Sunday, August 30, 2015

Nesting Season

The morning is sunny and warm, an irresistible invitation to step out in the garden to notice the new green leaves on my potted rosebush and listen to the songbirds whose gay chatter tells me that they feel the approach of spring as I do. The hummingbird feeder needs filling, and I head to the kitchen to prepare their syrup. We still have four official weeks of winter left, but today is a sneak spring preview, the kind of day to leave windows and doors open.
Out for a walk, my eyes drink in the delicate pink party attire of the cherry trees. A magnolia across the street bursts in mauve and white blooms. An austral thrush is stuffing his beak with nest-building materials.
These days energize me. I’ve been making nesting plans of my own. In a few days hubby leaves for a 2-week cycling trip in Italy. Rather than take off on my own trip, I’m planning a Grand Spring Cleaning. Junk, old newspapers and magazines, overflowing cabinets and attic, out-of-style or too tight clothes, my boys’ old university textbooks –get ready. I’ll soon disturb you from your comfortable dusty niches and piles.
Spring cleaning involves lightening up, which is my intent with my own body. Stick faithfully to my exercise routine and shed a few pounds. Focus more on fruits and veggies. Sweets (my downfall) strictly banned in the house while I’m on my own. Hubby being away means I can eat dinner earlier, not at the sacred Chilean 9 p.m. I’ll imagine myself as a light, downy owl feather.
Renewal is at the heart of spring. At my age, I won’t be sprouting any new buds. But it’s a good time for inner growth, spiritual awakening and mind stimulation, reading the works of the wise, attending an art exhibit, a concert. I recently read an article in The Sun magazine, “Lost in Thought,” by Eckhart Tolle. I want to reread it to assimilate his deep, challenging thoughts and explore more into his works. And I’ll make time to read the weekly Brainpickings pieces that have accumulated in my inbox. And, yes, check out Ursula LeGuin’s latest blog posts.
Looking at my list of tasks, I realize they’re indoor activities. If the days continue like today, I must schedule outdoor time for walks and gardening. Daniel, our gardener, comes in a few days. I plan to be out there working alongside him (mostly directing).

These will be a very busy two weeks. If I accomplish even half of what I intend, I’ll be satisfied, ready to welcome spring and my husband with a light heart (and body).

Monday, August 17, 2015

Explaining the World to Children

Our three granddaughters, 10 yr.old twins and a 6 yr.old, draped on the sofa in our TV room, were absorbed in an animal program about orangutans. When it ended, we channel grazed. Anything else of interest? Across the screen spread the word “Apocalypse”.
“No, not that” said their father. Grandfather quickly switched channels.
“What was that? We want to see it.”
“No, it’s about a war.”
Changing channels, we unwittingly passed by“Apocalypse” again and a scene of bodies scattered about a field.
“Change it,” said their dad.
“But we want to see Apocalypse. What’s war?” asked one.
“Do people stay living in their houses when there’s a war?”
“Has there ever been a war here in Chile or the States?”
“No”, I answered. “People do stay in their houses (I omitted saying unless they’re being bombed). Soldiers go off to fight in other countries.”
I remember some time ago while watching TV with them (we DO engage in other activities besides TV), the news showed scenes of Syrians in a bombed-out neighborhood. One of the twins asked, “How can people live like that?”

What a difficult task the girls’ parents face protecting their children in this hyper-connected world, letting them be children as long as possible. I’m glad they ask these questions, questions that deserve to be answered. Issues like war need to be talked about. But why expose them to heart-breaking, graphic scenes of violence? How much do we tell them? They live with many fears as it is. Earthquakes, lightning and thunder, family deaths, stories of kidnapped children.
When my sons were growing up, we had no instantaneous cable news or live scenes of death and destruction filmed by embedded journalists. Although, they did live under a military dictatorship where bombs could sometimes be heard in the night. Even today, Chile is not free of violence, bombs placed by anarchists recently in the metro car and a metro station.  But this is nothing compared to what today’s children in the Middle East must endure.  They are being deprived of their childhoods.
Later in the evening, my mood was lightened by Fareed Zakaria’s “Take” at the end of his weekly show, also published as a column in The Washington Post. He claimed that in these times we are ‘awash in pessimism’, so many public figures declaring the world ‘a dark and dangerous place’. He says, ‘ Mistakes are made when ‘acting out of fear’,  providing examples from the past. To those that claim that President Obama is naive, Zakaria answers that Obama, being of a positive disposition, is an optimist. According to him (and I consider him a wise and learned man who has done his homework), history has shown the optimists have been right.
Another Post headline caught my eye: “War with Iran is Probably Our Best Option,” written by Joshua Muravchik. I try to follow his complex arguments. I’m no Middle East expert, but for me war is the last alternative when all else has failed. We’ve seen the failed results of armed conflict over and over again.

I side with the optimists, and I’ll do my best to show to my grand daughters the great beauty and love that exist in our world. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A Wise Old Owl

These grey winter days I’ve been reading up a storm on Kindle. I prefer the feel of a book in my hands, but, living in Chile, English books are not readily available. Usually, on my yearly visits to California, I return with a supply of books but this last visit was different. My husband and I hauled back fifty copies of my memoir in backpacks and cloth shopping bags. No space for my personal reading choices. The problem with a Kindle book is that I need to underline inspiring thoughts and beautiful words. Some books are very special to me. I call them “keepers.”
 Last night I downloaded a book that I know will be a Keeper: “The Wave in the Mind” by Ursula Le Guin. Some months ago I proclaimed her my blogger muse. I came across her name again on the Brainpickings website, a rich resource for introductions to the best in writing, writers, illustrations and books.
Le Guin starts out “Introducing Myself” with the words, “I am a Man.” That definitely captured my attention. Where would she go with this? Clearly, she hadn’t undergone a sex change. No, she went back to her growing years and further back in history to point out that women didn’t count for anything. Men were people. People were men.
Her words on aging resonate deeply with me, giving me courage and, yes, a sense of humor in the face of a youth-centered society. Le Guin, in her eighties, is funny and open whether talking about her ‘ten-hair beard’ and her ‘podgy’ body ‘with actual fat places’. She goes on to say that she allowed herself to get old and didn’t do one single thing about it. No face-lift. No liposuction.

I now want to join her to say with pride, “I am an old woman.” If only I possessed her wisdom, but I figure I still have time to work at it.