The high school journey continues.

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Kai was home for June and July, but school has started again and he’s back at it, digging into eleventh grade and all that means.

This year our nearly-seventeen-year-old kid has new classes and new teachers. He has a new house and family to live with during the week. His new house is much farther from the school, so he is mastering the transportation system in Chiang Mai, which consists of yellow and red songtaews. Songtaews are trucks with seats in the back.

He will have many more rides to and from Pai on the weekends. Hours of curving roads in a fast-traveling van. This does not deter him.

This tall kid is powerful. When he decides to do something, he does it, disregarding anything in his way. He has grown so much since he started this school journey—actual inches, plus he started playing drums, figured out essays and tests and class schedules, and learned that basketball is not for him. Weights are, though. Kai was our wide eyed baby, our kid who never stopped thinking and learning. Now he is a level-eyed young man, kind and chock full of sense, patient and determined. Also hilarious.

In our wild life, I didn’t imagine that I would have five different kids with five different school journeys (every kid is doing something slightly different this year) but I’m so intrigued and excited by all the learning, mastering, and growing I see in their lives.

Every Friday he comes home to cries of “Kai!” and hugs.

We love him. We miss him. We’re proud of him.

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Treasures.

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I brought some of my treasures out, missing the forests and oceans of my other home(s).

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I've always had a problem with waking up in the middle of the night and thinking too much. The Psalmist says, “I meditate on you in the watches of the night.” I wish for it. Sometimes, when I am in those unforgiving hours when every problem feels like a life sentence, I try to visualize being completely surrounded by God. I am floating, suspended in grace and love. I am weightless, safe, and tiny, a speck in the river. The river is mercy, purpose, and good heartedness toward me.

I drift off to sleep eventually.

*

Can anyone overcome a life of bad patterns of thinking?

Sometimes it is lifted, and I feel free and like I’m completely changed. Other times, it plummets back down on me. Anxiety. A pounding in the heart. A quickening of the breath. Danger! Danger!

Gertrude is back.

Gertrude, my anxiety dragon. She’s rather sweet and lovable sometimes, curled up asleep in the closet. But she can be a regular pain in the bum if she wakes up while I’m trying to write a book, or go shopping (she hates shopping) or talk to Chinua about plans (she hates making plans.)

She worries too much about danger.

“Go back to sleep, Gertrude,” I tell her.

She responds with a gust of flame and wraps around my heart, making it hurt.

“Or don’t,” I say. I can’t make her do what I want.

I want to love her, like I want to love everyone. Nothing can be too scary if it’s loved. But sometimes I’m preoccupied by what ifs- what if I didn’t have a pet anxiety dragon? What if she toddled off into the forest one day, never to be seen again? What if instead of an anxiety dragon I had a confidence rabbit?

Can you love something and want to exchange it for a rabbit?

*

She’s here at the moment, trying to warn me of imminent danger. I’ve tried to convince her that these woods are safe, that the trees are our friends, but she’s nothing if not vigilent.

Sometimes when Gertrude is here, she locks up my neck.

Sometimes I may have to go to bed for the day.

Today, I have a plan. Fifteen minutes, not thinking too much, tricking the dragon.

Fifteen minutes of work at a time.

Live in my body, hugging my family, not thinking about what I cannot control.

And tricks, lots of tricks, tricky tricks.

Like:

A cup of tea.

A drive on the motorbike for the breeze on my skin.

One small task done.

Pretending work is not work, so Gertrude doesn’t blast me.

And noticing every little thing, to mark it, to make it physical, to not let fear rule me. 

*

We’ve had rain lately, and the skies have been gorgeous. Soon Isaac will wake up and come to find me and hug me. Leafy has been making sugar glass. I’m learning a new song on the clarinet, and working on mandolin scales. Today is gardeniing day, and I think I’ll head over to Shekina to work in the garden for a while, then come back with my friend Claudia to work on sorting and packing.

(We’re moving house, which is rather big news. Gertrude is worried about it. I’m excited.)

I made granola the other day, and there’s nothing like granola and milk with mango sliced into it. Or maybe I’ll have a smoothie, with coconut milk and strawberries. I’ll burn a candle. Maybe work on my blanket. Later Kenya and I will watch a show or listen to music together. Chinua will move a few boxes over to the new house and in between working, practice his trumpet. Solomon will dance and hug me. I’m here. These trees are friendly. The animals are safe. The woods are only woods.

It’s been this way for a long time.

God is ever and always beside me, his breath in the wind that swoops through the leaves overhead. His kiss on my face. I have nothing to fear.

River thoughts.

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It was forty degrees and we were baking, so I took Solo and Isaac to the river.

Don’t forget this, I whispered to myself.

The river was warm, shallow, and full of algae in the late hot season. I trusted in our well developed immune systems. Flowers from nearby trees floated along, and the only other people there were a bunch of kids; the children of parents who work at the guesthouses along the river.

I was there with my boys, who took turns curling into me while I sat on the floor of the river. Every so often I climbed the bank and ran over to the garden to move the sprinklers. (I burned the bottoms of my feet on the hot pavement, not discovering this until later when I found it hard to walk.)

The river, the boys. Isaac attempting to skip rocks. Solo floating and diving down. These are the stories we will tell about our lives. I drive the chariot through town, we walk along swaying bridges. A man walks along the river with a snorkel mask and a spear gun, looking for his dinner.

Back at home, I went to the afternoon market and picked up some chopped pumpkin and made what we call Pumpkin The Egg, after a Thai menu board we saw ages ago. I made carrot juice and we were all tired after too much sun. Isaac lost his first tooth. After dinner, Solo practiced trumpet with Chinua and I practiced my neglected clarinet. Isaac tried to play the clarinet for a while, he’s fascinated with it.

We read together and then prayed for our friends, near and far. Every single thing we did was interrupted. Every thing I planned was edited with some other need. My teenagers are going through hard times. (Not Leafy! Ah, hormones come for all.)

Every time I tried to read or pray, Isaac would suddenly have a thought and HAVE to share it and it drove me crazy. Solo had a rough day in many ways.

But the river, the long hot afternoon, reminiscent of so many hot season afternoons through the years, the little tiny beautiful moments. The sun finally bright again after the smoke. The hope of rain. Change on the horizon. It is such a beautiful life, more intense with joy because it is so fleeting.

A little extra care.

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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.

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“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. 

Aiming to miss the ground.

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This time it was Leafy. It often is. The spark of joy that reminds me of something like a blue sky, or a bird diving, or a nap on a quiet afternoon.

Kenya and I were sketching at the table and Leafy was rambling on about superpowers. He straps a compass to his arm. Says, “If only I could learn to fly, I could get anywhere with this. It would be the coolest to have the superpower of missing things. Then I could just aim at the ground and miss!” 

He gets up and runs toward the gate, as though he will try to launch.

Just being around him makes me feel more peaceful. 

He is creativity unfettered. 

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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.