Memories. So much more than images, far beyond mere visual recollection. Memories are emotion, sensation, sound, scent, flavor.
Driving down the dusty dirt road under the cloudless September blue sky. A full load of hay strapped down on the back of the gray-yellow farm truck, weighing us down, forcing us to go at a leisurely pace. The musty leather of our work gloves mingles with alfalfa and fragrant clover filling the cab of the truck and our nostrils with the pleasing country scent.
The wind has been blowing, my lips are chapped and dry. As I slather on some Burt’s Bee’s lip balm the peppermint tastes sweet and feels deliciously cool on my sore lips. Alfalfa has worked it’s way into our clothes, itching and irritating in awkward places. We wriggle uncomfortably but there’s not much room with all six of us crammed into the cab of the truck. I giggle noticing that the pockets of my plaid work shirt are full of hay. I feel like there’s a whole bale of it in my nose and can’t stop sneezing. There’s an ever widening hole in my pants where I use my knee to help me shove the bale onto the truck and my skin is raw where it’s been scraped against the rough bales.
The windows are open and the autumn breeze flows over us, sweet and wild, cool and refreshing. Muscles ache with weariness. Heaving seventy-pound, scratchy, bristly hay bales to the bed of the truck three feet from the ground is not easy especially when some of us aren’t much bigger than the bales themselves. It feels like I’ve walked twenty miles, following the truck between row after row of bales scatted throughout the field, jogging to the the next one as the truck gets close, heaving it up and then trying to beat the truck to the next bale to do it again. Exhilaration tinges exhaustion though, we did good today. Eight loads isn’t bad and it only leaves a couple more for tomorrow.
The day is breathtaking, the mountain crystal clear, the air fresh and just a little sharp. Our conversation as we drive slowly back to the farm ranges from bathroom humor to deep Biblical discussions to what’s for dinner to solemn admonitions and (mostly) good-natured teasing.
This is hay season. This is autumn in Montana.
But this is past.
I guess that’s part of growing up, isn’t it? The leaving I mean. Things just don’t stay the same, no matter how good they are. Things change.
It hurts. Closing a chapter, ending an era, whatever you call it. It’s like a death. That time has passed away. You can’t get it back.
That’s what I felt as we drove away from the farm on November 9, 2013 headed for India for what I thought was only six months.
But now looking back, that moment was even more profound than what I had thought. At the time I knew somehow that things would never return to the way they were. Good thing God didn’t let me in on the whole story or I would have run away screaming. (And hey, I still don’t know the whole story yet… leaves me wondering what God’s got up his sleeve…)
Eight months in India and it was more, oh, so much more than I ever could have imagined.
And yet that season is now over as well.
I find myself pining. Pining for Montana, for the freedom to just leave, step outside the back door and walk for as long as I want, to be utterly alone and safe that way; for the mountains, lakes, creeks, trees, snow and beauty of my beloved home state.
I find myself pining for India, the breathless beauty and dizzying height of the Himalayan hill stations, the sight of the white caps, or the mystery of the mist shrouding everything, my Indian clothes, my Indian home, the raw intensity, and even the chaotic noise of India.
And then I wake up and slap myself. The wisest guy who ever lived had something to say to me, “Say not thou, what is the cause that former days were better than these? for thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this.” I’m pretty sure he said it that way, KJV style, but more pointedly, “Don’t long for the ‘good old days.’ This is not wise.” (Ecclesiastes 7:10 NLT)
Yeah. Mina, quit your whinin’ and pinin’.
Savor the memories, but don’t live in them. Miss home but not to the point of never settling here.
Here in Thailand where I have the privilege to live for a season.
Seasons shift, chapters close, eras end. This is life. This is growing up. It’s painful, it’s heart-wrenching.
But I have memories. I have the chance to occasionally indulge in nostalgia and remember the smell of alfalfa and the itch of the hay in my clothes.
But most importantly I have my family to make new memories, to live life with.
Thank God for memories.
Thank God for the frustrating, grueling, thrilling, shaping right now of living.
And thank God for mystery, for shrouding the future, leaving me wondering, hoping, anticipating.