Ode to Judes

Ode to Judes

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Dear Mom,

Today marks 11 years since you left this realm. So many little things remind me of you. I miss you mom. I am forever grateful for what you taught me by just being yourself. I try to emulate your teachings:

  • being kind to everyone
  • loving all animals, especially dogs
  • making the ordinary special
  • not passing judgement
  • keeping a clean and tidy house
  • welcoming my friends
  • delighting in taking care of flowers and the garden
  • doubling over in laughter at our stories
  • letting me be me
  • always making time to care for your children
  • knowing how my relationships would turn out before I would
  • smiling sincerely
  • having a positive disposition
  • understanding that I was safe, happy, and at home in Thailand
  • trying to make the world a little bit nicer place
  • letting us know how much you loved us
  • our long telephone conversations form all over the world
  • understanding that ‘I march to the beat of a different drummer’ even though you didn’t always like it, you supported my decisions
  • encouraging me to be a teacher
  • seeing the beauty in things even when you were sick
  • patience
  • gratitude
  • love

Words cannot express how grateful I am for the love you gave to me. The best way to show you how much I love you is to be the person you knew I could be and live by your examples.

Love, Bethy

Rice Farmer in a Past Life?

Rice Farmer in a Past Life?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIs it possible that I was a Thai rice farmer in a past life? There is no way to know for sure. For some reason the sight of rice fields both delight and a remind me of something from long ago. I never tire of the verdant waves in their paddies: from the young pale green stalks, to the darker and taller plants, the whole growing season is gorgeous. Even when the rice is a hay-like colour at harvest time, it’s still absolutely beautiful.

Not only do I like to look at the rice, but planting it is also a joy. Stepping in the muddy water and feeling the squishy soil between my toes is remarkably soothing. It’s slippery, messy and fun.

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About two weeks ago at Panyaden School we planted rice for Mother’s Day (August 12 – the Queen’s birthday). It will be harvested on Father’s Day (December 5 – the King’s birthday).

The process involves taking a few stalks of rice seedlings and plugging them in the mushy mud. After a while with the sun beating down, stooping over, and being covered in mud could get very uncomfortable. As for me, our hour-long planting session wasn’t nearly enough time.

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Surprisingly, way up north in Chiang Mai far away from the sea, the rice paddies make homes for fish, frogs, and even crabs. We noticed fish and tadpoles swimming, and watched a few frogs jump to safety away from our feet.

There must be something about being muddy. I have always adored ceramics, and while in Colombia, the mud volcano topped the list of attractions of the senses.

Ahh, the visually captivating rice fields of Northern Thailand fill me with reverie. Planting rice feels so natural and a perfect way to be connected with the land, the people, and the culture. I’ll stay here with my daily doses of rice field views in the place that feels like home.

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Mother’s Day Rice Planting

Mother’s Day Rice Planting

Mother’s Day in Thailand is on the Queen’s birthday – August 12. This time of year the rice fields are just being replanted. Today at school we planted rice in honor of mothers everywhere.

I see it as being symbolic of growth and nourishment – just like what a mom does for her children.

Walking to the rice field

Earthen bricks (adobe, though I don’t think they use that word here)

getting ready to plant

Rice starts

learning how to plant from Fon

What a beautiful way to say thanks mom.

This guy was much like me: we loved the mud between our toes, standing in the muddy water, and plugging in the rice. We could have planted rice for hours.

planting the paddy is almost done

Soon the field will be filled with  vibrant green. Young rice fields are so beautiful this time of year. Love to all mothers, especially mother earth.

Voices from Home

Voices from Home

My Dad called me when my Aunt Denise was visiting him. She was my Mom’s best friend while she was growing up. Hearing her voice and her, “Bethy, I’ve been reading your blahg, you should be a writer. It sounds like you’re having a fabulous time. Is there a hospital nearby if you get sick? What happened with your dog?” etc.

Not only these kinds of questions and comments, but the cadence in her voice reminded me of my Mom. Thanks Denise. It comforted me to hear your voice. It made me feel loved and cared about. I needed that more than you probably know. It was like hearing a little bit of Mom.

I didn’t know it was Mother’s Day in the US when I was here in Thailand 12 years ago, so I forgot to send my Mom a card or say Happy Mother’s Day, which upset her. I’ll tell her now. Happy Mother’s Day Mom, and all moms everywhere.

Here are some orchids for you:

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La Infinita Tristeza

La Infinita Tristeza 

Even though I know just how lucky I am, it was a day where things weren’t exactly going as planned. I was exhausted from the night before, worked all day, tried to make it in town for yoga, but got stuck in traffic and was too late. I was supposed to meet a new friend for dinner after yoga who I’d met at the acroyoga workshop. When I did meet up him, he was with a huge group of folks from massage school. I wasn’t in the mood for trying to be social with a group of people who all knew each other, out of whom I knew only one.

I could tell I just needed some time on my own. I told my friend, “I think I’ll get a massage.” I didn’t know I’d be getting an intense abdominal chi cleansing organ massage. So very intense I cried, partially due to pain, but generally because it was a huge energy and emotional release. I felt extreme sadness and the phrase la infinita tristeza kept going through my mind – the infinite sadness. I felt my own sadness, my past sadnesses, things that always make me cry, like losing my mom. Then other things on a global scale like war, abuse, poverty, animal cruelty, and the sadness of the whole world came into my brain, and overwhelmed my senses through the release in my body. It felt like I was connecting with the suffering of every sentient being – rather overpowering to say the least.

After lots of tears and the treatment ending, I was a bit embarrassed to come downstairs to see people I’d just met. At that moment the best thing possible happened. At the bottom of the stairs, even from my downward tilted gaze I saw the warm smile of my friend Matthew who I hadn’t seen in months. He said, “It looks like you just had a really good treatment,” and gave me a comforting hug. It was exactly what I needed. It somehow felt that all of the events that hadn’t worked out all evening were leading up to this reunion.

Matthew and I drank ginger tea and proceeded to catch up. I decided to stay with him instead of the other group of people. In showing him my groovy Evel Knievel helmet and we were off on the back of his motorbike. We eventually met some of his friends from massage school at a cool place neither of us had been called the Teak House. It turned into a rollicking dance explosion and despite our lethargy, suddenly we had renewed stamina.

Dancing and laughing at the Teak House

We wanted to keep the dance party going, so four of us piled on Matthew’s motorbike – 2 men, and 2 women – and we drove through Chiang Mai in Thai style. We ended up at a deafening bar that was horrible really. After the spontaneous dance party and our 4-on-a-motorbike entrance, obviously everything afterwards was going to be a let down.

The next morning, Matthew and I went out to delicious breakfast at Angel’s Secrets. With him it’s like being with an amigo verdadero – a true friend. We are connected. We have a lot of similarities and both think that we were Thai in a past life. It occurs to me now that maybe we both were and we somehow knew we had to meet up here again.

We parted ways, but ended up running into each other clothes shopping later that day. I had just tried on a jacket and the first thing he said when he saw me was, “Suay maak maak!” Very beautiful. As he left I mouthed the words, “I love him,” and sighed. I realize on some level I do love him.  I’m definitely not in love with him. It feels more like a divine friendship or kinship.

Later that week, Matthew came to my house and traded the Thai massage body work he’d been learning in exchange for home cooked meal. During my massage he said I had tension in the left lung. He proceeded to tell me the left side represents the female, and lungs represent grieving. He concluded, “This is most likely you grieving for your mother.” Wow! Told you we are somehow connected. Thank you for understanding Matthew. It’s true. I miss my mom. My mother passed away several years ago from lung cancer.

While Matthew and I were eating dinner, Infinita Tristeza by Manu Chao randomly played on my iTunes. I remembered lots of parts of that song: a little boy wants to have children and aks why he can’t. One line I did not remember at all was the mother saying to the child, “Yo siempre estaré a tu lado.” – I will always be by your side. I believe my mom wanted me to know that.