Category Archives: home

Just Some Pictures

I realize that I haven’t been writing a lot lately.

My dad had open heart surgery on June 16 and it was excruciating to be so far away from home. During that time, I wrestled with 2 different urges. One was the urge to dump it all out, the other the urge to clam up and feel sorry for myself. And being pressed for time, I didn’t do the dumping out part.

But that time passed, and my dad is now safely recovering at home, although my sister reports that life at home is sort of like living in a nursing home, since my mom has also been to see the doctor several times recently, and my aunt has to go on a weekly basis for chemo.

But believe it or not, life goes on here in Thailand. And I realize that I take a lot of good pictures, or I like to think of them as good, but I don’t share them much.

And as the saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words” so I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

These are students from our Gifted English program that just started this year. The room is on the same floor as the teacher’s office, so some of the students like to come over in the afternoon and practice their English and play Uno. I do believe the air conditioned room is a drawing factor as well. I recently bought a tiny model house to teach vocabulary to a class, but I didn’t have time to assemble it so these students helped me. We have listened to a lot of stories during this time, such as stories about evil spirits haunting houses and the whiskey used in spirit ceremonies. (While most Karen people are Buddhist or Christian, in the past, before Christianity was introduced or before the Karen integrated more fully into Thai culture, they were mostly animistic, with practices steeped in spirit worship. This is still a huge factor today, and many nominal Karen Christians wear amulets for luck or safety.)

Some of my former Saohin students came over to make cookies after going to church with me. I found it amusing and heartwarming how they sat in front of the oven to watch their cookies bake as if they were watching a movie.

There are times I wonder about my cat…..

Our pastor finished his doctor in theology and we had a celebration at the church. Taking pictures with each other at celebrations is an important thing in Thai culture.

Jiu, one of the girls at church, with Che Che (I think that’s his name).
Prayer time for our pastor

Yes, that spider is for real, and yes we found it in our kitchen. I think that might be an egg sac it was carrying underneath?

Rainy days are plentiful in July. Most days I make my afternoon coffee at school, but some days I splurge, especially if it is a particularly rainy day that calls for a hot latte.

No matter how the world might be behaving around me, I still find rest and relaxation in making a batch of good homemade chocolate chip cookies.

And enjoying cookie making is not exclusive to women either. One evening, before my birthday, several of my former Saohin students (this time the boys, not the two girls pictured earlier) called me. Can we come make cookies at your house?

The above picture is not mine, but one I found online. At the time that I found myself driving through these waters, I was too busy trying to stay upright and moving to take any photos. The picture was taken beside the Mae Chaem River between Hot and Mae Sariang on a day when various parts of Northern Thailand flooded.

Another picture that makes me shudder when I see the brown angry river to the left.

On the evening of Amy’s birthday we went to the church to practice the song we were singing with the youth group. The sky gave us an extra special display that evening.

These people make me happy. Most of the people in this picture are students who are staying at the church while they go to high school. On Thursday evenings, I have the privilege of teaching them English at the church. They are the most dedicated group of learners and laughers I have ever taught, I think I can say.

Every morning the national anthem is played at assembly and every morning the dogs at the school howl along with it.

This was not a fire, as it might look, but a random round of mosquito spraying in hopes of cutting down on dengue fever cases. I had just gotten to my class and started teaching when we were all told to evacuate and stay out of the building for about 25 minutes while they sprayed. Mae Hong Son is highest in the nation for dengue fever.

This shirt is special to me. One of my students who is an avid football player, asked me if I wanted a football shirt for my birthday. He then let me choose a color and gave me one of his own shirts. This young man is actually half Burmese, but lives in Thailand.

It’s not often I get to eat Mexican food, but on my last visit to Chiang Mai, some of my friends took Amy and I out for our birthdays and this is what we got. It was soooo good.

Mae Toe is a local tourist attraction about 60 kilometers from here. I have now visited there 4 times, twice just recently. In the middle of June, I went up with some students and then yesterday with some teachers. Someday, I think I should like to take a book along and simply curl up and read on top of the world.

So…. yesterday, I had thought the original plan was to park our bikes on the bottom and walk the rest of the way up, but it didn’t quite work out that way since the others in our group zoomed up before me. To make a long story short, I was trying to get up this hill like the people before me, but kept on stalling my bike. I got off and then managed to dump it on its side, and it being a heavy bike, couldn’t get it up again. With the help of Amy and this kind man, we got it to a place where we could park beside the road and then walked up. Driving on these concrete tracks is complicated because if you happen to stop, you are in trouble because there is simply no place to plant your feet to keep you from falling over. It doesn’t help if you are helplessly laughing either. I still have to giggle just to look at this picture…. and the expressions on our faces. Bless that man’s heart for stopping and helping (the others in our group were out of side beyond the next hill and curve)

The view was worth the hike, though.

We parked our bikes halfway up and walked the rest of the way….but these village boys who couldn’t be more than 12 had no such intentions.

Walking down from the 360 degree lookout.

Kaning and Mint, the two student interns, and Kru Jack, one of the Chinese teachers. Kru Jack’s method of hair control always makes me grin.

Amy on the top of the lookout, dreaming of Mr. Willoughby.

And me, probably dreaming about cookies.

Kansas (Vignettes of a Journey #6)

Only in sleep I see their faces,

Children I played with when I was a child.

Louise comes back with her brown hair braided,

Annie with ringlets warm and wild. “Only in Sleep” by Sara Teasdale

Nostalgia is one of the biggest emotions that hit me when I am home. Half of my time at home, I spend reminiscing and walking around old haunts or digging through shoeboxes of letters and photos and school papers. The above poem brings a lump to my throat as I think of my past visit home.

It was a memorable visit, filled with out-of-the-ordinary happenings, not all that were nice.

After traveling home from Reach, I got sick the first week. On the last day of March, it snowed enough to cover the ground and then it all melted by noon. The next week, my nephew fell off his horse and broke his wrist and we had high winds almost every day. The following week was windy again for a few days and then we had some really warm windy weather, along with hail, rain and then again, some snow! The day before Good Friday a gas plant in Haven blew up and some people could see the flames from our area. The last week I was home we had about one nice day, and the rest were cold and windy.

I loved the snow we got, though, even when others were quite glum about it. And there were other highlights to offset the unhappy surprises. My nieces and I took a little trip one day to the library and to the Dutch Kitchen. Sara and I spent a day at a coffee shop together and I also joined her at work one day. Our family got together for Good Friday, and Mom and Dad and Sara and I went out for supper one evening. I got to help at a community sale one Saturday, attended baptism services at our church one Sunday, and listened to a school program the last evening I was home. I visited my grandma’s grave one afternoon. Most Mondays I went with Aunt Miriam to the doctor where she did lab and chemo.

Wednesday evening before I left was a perfect spring evening, and my nephew Eric, the one who had not broken his wrist, and I went horseback riding. We saw 5 turkeys, one deer, and another animal that we decided was either a coyote or a mountain lion, both of which have a tail, a tawny color and a loping run. Both of us hoped it was the latter, but we weren’t close enough to make sure. Friday before I left on Saturday, I went with Grandpa and my Aunt Miriam and Dad to the doctor. In the evening, my nephew Davon, the one who had broken his wrist, came over with his .22 youth rifle and we went bird hunting in 40 mph winds, shouting to each other over the howl. I shot at several birds and was always secretly glad that I hit none. Somehow, shooting things does not have the same appeal as it used to, but I did pray that Davon would hit something and he did.

This time, saying goodbye harder than it had been for a long time. The last two times I had been home, Covid restrictions made it complicated and difficult to travel back to Thailand, so the last few days of my time at home had been spent stressing about travel back. This time was different, with eased restrictions. It was also the first time I was home after grandma’s death. This made it harder to say goodbye to my mom, since she seemed smaller and whiter than before.

Saturday morning dawned rainy. I am always glad when it is rainy the day I leave, since it fits my mood. Before I left, I ran out to the apple tree and cut some blossoms that had just appeared overnight.

And then I left for Wichita in the middle of the endless Kansas wind.

The Hound Dog and the Tulips

There is something a soul loves about a tulip bed

Brave red warriors, fearlessly blooming

Tossed among the prairie winds and buried in snow;

I gaze from the edge and marvel at such courage,

Awed by first flash of spring.

Yet at this shrine of tulips there is another,

A more ardent worshipper than I

Who adores each day with consecrated whine.

Not worshipping from afar, or with holy expectancy,

But with sweet communion among the flowers,

(Where even I fear to tread) the ritual is completed:

Two turns and a twist, and a sigh of pure adoration

The long ears give a twitch and then– down she sinks among the glory

And from the crushed velvet red, spring rises like incense

Heavenward, and so it shall be forever,

For is this not called such — a tulip bed?

Meditations of the Aunt

For, lo, children are an Heritage of the Lord

As Arrows in the Hand of a Mighty One

Happy is he who hath his Quiver full

For they are like Olive Plants, the Offspring of Fruitful Vines;

They are the Laughter, the Promise, the Crown

The Ornament and Joy of Old Age.

But doth the Holy Writ have ought to say

Of when the Mighty Ones have Earthly Errands to perform

And leave all the Arrows and Olive Plants

To descend at once upon the Ancestral Home,

And Ought to say of the Sisters of the Fruitful Vines

That care for such a Quiver full in Times as this?

Nay, it hath Naught to say.

And despite all the Efforts on the part of such

The Arrows will ascend into Mulberry Trees,

And will splash in the Fountains on Winter Days,

And will, with great mirth, give rides in the Washing Machine.

The Olive Plants spread themselves flourishingly,

As though strengthened by the Fertilizer of Chocolate and Peppermint,

That, like Stolen Waters, were eaten in secret, and oh, so sweet;

And all cease not to question about each and every Process of this Life and the Next

Until Silence is not only golden, but more precious than Gasoline.

Then, when the Arrows have been gathered from the four Corners of the Farm

And the Quivers returned and the Olive Plants packed away

And delivered to the Homes of each respective Tribe

The Aunts with Aching Feet both lay themselves down in Peace and sleep,

Praising God that such an Heritage was not seen fit to be bestowed on them

But instead, were granted the same as Paul, and as such are at peace to abide as him.

Once Upon a Spring Wind in Kansas

Has anyone else noticed

How the wind is in a hurry today?

I asked it where it was going

But it did not deign to say.

I even asked it politely,

When it loudly slammed the door

But it would not listen to me

It only blew some more.

It shouted in the treetops

And it yelled against the pane;

It sent the emptied garbage bin

Scooting down the lane.

It blew the wash right off the line-

The sheets were fodder for the breeze-

And one of dad’s Sunday socks

Landed in the trees.

It groaned and moaned in the attic

Till we thought a man was dying;

It wailed along the windows

Like a baby’s midnight crying.

It played all sorts of silly tricks

Like whooshing off the milkman’s hat

It blew the potted pansies south

And knocked mom’s tulips flat

Has anyone else ever tried

To tell the wind what to do?

I called it names and said it should stop

But it just said rudely, “Who me? Whooo-whoooo!”

So, I just stayed in all day

And wrote a poem about a nasty wind

The wind that tomorrow will turn around

To go racing north as fast again.

Zurich (Vignettes of a Journey #3)

I walk along the narrow streets cobbled and silent in early morning

Wondering at how the many years have flown, and I,

I have come back over the ages from a pilgrimage far through the tangled vines of history

Back to where a part of my soul was born.

Echoes from these ancient roads speak to my blood

Stirring the fire within me, the old, old fire from the masters of that age;

And as I walk, I feel the ghosts of yesteryear speaking

The flames of the old beliefs that turned history on edge;

And as I gaze upon the streets and the river where these ancestors lived and died,

I feel their eyes upon me as I walk, and I wonder what they see.

In Grossmunster church, I run my hands over the back of  the wooden pew and sit

Beneath the shadow of the faces in the stained-glass windows

Where Zwingli and Grebel and Manz once stood; and suddenly time is no longer a wall between us

Because men still kill in the name of faith, and the difference between zeal and truth

Is too often undiscerned while factions war against factions, both in word and deed,

Uncaring of the blood that is shed within the church itself, despite the legacy of sacrificial love,

Yes, love, that was mingled with truth and baptized by fire and water.

The words on the wall come alive as the church itself speaks:

Herr, bleibe bei uns, denn ess will Abend werden, und der Tag hat sich geneigt.

I will sit here under the shadow of these walls and wonder for many years.

I had a 7 hour layover in Zurich, Switzerland, and took the chance to make a dream of mine come true. I had about 3 and a half hours in the city itself. Perhaps some other day I will write a post on how to do a short layover in Switzerland.

Mae Sariang (#1 Vignettes of a Journey)

Dawn

The sun rises, one fiery eye

From behind the drought-scarred mountains

Wreathed with smoke

Noon

The heat whispers in the cornfields

Burning its secrets in the ground

Writhing around the withered stalks

Afternoon

The dry wind catches the fallen leaves

Pushes its heat into a dust devil and

Twirls the leaves to the tops of the trees

Twilight

Fire licks in V’s in the ridges, up and down

Fire rings the valley about

Fire on the mountains

Midnight

The Tukay laughs and calls on the porch

A confused rooster crows

And the cat sprawls on the cool tiles

Although all photos are mine, and were taken in the Mae Sariang disctrict, several of the ones with fire, as well as the Tukay were taken last year, some up at Saohin.

The next series of posts will be vignettes of a journey as I travel from Thailand to the States, Lord Willing and I don’t catch Covid, on Sunday evening. This includes a 6 hour layover in Switzerland, a day and a half in NYC, 3 days in Lancaster, PA at the Reach conference, and then home to Kansas for several weeks, and then flying back to Thailand in late April, with a 12 hour layover in Germany. If anyone comes to Reach, be sure to stop by the INVEST booth, which will be right beside IGo and MTM’s booth. I am holding all these travels in an open hand and trusting God (or trying to, I should say) to orchestrate this all ( and keep me from catching Covid before travel, since many of my acquaintances have had it recently).

Requiem

Bury me beneath the prairie sod

Under the wide and rolling sky

Lay me down in the arms of the earth

Below where the meadowlarks flit and fly

Send me to rest in the cradle of the plains

By the meadow where the sunflower grows.

Where the wheat field whispers in the muted dusk

In the land where the south wind blows.

Photo by DapurMelodi from Pexels

Obituary

How do you pen the life of a 100 years on a paper in black and white?

In the newspaper it goes like this:

“Was born, was baptized, was married to, and died.

Preceded in death, and survivors include….”

As if life could be fitted into a fill-in-the-blank formula.

There was so much more to her.

How do you include the way her wrinkly voice (yes, her voice was wrinkly too) would say, “Much obliged!” and how she would wave from the window as we left?

What about the way she loved her flowers and got up early to pick strawberries on dewy May mornings?

How do you tell how she would stay up late at night reading like a night owl?

How do you write about the years of farming, of eking out a living on a prairie riddled with drought?

Or the pink and cream mommi crackers she would always give us when we visited?

How do you write about her love for the birds and how she fed them faithfully and knew the names of each kind?

Did you write of the hours that she prayed for us, sitting in her chair on her orange and brown afghan?

Or about the time she chased the squirrel down from the birdfeeder with her rolled-up newspaper?

What about the years of the Dust bowl, how the storms loomed up over the prairie, and how the dust gritted in her mouth so thick she could scarcely breathe?

How do you include all she saw, from the Roaring 20’s to the Dust Bowl to World War 2 to the Vietnam War, to the age of technology and Covid19?

How do you pen a 100 years in black and white?

Born on the rugged prairies, a tiny Kansas sunflower.

A woman of prayer.

The essence of kindness, faithfulness, and generosity.

She lived. She died.

And she loved.

Medley

Spurred by a whim, I wrote this tonight. Imperfect, but it was satisfying to put together.

Tonight I was wishing that I could write some of what was moving inside of me, but as I was reading other poems, I felt that so much of what I was feeling was already written so well in other poetry. You know that moment when you are reading a poem and you come to this phrase and you are like, yes, that phrase! It says it exactly! It hits that spot. And you want to crow to the whole world that you have found that phrase, but often you sort of feel a bit silly after the crowing.

Anyway, I just took some of those phrases (and others for gluing the others together) and made a poem. I am not sure what the purpose was. Inspirational? Maybe. Humorous? Perhaps some may find it so. Creative? Yes, partly. Cathartic? Yes, I think so.

Here we are:

The ache of the twilight is upon me but I cannot speak

The words will not come.

But many other have already written them for me.

Come, let us see.

The day is done, and the darkness falls from the wings of night

As a feather is wafted downward like

Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean.

Yet, I beg you, tell me not in mournful numbers

That life is but an empty dream

That the road less traveled by is no different than what it seems

That nothing gold can stay; that there is no rest even in Flander’s fields.

And that the struggle nought availeth. Just because

I am nobody (who are you?), does not mean that I have never

Slipped the surly bonds of Earth

And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;

Or spent time alone in the night, on a dark hill

With pines around me spicy and still;

Or lived sad and strange dark summer dawns,

With the earliest pipe of half-awaken’d birds;

For I have loved hours at sea, gray cities,

The fragile secret of a flower…

Long have I known a glory in it all.

And yet, tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean

Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,

And thinking of the days that are no more

And, I must ask, does the road wind uphill all the way?

If so, let me rest here in these woods so lovely dark and deep,

While you come and read to me some simple and heartfelt lay

And these aches shall fold their tents like the Arabs

And as silently steal away.

(It was written quickly, and since it is not meant to be a masterpiece poem of any kind, I didn’t chew and meditate on it and edit it much, so if you have any ideas of more phrases that could be thrown in, I would love it. And I think I will write more of these in the future. For therapeutic purposes. )

I should leave you to guess where the lines came from, but I feel like putting the lines here without them really being my own is almost infringing on copyright purposes. I don’t know. But here you are:

The Day is Done, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Tears, Idle Tears, by Lord Alfred Tennyson,

A Psalm of Life, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Road Less Traveled By, by Robert Frost

Nothing Gold Can Stay, Robert Frost

In Flander’s Fields, by John McCrae

Say Not the Struggle Nought Availeth, Arthur Hugh Clough

I am Nobody, Who are You? by Emily Dickinson

High Flight, John Magee

Stars, Sara Teasdale

I Have Loved Hours at Sea, Sara Teasdale

God’s World, Edna St. Vincent Millay

Uphill, Christina Rossetti

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Robert Frost