Category Archives: writing

Frog Hunt

The night sky cups the world

We are 7, and then 8, and then 9 searching

Like small boats in a foggy harbor

Scattered and seeking

Muffled voices call out like small foghorns

Floating alongside the lights that spread over the field,

And melting with the murmur of men’s voices from the small house beside the road

Silence, then the small burst of a song,

A small child’s shriek and laughter

Echo, and then are lost in the thin mountain night;

Cows tread through the marshy field

A low call, the patter of small feet,

Frogs frozen, caught in the patch of light

Then wiggling and wet in small hands;

The bags grow heavy.

Above, clouds shift and reshape

And the stars began to glimmer

Over this small place we call ours

Over the fields hard-won from the forest

Cradled in the mountains’ heart

Lost in the rolling ranges that lap from the edge of Burma

The night sky cups over the world

We are 7, and then 8, and then 9 searching.

A Poem a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

Image by Mariangela Castro (Mary) from Pixabay

I told some friends recently that I think I will no longer tell people what my plans are for the next day or week or the next month. This is because after I tell them one day, I need to retell them the next day because of the constant change of landscape these days.

Instead, I will tell them after it happens. Like last week when I actually did get the chance to make a quick trip to Saohin.

Ever since the beginning of April, life has been a pretty consistent roller coaster. If that combination of words can be put together. I just found out yesterday that I won’t start work for another three weeks. This is because of the current Covid situation in Thailand. Schools in Thailand won’t start until June 1st but until yesterday I was told that I would be working from home and perhaps doing some online teaching. Then yesterday I found out it would not be so.

So. Here I am in Mae Sariang with three weeks of “vacation” in front of me. I will be filling those weeks with some informal teaching, some teaching prep for the upcoming semester, maybe a trip to Chiang Mai or two for visa purposes and to move some items still there. Otherwise, I will be weeding out the orchard behind my new house and trying to figure out how to crack up the coconuts that fall from the tree. Church isn’t really happening currently because of the half-lockdown the town is in. Most of the fun evening markets are closed, and even national parks are closed. Many of the mountain villages (other than Saohin) have closed off their gates to outsiders.

La la la la la…..

So I am trying to find the best way to use my time wisely. Maybe I should do a week of fasting and praying. That would save money, at least, for sure. Maybe I could try building furniture from the bamboo beside the house. Or study Karen.

One thing that I have been rolling around in my mind lately is my recent lack of immersion in good, deep literature. I attribute this to several factors, one my focus on language study, two when in college and on my internship I lacked the energy and time to read deeply, and three, bad habits. One of my goals for this summer is to stretch my brain in relation to good, English literature.

So, with this in mind, I have decided for the next week to post a poem a day. This might be a poem that I have previously written and/or published, it might be a poem I have freshly written, or it might be a poem written by someone else that I enjoy, along with a bit of an explanation of what the poem means to me. I do not pretend to be a great poet, or a great poet analyst. I like poetry that makes me think, but does not make my brain do cartwheels to figure out what the author is driving at. But I do enjoy sharing poetry that is meaningful to me, as well as hearing poetry from others.

I plan to do this for a week, but if I see that its going well, I might stretch it out to two weeks. I also have been a bit traumatized (ok, that’s too strong a word but for lack of a better one) by the constant changes of plans, and so I feel a bit scared to commit to a poem a day FOR SURE. So, I will say, barring a sudden trip to Chiang Mai or Saohin, a storm and a subsequent blackout, the sudden rising of the creek (very literally if I do go to Saohin) or a wave of dengue fever or any other insurmountable obstacle, I will post a poem a day.

And I would love to hear thoughts on the poetry from my readers.

Here goes.

Home

The poem below was written in January 2009 at the age of 18. Or that’s the date I have on it, but I think I actually wrote the first draft a few months earlier in August of 2008. Recently, I opened up a copy of Echoes of Eternity, the first book of poems I published. I realized that few of my poems in that book had ever been published on my blog. Even though I feel like some of them fall below par (and I cringe when I see that), I also realize that there are some really good ones in the book. Also, there are a few that never really were good friends with me (for instance, they never seemed to quite say what I wanted them to say, or sound like I wanted them to sound) but when I returned to read them years later, I find that they are much better friends than I ever thought them to be. Below is one of those, called “Home,” mostly because ever since I left the village, homesickness has been harder.

Home

Someday I’ll travel all the world

And sail the oceans wide

I’ll climb the highest mount on earth

And row my boat against the tide

I’ll view the Alps of Switzerland

In their majesty unswayed–

Unless my little grain of faith

Reduce them trembling and afraid;

And yet I’ll still look back and see

That no matter where I go,

Near or far, wherever I roam

Across the broad world I know–

Still burn the lights of home.

I’d see them still, the lights of home,

Imprinted on my mind,

No matter how much Persian wealth

Or Yukon gold I’d find

They’d call me still and stay with me

Even as the Sphinx I’d view

I’d think of them as I’d kneel down

And wash my face in China’s dew.

If I could climb Mt. Everest,

Cling victorious to its peak-

Almost to touch the sky’s vast dome–

Still my eyes would ever seek

For the hearth fires of my home.

In Africa’s huts or Bedouin’s tents,

In the palaces of Spain,

In sunlight on the purple moor,

Or in the fog of London’s rain;

In the tropics of the south;

Or in the blinding Arctic snow,

My soul would always think of home

Beneath the elms and my heart would know

That whenever rejected by the world

Or saddened by its sin

Through the weeping rain, I’d gladly come

And always find rest within

The burning lights of home.

-January 10, 2009

Books on my Kindle

I love it when other people give me book recommendations. Perhaps love is too mild a word, but I don’t know what other word to use. Kindle is great, but one of the problems with it is that often I get a book that looks like a good one, only to disgustedly toss it aside (or in reality delete it) because of the content. So, I am always grateful for any recommendations of Kindle books.

Here is a list of some of the books that are on my Kindle. I hesitate to recommend anything because what may be good reading material for me may not reach other people’s standards, but I still love browsing through other people’s bookshelves, so I guess in a way this lets you browse my bookshelves. This is also in no way an exhaustive list of the books on my Kindle since right now I have about 270 books altogether. Below I have included a few of them with links to the Amazon page and a short description. Enjoy!

Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster. The story of an orphan girl who is sent to college and writes letters to her mysterious benefactor, known to her as Daddy Long Legs.

Saving my Assassin Virginia Prodan. The story of a Christian in the Soviet Union.

The Gospel Comes with a House Key Rosaria Butterfield. Interesting insights on hospitality from a former atheist.

The Circle Maker Mark Batterson. A book on prayer.

Flame and Shadow by Sara Teasdale. Poetry.

The Case is Closed by Patricia Wentworth. A mystery case by one of my favorite authors.

The War that Saved my Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. Young adult story of a girl during World War 2.

Swift Water by Emilie Loring. An old-fashioned romance.

Mere Christianity C.S Lewis. Everybody should already know C.S Lewis.

Intended for Evil by Les Sillars. A story of a Christian’s survival during the Khmer Rouge.

The Places in Between Rory Stewart. A book I had for one of my lit classes at school about a man walking across Afghanistan.

Sold by Patricia McCormick. A powerfully written story of a Nepali girl trafficked in India. Another book I had for a class focusing on social issues.

The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken. The story of a missionary couple in one of the most dangerous countries in the world.

Emma by Jane Austen. Badly done, Emma. Badly done.

My People, the Amish by Joe Keim. Intriguing story of a boy from a conservative Amish setting.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. The oddly moving story of a poverty-stricken family living in an old castle.

Human Trafficking Around the World: Hidden in Plain Sight by Stephanie Hepburn and Rita Simon. The title basically says it all.

A Tangled Web by L.M Montgomery. One of Montgomery’s lesser known books.

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy. Is he in heaven, is he in hell, that elusive Scarlet Pimpernel?

Spark John J Ratey, MD. A book I had for my health class.

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. Most of us are familiar with this one. Do you know its free on Kindle?

The Hound of Heaven by Francis Thompson. One of my favorite poems.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. The musings of a doctor facing death.

Beginnings: How We Experience the New Birth by Stephen Smallman. Exploring the new birth.

Love at the Speed of Email by Lisa McKay. Dating done via email. Different. Interesting.

Oh and some of these, I can lend out to others. Let me know if you want to borrow one for free!

We Wear the Mask (a parody)

Paul Lawrence Dunbar wrote a poem called “We Wear the Mask” long before Covid restrictions forced us to wear masks. Here is a parody on his poem. Here is a link to the original.

We wear the mask we so despise,

It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—

This debt we pay to human health;

But in secret strip with mastered stealth

Only when they watch, we wear the mask.

****************************************

Why should the world be over-wise,

That it itches so as we smother sighs?

Nay, let them only see us, while

       We wear the mask.

*************************************

We smile, but show only squinty eyes

We talk in tones of garbled cries

We sing, but how our glasses steam

How hot our face; how long the dream—

But let the world think otherwise,

       We wear the mask!

*photo credit: Pixabay

An Alphabet of Chiang Mai (through my eyes)

A is for ants

B is for backpack

C is for church

D is for donuts

E is for episodes ( I couldn’t think of a better word….. episodes meaning occurrences, or happenings at the station. This picture was a hit and run accident, but the poor foreigner driving did not realize he hit the mirror. )

F is for friends

G is for green tea

H is for homework

I is for iced coffee (on the way back from a accident call for which I translated, we stopped for coffee. Usually I don’t do iced coffee, but it was a hot day.)

J is for Jimmy (Jimmy, incidentally, is not one of the guys in the photo, but the little truck that is sort of mine now. Our relationship is well…. complicated.)

K is for Karma. (Karma, simply stated, is the belief that what you do to others will eventually come around to you. While I do not believe in the Buddhist philosophy of Karma following you into reincarnation and you needing to pay in this life for sins in your previous life, I do believe that God rewards us when we do good, and that there are consequences for sin.)

L is for Louie (my classmate at Payap who has become one of my closest friends. Together we laugh idiotically, run through giant sprinklers, explore the border regions of Northern Chiang Dao, drink green tea, hold deep discussions, and make donuts.)

M is for mukata. (a meal made by placing a grill on the table and grilling your meat etc. as you eat. Soooo goood)

N  is for noodles

O is for Obchei (one of the most intriguing characters I have ever met.)

P is for police (the previously mentioned accident when we stopped for coffee)

Q  is for questions (those are all in my head, so no picture)

R is for rallies (You cannot be too careful currently what you say about the rallies in Bangkok right now, so I will refrain from even a picture)

S is for scorpions

T is for twilight

U is for uncles

V is for view

W is for We Club

X is for xenophobia (While I haven’t experienced much, there is some xenophobia in Thailand now because of Covid19. Foreigners are looked at with some fear because people are worried they might carry the virus. Borders between Myanmar and Thailand are being patrolled tightly to keep illegal immigrants from crossing over.)

Y is for Yussi (a friend’s daughter named this cat about 3 years ago. It’s a neighbor’s cat and hadn’t appeared for ages until one evening it meowed at my window. A cat was just what I needed at that moment.)

Z is for zoo (we took our kids club to a mini zoo last Saturday. In some ways it felt like we were the zoo. I have to laugh at Mint’s serious expression in this picture)

A Personal Challenge

I don’t know where my words have gone. It’s been months since I’ve written much outside of school assignments and I’ve poked around inside my brain countless times trying to figure out what is happening.

Maybe, I’ve thought, it’s because I’m not living right somehow. Maybe I am not listening well enough, or feeding my “muse.” Maybe I am not close enough to God right now to listen to what he wants me to write. There’s this niggling feeling that I must be doing something wrong if I am not writing.

Maybe it’s because I am experiencing burnout with school. Maybe the school assignments have squeezed me dry of all inspiration, even though I am taking a lighter semester than ever before. Maybe my Thai study and translation work have frozen my mind temporarily. Or the work I’m doing has distracted me from writing.

Or maybe its just a stage, a season of life in which I have to stop writing for a while. You’d think that living alone would be the perfect atmosphere to inspire writing, but so far it hasn’t.

Maybe it’s just a lack of discipline.

Whatever it is, for the next 7 days I am taking on a challenge to write and blog every day. From what I’ve experienced in the past, sometimes the best way to get the creative juices flowing is to start writing, so I’m giving it a try. The outcome may be lame, dry, and boring. I don’t care. I’m just going to write and blog the result.

Yikes. This is scary.