Thursday, July 31, 2014

La Llorona

Entertaining my three granddaughters when they come to our house doesn't require much imagination or effort. What we mainly do is Play. Among their favorite past times are drawing, playing house and racing the Matchbox cars that belonged to their dad. We've
also invented a few games that they never tire of.
There’s “Monsters and Animals” which involves pushing, shoving and tickling on top of their grandparents’ bed.
            “I’m an alligator with sharp teeth.”
            “I’m a hippo with a huge mouth.”
            “And I’m a lion with sharp claws.”
And we roll and tickle and shove and laugh until grandmother calls time out for a rest.
Another all time favorite is our version of Jack and the Beanstalk. They call the game “Fee-fi-fo-fu.” I, the giant, stomp around the house hunting for them in their hiding places, while I growl, “Fee-fi-fo-fum.” Their giggling usually gives them away, followed by screams when I find them and threaten to take out a bite of a plump arm or leg.
Last week, we played a Latin American version. We had just watched a Mexican movie, “La Llorona,” based on a legend of Maria, whose children had drowned. Destined to haunt the villages at night in a shroud, wailing for her lost children, she kidnaps village children. I learned of the legend years ago in California and heard the song “La Llorona” on Mexican radio stations. But my Chilean husband had never heard of it.
Throwing a large dark blue shawl over my head, I announced to the girls, “Soy la Llorona. I’m the Llorona”. With hysterical screams, they ran off to find hiding places. I wailed throughout the house, discovering their curled up bodies in dark closet corners, behind armchairs and, finally, under their grandfather’s office desk, with him trying to put on an innocent face.

The child in me loves to play and laugh. I wonder, when the girls are grown, if they’ll remember playing La Llorona with their grandmother.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Things to Do on a Rainy Day

A cold, grey, rainy day is best spent indoors. Right? After going to the gym and doing a couple of errands, I closed myself in and settled into the recliner in my study, thinking about all the postponed household chores I could be doing: sorting the piles of papers in my study, cleaning my sweater drawer where a moth nibbled a hole in my favorite green sweater, reducing the old emails in my Inbox, removing rug stains.  But, instead, I snuggled down to continue reading “West with the Night” by Beryl Markham, a book of my mother’s that had gathered a film of dust on my bookshelf. Now I can't put it down. I read with pencil in hand, underlining poetic phrases and metaphors. As a struggling writer, I get discouraged though. She writes so magnificently. Doubts about the quality of my writing haunt me as I prepare to publish my memoir. My consolation is a quote from Ernest Hemingway upon reading Markham’s book: …”she has written so well, and marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer…. But she can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves as writers.”

            Writers confess to myriads of self-doubts, so maybe what I'm feeling is normal. All I can do is to keep on writing – and reading. I’ll glean what I can from Beryl Markham’s magic with words.


Monday, July 14, 2014

Finding My Way

It’s raining hard. Very hard. A welcome sight and sound in this drought-ridden latitude when I've wondered if I'd ever hear that rushing roar again. The greens in my garden contrast brightly against the grey of the day. Water swirls along the street gutters.
This morning hubby greeted me with, “Happy 14th of July.” It was his way of acknowledging that I arrived in Chile into his waiting arms on this date forty-two years ago, unaware that I'd be spending the rest of my adult life here. Sometimes he has thanked me for my “sacrifice.” At that young age I didn't think of it as a sacrifice. I was naïve and in love. It’s been quite a journey, often a rocky road, challenging and prompting me to explore interior pathways of self-understanding. Lately, I've been reading old letters: correspondence between me and my parents and from hubby to me before I joined him here in his country. They allow me to step lightly back in time to facilitate my efforts to write an honest memoir, working title: Marrying Santiago. I started writing it over ten years ago, but now I believe it’s as ready as it will ever be, though I have so many doubts about putting it out there for other eyes. Is it well-written? Will someone find it of interest?

To me it’s worth it if even one soul finds comfort, understanding or joy in my words, if she can say, “Oh, I know that feeling so well.” And writing it was something I had to do for myself.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Rain on My Parade

It’s the Fourth of July. I picture friends in the States enjoying picnics, town parades and fireworks, while here the scene from my window is dull and grey. Rain is predicted. On the street, people are bundled in coats and woolen scarves, dogs sport capes and wild canaries sing in the treetops as they peck at seed pods. Winter is definitely here, and I work to avoid the doldrums. On these cold, dreary days, I have the unfortunate habit of nibbling on cookies and nuts as I alternate my activities between writing and reading.
I've just begun reading “The Luminaries”, a novel of over eight hundred pages, which I hope will keep me entertained for several weeks. Everyday I scan the newspaper for announcements of concerts and exhibits in order to avoid wintertime stagnation of the mind and spirit. Last week I went downtown alone to view the four-hour-long documentary "At Berkeley." Familiar, beloved campus landscapes triggered nostalgia. The focus of the film - how a public institution can maintain its high standards with decreasing state financial support and, yet, keep tuition rates down - was highly relevant to the attempts at the controversial educational reform here in Chile.
 A few days ago my friend Liliana and I boarded the metro to downtown. The mix of passengers in the metro immediately fuels the creative juices, while downtown Santiago is another world, call it the real world, when compared to our neck of the woods. At the magnificent Museo de Bellas Artes we viewed an exhibit of the Chilean photographer Sergio Larrain. Each of his black and white photographs captures a precise visual moment in time that will never be repeated. His work highlights the great importance of paying attention, particularly to the little things. Feet seemed to hold a special attraction for him, and I understand how they convey emotion, yet are open to the interpretation of the observer. His series depicting the street children of Santiago is disturbing and thought-provoking.

Hubby is off with a group of friends to watch the two World Cup matches. Colombia is playing Brazil at the moment and I will soon go watch the match. Having lived in Colombia for two years, you can imagine where my loyalties lie. I have the television tuned to the game and just heard “GOOOOOOL!” Brazil 1- Colombia 0. Come on Colombia, light your fires!
Oh.Oh.Now it's 2-0.