Wednesday, June 15, 2016


It’s not difficult to feel grumpy, irritated and downright depressed in this city of ours, what with grey winter days, carjacking, house and mall robberies, traffic gridlocks and hooded vandals destroying and looting during weekly student demonstrations. These scenes have become our daily bread. Days ago a water main broke on a principal artery of the city. A deluge of escaping water flowed down towards the center of town. Surface traffic and a major metro line were cut. The news showed streams of city folk walking long distances to work.
But, all is not gloom. I laughed out loud at the sight of a young, well-dressed woman, desperate to cross the street, clambering aboard a grocery cart pushed by an ingenious Chileno. For a few pesos he delivered her across the river to the opposite corner. Oh, those enterprising Chileans. At the first drop of rain, they’re selling umbrellas at metro stations, or cellophane wrapped roses for Mother’s Day, or ready-made salads and sandwiches at lunchtime.
I see glimmers of hope and humor as I go about my city.  One night a friend and I decided to go to a concert of the Santiago Symphonic Orchestra downtown, which meant boarding the metro at peak commuter hour. We are not the pushy type but, when it came to a packed metro car, we had no choice but to squeeze and elbow our way in, that is, if we wanted to go anywhere.
The live performance of Tchaikowsky’s glorious Fourth Symphony swept me away on a wave of wonder to the steppes of Russia and the glittering halls of the Hermitage. Unbelievable, the magic created by those violins, violas, cellos and bass.
Returning home on the metro, passengers eyed us as we broke into giggles, lifting our feet to avoid contact with two large balls of hair rolling down the aisle and back again, not an unusual sight in the otherwise clean metro cars.
A sharp clear blue sky greeted me this morning and, in the distance, the snow-covered ridges gleamed. A gaggle (at least a dozen) of rowdy green parrots invaded the liquidambar tree next door, gorging on the seeds of the prickly pods. On the ground turtle doves grazed on the fallen leftovers.

Like the seeds of the liquidambar, abundant reasons for joy and laughter are here for the taking in this urban landscape. It’s a matter of paying attention.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Liquid Contentment

 My redwood tree looks perky and content. The neighborhood robins are out breakfasting on an abundance of juicy worms. Hummingbirds squeal and careen in delight. Wet leaves cover the pavement. Even I feel light and energized after the refreshing rain yesterday. After years of drought, rain is reason for celebration. I also am grateful for the clear skies after days of smothering smog, and for the white ring of snow on the Andes surrounding the city.
            Our current rainfall is three times greater than last year at this time, and winter doesn’t start for three more weeks. I wonder what the rain gods have in store for the next few months.
The rainfall in the usually wet southern Chile has diminished. The city of Coyhaique, set in a bowl of verdant hills, is rated as one of the most contaminated cities in the world. Besides the scarcity of rainfall, its problem lies in a longtime tradition in the damp, cold south – wood burning stoves. They are the heart of all southern homes, providing warmth, heat for baking bread and heating water and a gathering place for the family and friends. Because of the increasing pollution as the city grows, authorities are mandating a change to gas stoves. A loss for the inhabitants of the city, but wood stoves will continue to burn in countryside and small town kitchens.

            Days later we are blessed with two more days of solid rain. This morning the sun makes an appearance in a true blue sky with patches of luminous puffy clouds. A great morning for a walk. Many others have the same idea. The sun draws us out of our dens: runners, some with dogs, cyclists, flocks of showy, squawking parrots, wild canaries and house wrens. The yellow leaves on the ground glow in the sunlight. The air is brisk and hopeful. And the mountains…they have revealed to us their gift of white splendor.