Saturday, May 31, 2014


I wrote this several weeks ago, but lacked time to post it.

Today is International Recycling Day according to our local newspaper, which included a special supplement on the subject. (Also included were heavy glossy magazines from department stores and a travel agency, one dedicated entirely to SWEATERS, and another to the latest in giant TVs, promising the same sensation as actually BEING at the upcoming World Cup in Brazil.)
I took a big load today to our local recycling center, not because it’s International Recycling Day. I’m just tying up loose ends before we travel to New York tomorrow. I expected a line at the recycling center, but I was the only one there.
Preparing for a trip does weird things to my head. I feel the need to put order in my life and our house, rather like emptying an Inbox labeled “Life”. I cleaned up a pile of papers in my study – drafts and rewrites and more rewrites – which gave me a light, uncluttered feeling. I checked the garden for any urgent last minute snipping or spraying, responded to all the pending emails and deleted all the spam (over one hundred!), and bought boxes of pills to cover my medical needs for two weeks. I’ll sort them into bags marked “a.m.” “p.m.” and “other”.  
Next on my list is choosing a lightweight paperback to read on the plane. I’ve only read half of Cien Años de Soledad but this deluxe edition is way too heavy for travel. I do worry that, when I return, I will have totally forgotten who is who among all the Aurelios and the Arcadios.
I could spend hours at the Strand bookstore in New York. But there’s never enough time to browse and then there’s the tough decision of narrowing down my choices to what will fit in my suitcase.

“Narrowing down” is a must when traveling. And in life. What do I need? What are the essentials? For this trip? For my life? I feel a certain anxiety about leaving home, because it involves some uprooting, if only temporary. To travel I must leave behind the known and the comfortable while also I go forth to the novel, the stimulating and eye-opening unknown. I am ready for that. Long stretches of time in the same routine in this city stultify me.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

                                             A Rant and a Laugh

Still no rain. The weather predictions for the next week: sunny. I miss the sound of falling rain on the roof, vegetation and stone, the plunk-plunk in the rain spouts. I yearn for the smell of wetness – wet leaves. It’s been so long, these feel only like childhood memories. The air is saturated with smog, vegetation layered with soot. Yesterday, out walking on the city streets, doing my errands, the golden fall colors helped dissipate my negative thoughts. I don’t like living my day with a black cloud lurking over me. But beside a fallen yellow leaf there was a candy wrapper, a coke can, and further along cigarette butts. I once read that litter attracts litter. My observations tell me this is true. Bits of trash litter a weed-ridden, unkempt corner yard two blocks away. People think it’s acceptable to toss a crumpled paper there. I take that back – I doubt they think, which gets me thinking about recycling and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. I Googled the phenomenon which is also known as a gyre and the Great Pacific Trash Vortex. It’s all about PLASTIC. 
Grocery shopping takes me longer now as, glasses perched on my nose, I examine the underside of containers. Does the tiny triangle hold a number 1, followed by the letters PET? If not, back on the shelf it goes. But I often have no choice. If I want to eat yoghurt or buy household cleaning products, I must sin against planet Earth. How I’d like to have an interview with the CEO of Johnson and Johnson and give him an earful.
This lack of rain and the thought of all that accumulating plastic on land and sea frustrate me. I feel powerless, even though I sign every green petition that appears in my Inbox, refuse a plastic bag for my box of aspirin at the pharmacy and take my own cloth bags to the supermarket, while all around me customers file by with carts filled with plastic bags.
Experts here say there’s a good chance La Niña will bring us rain this winter. I’ll believe it when I see it, hear it and smell it.
Now that I’ve had a good rant, I’ll admit that, arriving home yesterday, the trilling of the hummingbirds at the feeder in our backyard cheered me up. Then I sat down to watch an entire hour of “The Big Bang Theory”, which had me laughing out loud. There’s nothing like a good laugh to put things in perspective – for a while.

Saturday, May 3, 2014


Rain is predicted. Dark clouds have loomed threateningly today and yesterday, but all we’ve gotten is an occasional teasing drizzle. It hasn’t rained here in 7, 8 or 9 months and this is the fifth consecutive year of drought. I look at the clouds and I make a silent prayer. Please. Rain.  If we could understand the language of the trees and the ground beneath us, I imagine they’re begging for moisture. I’m certain my redwood tree is.

Strong erratic gusts of wind knocked over our small ilán-ilán (Aloysia) tree in the backyard. It was top heavy with branches tipped with wonderfully fragrant white, lacy flowers, abuzz with a multitude of honey bees. Cutting off all the branches in order to lift the tree into an upright position, I saved the flowers to put in a jug in the house. The bees clung to the cut flowers, and I regretted having to deprive them of their source of food. Where will they go now that winter is on its way?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Return to the Tropics

I brushed my hair, put on a touch of lipstick and asked my husband to take a head photo of me. “You’ll have to take about fifty to get a decent one.” He took thirteen, all of them unacceptable. Do I really look like that?
“They’re fine,” he says.
“Not for public consumption,” I reply.
I’m hoping to do some blogging on the Peace Corps Writers webpage. They’ve asked for photos from my Peace Corps experience, fifty years ago, and a current headshot, a true eye opener. What we see in the mirror is a photo-shopped image, not how others see us.
Going through my old Peace Corps photos, many of them on slides (remember them?), stirred up memories, particularly the forgotten faces of people I’d known in the Colombian barrios where I worked.

Those memories and the familiar tropical climate and coastal vocabulary of Cien Años de Soledad motivate me to read on. Tackling it in Spanish isn’t as difficult as I expected, but I do not recommend it for bedtime reading. It requires concentration, especially if you want to keep straight the names of the male characters: José Arcadio, father and son, Arcadio, Aureliano, Aureliano José, Aureliano Segundo, José Arcadio Segundo. Thank god for the handy family tree. García Marquez had a mischievous sense of humor.

            Returning to Colombia is at the top of my bucket list. I want to see how those impoverished barrios have changed. Would I see people who remember me? Would the precarious roads be paved and the shacks converted into solid dwellings? I want to taste fried plantains again, hear the wild chorus of nighttime frogs and inhale that humid, heavy air that sharpened my senses and opened my eyes, in those days when I was young, smooth-skinned and innocent.