Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Herbivore Orgy

Apricots bearing severe symptoms of herbivore gluttony litter our backyard, some attacked while still attached to their respective branches, beacons to marauding austral thrushes. The elegantly groomed plant cutter birds eat at tree level or leftover pickings on the ground. I gather what I can salvage, slightly eaten or ripe enough to harvest. These make great afternoon milkshakes, to which I add whatever other fruit I have on hand. Some cherries are still to be had, while nectarines and peaches are making their round, bright appearance in fruit stands and supermarkets.


Our tortoise, who in the past gorged himself on the fallen apricots, is still not showing interest in food. He and the birds used to make a great environmental team, one dislodging the fruit, while Speedy ate what was left. This year he shows no interest, even trotting right over the fruit I’ve placed in his path. Yesterday we made another trip to the vet’s office. He’s puzzled why Speedy is still not eating, took a blood sample and asked me to get another x-ray done. Meanwhile, we continue to give him three kinds of antibiotics daily. He seems to be getting accustomed to being handled so much now and is allowing us to pet him. If only he could tell us his problem.

Monday, December 22, 2014


Table Talk



Recently, we attended a barbecue hosted by one of hubby’s cyclist friends.  After a couple hours, the meat was finally ready and the men had exhausted the topic of cycling. Seated at the long table, I tried to follow the different strains of lively conversation. In spite of the decades I've lived here, I tend to be quiet at large social gatherings, self-conscious of my accented Spanish. This allows me to listen and observe – and learn, especially when it comes to politics.
Even after forty-one years since the military coup, the circumstances preceding and following the coup continue to be a frequent subject of differing and strong opinions. Last night was no exception as the conversation turned to Chile’s painful past during the Allende government and the military government that followed, now often referred to as the military dictatorship. (Interesting how one different word changes the perception.) What called my attention last night was the increased openness or maybe I should say a softening of the rigid stances of those on the pro-Pinochet, political right which were most of the guests present.  Everyone listened as one guest gave what I thought to be a balanced evaluation of the military government, summing up the good – the establishment of a successful economic program – and the bad – the serious human rights violations. No one disputed his points. Had they moved slightly out of their bastions of denial? Maybe it’s like the climate change deniers, when exposed to increasing and undeniable evidence, they began to listen.
I arrived in Chile a year before the coup so I experienced a before and an after as well as the return to democracy. What I did not experience and which must be factored into any understanding of the past was Chile’s political and social history prior to Allende. With the perspective of hindsight, those at the table may have gained a more objective view of their nation’s recent history, although expressing concern about the socialist direction of the present government, fearing a return to the past. Much of the population is too young to have that advantage of perspective over time while others seem to have forgotten or are easily swayed by clever slogans. And there are others whose pain and anger is so deep that they cannot forgive.
Chileans refer to this on-going struggle of settling differences as reconciliation, a painful process that nations, ethnicities and minorities throughout history have undergone and presently experience wherever violence and war are waged.
How relevant to our world are the lyrics to “Blowin’ in the Wind”.

Yes, how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


Dry Days

A line of water trickles along the gutter of our sidewalk. I follow it down the street. I can’t identify from which house it came. I do this often – this sleuthing to identify which neighbor is wasting water. I’ve seen a neighbor washing his car on the street with the hose running; gardens being watered mid-day and malfunctioning sprinklers; people hosing off a driveway and sidewalk rather than sweeping. I don’t want to earn the reputation of a busy body with too much time on her hands, so I don’t say, “Do you realize that Chile is in its fifth year of drought? Shouldn’t we be conserving water?”
Few city dwellers consider where our water comes from. We’re too far from its source. Captured from wild rivers, it’s channeled into wide underground tubes and then into smaller pipes to buildings and homes and gardens and golf courses and fountains and pools. Turn on the faucet and out it pours. Or pop a few bottles of water into your shopping cart. So easy. Here in Santiago most people know it comes from some river that flows from the mountains. Fewer think about the dwindling snow melt that feeds the rivers. I imagine that small town residents and farmers are more aware of their dependence upon wells and shrinking reservoirs.

California has suffered three years of drought. In spite of recent rains, it’s too soon to know if this will be year four. In my hometown north of San Francisco drought awareness is high. Public bathrooms display signs reminding the public to conserve water. The low level in nearby water district reservoirs is clearly visible to the frequent hikers and bikers. The severity of drought makes an impact when you can see it. I travelled with my husband two years ago in the fall to Yosemite, his first visit there. I had to describe to him what the valley looked like in a normal year. Not a drop of water in Yosemite Falls.

As a child our camping vacations in the Sierras always involved walks to Indian Springs to fill our canvas water bag. There was no sign indicating the way along the faint trail that passed through a meadow bright with alpine flowers and fragrant with the aroma of wild onions. Up a short slope, those of us who knew could locate the old pipe through which poured delicious, sweet, cool, crystalline water. I want my grandchildren and every child to have the experience of seeing where water comes from and hearing the tapping of rain on the roof.