427.JPG
IMG_5429.JPG
IMG_5428.JPG
IMG_5430.JPG
IMG_5417.JPG
IMG_5414.JPG
IMG_5416.JPG

It’s been a while. A few days ago I came out of the wild. Well, not exactly the wild, I guess. But a wildish sort of place. 

I volunteered at a Japanese music festival up here in Northern Thailand and it was such an interesting, rich experience. Sleeping in a mango orchard for nearly three weeks, looking at the stars at night, watching the sun rise.

I was with Kenya and our friends Tayna and Aya and spent a lot of time with them, especially for the first nine days, before the festival started. I was on a deco team with lovely Chinese and Japanese artists. We made a lot of signs, all translated into Thai, Japanese, and English. “We need a sign, three languages,” is a phrase I used a lot. I painted live and organized other live painters. 

I watched my husband play music. I sat behind our bhajan band on the main stage and sang in the response to our Jesus bhajans. 

Our car got dustier and dustier.

I learned how to say “good morning,” in Japanese.

I guided a meditation in a campsite, attended one, and kept the kids quiet for a couple.

I studied and wrote papers in a teak forest.

I went to the hot springs almost every day.

It was a busy time, full of wildness, adjustment, and lots of activity. But I came out feeling ready for the next season, and somewhat like I hit a reset button. 

Chinua leaves tomorrow for India. The kids and I will stay back, do school, and make art and writing. Tumble around, deal with smoky season, cook, water the garden, and swim. I’ll write my final research paper of the quarter. We’ll try to be creative and loving and patient, even as the days grow hotter and drier.

I like what you have made.

IMG_4747.JPG

I love to cook for big groups of people. It’s something I just love, what can I say?

Maybe it’s because cooking is one of the most sensory of the tasks of our lives: cut tomatoes. Cut six kilos of them. Keep your fingers out of the way. Cut onions. Cry at the doorway. Come back and cut some more.

Cooking on Sundays is smell, taste, organized work. I line the vegetables up in the order they need to be cut. I set a timer and go as quickly as I can. Later I slow down and go carefully. Seeds in hot oil: Fennel, coriander, cumin, mustard. I add turmeric and a spice with the magical name of Kitchen King. Suddenly, the kitchen is alive with fragrance, with memories of jungle days.

Abundance. We have enough and plenty to share.

Holy work. I couldn’t do it if it wasn’t art. But every color, every texture, truly is beautiful. It’s holy work to cook for others. Before anything, God is Creator. Whenever I respond to what God has made, I feel as though we are in an act of making something together. I appreciate this, I whisper. I like what you have made. Especially purple cabbage. Especially the glorious tomato.

Holy work is always messy. True holy work, that is.

So there are stacks of dishes. There’s a chunk of dhal that has spilled on the stove and is blackening at an alarming rate. And there are friends; here they are helping, here they are chopping, creating, we are making things together. We are saving the sambar from burning in the pot by ever more ridiculous and ingenious methods. I am asking Sonal to make the chutney because hers is the best. Keren is cutting a mound of cabbage that nearly engulfs her.

And then somehow, it all disappears. The two rice cookers are empty, the giant pot is being scraped, the salad is long gone. People are walking around with the food we made in their bellies. Fed. I love it. What can I say?

***

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.

A little extra care.

IMG_4735.JPG

On Sunday I made community lunch, but first I had to shop. I bought 10 kgs of mountain rice, eight cabbages, a whole bunch of vegetables, and toor dal (to make sambar.) I need coconut, so after I bought everything else, I drove over to the coconut shop to pick up some fresh grated coconut.

Leaf told me about this shop when I thought there was no more fresh grated coconut in town, and I had despaired over it. The man who used to do it in the market shut his operation down. What to do? But then she told me about this place.

It’s a sort of warehouse-y home, with a collection of family members of all ages. I never know who belongs to whom. There are some babies, some women around my age who know everything about me (where I live, how many children I have, but they exaggerate how long I’ve been here—”10 years!” they say) and a few snoozing older men and women in cane reclining chairs.

On Sunday, however, only one person was there; one of the old men. I sat down to wait after I told him that I needed a kilo and a half of ground coconut. After a moment at the machine, he brought me a pot of coconut water and told me to drink it.

IMG_4734.JPG

“How should I drink it?” I asked, looking around for a cup or a straw.

“Just like that,” he said. “Out of the pot.”

So I did. I drank and drank and drank. It was from mature coconut, nearly like water, not as flavorful as young coconut. But I was thirsty, and it was good, and I drank about half the pot. When he was ready with my grated coconut, I stood to go, and he told me about the benefits of coconut water. “It’s good for your liver, your stomach, and all of your insides. It prevents cancer. It keeps you strong. (He popped his muscles for me.) It keeps you young. I am eighty-one years old!”

I told him that he looked remarkably young and strong. I went to pay and leave.

“What are you doing?” he asked. “Drink all of it.”

So I stood there and drank the rest while he watched, and when I was done, he nodded in approval.

It had been a more difficult kind of morning, one filled with self doubt and recrimination.

But God knew that I needed someone to extol the benefits of coconut water to me, and then make me drink a liter and a half of it, for my health. I needed some extra care, and that day, it came in the shape of a old man and a very large pot of coconut water.