Category Archives: ache

Voice

Today, I walked down the trail, looking up at the pines, unable to express what was happening inside of me. “Give me a poem, God,” I pleaded.

 

Pines, amber and green, slanting upward

Light spilling into gleaming bars

Silence steals from heart to mind, silence whispering;

Hush—for even the forest has a voice.

 

And across the blue and golden ranges

Forests lie unrobed in light’s un-aging glory

Rolling, far-flung, and rolling, further and rolling

Hush—for even the mountains have a voice.

 

Twilight lies low on the mountain’s edges

Pinks and blues, outlined on the ridges

Gray and blue; and gray fog rolls, sealing the night

Hush— for even the dusk has a voice.

 

The forest and the mountains cry out day after day

The dusk and the night shout of glory

The mind grows silent, the silent heart alive;

Hush—hush! Even your Maker has a voice.

 

Photo credit: pixabay.com

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Remember

I live in a world where vehicles crowd

Each other in unending race;

Streetlights outshine the stars at night

And smog smothers the young moon’s face;

The air is heavy with the scent of fumes

Even at night the din rarely dies;

Yet I find my way in this rush of life

Where myriads of sound from the city rise.

 

And sometimes they ask me, do you remember

The elms in the winter night?

The falling of snowflakes in the muffled dusk

And the way they dance in the light?

Or the way the mountains look in the rain

When cat-footed and gray comes the mist,

And one by one the lights blink on

Solitary beacons, alone, fog-kissed.

 

No, I have not forgotten, and the memory

Comes quick and gold and keen,

And I know when wind shakes the elms with snow

For I feel a stirring, a glad unseen;

And when the mist comes creeping up the mountainside

And the lights gleam on, a pain,

A beautiful pain, chokes, and I can forget

Only as the wind can forget the rain.

 

October 3 (for Creative Writing class)

featured photo credit: pixabay.com

Confessions of a Feeler

One of the hardest things about being someone who processes through writing is when the words simply don’t come. Last evening, as I sat beside the pond at the university I study at, I begin journaling, trying desperately to put into words what I was feeling. But it felt impossible.

This is what I wrote.

“There are moments these days when I find myself supremely happy, almost delirious with joy at the way the clouds pile up over the mountain at sunset and the way the light shafts over the ragged edges of the clouds and the way the birds soar high in the face of the sunset. Or when I find myself walking through the market in the evening when the cool of the day is beginning to set in and I listen to the traditional Thai songs playing over the loudspeakers and greet friends I happen to meet there.

“And then there are moments these days when I am sick to my stomach with a heaviness and sadness, loneliness carving at my soul, curling up deep inside my stomach somewhere. Unexplainable, yes, but still there, something deep and aching inside of me that simply won’t go away that brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. And after the tears, the heaviness remains, and a fragile exhaustion.

“And then there are times when those moments of happiness, loneliness and deep, deep sadness all collide together in one lump inside of me.

“It’s not that I am not happy. I sometimes feel like this is one of the happiest times of my life? How could I be unhappy with the God I love, the family I have, the rich diversity of friendships I can claim, and the joy I feel of being alive in this world?

“It’s just that I am so sad, too.

“For a while, pain and sadness and loneliness can be embraced, and almost welcomed. It’s going to leave you a better person, you know. But after a while the challenge leaves and you simply hurt. And it’s exhausting.

“What is it actually? Some kind of mixture of homesickness and missing all the people that make home home. It’s loneliness when I see a man and woman sitting at the picnic table, talking and laughing in an intimate conversation. Some of it is a longing for something deeper and more, something beyond this world that nothing here can satisfy. But mostly, I am starting to think that it is the burden of a feeler that “catches” the sorrow and sadness that coats this world like a fog.”

That’s what I journaled last night as I sat beside the pond and cried and wished I could somehow turn it all into a poem because if I can express myself, I can find relief. But no relief came. I wracked my brain, trying to think what I ate that could trigger that effect, and wondering what kind of chemicals were at work in my brain.

Does it sound weird? Catching other people’s feelings?

The cloud hung over me today as I journaled and prayed this morning, and as I listened to scripture recordings and baked pizza dough for tomorrow. It stayed over me while I baked some cupcakes and stirred together pizza sauce and swept and mopped the breezeway. Only tonight as I begin to talk with some of the others about their day, and left the house for the market, and talked with some friends I met on the way, did I begin to feel it lifting. Its going left a relief not unlike the relief you get after a nagging headache begins to lift once you take some painkillers. And only now am I able to begin putting it into words, even though this feeling still sits in my stomach, not as heavy as before, but still tugging at my tears every now and then.

I’ve felt this before, but lately, it’s been harder. It’s been harder to remember who I am really am, and sift through these feelings of what belongs to me and what I am experiencing from the environment around me. Sometimes I can keep on going on the outside as if nothing is going on on the inside. Other times I simply need to get away, yet I have realized that I need to be careful not to simply be alone too long, because sometimes it can also increase the depression, if I don’t have answers yet on how to deal with it.

I’m only now expressing it, but I’ve felt it often, sometimes in crowds of people like the night market, when I watch the hundreds of people walking and begin to feel an inexpressible sadness. I felt it as a teacher of a student with deep anger and pain issues. I found myself crying after school, deep in pain myself. Thinking back, I’ve experienced it more times than I can count.

Being a feeler, or an empathizer, means that you can easily see someone else’s viewpoint, enter into their pain with them, feel what they are feeling. This is a gift, this ability. It lets you walk beside others and have a window into their world.

It’s also dangerous.

I talk with someone who is cynical against my faith and the core values I embrace. I begin to feel cynical.

I read a book about someone who doubts everything he grew up thinking and believing. I begin to doubt.

I wash back and forth between two opinions, unable to decide on just one of them because I can too clearly understand and feel the pros and cons of both.

A friend is struggling and I am plunged into a gray mood, like a cloud is on top of me and some kind of giant tongue depressor is on top of the cloud.

For a long time, I didn’t write about it. Mostly because I didn’t understand it, or because it sounded weird and witchlike.

Sometimes I realize that it is a call to prayer for a certain person. But sometimes it takes a while for me to catch on who I am supposed to pray for.

I am still wrestling through it, trying to figure out what it is that I am feeling. But simply knowing that I have a tendency to do this has helped me tremendously in being able to stand in the presence of books and people with whom I don’t agree, instead of slinking away for fear that I will be swayed with cynicism or doubt. I can differentiate better what I am feeling and yet, what I still believe. I can also realize that sometimes I feel a certain way through no fault of my own.

Does any of this sound familiar? I have researched it some, and found some answers, however, not much.

I’m curious. What do you think? Have you ever felt this way? Have you ever felt like you overfeel everything?

Kaleidoscope

Close to a year ago, I wrote a poem about my world being on my desk, here. This is a similar poem, now a year later, and this time, it’s in my backpack. 

Photo credit: Pexel

 

My world is in my backpack

Stuffed into pockets and corners and zipped compartments

Crammed until I can hardly close it.

 

Every now and long forgotten items surface

Like the chicken bones my friend found in a pocket one day

Or the little bag of sticky rice I forgot for weeks,

Not unlike the skeletons in the proverbial closet.

 

My world is in my backpack, or at least a ¾ part of it.

 

Crumpled on the bottom is the linguistics quiz

With the mysterious .5 marked off of it,

Several baht coins scattered about unceremoniously

With one lone Abraham Lincoln penny still holding its ground;

Flashcards from aforesaid linguistics prep,

Harmonica that helps release the ache on lonely moonlit nights,

And a long-forgotten packet of fisherman’s friend lozenges;

Socks for when the air-conditioning becomes too much for me

(And when I need the comfort of something cozy again).

Notes from doing a movie analysis needed for my final paper,

And my faithful Kindle which is to me what Friday was to Crusoe;

Crumpled up paper about faith with a chocolate smudge

With a list of children’s names on the back from VBS, reminding me that yes, I was at home this summer.

Breathsavers that I think must have come from my sister’s dresser drawer

From back home in that creaky second story that turns frigid on cold winter nights

(And I really should give them back to her because I completely forgot I had them.)

A crumpled-up business card for a souvenir shop that I can only think came from that Thai lady

The one I met at the airport in China when my flight home was canceled

And she made me cry with her kindness  when we heard the news at 2 AM.

My phone, my key ring that holds 7 keys (of which only 2 I use),

2 USB sticks, eyedrops for when the long drives on my bike are too much;

A receipt for a latte at Start Up café, and at the same time, one crumpled up receipt from

Dunkin Donuts at the Dwight D. Eisenhower airport in Wichita

When I bought a latte on my way back and drank it while reading the card from my mom,

And crying while I ate the cookies that the little blonde boy brought over for me

Just before I left, and he asked me matter of factly,

When the airplane was coming to pick me up?

A lone key that used to be for the old lock on the gate,

A leftover paper from English class with a list on the back

Of items I need for my residency papers.

A flashlight, a pencil a friend gave me just before exams

And a post card my Japanese friend gave to me of a cityscape from her trip to Hungary.

A scissors, a set of watercolor pencils, and a pad of watercolor paper

Just in case, you know, I ever find myself somewhere with nothing to do.

Sunglasses for those long drives to IGo at 5:15 PM,

And two energy bars to sneakily eat at coffee shops when I am too stingy to buy food with my coffee;

Two packs of cards to play games with my English students;

Crumpled and folded and fingered notes from the presentation on nonverbal communication,

When I bent and crushed the papers in my hand, no, not nervous at all.

The planner my friend gave to me at Christmas

That says “The Best Year Ever,” and I think I believe it

Even though the year has been thrown into a backpack

And juggled around through customs and airports and classes

From farm world to city world, from one life to the other.

 

My billfold with 3 different drivers licenses, 2 Thai and one American,

My blood donor card I haven’t used for years,

Along with my student ID and my Bangkok Bank card

And about 10 others I rarely use.

My little catch all bag from a Thai friend for Christmas, full of pens

And a spinner, and highlighters and pencil sharpeners and sticky notes,

With the keychain that has the word “Jesus” on it,

From my friend who has left for the cornfields of Indiana;

A paper left over from Aj. Tony’s survey about how many languages we speak

(And I still can’t decide how many it actually is);

 

Then finally the little miniature airplane I made out of the gold foil

That wrapped the chocolate my friend from Ho Chi Minh City gave me last weekend.

I finger it and lift it up, give it a whirl,

Watch it glimmer,

And wonder.

If I Would Tell You…

 

If I would tell you what a river was like

If you’d never seen one before,

Then I could tell you that it is water

That runs between two shores;

And how it starts with being a spring

And ends with being a sea,

But I am afraid I cannot explain

What a river means to me.

 

If I could explain silence and strength and song,

Paint it with brown and gold and blue;

Mold peace and heartache into a bed

For this wide river to run on and through;

Then weave a scarf from the moonlight’s beam,

And capture the life-strength of a tree,

Then maybe, just maybe, I could explain

What a river means to me.

Currently for my creative writing class at Payap University, our homework is to write an hour a day. About anything. Today as I sat beside the Mae Ping river, this is one of the things I wrote. 

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*Photo credits: Melissa Weber

 

words

they are

locked and no one

gives me the key

 

they have lived there for a thousand years

(as old as my soul feels)

pulsating, alive, fluid

 

they are wild and lonely

words

of mountain summits,

love,

somehow light–

and

dusk

 

life and death

so close together

when life rises glimmering,

knowing

death comes

 

I will die

if I do not have

them

 

but though they live,

burning inside me

I do not

understand them

 

and somehow death comes

again, and again.

 

words,

oh these words!

 

light slips through my fingers

 

*author’s note: sometimes I write things that I barely understand myself. But if I really could understand this, it would never have been written.

Gifts of Summer

I was looking through my folder of updates that I send to people at home and found the one I wrote just after I got back to Chiang Mai from my summer at home. 

I cried. 

It was hard for me to adjust back into the swing of things here in Chiang Mai after my colorful summer at home. But once I was adjusted, I almost forgot about it. And that makes me sad, that I would forget something that beautiful. 

So I decided to share it on here. 

I miss them. 

Gifts of Summer

(May 12-July 28)

Lights from the Chinese airfield are bright in my eyes at 4 AM. The floor is hard, yet not too hard to sleep. Something bites my feet and I wonder what kind of insects would inhabit the carpet of Guangzhou airport. 11 hours down and 6 more hours to go until my rescheduled flight leaves. The night has been long, but the people who befriended me have been kind. We have our own little Thai corner in this Chinese airport, these disappointed travelers and I, and we dream our troubles away.

Home feels just right. It is Monday morning and I wake up to a drizzle on the roof. A robin’s rain call echoes. Dad comes striding in over the lawn after fetching the newspaper after the morning’s milking. Smells of breakfast drift up to my jet-lagged body. Life feels good.

The little blonde boy holds the strawberries in his hand and laughs with delight. We sit on the west porch and first munch our fruit, then wash it down with “coffee” which is flavored milk in Grandpa’s mug. He is quite pleased that he uses Grandpa’s mug. “Now we have to watch the birds,” he says, meaning the swallows that swoop over the lawn in the morning.

The night is soft and cool. The train whistle splits the evening air. We run laughing, breathless and barefoot to meet it at the crossroads. Its thunder drowns our heartbeats and we savor the power harnessed by man.

The fork clinks onto the plate of pie. One coconut, one peanut butter chocolate, one apple. The pie case door thumps as it shuts. Ice tinkles as it is scooped into a glass. Someone laughs. The smell of French fries and a thousand other fried things drifts up to the front. I clear the leftover pie plates from the table. Put the tip in my pocket. Scrape the food into the trash. Scoop ice. Fill waters. Grab silverware. Smile. “Would you like anything else to drink besides water?”

The volleyball thumps onto the cement floor before hitting the fence with a “ching.” In. Next serve goes into the net. The spicy smell of evergreens pervades the air, the air is cool and the moon is bright tonight. It is late. I should be in bed. But tonight I am 16. And I am having fun.

The motor throbs in the early morning. The sunrise glows in the east. Cows crowd into the barn. Wipe the dirt from the teats, dip them, strip out a stream of white milk, wipe them clean, put on the milker, dip them, open the gate. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

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They come streaming onto the benches that squeak under the weight. 28 bare feet wiggle as 14 mouths sing the old German songs of Summer Bibel Schule. I relive my childhood in those days, remembering how the big boys used to sing the refrain of “Nur das Blut das Lammes Jesu,” and how deep and scary their voices were and how awe-inspiring they were to little first graders. Then we sing, “Herr ich Komm” and I remember the little jumps we liked to add to the chorus, and wonder how exasperated our teachers must have gotten.

Thistles blow in the wind. The wide sky touches the green world around me and grasses wave. Thrust the spade down. Dig up the roots. Clip off the pretty purple flowers and put them in a bucket. Breath deeply and stretch. The air is medicine.

“Sing it again!” she says fascinated, her eyes bright. I sigh and launch into the 31st rendition of “Boom di ya da” in Thai. “Chan chaub du pukao, chan chaub du talee yai…”

The wheat field sighs. It is pregnant with its harvest and only awaits the teeth of the combine. Elevators seem dominate the horizon, even though there aren’t any more than before. Tractors, trucks and combines drone late into the night. The harvest lures me, calls me, fascinates me.

5:00 AM. June 20. My sister’s cell phone rings and I hear her answer it sleepily from my room. It is my older sister, Susan. “Happy Birthday,” she says.

9:49 AM. June 20. I answer the phone at my sister’s house. “Happy Birthday,” says my brother in law. Evan Samuel, born June 20. Yes, happy birthday!

The bean row is long. Longer than I have ever seen before. And there are 6 of them. Stretching all the way from Pleasantview to Yoder. Yet a feeling of satisfaction fills me as I wipe the sweat off my face and look at the fruits of my labor. It feels good.

Mozzarella sticks. Onion rings. French fries. Mountain Dew. We are not eating healthy this afternoon. Two excited boys share the booth seat in front of me. We eat our fried things with relish, laugh at ten year old boy jokes and sing the worm song as we suck the onions out of the breading. Happy Birthday, Davon.

Creak of the saddle. Sunflowers in my horse’s bridle. Laughter of friends. The night is soft. Lights create crazy silhouettes of rider forms running through the dark and dust. We gallop through the dark, and gallop and gallop and gallop….

Itch….. itch……. Itch…itch… Itch..Itch.Itch.Itch.Itchitchitchitchitchitchitch. The red rash reminds me that I am not immune to poison ivy after all. Itchitchitchitchitchitchitch…..

The cravings come at odd times, late at night when people on the other side of the world are eating their spicy, mouthwatering, lime-juice laden, cilantro-decked food over fluffy white rice. I eat an egg sandwich. And munch cereal.

Cancer. The word splinters the joy of summer with shock. Breast cancer. Brain cancer. We discuss the implications with furrowed brows and hushed voices.

We cram into the cabin as rain drums outside. Twenty-five Hershbergers in one cabin is quite a feat. And quite noisy. The left-behind ice chests finally arrive and we eat the creamy ice cream it contains, savoring the cool before we sing some songs. We have this moment to hold in our hands.

Colors go wild. The wake of the boat swathes white into the blue of the water as we skim along the surface. Red bluffs and blue sky, bluer water and white foam, green grass and white gulls. A gull follows us for a while. We do a loop in the water and I put my hand out to feel the spray. The little blonde boy falls asleep.

Six of them. I count heads again to make sure, make sure none of them bobbed beneath the water too long. We splash in the water and laugh, chasing sticks bobbing on the surface, savoring life.

It was summer. We lived it. It was good.

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I Am From

My friend, Tina, introduced me to “I Am From” poems, which were introduced to her by her housemate, Anita, who blogs about it here.

Every Monday night, the 6 ladies I share a house with and I have our “family night.” Two weeks ago, was my turn to choose an activity, so I brought the templates for writing “I Am From” poems.

It was hard, but rewarding, and fascinating to catch a glimpse into the fabric of what my friends’ lives were made up of.

While I won’t share all of them, here is what I wrote.

(Based on the poem “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon. here)

I am From

I am from Tupperware, from muddy chore boots, and the yellow rotary phone on the wall of the kitchen.

I am from the trailer house under the Osage orange trees on the dirt road, and from the brick and wood and gables two-story house, from the aroma of fresh-baked bread and the scent of cow manure.

I am from the amber expanse of wheat in June, from frail May lilacs, and kittens on the windowsill, the scarlet maple tree whose long gone limbs I remember as if they were my own.

I am from reading Luke 2 on Christmas mornings, and pancake breakfasts on the west porch on Memorial Day. I am from eating slow and arriving late, from Daniel and Verna, and Mark and Mary, and Abe and Katie. I am from books and newspapers at the breakfast table, and eating bran flakes at midnight, and popcorn and apples on Sunday afternoons.

I am from “nigh-night” and “luf ya gansi bunch” and “Gott ist die Liebe”, and Laura Ingalls Wilder and Hardy Boys. I am from Thanksgiving dinners with pumpkin pie, and aunts and uncles with whole-hearted belly laughs, and tears running from laughter.

I am from quiet and reticent, from talkative and blunt, from Hutchinson and Kalona and the Alps of Switzerland and somewhere in the northern part of Thailand, from chocolate chip cookies, and from fried cornmeal mush with cane molasses, and from sticky rice.

I am from stormy nights on the way to the hospital when labor pangs seized and trees fell across the street, from shotguns fired by curious boys while guardian angles hovered above.

I am from combine rides and Pepsi on breathless summer afternoons, from barefoot in church singing slow German hymns, from the unvarnished dry sink against the kitchen wall from Great Grandma Nettie, from cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate on snowy mornings.

I am from silent and sensitive, from noisy and hilarious, from dreamer and homebody.

I am from still summer nights, and far away train whistles.

I am from all those and more.

Impressions of a Journey

  1. Goodbyes are heart-wrenching and color my entire trip from Wichita to Dallas to Los Angeles to Guangzhao to Chiang Mai.
  2. The lady at the counter furrows her eyebrows as she searches for my visa in my passport. “We can’t let you get on the plane if you don’t have a visa and a reentry permit,” she says. I flip through the passport and find it, breathing an inner sigh of relief when she nods her head and wishes me the best.
  3. The floor of the new Wichita airport is shiny, even in the bathroom. I find it interesting that as I sit on the toilet, I can see the reflection of the person in the opposite stall. This is funny and hilarious until I remember that they can see me just as well as I can see them. I finish my business quickly and leave the room.
  4. I watch the last of Kansas soil disappear from the window of the airplane and cry. The girl beside me is heading home after a year in Ghana, working as a volunteer with agricultural projects.
  5. The plane landing in Dallas is rough. After we land the little girl in front of me loses her lunch. I offer her a bag to put in some more of her lunch, and try to hold my nose shut inconspicuously. Her mom thanks me and sighs. They have only a few minutes to catch their next flight since this flight was about 20 minutes late.
  6. In Los Angeles, I check the screen to see my flight’s schedule. Someone sneezes in the distance. An airport worker sitting close to the screen shouts out, “Bless you!” I grin at him, thinking this is probably the last time in a long time I will hear those words in relation to a sneeze. (you don’t say “bless you” when someone sneezes in Thailand. I don’t know why. You just don’t.) He grins back.
  7. 6 hours down. 8 more to go. The air is dry, the quarters are close, and I wonder if I will go crazy or not. I sleep instead.
  8. The Chinese man on the one side of me and the Vietnamese man on the other side enjoy their food with great relish and sound effects. I block it out and enjoy my food with great relish and zero sound effects.
  9. The toilet paper in the airplane bathroom has somehow unraveled several squares and is on the floor. I freshen up quickly and head back to my seat, only to look down in dismay at the foot-long trail of toilet paper that has stuck firmly to my shoe and followed me back to my seat.
  10. Someone sneezes on the plane. The Vietnamese man says, “Bless you.” I giggle inwardly.
  11. I feel good when we land in Guangzhou, China, better than I have ever felt before after a 14 hour flight. This airport and I, however, have trust issues stemming from a 17 hour layover, flight cancelations, and exorbitant food and coffee prices when I flew home in May. I begrudgingly buy a yogurt parfait since I have some Chinese yuan I have no other place to spend, but dig out my Vietnamese coffee filter I brought specially for this occasion. The airport has no cold drinking water, but hot and warm water instead. I make my coffee with the hot water and chuckle an evil chuckle to myself as I drink it and enjoy my little rebellion and protest at ridiculous coffee prices.
  12. The parfait is delicious, perfection in itself. The coffee is…. ok.
  13. I meet a Belgium man and his Thai wife. We become friends as I help him connect to airport wifi. His wife, when she learns I speak Thai, begins to ask me questions about my lifestyle and dress. Thinking I am a sister, she asks, “Can you get married?” “Yes,” I say, and wonder at her reaction. “Really?! Really?!” I don’t wonder for long. It turns out that she has very serious matrimonial designs for her 30 year old half Thai son and feels that I would fit right into that design. She goes down the checklist: I speak Thai. I speak English. I even speak some Northern Thai. I have good manners. I study at Payap, (her son is a graduate of there). She asks my age and date of birth. I fit the specifications exactly. She cannot understand why I do not jump at the chance.
  14. I still am not sure if I am ready to land in Chiang Mai yet or not, but my flight is leaving and I must board.
  15. The flight to Chiang Mai is made interesting through conversation with my backpacker seatmate. He is an intelligent conversationalist and talking with him is fun and easy. He has traveled the world extensively.
  16. The sky is beautiful. The Chinese boy in the seat behind me looks at it and says, “Hen piao liang!”
  17. Doi Sutthep greets me as we land. I feel a thrill of happiness. Eight friendly faces greet me as I come out of customs. Eight hugs make me feel welcome.
  18. I am glad to be back.

*photo credit: pixabay

The Train and the Little Blonde Boy

wyoming-397901_1280“Where is it going?” asked the little blonde boy.

“I don’t know,” I said.

And we stood watching as the train thundered past

On the black tracks that split the prairie in two;

Rumbling,

Streaking,

Shaking,

Shouting,

Clattering,

The vibration of its going pounding in our hearts,

Its whistle swallowing our voices,

Heading for cities, and skyscrapers, and brickyards, and stations, and cattleyards, and streets teeming with people,

Where horns honk and traffic runs thick and smog lies low on the skyline.

 

And then we were alone again, the last car a speck on the horizon

And only the echo of the whistle shivered the prairie around us,

Among the “sshhhh” of the wheat field in its heavy ripeness.

 

“Where is it going?” asked the little blonde boy.

“I don’t know,” I said.