Thursday, January 29, 2015


Hubby has a new WhatsApp group – his fourth – five old college classmates. There’s another for his running group, his cycling club and his family. I sense creeping jealousy with every Ping. Is his cell phone getting more of his attention than me?
He carries the phone to the table at mealtime. Ping as I serve his salad. Ping while cutting my chicken. His eyes can't resist checking to identify the sender. He keeps the phone in his pocket – Ping – while we watch “Breaking Bad” on Netflix. Ping. Ping. A few nights ago, he left – Ping – it on his bedside table and went upstairs to his office. I climbed into bed, savoring the cooling touch of sheets and sighing in horizontal contentment, read a while and then turned off the light. Eleven o’clock. Just as I slipped into that cottony twilight zone before sleep takes over – Ping. Ping. Don’t those people know what time it is? And why the obsession – Ping – with responding immediately? Channel grazing with the remote control now faces severe competition as THE MOST ANNOYING HABIT. Ping.
Our Brooklyn-er son spent a month with us over the holidays. He immediately went out to get a phone number to use while here, though he seldom talked on the phone. With the apparatus before him, he texted message after message arranging get-togethers with his local friends. I watched his thumbs tap–tap the tiny keyboard, wondering to whom he was writing. Texting rules out any possibility of motherly eavesdropping. I don’t want to appear like the Grand Inquisitor: “Umm -who are you texting?” Granted, he did install and instruct me on the use of Drop Box, Bluetooth and a National Geographic Birds App on my iPad.
WhatsApp-ing and texting are exclusionary forms of communication. Anyone in the vicinity of the texter or WhatsApp-er is transparent, invisible, and YOU ARE NOT A PART OF THIS GROUP or THIS IS NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS.

This is a lot to take for someone who grew up with clunky, black dial telephones, handwritten letters, thank you notes and get-well cards sent in stamped envelopes,  delivered by the postman.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

St. Francis’ Garden

It was probably the hottest day of the year yesterday – over 90 degrees and definitely hotter along the sizzling sidewalk of the Alameda, downtown Santiago’s main artery at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. I had considered postponing my appointment, but, no, Franciscan Brother Jaime and I had each reconfirmed twice that we’d meet at this hour at the museum of the old seventeenth century San Francisco Church.
            It was dark and wonderfully cool inside the museum’s thick adobe walls, hung with large colonial religious paintings. Why did colonial artists paint their scenes in such lugubrious colors? A young guide directed me to Brother Jaime’s office in a corridor bordering a central garden, where he met me at the door with the traditional Chilean peck on the cheek, though we hadn’t met before. I had expected him to be clad in the brown Franciscan habit, but instead, was met by a young man in tee shirt, chinos and sandals. He led me to a table where he sat at his laptop. The walls around us were lined with bookshelves, paintings and a couple of Christmas stockings.
            “Are you satisfied with the contract?” he asked.
I said it was fine, pulling out my copy which conceded me the rights to quote in my upcoming memoir some words of Gabriela Mistral, Chile’s Nobel poetess. In her will, Gabriela left rights over her works and all her property to Chile’s Franciscan Congregation.
We each signed our copies. Just then a strident squawk sounded in garden.
“Was that a peacock?”
He smiled. “Yes, and the female is perched on some eggs. We also have exotic chickens and a pond with fish and a turtle. Down the hall is a small room dedicated to Gabriela and you can see her Nobel medal.”
I thanked him and said I thought I’d go enjoy the garden for a while.

I stepped out into the heat, although tall old trees provided welcome shade. A gnarled cork tree looked to have been planted there by the original monks. There was the peacock, an elegant queen on her ground-level nest. I peeked into Gabriela’s room, admired her Nobel medal and then headed to the wide, round fountain with water spilling in the center. I sat on a bench, where a small mud-colored cat joined me. I stroked its head and wondered how he was allowed to wander freely in this garden, populated by doves, chickens and peacocks. When he jumped up onto the edge of the fountain, I thought, Oh-oh. The fish! But all he wanted was to drink some water. That assortment of animals living in harmony seemed so appropriate for that church and monastery named in honor of St. Francis.

 I had a view across the garden to the opposite corridor and the second floor, the monastery corridors forming a square enclosing the garden. Above the roof, in the distance, rose a glass skyscraper, tapering into a needle tip. The roar of revving engines of busses passing on the Alameda carried over the adobe walls. I tried to imagine what life had been like for the monks who first planted these trees, which now, centuries later, provide me with a shady oasis of serenity.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

A Yearful

Time to put up the new calendar. I liked this past year’s so much that I bought the same for 2015, “Nature’s Peace” with watercolors by Molly Hashimoto and words of John Muir. Each watercolor allows me a fleeting entry into the green wonders of nature. Like a butterfly at a buddleia flower, I alight into scenes of woods and meadows for daily sustenance.

Aside from the pleasure of my new calendar, the passage from one year to the next – the fireworks, confetti, noise makers, and merrymaking – has never had much meaning for me. But I decided to search for some personal significance. I’d look back through my 2014 datebook for the most memorable, joyful moments:

Digging deep into my writing self at our Santiago Writers’ retreat in the country
Traveling by land across the Andes to Mendoza, Argentina
Setting my eyes on our first grandson (after three granddaughters)
Feeling the euphoria at our son’s graduation ceremony at Columbia University
Returning once again to the San Francisco Bay Area to warm, welcoming friends
Absorbing the resplendent writing styles of Beryl Markham and Amy Leach
And now enjoying our New Yorker son’s holiday visit
…..There was the loss of old friends, but, overall, a good year.

As for the New Year, I'm adopting the attitude of ‘open expecting,’ on the lookout for sparks of serendipity and synchronicity. I have even made three resolutions: to continue with my exercise regime, cut down on the sweets and clean one drawer a day…. I haven't started yet.

Oh, and write, write, write.