Tag Archives: beauty

Of Stories

I love languages. One of the fascinating things I have found about languages is how after a period of time, some languages lapse into your subconsciousness until one day they randomly poke up without being asked to.

I’ve noticed this with both Pennsylvania Dutch and Thai. At first when I move into an English-speaking only environment, my brain is alert. I speak English clearly and choose my vocabulary carefully. After a few weeks, however, my mind becomes relaxed and suddenly a PA Dutch word or a Thai word will pop out in the middle of a sentence, leaving me apologizing to my listener, especially if they cannot speak the language.

I’ve noticed this phenomenon of knowledge diving into my subconsciousness in more than one way. A few weeks ago, I moved back from Thailand on short notice for about 4 and ½ months to wait out the Covid-19 crisis until my university can open again in August. At first driving on the right side of the road was no problem. As I grew more relaxed, however, I found myself struggling with remembering which side of the road to drive, and made several mistakes because of it. Also, the longer I am home, the more I find myself randomly wanting to “wai” people when I greet them or thank them. (The wai is a greeting in Thailand done by pressing your hands together like you are praying and lifting your hands to face level). It’s like you can stuff those languages and habits into your subconsciousness for a certain amount of time until suddenly they come popping out again.

This, I think, is the same way with stories. Coming home, my world changed drastically. Now that I am back in the states, living like a “normal” American, every now and then memories coming rushing at me unexpectedly. It’s as if my brain stores snapshots of life and then in my subconscious moments flashes them across my mind. The longer I am here in the states, the more they pop up. Sometimes I come to myself, realizing that I have been staring out of the window for the past few minutes, halfway across the world. Some of those memories are hard, hard memories. Others are ones I can laugh at. But all of them bring to me the scent of a country that I love.

How do I share those stories? Stories that seem somehow sacred?

Starting last July, I began working as a volunteer translator at the Mueng Chiang Mai Police station helping with communication between foreign tourists or expats and the Thai police. One day a week of volunteering became two days a week, sometimes three or even four. My time there changed my life more than I imagined it ever would and now many of those stories are submerged in my sub-consciousness. Between this, school, and the teaching ministry on the side, the stories are abundant. Eventually, many of them burrow into my mind, becoming a part of me.

I developed friendships with many new people, some of who I admire and respect wholeheartedly, and others who I love but cannot admire because of some of the things they are involved in.

I sat across from a fourteen-year-old girl, asking her to consider not getting married the next month to her fourteen-year-old boyfriend, and instead finish at least two more years of school, which would get her at least into the 4th grade.

I sat with a man who had found his young friend dead in his bedroom of a suspected drug overdose. I listened and translated for him as his voice cracked with grief as he described the details of walking into the room and finding him dead on his bed. I listened as he talked with his friend’s girlfriend on the phone, beside herself with grief.

I communicated with a British man whose brother committed suicide in Thailand, trying to figure out the complicated details of funeral arrangements. The police report gave details of the death, but it was all in Thai. That was the saddest piece of written translation that I ever did.

I went to court. The first time in my life. My job was to translate for a European man who had tried to pickpocket another foreigner in broad daylight, since he was running out of money. I stood on very shaky legs and translated for him as he received his six-month sentence to a Thai prison. I also got warned twice by court police for sitting with my legs crossed.

I translated for a case in which a girl walked into a supermarket and randomly stole a fruit knife, attempting to carry it out with her as she left. The evening was filled with moments of tension, hilarious laughter, and an odd feeling of camaraderie with both her and the officer, as well as the supermarket employees.

I sat across from a fellow American from a state not too far from my own, and listened to him as in obvious shock, he told me how he found his wife lying lifeless in the kitchen. His beautiful 5 year-old daughter watched him uncomprehendingly as he sobbed. Tears flooded my own eyes when one of the older officers at the station put his hand on the American’s shoulder and tried to comfort him in a language he couldn’t understand.

I sat in the waiting room office of the prosecuting attorney with a Canadian hippie and a Russian lady and listened as they quoted poetry and waited for papers that needed to be signed.

I went with an immigration official and a foreigner who was being deported for having possession of marijuana, a grave mistake in the Kingdom of Thailand.

There are so many, many more stories, many that impacted me deeply, and some that I am not at liberty to share. Tears push my eyelids as I think of them. So many small memories, like the coffee that one officer would offer me whenever he saw me. Or the time I accidentally erased the video games off one of my “uncle’s” computer while trying to help him free up space, much to his chagrin. Or the time I joined my friends in their small flat for a delicious meal and a rousing discussion of the latest police news, the same friends who accompanied me to the airport to see me off in March.

These are the stories that God has given me, and yet they are more than stories. I share them, not to boast about my experiences, but because they so much a part of me and who I have become. They are people, lives, friends, souls. Some people I see only once, for a few fleeting minutes or hours. I have failed many times in reaching out to them, but I pray that the presence of Jesus inside of me will give them an awareness of God as they leave.

The pain of loving and losing is intense, but I am richer for it.

Duet of Words

Woven through each day like colors in the rain, the words

Couple together in a sheen of mist, these two words.

 

And when the pain throws its curtains gray over the world

Its anguish cloaking, I do not despair; I know the words.

 

For when its shadow lifts, the rain throws light like prisms

Into the sky where I catch them as they fall; these words.

 

These two words spell out my days; each gives wings to the other

Piercing through the rawness– alive, quivering, these two words.

 

For my name is Rung*, and when grief comes stealing through the rain

I know hope follows. It will, for I know these two words.

 

*Rung (รุ้ง) is my Thai name meaning rainbow

This is a Ghazal, written for my poetry and drama class. A ghazal is originally an Arabic form of poetry, must have 5 or more couplets, ends its couplets with the same words, and includes the name of the author in the final couplet.

Image by Michael Gaida from Pixabay 

Through a Glass Darkly

I am excited to announce a new book!

Recently I was inspired to make a compilation of the poems and essays that I’ve written over the past 5 years. The result is a small book called a “tradebook” from Blurb (a company that in the past I only used to make photobooks). It’s about 90 pages long. I’ve titled it Through a Glass Darkly. It contains 4 different sections labeled “The Other Side of Home,” “Steal Away,” “Through a Glass Darkly,” and “Shoes.” The book contains poetry and essays mostly having to do with life in Thailand, day to day events, people I’ve met in my time over here, etc.

Actually, I’m not really sure if I should say that I published a book. In a way I did, but it’s a very simple book, and the printing of it will be very informal and low-key. For me, it’s more of a thing I do for myself. There’s something satisfying about seeing your work bound up in book form.

I am offering it for sale, though. While it is mostly text, it also contains about 15 high quality black and white photos, all taken in the area of Chiang Mai. It contains about 41 items of prose and poetry, several titles which are as follows: “When Tears Become a Language,” “Silence,” “The Image of You,” and “Dusk-Doi Sutthep.” Most of the items in the book are found on my blog.

The book is priced at $5.99.

If you are wanting to have the book mailed to you, shipping in the States is priced at $3.00 for one book with 10 cents for each extra book added. As far as payment is concerned, a check can be sent to my home address, or you can pay via Paypal.

Below are a few pictures to give you a glimpse of what the book is like. If you’re interested, please leave a message in the comments below and I’ll make sure you get one.

Many blessings!

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Psalms 129- My Love Letter to God

I needed Psalms 129 this morning… here is a personalized paraphrase of this beautiful chapter.

God, you know everything about me, inside and out.

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You know when I sit down to spend time with you and my thoughts go floating far away from you. You know when I wake up in the morning, wondering what the day will bring, with questions swirling around in my head.

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You know where I will be going today. You know the steps that I will take and the path I will walk. You know what road I will follow in the future, whether it is today or tomorrow or next month or next year. And You are going to be there.

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You know when I lie down curled up in pain and tears, crying out to you, wishing you would give me answers and tell me the things I want to know. You know when I laugh with pure joy and smile at the way you paint the sunset and draw the moon on the sky and fill my life with good things. You know how much I like it when I get to do the things that bring me joy, whether it’s helping someone out or reading a good book or getting to escape into the mountains for a day. You know all my quirks and the worries I hold and the way I respond to any situation, whether it’s a good response or not.

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You know.

Even before I am going to say something, You know what I will say. You know what I will say even before I do. Which is good because so often I wonder, “How should I say this?”

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When I am driving on the road, your hand is behind me, protecting me. When I am sleeping, your hand is over me. When I am walking, you are beside me. You are all around me.

I can’t grasp this. I can’t understand this. It’s too much for me to realize.

Even if I wanted to get away from you, I couldn’t. You are with me wherever I go, not just now but in the future as well.

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When I am filled with joy and happiness and hope and elation, you are there. When I am huddled on my bed, crying of loneliness or thinking about decisions and uncertainty,  you are there. If I wake up early in the morning and hike up Doi Pui to watch the sunset, you are there. If I fly to the other side of the world to visit my family in Kansas, you are there. It doesn’t matter where I go, your hand is there. You hold me up with your right hand.

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In the darkness of my thoughts and worries, you are there. In the light of my joy and peace, you are there. It doesn’t matter to you what I am like—you still love me and are always the same.

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When I was yet unborn, you put me together. You gave me this kind of eyes, and this shape of nose and this color of hair and this kind of mouth. You did a good job. Everything you do is perfect, even when I don’t believe it.

You are wonderful. I know it.

You saw me when I was still nothing, just an idea in my mother and father’s love. But you designed me. You took your book and you wrote down each and every detail about my life. You wrote down all of my days and every detail that would happen in each of them, even this morning as the teardrops rolled down my cheeks. You wrote out all of my days, even before time started for me.

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God, your thoughts, they are wonderful to me. There are so many of them; they never stop. I couldn’t even count them. They are more than the sand in the sea.

At night, I want to wake and think about You, not about my worries.

Oh God, I wish you would take all the evil from this world. Destroy the evil that makes people speak badly of each other and of You and kill each other and cheat and lie. Heal all this pain that fills this world.

God, let me despise those things that are not of you. Let me never take it for granted and say, “That is just the way it is.”

But Lord, as you know, this heart is wavering. It is not strong, but weak. It is full of selfishness and wrong motives and anxiety right now. Look through my thoughts, Lord. Sift through them and take away that which is wrong.

If I am doing something wrong tell me.

And always, always, let me walk in your path.

Let me hold Your hand.

And trust You.

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These Days

These days are bright with heat, the humid, sultry weight of unreleased rain weighing down on us each morning. In the afternoon, clouds pile up high above the mountain, with the occasional growl of thunder punctuating the brooding heat. These days the skies are mostly clear of the insidious smog that covered our lives and souls in March, and in the evening, after the dusk rolls in, the skies release their rain. Each night we go to bed with the drumbeat of hope beating on our roofs—and in our hearts.

And why should we hope? Why should we dare to give life to this wild thing beating in our hearts, that gives way to the ridiculous, the kind of dreaming that leads to walking on water? Do not we know that walking on the water is unacceptable for bipeds of our kind?

But while hope seems to contradict every circumstance we face, it is conditioned in us. The very threads of our being are made up of hope. When we breathe, each breath that we inhale and each breath that we exhale are breaths of hope. Why else would we do something that borders insanity, this continuing to live and breathe in a broken world, except our bodies hoped? Why else do we continue to flip the light switch even after we realize the light is no longer working? Why else would we scan the skies with furrowed brows, unless our lives were not conditioned to hope?

When that hope is gone, life fades.

Hope is not optimism. Hope is not positive thinking. It is something stronger and frailer, more powerful and more delicate than we could ever imagine. It is rooted, planted into our hearts at birth, but without nurture it is like the succulent that my friend gave me–withered and dead, because I forgot to water it.

I faced days, dark days years ago, when I lived one day at a time, one hour at a time, on feet that dragged heavy. In the evening I would lay my head down and cry until I was exhausted–without knowing why. Now, I can look back and see some reasons for the darkness, but at the time I was only confused and tired, looking at the next day and dreading the thought of facing it. Hope was something I could only dimly make out, and I clung to the remaining threads I had. Friends walked with me. I scoured my Bible. I journaled. I talked with my dad. I held on tight to words that brought light.

And the light returned slowly. There were some physical changes, some emotional changes, some spiritual changes. We are people that are knit together tightly and our physical can affect our spiritual and our spiritual can affect our emotional and all the other ways around. Somehow that hope that flickered began burning brighter and brighter.

Hope hurts. It’s such a ridiculous thing. There have been so many times that I’ve seen my hope knocked to the ground, bruised and bleeding. I usually look at it and say, see I told you!

But I’ve met some people who keep on hoping against reality, who live with unfulfilled dreams, who hope for more despite the pain; those people are some of the most beautiful people I know. They live life with a deep, quiet rest, a trust that speaks of something more inside even while pain is mirrored in their eyes. They have hearts that have been ripped wide open, and perhaps never sewn fully shut. But they are strong and quiet and wise.

And I want to be like that.

These days the sun is bright and the heat is oppressive, but hope comes to us at night when the rain chatters on the roof and the wind gathers up fistfuls of the scent of green. We sleep the sleep of those who remember the days of darkness and rest in the new life that each droplet brings, knowing that the Maker of the seasons is also the Maker of hope.

My Love Affair with Airports*

You and I, it’s

Complicated.

 

There’s nothing like the way I feel when I hear your voice

The way it makes my stomach quiver,

The way I love how you wrap your arms around me,

And the way I feel lost in you.

We’ve loved each other for a long time;

But…. it’s complicated.

 

I remember the first day I met you

Me, a farm girl from Kansas on her first flight, giddy, naïve, excited

When I jumped past the “authorized personnel only” sign to rescue my bag

From where it was headed into the unknown

And they shouted at me.

That’s when we first met, you and I.

Me, the farm girl with starry eyes who fell hard for you,

You–so much older than me, the one who had seen every kind of person in the world

Who had traveled to the four corners of the earth

I fell for you then, and I’ve loved you since

 

I fell in love with the way you whispered poetry in my ear

Of places you wanted to take me

Things you wanted to show me

Languages you wanted me to hear

People you wanted me to meet

And I’ve been in love ever since.

But…. it’s complicated.

 

I love the way you’re always alive and moving.

The way your heart beats late at night

When I put my ear on your chest

And listen to the sound of your dreams throbbing

The way Boeing 747’s do going down the runway.

I love the way you inspire me to dream,

To wander, to explore

To go where no one else has gone before.

I love the way I see every color in you;

And how every language under the sun

Rolls alive and rich on your tongue;

And when I hear you say the words

โปรดทราบ เครื่องของสายการบิน Air Asia เที่ยวบินที่ FD 3113

พร้อมแล้วที่จะออกเดินทางไปเชียงใหม่

ขอเรียนเชินผู่ด้วยสารทุกท่านขึ้นเครื่องได้ ณ ทางออกหมายเลกสอง

ขอบคุณค่ะ **

I thrill. No one speaks to my heart like you do.

And yet… it’s so complicated.

 

I love you, but every time I see you,

You rip me away from others I love,

Tearing like the tabs tearing from boarding passes at the gate.

You make me feel at home,

Yet you take me away from home and then tease me with memories of home in the eyes of the little blonde boy sitting in front of me at Gate 29

You bring me to places that stamp themselves onto my heart

Then you block them off from me

Like visas denied at the last minute.

You send me friends that become a part of me

Then break them away while my heart crumbles

Like the hard cookies on the flight to Shanghai.

You broaden my horizons and leave me in awe

And then collapse them  like my luggage does after I’ve unpacked everything from it

You teach me things I never knew

Then change it all up, so I’m confused and can’t find my way

As if I were lost in Suvarnabhumi all over again.

And everywhere I go with you, you always, always make me pay

In tears

That are wrenched from a heart that wonders

Why I let someone do this to me

Can you see why I love you

And why I hate you?

It’s just…. complicated

 

But you’ve seen me at my lowest, my worst,

When I’ve been awake for 24 hours,

And smell like a pair of socks that were packed dirty

And left through two missed flights

While their owner slept on the hard floor.

You’ve taken me with all my baggage and dug around in it

Found all my dirty secrets, and let me into your heart anyway.

You’ve wrapped your arms around me while I sat crying

On the row of seats waiting for AA 2828 to leave Wichita

You’ve seen me alone and lonely in the masses

Yet, I feel at home when I am with you.

 

You enraptured me in Doha, where you were so quiet I too became silent

In Shanghai you taught me the beauty of doing nothing

You forced me to drink all the water in my bottle in Seoul in 25 seconds

I spent the night with you in Chicago while the snow fell and cold seeped into my bones

In Guangzhou we fought over the price of chocolate-covered blueberries

And in Bangkok I watched you, dazzled at the hundreds of different faces of you

I’ve drunk coffee with you in Tokyo, in Dallas, in Wichita

And held hands with you in Ho Chin Minh City.

In Chiang Mai you brought hundreds of people into my life—and then took them away again.

I lost my heart to you in Kunming and in Phnom Penh and in Calcutta

And when I bussed back from Laos

Every bone in my body ached from missing you.

 

And yeah, you’ve messed up.

You’ve kept me waiting and waiting without an answer

You’ve gone back on promises, let other things come first

You turned a cold shoulder to me that night in Chicago

When I was freezing and no matter how many blankets I wrapped around myself, my heart was so cold.

I lost my trust in you when you made me pay an arm and a leg

For those dumplings in China when I was starving

And I will never forget the regret that filled my heart

In O’Hara when you took that $4 chocolate chip cookie from me

While I was distracted by you….

It still haunts me

You’re just…. complicated

 

And yet, I keep on coming back to you

Over and over again.

Even when you take people from me, people I love

I love you even when I have to pay thousands of dollars just to see you

And you keep breaking my heart over and over.

I love getting lost in your embrace,

Tasting all you have to offer

Watching the grace of your movements and the vibrancy of your color

 

I love us.

Even though…

We’re complicated.

 

*This is Slam Poetry (recycled homework again) something I did for my Advanced Oral Communications class. To listen to the performance, check out this link: my love affair with airports

**This is Thai writing meaning  this: Attention please. Air Asia Flight FD 3113 to Chiang Mai is now boarding at Gate # 2. Thank you.

 

A Year Later: My Baanies Part 2

Just recently I have been reminded of the importance of community. I am by nature not someone who gravitates toward community, but I have learned and am learning how important it is to surround yourself with trustworthy people. These ladies, the Baanies, have taught me so much. Where I fail, they make up for it. My weaknesses are their strengths, my strengths are their weaknesses. Alone we could never do what we do now. They have taught me about friendship, about sharing, about beauty, about strength, about trust. Close to a year ago I blogged a poem about my “baanies.” Click here to read it. Now it’s close to a year later and with several of them leaving, I find myself a bit nostalgic. I don’t post these poems because I think they are masterpieces in the realm of poetry– they’re not. But even if the rhythm and rhyming is stilted and simple, it embodies some of what these ladies bring to life here in Chiang Mai, Thailand. 

 

Oh, we live in house that leaks when it rains

And spiders have tea in the cracks

But we are the Baanies so we don’t mind

Cause we’ve got each other’s backs

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Judi on the left.

Judi went home, she said, “just because”

But we all really know why

There’s a guy named Mike she thinks she likes

Even though she’s back in Chiang Mai;

This Mike, we think, may be ok

But we’re keeping our eyes trained tight:

He’d better be good, and do as he should

Or we will all put him to flight.

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Kim and a Thai friend making cookies

Kim is well and busy as ever

And next week she is saying goodbye

To the tropics of Thailand for the snows of the North

For the handshake instead of the wai;

We’ll miss her heaps and all of her songs

And her passion and kindness as well,

But she’ll shine her light wherever she is

That we can surely foretell.

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Crystal on the left.

Crystal keeps life in this house refreshing

When naps in the bathroom she takes,

She likes to push others into the pool

And finds in her bike long skinny snakes;

She’s got a heart that is made of gold

(So her students would gladly say)

Coffee makes her happy (and of course us too)

She is just fun to be with all day.

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When snakes are around

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Ask Crystal if she enjoys chicken now… :/

Oh, we live in house that leaks when it rains

And spiders have tea in the cracks,

But we are the Baanies so we don’t mind

Cause we’ve got each other’s backs.

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Melissa on the left

Melissa is as sweet and understanding as ever

And just in the weeks that passed

She bravely called a man to come kill our rats

(Even though her heart beat fast)

Her Thai is better than ever before

But she is going home in May

This makes us wonder who will clean the kitchen

And makes us sadder than we can say.

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Nancy: second to right

Nancy has learned how to speak Thai

And she’s really good at latte art

We all like to listen when she laughs

And hers is a kind, sensitive heart

She drives a funny, yellow Fino

A lot like a bumblebee, I’d say

She zips around corners and weaves through traffic

While we hold on tight and— pray.

 

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A Lawa friend’s wedding

Oh, we live in house that leaks when it rains

And spiders have tea in the cracks

But we are the Baanies so we don’t mind

Cause we’ve got each other’s backs.

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Brit on the left

Brit will be an aunt before too long

We’re all happy for her sake

She doesn’t lose her phone as much anymore

And you should see the fires she makes

She’s smart and selfless and loves little kids

And really, she’s almost Thai,

And when we think of her leaving for home

The only thing we want to do — is cry.

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Lori in her happy place

Lori’s still here and her hair is even grayer

And she’s slipped down her stairs a few times

She’s got itchy feet and she dreams of the mountains

And she still makes weird little rhymes

She’ll still be in school for another two years

And then watch out, she’ll be free

To travel away, to teach or to train,

Or be whatever God calls her to be.

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With Thai friends from church

Oh, we live in house that leaks when it rains

And spiders have tea in the cracks

But we are the Baanies so we don’t mind

Cause we’ve got each other’s backs

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giant waterfights
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And of course, we couldn’t forget Diego

When Fireflies Dance

This is the lazy man’s way to blog: recycling homework. While I am not allowed to recycle homework for my classes, I can do it on my blog. Below is a Creative Writing story I wrote this week. Currently, I don’t have time to blog much more than this. This story is fiction. Any names you might recognize are simply because I like to draw from my own experiences and the people around me. It makes the story “me.” And no, my grandma did not suffer from Alzheimers (just to be totally clear). 

I am never quite sure if I like Grandma or not.

When I was a little girl, I thought all grandmas were like this. Until one day I am rolling out cookie dough at Regina’s house, and Regina’s grandmother walks into the kitchen. Once she leaves, I ask Regina who she is.

“Why it’s my grandma!” says Regina.

“You mean she can talk? How can she talk if she is a grandma?”

Regina stares at me in incredulous surprise. “What do you mean? Of course she can talk!”

I don’t know what to say. I just say “oh” in a small voice and tuck it away to think about.

That was a few months ago. Now I know better.

My grandma Emmy lives in a little house with Grandpa John right beside our house. Sometimes she comes over to our house when Grandpa John has to go to town to do errands. Some days I am glad when she comes. On those days, we play doll together. Grandma Emmy dresses up her doll in the nicest clothes, and she is the best at making pretend baby noises. We pretend to be riding in an airplane with our dollies, and even though Grandma Emmy can’t talk, she makes the best airplane noises.

But most days Grandma Emmy isn’t like that. On those days, she walks around the house like she is looking for something. When I was smaller, I would ask her what she was looking for. But now I don’t.

The worse is when she cries. She sits down on the floor beside the toybox and holds her doll tight and cries. I am always scared when that happens, because her crying doesn’t sound like a baby. It is thin and wailing like the lost kitten we found under the pipes in the back of the barn. And I don’t like watching big people cry.

Keith and Amy can remember when Grandma wasn’t like this. When she was like a normal person. They tell stories of the delicious cookies that she made and how she would let them lick out the bowl after she had made cake. She would play checkers with them on winter evenings, and let them make snow candy by pouring maple syrup on snow and letting it harden. She would read books to them, using different voices for different characters, in ways that made the hair on the back of your neck stand on end.

But that all changed one day when she began to forget names and faces. She did funny things like put the silverware in the fridge and the cake in sink. At first it was so funny, Amy says.

But soon Dad started watching her with a furrow on his brow and things just kept getting worse and worse until they were as they were today.

Sometimes when Grandma comes over, I watch her. I like playing with her most of the time, but sometimes I wish I could have a grandma that lets me lick out the bowl after making a cake, and reads scary stories to me at night and plays checkers with me on winter nights.

Sometimes when she is sitting quietly, I go to her. I reach and touch her, just to see if she feels like other people. Her hands are wrinkly like other old people’s hands, like my hands look when I take a bath too long. But her eyes don’t look like other old people’s eyes. They are blue, but when she looks at me, she doesn’t really see me.  Amy says grandma has Al Seimer, but I don’t know who Al Seimer is. I only know Al Miller. After Amy says that, the next time he comes to talk with Dad about the price of hay, I watch him carefully. But he never even talks to grandma, so I don’t think it is him. Perhaps he comes in the night to visit grandma and grandpa.

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

I am chasing the last cheerio around in my bowl of milk with my spoon. I like to pretend that the cheerio is a fish and the spoon is a shark. This morning the windows are open and a slight breeze pours in through the window. It is June, my favorite month because it is my birthday month. The shark has almost caught the fish, and I am just ready to ask Mom how many more days until my birthday when grandpa comes panting up the steps.

His white wavy hair sticks up like it does when you rub a balloon over the carpet on winter days and hold it over your hair.

“Grandma.. grandma… there’s something wrong,” he says. “I thought she just wanted to sleep in. But she’s not responding.”

Grandpa’s eyes look worried, afraid. “I think she’s gone.”

I want to look away.  I don’t like to see grandpa upset. Grandpa and dad never get upset.

Dad leaves the table without a word and runs out the door. I can see grandpa follow slowly, his shoulders slumping.

“But mom,” I say, “where did Grandma go?”

My mom hugs me, her long arms drawing me close. “I think she died, Anna. That’s what he means.”

I saw a dead cat once. Amy’s cat. It was lying on the road by the mailbox when Dad went to get the paper one morning. It had probably been hit by a car while it was hunting for mice in the ditch, Dad said. I remember seeing it a little, but I didn’t like to look at it much because it was bloody and messed up. It didn’t look like Whiskers anymore.

But I have never seen a person dead.

Aunt Dorothea comes the next day, but she doesn’t laugh as much as she usually does. Then come Uncle Roger and Aunt Nellie, Aunt MaryLynn and Aunt Lorena, and Aunt Barbie. Mom says they came for the funeral.

Other times, I like when they come. They bring good food and candy, and tell stories all afternoon and evening, and everything is jolly. But this time, nobody seems to pay attention to me. Keith and Amy go outside to help Dad with the barn chores, acting important that they can do something to help. But I am too little.

The morning of the funeral, I wipe the last bit of egg from my bowl using the buttered middle of my toast.

I ask Mom, “Where is Grandma, Mom?”

Mom stops spreading the glaze on the cinnamon rolls like she is surprised and looks at me.

“She went to heaven, Anna.”

“But where is heaven, Mom? And how did she go? Did she want to go?”

Mom waits a long time, and she looks out the window.

Then she speaks. “Anna, I don’t know where heaven is. All I know, is that it’s with Jesus. And Anna, I really don’t know how it works. All I know is that only Grandma’s body is here, but she isn’t inside it anymore.”

“She isn’t inside it anymore? But how could she go without her body? How could she walk?”

Mom comes over across the room and sits down beside me. Her hands grasp mine, hard and strong and a little sticky from the cinnamon roll glaze.

“I really don’t know, child. But I do think she wanted to go.”

“Why, mom? Why would she want to go? How do you know?”

Mom sighs, and she looks out the window again.  “Anna, you remember hearing stories of how Grandma used to be, right? When I was young, she was the best mother I could have asked for. She was kind. She was strong and healthy, and could walk and talk like other people. But then she got sick. Like her mind got sick. And even though we took her to the doctor, he couldn’t help her. But now, she is like she used to be again. Her old mind and body that were sick are left behind and she went to heaven.”

I nod. And swallow the lump in my throat. I feel funny and I don’t want to talk about it anymore.  So I pretend to understand. But I don’t really. How could Grandma not be in her body anymore?

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The funeral is long and warm. I see Grandma in the box, but she doesn’t move. I think about what Mom said about Grandma not being here anymore, and wonder what it means. There are so many people. I can’t breathe because there are too many people, and I don’t know where Grandma has gone. I hold Mom’s hand tight, tight the way Grandma used to hold her doll when she cried. I watch them put the dirt over her. How will Grandma go to heaven if there is dirt over her? I don’t want to cry. Big girls like me don’t cry. I try and try and try to hold it back, but suddenly I can’t. Mom picks me up and holds me. I cry till her shoulder is wet. I don’t care anymore about being a big girl.

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

That evening, I sit on the wooden steps. Mom is making strawberry shortcake for all the aunts and uncles that are still here. They are laughing now.

I like the night like this. It is quiet and safe. I feel tired from crying so hard. I put my feet down on the grass. It is soft and wet. The darkness comes creeping over the lawn, like it has a secret to tell.

Suddenly a little light blinks on, and then off, right above my head. A little bit later another light blinks on and off.

I stand up in wonder. It’s fireflies! I remember last year when the fireflies came! Keith and Amy and I chased them over the lawn and caught them with a net. One time we put them in a jar and watched them fly around.

Their lights blink on and off all over the lawn, above the wet, cool grass. Quickly and quietly, I run into the kitchen and climb onto the counter. I grab an empty glass jar on the shelf. I don’t want Keith and Amy to see me. I don’t know why, but I want this to be my secret.

Out on the lawn, little lanterns blink by the hundreds above the dewy grass. I have never seen so many. I watch, and chase them. They dance over my head. I catch one and watch as it crawls over my hand, its light slowly glimmering on and off. I put it in my jar and screw on the lid. I chase the others. Sometimes I almost have them in my hand and then they flit away. Finally, the jar is filled with tiny lanterns, blinking, flitting. Mom is calling me to come eat strawberry shortcake with the aunts and uncles. I run upstairs with the jar and put it on the windowsill.

After supper is over, mom makes me go to bed. She says I am tired and need to have a long night of sleep. For once I don’t complain. I lie in bed and watch the fireflies in the jar. Amy comes up. I decide to tell her about the fireflies, but she doesn’t really listen. She is getting too grown up and is getting boring. I am never going to grow up.

After she is asleep beside me, I lie still, very still and think. The crickets are singing under the wooden porch again. Outside, a new sliver of a moon is coming up. It looks like a boat that floats crookedly through the sky, like if you would ride in it, you could almost fall out. A few feet on the windowsill is my jar of fireflies.

The fireflies are flying inside the jar. I see them from here. They fly against the glass and bounce off. Silly little fireflies, I think. They don’t know what the glass is. They don’t know that they can’t break the glass. But still they fly against it and bounce off, again and again.

Where do they want to go, I wonder? Why don’t they like it in the jar? I wonder what it would be like to be a firefly. To dance across the lawn at night when the sun goes down and turn my light on and off. I would be the fastest firefly. And I would dance all night long.

I wonder where grandma is. I wonder if she likes fireflies. I wonder if they have fireflies in heaven. I wonder if Grandma caught fireflies and put them in a jar when she was a little girl.

I sit straight up in bed. I look at the fireflies again. They are still flying in the jar, bouncing off the glass, wanting to get out. I wonder if they are scared.

I crawl out of the bed, the floor cool to my bare toes. I tiptoe to the window, trying not to wake Amy. I take the jar off the windowsill and screw off the lid. The window is open and I hold the jar outside. The fireflies pour from the jar, fairylights gleaming. They fly into the night, free from the glass that held them in, dancing and dancing and dancing, until they are lost in the night.

I laugh to myself, a happy laugh.

As I tiptoe back into bed, Amy stirs.

“What are you doing?” she mumbles.

I wrap the covers around me and snuggle down.

“Nothing,” I say.

 

photo credit: Pixabay.com

I Dream of Spring

I dream of spring with shafts of light

Shot through clouds with hope-giving sight;

I walk the freeze of January’s night,

But I dream of spring….

 

I dream of spring with pale, pink flowers

Lilacs awakened in their scented bowers;

I listen to the shrieking of winter’s powers,

But I dream of spring….

 

I dream of spring with greening fields

Red suns dying over promised yields;

I trudge through passions that January wields,

But I dream of spring….

 

I dream of spring with blades of grass,

Meadow-sweet winds that through it pass;

I embrace the pain of winter’s blast,

But I dream of spring….

-January 2013

 

I must give an explanation for this poem, since right now I am in no place where I wish the winter were over. Here, our winter consists of cool nights and sunny days, and even though the houses do get chilly because of tile floors and no heat when it hits the 50s, I hate to see every bit of winter leave as February rolls around. 

I came across this poem tonight in some of the ones I had filed away and it brought back so many memories, that I felt like I had to print it, and I realized that many of my readers might be able to resonate. 

The background behind this poem is what makes it such a special one for me. In the spring of 2012, just after a difficult, weary winter in which I was teaching school, I needed to go to school to print off some things one Saturday evening in May, just before the term ended. The sun was setting in the west over a greening wheat field. Spring was glorious that year and the rains we had gotten greened and grew the wheat fields more than normal. I remember standing there, worshiping, watching the sunset over the wheat, and feeling the stress and tension of the past year slipping from my shoulders. My throat still gets a lump when I think of the way that God healed me and grew me that summer, even though it was a painful one in some ways. 

The next winter of 2013 found me again teaching school. It was another challenging year and my mind and heart often went back to that moment I so clearly remember of standing out behind the school, looking over Paul Nisly’s wheat field, watching the sunset and the green and the glory all together. I longed to go back to that point, not just because of the spring, but because of the feeling of having passed one of the most challenging years of my life. January and February 2013 weren’t easy months either, and spring came late that year. I wrote this poem in January of 2013 and even though it is a simple one, for me it always brings back those colors and feelings vividly. 

That is why I am posting about longing for spring from a tropical country. 🙂