Thursday, August 28, 2014

Boxed In

When I park in an underground parking garage in Chile, I curse the architect. The design is anything but user-friendly. The curving ramps between floors are too narrow to make it in one try, and concrete pillars sneak up on me scraping my car door or giving my side-view mirror a good whack. But when I step up to a window to validate my ticket, my inner rants lose importance.
            From a chill subterranean cubicle, a woman receives my money and hands me the ticket. Is she satisfied with this job, sitting all day in a sterile concrete box with no natural light? Does she get bored or is she just thankful to have an income, pitiful as it may be? Perhaps, I think, she never aspired to anything more. Maybe she’s dreaming of buying a new refrigerator.

A woman in a bright orange uniform and cap, pushing a garbage can on wheels, sweeps the street in front of my house, removing the last of the fall and winter leaves. I smile and nod but feel embarrassed that she is sweeping my street, wondering how she feels cleaning the neighborhoods of the upper echelons in a government make-work job. When she finishes her shift, she’ll wait in line for a bus and arrive to her modest house at dark to wash and clean and prepare dinner for her family.
A few days ago I heard the music of an organ grinder floating down the street. Rather than a monkey like organ grinders of old, he travels with a small green parrot in a rustic wooden cage. His cart sports gaily colored balloons and whirly-gigs. No children came out to see him. Maybe he had more luck at the local park.
            Along our street I often hear the gravelly call of the broom vendor and the distinctive whistle of a knife sharpener. On a nearby corner a man changes the cane on wooden chairs.
            What is the job satisfaction of these people? Or is that a luxury they’ve never considered? If given the choice, I’d be an organ grinder: the promise of contact with children, out-of-doors, flexible hours and freedom to go wherever the road takes me. Deep in the parking garage box, I’d wither and die, a sunflower in a sunless world.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Bullets or Blossoms?

It seemed like just overnight that the first timid white blossoms made their appearance on our old apricot tree. I must remember to look at them every day for their beauty is fleeting. Already the pink cherry tree blossoms are fading. Is their ephemeral nature that makes them so precious?
My attention is drawn away from blossoms to the war scenes on the news. While I’m taking pleasure in the signs of spring, on another continent thousands of refugee families are living in tents on hot, dusty treeless plains; young men are assassinated while I worry about what to serve for dinner; mothers lose sons while I’m just a phone call away from mine. I want to rant in anger at someone, at those responsible. I feel so helpless.
One of our nine-year-old twin granddaughters, while visiting us, happened to see scenes of people huddled in the bombed-out rubble that was once their home. What I remember was her comment asked so innocently: “How can they live like that?” She wanted to know who was fighting and why. Technology brings atrocities into our living rooms and we must find ways to answer children’s questions, answers that we ourselves don’t have.
My husband and I watch the news of racial riots in the States. Since I have not lived in the States for decades, it’s difficult for me to understand the events: fires, shooting, teargas, looting and destruction, some instigated by outsider vandals. “Just like here,” I said to my husband: student protests that begin peacefully and deteriorate into violence at the hands of hooded and masked disfranchised youth.

Anyone up for a giant WORLD MARCH FOR PEACE? 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

California Dreamin’

Hints of spring are in the air, though officially it arrives in another six weeks here in the Southern Hemisphere: yellow acacias blooms perfume the air, the cherry trees are donning their pink party dresses and birds are already checking nesting sites. We recently found a plump robin’s nest left from last year. I saved it for a while just for the pleasure of looking at it. Today I was about to toss it into the garbage when I thought: Wait a minute. Maybe the robins would like to recycle these perfectly preserved materials for building this year’s first nest. It would save a lot of scavenging. I placed the nest in the garden. If the robins aren't interested, it will make good compost
Jack Frost is still with us though. A few days ago we had a very cold rain. When it cleared, the Andes glowed brilliant in their fresh mantle of snow, and now rooftops in the mornings are white with frost.

At the supermarket, I gave into temptation. Weary of winter fruit, I bought some very pricy and delicious California grapes. Although a firm believer in buying locally, I have difficulty resisting California off-season fruit. Another time, I bought two peaches just for the exceptional pleasure of savoring their sweetness in the middle of winter.

The first bloom just appeared on the one California poppy I have in my garden. They winter over easily here and often bloom through the winter if in a sunny location. I’ll sow more poppy seeds soon, in hopes of having more luck than last year. The introduced poppies do best in wild, neglected terrain rather than a tended garden. Their preferred habitat in Chile is along railroad tracks.