Sunday, March 11, 2018


Hunched forms move through the mass of dripping gray-green foliage, alert to a movement, a crack of a branch, weapons raised forward. An earth-shaking blast. Bodies fly. Screams.
Back in camp, a damp, disheveled young man bends over a typewriter, tapping the keys with urgency. “He’s here as an observer,” a soldier comments.

Names surface in my memory: Daniel Ellsberg, Robert McNamara, Ben Bradlee. Katharine Graham. Viet Nam. It was the late 60’s and early 70’s. A political science graduate, I was living in Berkeley, center of anti-war protests. Here in the theater, the events on the screen begin to come back to me. I’m surprised at how little I remember now. More than fifty years have passed, but the suspenseful unfolding of the story of the Pentagon Papers in the movie “The Post” grabs me.

Lies. Lies. Lies. The American public hoodwinked. There’s a good word: hoodwinked. Duped. Bamboozled. Thousands of young soldiers sacrificing their lives for what? I am angry.
And now? Tantalizing tidbits of information leak out to the public. In a few years we’ll learn the truth about the machinations of our current administration. How we let ourselves be hoodwinked once again. Have we lost the capacity to demand transparency? To be shocked or indignant at the constant flow of lies?

With the movie jungle scenes still fresh in my mind, I watch a “Sixty-second Vacation” feature on CNN. Tall buildings brightly lit up with neon signs. Solid masses of cyclists flow down a broad boulevard. I’m invited to enjoy the attractions of Viet Nam.

I imagine the faces of an American family sitting in their living room watching this latest vacation destination – where their son lost his life. 

Monday, February 26, 2018

History in the Making

The signs are subtle. Shadows fall at a different angle in the backyard. The sun has taken up a more northern position. Scattered clouds drift across the sky. Today it is refreshingly cooler – only 85 degrees. In this last week of February I savor the summertime quiet of the city. Next week the onslaught of vacationers returning from ocean and mountains begins. Children will don their uniforms to return for another year of school.

The earth follows its orbit, slipping us here in the Southern Hemisphere into fall. School days. Cooler days. The seasons according to schedule. We pull on sweaters. Leaves turn brown and orange and yellow. Flowers make way for seeds. These events are so totally predictable that they don’t make the headlines or the history books. They just are.

I’m outside cutting dead flowers when with the new guard on our street walks by. “Buenos días,” we say. I think from his accent he might be Colombian or Venezuelan. I ask. “Venezuelan,” he tells me. He arrived five months ago. “It’s so much easier to get into Chile than the United States.”

This is history in the making. Peruvians. Colombians. Venezuelans. Dominicans. Haitians pour into the country. Word gets around. In Chile there are jobs. The country is stable. Skin tones on faces on crowded downtown streets are darkening. In this insular country most surprising are the growing numbers of black faces – janitors in the supermarket, gardeners in public parks, truck drivers, and construction workers. Others attempt to eke out a living on the street selling black market purses and scarves made in China.

How brave and how desperate the Haitians must have been to find a way to reach this distant country where a different language is spoken. Television reports show classrooms in the modest sectors of town sprinkled with children with big brown eyes gazing out of round black faces. Chileans joke that in a few years, the national soccer team will be a dream team of tall, dark immigrants’ offspring.

I'm considered an expat, not an immigrant. Is that because my skin is lighter? Because I speak English? Because I have a profession? Perhaps it's due to my reason for coming to Chile. When can an immigrant be considered an expat? A look at the big picture reveals that all history has been shaped by movements of populations. Thoughts worth considering.

I like seeing this increasing diversity and smile at the black man I pass on the street. It is a smile of welcome. I hope he knows that. 

Monday, January 29, 2018


Ricardo, my physical therapist, presses his strong hands into my lower back, rubbing in cream with soothing circular and up-and-down motions.

“That’s where it still hurts,” I say. “Is it normal that I still feel pain after seven weeks?”
“Of course,” he answers. “You had major surgery. “They made an incision in your skin and then pulled you open. In my experience, your recovery should take about 3 months.”
“I’ve been feeling kind of low,” I tell him.
“Perfectly normal.”
My step is lighter as I leave.
In spite of my doctor’s reassurances, I need validation for what I am feeling. My family treat me like a queen – breakfast in bed, morning checks on levels of pain, hands to help me up –  for about the first month. I think they expect that I should be better now. Yes, they still ask daily how I feel, but I sense they are losing patience. At the dinner table one night, they claim to feel frustrated that I can’t describe in detail the intensity and location of the pain.
“How does it compare with before surgery?”
“You’re healed on the outside so should also be healed inside.”
“Then the surgery did no good.”
“That doctor keeps changing your medication.”
I tell them I have complete confidence in Doctor B. who reminds me of a big brown teddy bear that I want to hug. We actually do hug each time I leave his office. I can send him a WhatsApp which he answers immediately or calls me on my cell phone.
At home, I report on Ricardo’s comments. That should keep them at bay for a day or two. But doubts prevail in my own head. I pull out the long sheets of information on the two meds I’m still taking.
Adverse Effects: Drowsiness, weight gain, puffiness, weakness, depression, irritability, (and “fondness for doctors.)
That just about covers it. I spend half the day in a stupor, can only walk 4 or 5 blocks, my face is swollen, I feel ugly and find solace in reading and swear like a drunken sailor when I trip over the vacuum cord.

Two days until I see Ricardo again. He reminds me of a ...

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas eve in Bed

‘‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse….

Late, lazy afternoon day. It’s very warm as I lie on top of the bed. A dog barks. Robins tweet.  A strange way to spend this  Christmas Eve. I’ve been bed bound for the past  4 weeks as I recover from back surgery. It doesn’t seem that long, but certainly longer than we expected. So I watch the news, read , answer phone calls and check the multiple WhatsApp dinging into my phone.

Based on the volume of my WhatsApps, I picture the entire city whatsapping and texting this Christmas Eve afternoon : digital Christmas cards. Santa and reindeer jokes, photos, video of glittering Fifth Ave. NYC. And digital hugs. I haven’t checked Facebook yet.  It might seem like I’m quite busy yet all those activities  are interrupted by long, morphine-induced naps and mind explorations. I don’t know when I’ve enjoyed thinking so much. If only I’d have the energy and clarity of thought to jot down those illuminations and pursue those rabbit trails.
Oops, I’m dropping off…
This is my first attempt. AT least it’s a start. Meanwhile, I’ll just sit back and enjoy the view🌈🌎

Monday, November 27, 2017


“I am so very thankful for having all our family reunited here today,” I say. We raise our glasses, even 3 ½ year-old Beltrán, glasses filled with wine or water or juice. I look at the faces around our table: Nico and his girlfriend Laura, both recently arrived from the States; Danny, Ale and their four children: twins Colomba and Manuela, Pascuala and Beltrán; and my husband, Santiago. Table conversation is a lively mix of Spanish and English and translations.
            What a joy to spend the day in the kitchen preparing the Thanksgiving fixings with Laura, sharing menu ideas, googling for recipes, a job I'd usually done alone. She makes a delicious apple pie.

We’d seldom celebrated Thanksgiving here at home over the years. Not being a holiday in Chile, Santiago was at work and the boys in classes or studying for year-end tests. When the boys were younger, we’d gather with other bi-national families for a Thanksgiving pot luck picnic at Marion and Bob’s farm. That tradition ended when families became too numerous. But now, with Nico and Laura here, I wanted to do a traditional Thanksgiving to make Laura feel at home and to impart some of the Thanksgiving tradition to our grandchildren.
I pull out all the stops: best blue linen tablecloth and my mother’s china and silver. Some of the silver is tarnished from little use, so I sit down to polish a few pieces which brings back memories of family Thanksgivings of my childhood. The job of polishing silver often fell to me. My mother rose early to prepare the turkey and stuffing, the mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. I’d help set the table with a white linen tablecloth and napkins and the same china and silver we use today.

At the end of the evening, my heart is full. I am contented and grateful for a traditional American Thanksgiving with all of our binational family gathered around the table, complete with spilled juice and Frida, the dog, scouting for crumbs under the table.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Breaking News!

Finally, happy breaking news!

Our son, Nico, is back in Chile after over 6 years in the U.S. with a short stint in Costa Rica. Laura, his partner, arrives next Tuesday. Time to celebrate with a real family Thanksgiving. Another addition to the family is Frida, a Costa Rican rescue dog, who we think may be part terrier, part pincher. She wakes us in the morning jumping on our bed and giving a quick lick to our faces.
It's fun having a son living at home for a while. He is a Mr. Fix-it, offering to make home improvements. I love it!

My second happy news flash is that I have a contract for my second book, Notes from the Bottom of the World, A Life in Chile, to be published November 20, 2018 by She Writes Press. Whopee!!

Saturday, October 21, 2017


The Familiar
Back again in my hometown for my yearly visit, I soak up the rich scents of vegetation – elm, bay and sequoia trees – and the familiar birdsong as I stand on the deck overlooking the creek of my adoptive family’s house. They receive me warmly as in the past and inform me that a coyote family has taken up residence by the creek. I’ll hear them howling at night.
I take a walk along the main street, San Anselmo Avenue, past the Coffee Roastery, where I’ll meet with old classmates on Saturday, the firehouse, Hilda’s Coffee Shop and Booksmith, my favorite bookstore. Sadly, I notice many empty storefronts in this town that used to draw antique buffs on weekends. I drive to my old neighborhood, park and walk past the home where I grew up. On my route I notice new 2 million dollar houses – the gentrification of a once modest middle class neighborhood.

I call old friends and set up dates for coffee or lunch. With a college classmate we take a nostalgic stroll across the Berkeley campus. On a glorious sunny day I take the ferry to San Francisco to meet with the editor who’s been guiding me through my manuscript. My oldest friend, Paula, and I share many meals, reminiscing on pets, childhood in the barrio, and names of nuns at St. Anselm’s School. Sister Eulalie Rose, Sister Miriam Josepha, Sister Benigna (a favorite). Nothing can compare with sharing childho0d memories with a dear friend.
St. Anselm's School

 The Unexpected
Raging wildfires to the north mark my final week. Heavy smoke, like thick fog, creeps silently into our world. My adoptive family takes in a family of four Santa Rosa evacuees, their four boxers and a sack of twenty ball pythons. (They have beautiful markings. I actually ask to hold one in my hand.) Mom and Dad python are left behind, but survive. 
A canine evacuee

The kitchen becomes a busy place, people and dogs coming and going, cooking for nine and conveying the latest fire updates. The evacuees stay close to the television, watching the flames consume entire residential neighborhoods, not knowing for days if their house is safe.
The Tragic
Another guest in the house is an Iraqi war veteran who suffered brain damage and PTSD- post traumatic stress disorder. He describes to us how the vehicle he was driving hit an IED. His halting speech and awkward bearing are the outward signs of trauma. He attempts to fit into the household routine and participate in table conversation – to be normal – but in moments of weakness seeks relief in drugs. My heart goes out to that young man. Those in national positions of power would think twice before sending men and women off to war if they could spend time with these young victims.

I mustn’t end on a sad note. Once more I’ve been able to enjoy the richness of this landscape where I grew up and I’ve experienced a diverse sampling of American life: the generous sacrifice of firefighters, the growing presence of Latinos in the work force, a friend’s struggle to make ends meet, another friend recovering from cancer surgery, televised baseball playoffs, the pleasure of old friends and the limitless generosity of my hosts, whom I now refer to as “my adoptive family.”