Someone asked me back in January, “Don’t you get lonely living out there?” Amy and I live in a town with barely any other foreigners, much less Mennonites. We are about 4 hours away from the nearest big city with a substantial population of people with our skin tone and hair tone.
I thought for a bit and said, no. Our lives are packed with relationships, some deeper and more fulfilling than others. We are both fluent in Thai and can connect in Thai on a deep level. The little Karen church we attend has become a family for us. We get hugs when whenever we drop by. We are celebrated and loved more than we deserve. Sometimes there are too many relationships and people, and I feel the need to flee alone into the mountains for a quiet rainy day. (I don’t mean that I don’t miss my friends and church family in Chiang Mai, or friends at home in the USA. But missing people is not the same as being lonely.)
And yet, when I think of it, I do get lonely. Perhaps a better way to say it would be, “I am lonely.” But it’s not the kind of loneliness people think it is. I believe that no matter where I would go and who I would be with, I would still be lonely. Sometimes I blame it on being single, but deep down I think that if I would get married, I would still be lonely. I don’t know. Maybe I should experiment. 🙂
But in the end, it’s that loneliness that drives me back to Jesus and his beauty. It’s Him I am forced to lean on and depend on because nothing else is enough. Yet sometimes it’s the glimpses of His beauty that make me lonely in the first place.
In the past few weeks, I have been struck again by the beauty of the place I live in. Coming out of the dry, brown of the hot season, life is green again and the sky is blue. Sometimes too brightly a blue. It has rained some, enough to color the earth again, but the real rainy season hasn’t started yet. I am ready for the rain, the coolness of liquid falling from the sky all day long. I am ready to be able to take off my clothes at the end of the day like a normal person, rather than peeling them off like I am peeling a potato. But while I wait for those days, I find soul food in the details around me.
And because I love it so much, I can’t stand not sharing it with others. So here are a few pictures of life. (Note: Now that I am ready to hit the publish button, I am surprised at myself. What I planned as a photo post morphed into a full-blown poetry post. 🙂 It makes me smile. Maybe I should have split it up into 5 or 6 posts, but I can always do that some other time. )
The cat went here and there
And the moon spun round like a top,
And the nearest kin of the moon
The creeping cat, looked up. (WB Yeats)
Who loves the rain
And loves his home,
And looks on life with quiet eyes,
Him will I follow through the storm;
And at his hearth-fire keep me warm;
Nor hell nor heaven shall that soul surprise,
Who loves the rain,
And loves his home,
And looks on life with quiet eyes. (Frances Shaw)
Do not hurry as you walk with grief;
It does not help the journey. Walk slowly, pausing often:
Do not hurry as you walk with grief.
Be not disturbed by memories that come unbidden.
Swiftly forgive; and let Christ speak for you
unspoken words. Unfinished conversation
will be resolved in Him. Be not disturbed.
Be gentle with the one who walks with grief.
If it is you, be gentle with yourself.
Swiftly forgive; walk slowly, pausing often.
Take time, be gentle as you walk with grief. (George MacDonald)
I am nobody.
Who are you?
Are you nobody too? (Emily Dickinson)
Four lovely ladies just visited us from Chiang Mai this Saturday and Sunday. They are the current Baanies. The name “Baanies” is a play on Thai/English words meaning the people you live with and is the name used to refer to the girls who work at Wisdom Tree Home in Chiang Mai. Read here about some of the original Baanies. The poem starts like this:
Oh, we live in a house of seven girls
And bonny lassies are we
Seven girls and a dog (who cries when we leave)
All footloose and fancy-free
Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate
And though I oft have passed them by
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun. (J.R.R. Tolkien)
I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.
I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.
I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,
But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky
Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night. (Robert Frost)
When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars. (WB Yeats) (I like to listen to this one on Spotify, read byTheWanderingPaddy)
My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart’s in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer;
Chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,
My heart’s in the Highlands, wherever I go (Robert Burns)
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay. (Robert Frost)
THE LITTLE Road says, Go,
The little House says, Stay:
And O, it’s bonny here at home,
But I must go away. (Jospehine Peabody)
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free. (Wendell Berry)
Some of these I love best read out loud. Often on my drive to Chiang Mai once a month, I listen to them on Spotify: here