Monday, September 22, 2014

Fickle Spring

A drizzly, grey second day of spring. I've just come from Pilates class, followed by half-an-hour of stationary bike at the gym around the corner (trying to work off my caloric intake over the long weekend). I was the only one at the gym aside from Yolanda, the woman who sits at a desk all day checking in customers while she knits or does crossword puzzles. I watched a Tom Hanks movie with no sound or subtitles while I cycled and tried to ignore the blaring music and ads on the gym radio. Back to city reality.
The days were warmish and pleasant at the coast. It took me a while to quiet my mind and listen to the sound of the waves just below our apartment, a gentle lapping on this large bay. I couldn’t wait to get out! While hubby jogged, I walked along the road bordering the shore to an area with large rocks and crashing breakers. On the other side of the road I was faced with “ocean view” apartment towers built on what were once sloping dunes.
I kept my eyes focused on the ever-moving teal blue sea and foamy breakers, watching for wildlife. A plethora of gliding pelicans (their open beaks reminded me of Edward Scissor-Hands) and raucous seagulls whose chest feathers were the absolute essence of white. Then…I spotted a species of bird I’d never seen before and pulled out my binoculars. It was spectacular. Excited, I waited for hubby to run by to show him, regretting our field guide was back in the city. Only back home did I learn its name: Inca tern.

Along the road, I stopped to photograph an “animita”, a small shrine built in memory of someone who died here. Chilean roadsides are populated by these shrines, bedecked with flowers (plastic and live) and inscriptions. I regretted later that I didn't photograph the stand offering bundles of seaweed for sale, a traditional ingredient for stews.

After at least a year without an ocean visit, I was on a wildlife roll, spotting two sea otters, my first sighting in that populated stretch of coastline. On my return, I walked briskly, on a high, breathing in the sea air as it brushed my face. That was what I had come for.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

September in the Air

September is my favorite month here, filled with hope and promises. My camellias, azaleas and freesias are bursting forth, tender leaves budding and Chilean flags blooming. Next week is Independence Week; supermarkets are gaily decorated with red, white and blue buntings, while the catchy rhythms of the cueca have me humming along. The 17th and the 18th, the official holidays, fall on Thursday and Friday, making a welcome long weekend. At least half of the city’s inhabitants will head out of town, including hubby and me. We’ve been lent an apartment at the coast, which has me excited as I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen the sea here. There’s one big drawback though – everyone else will be headed that way as well. I try not to think about the snaking lines of traffic we’ll face along the narrow coast road.
I look forward to long walks on the cliff bordering the breakers, the tangy sea air and sightings of gliding lines of pelicans. I hope I can convince hubby to brave the traffic to go to Valparaiso, whose narrow lanes lined with bright murals, hilly stairways and creaking funiculars promise surprise and creative inspiration. Maybe we can stop at the Dissidents’ Cemetery where I want to search for Scottish immigrant ancestors.

 After grey winter months spent mostly at the computer, I need a change of scene to stimulate my creative juices. What better place than the ocean and Valparaiso? I’ll take a notebook along.