Ponies


Mom loved Shetland ponies.

not so much the stocky, chubby ones,

the fancy show ponies.

We had so many, I’ve lost count–

black, pinto, dappled grey with silver

mane and tail–the fanciest one.

Midget, a pinto, was the first one.

They bought her so I could learn to ride.

I was six.

At the country fair, I rode her.

She zigged; I zagged, fell off.

Utter humiliation.

On rainy days my sister and I would

put a few in the barn, dress them up,

play games with them,

living toys.

We even rode them when in high school

along the cornfields, across the terraces.

My last memory–riding, ambling along, not paying attention,

suddenly lots of noise in the cornfield,

an animal running through the cornstalks.

Pony bolted; I jumped, landed wrong,

limped for days at school, climbing

up and down the steps.

Did I ride again?

I don’t think so, not for years and

then I rode horses.

Winter Afternoon


No wind, stringy high clouds block a bit of blue.

Someone bounces a ball next door,

I hear the intermittent sound.

Suddenly several dogs bark across the golf course green,

Suddenly stop.

Across the turquoise pool water burnt orange leaves waft downward,

some land on the pale gold rocks,

some float at the pool’s terracotta edge,

others lay across the dark green rosemary bushes.

Bird song I cannot identify fills the background.

Two men, voices loud, banter –they’re neighbors, friends.

One of their small children cries, stops, cries again.

A late day golfer strides a ball, shouts.

Breeze arises, quits, more leaves fall,

the pool and birdbath water slightly ripple.

The lemons glow against the dark green leaves,

a painting emerald and bright yellow.

I sit beside the African multi-colored granite table my son made,

admire the colors:

-succulents called fire sticks match the falling leaves.

shades of orange, red, and green.

-the pots that house them match the dark blue of the pool’s old fashioned

Mexican tile.

-roses still display a few blossoms, dark red, pale pink, peach.

Tomorrow the gardener will trim them back to help them bloom lushly n spring.

-the oleander, still green, quit blooming weeks ago.

-rosemary loves this time of year, covers itself with tiny, fragrant, grey-blue flowers.

-in the distance mountains arise, a purple haze.

Now, no sounds, only silence.

I sit in the quiet beauty, write, drink green tea, feel grateful.

Winter Evening


Orange pink shadows ripple across the turquoise pool water.

Pumpkin colored and purple leaves drift across the rosemary,

land, bright little boats floating across the turquoise water.

A phoebe, dressed in his grey tuxedo coat and white tie,

flits along the red tile at water’s edge.

Green, minuscule, a hummingbird hovers among the scarlet salvia.

Fuschia, peach, deep red roses glow in the setting sun.

Suddenly, howls break the evening silence.

Coyotes, joyful, sing to each other,

preparing for the nightly hunt.

The Boy From Honduras


My current writing endeavor is part of a challenge to write 20 minutes per day six days a week. The story I am going to relate now was written as part of that project. The brief introduction here was part of something I wrote the day before I wrote about the boy.

I watched “60 Minutes” on Sunday about German Jewish Americans who volunteered to go behind enemy lines before and after the end of WWII to either spy on or interrogate Nazis, often officers of higher rank. One of them related that he never met a Nazi who had any remorse for atrocities he had committed, who thought what they had done was wrong. How horrifying, to hate anyone, any group so much over religion, ethnicity, sexual preference, status, remains to a great degree beyond my comprehension. Although I may view people like the Nazis as my moral enemies, to hate anyone so much as to torture and murder them seems incomprehensible.

These views also affect my attitude toward immigration. People rarely leave their countries because they want to, they leave because they need or have to in order to survive. Often it is a matter of life or death. Now I will tell you about the boy from Honduras.

Short, straight black hair, obsidian eyes, skin the color of café con leche, he showed up at high school one day absent any knowledge of the English language. His brother, married to a US citizen, lived across the street from the high school secretary. The assistant principal brought him to me. By Texas state law he had to spend at least one period of the day with a certified ESL teacher, me. He came often even from his other classes because everything except Spanish class was in English. Written Spanish helped him only somewhat. In Honduras poor country students only attended school for a few years. The more advanced middle and high schools were in cities and required fees paid.

The counselor claimed he had not been to school at all. I knew better; he knew things that a kid only learns if he or she has gone to school. When I did not understand his Spanish, I asked him to write it down. It took me a while to figure out some of his written Spanish. He sounded it out and so instead of writing habla (h is silent in Spanish), he would write abla. When I really could not understand, I went to the Spanish teachers from Mexico; they could not always understand him either. One, who had travelled all over Mexico, said he spoke a dialect she had never heard. Over time, I learned he had started school at six, attended for four years, then went to work on a coffee plantation. He was 15 when I met him. After I showed him a photo of me picking coffee in Costa Rica, he became very excited.

His father had been murdered; his mother feared for his life so she sent him to his brother in the US. He was cheery, always smiling, played soccer at lunch with the other students, missed home. He told me his family was working with an immigration lawyer so occasionally he traveled to Dallas to meet the lawyer. Then one day he disappeared. We never saw him again. Later one of the Spanish teachers told me he had come, smuggled in a shipping container, had survived this for days. And now he was gone.

Students asked about him; we had no answers. Some who had ranted about illegal immigrants stopped ranting. It was someone they knew, liked, who had left with no answers. He was a kind, funny kid whom everyone liked. Is he in hiding? Is he safe? Is he alive? Who knows?

Easy Vegetarian Chili Dinner


I had some Soyrizo in the refrigerator–chorizo made from soybeans–and decided to try making chili with it. I sautéed one finely chopped onion in olive oil and added the Soyrizo after removing it from the casing and breaking it up into small pieces. After the onion was translucent, I added one deseeded and chopped red bell pepper and a deseeded and chopped poblano pepper. To this mixture I added one can undrained black beans and 1 small can chopped tomatoes. I let this mixture cook on low for several hours before serving. The Soyrizo makes it a little bit spicy, but if you want more spice add berbere, chili powder, etc. to your taste. I like thick chili but if you want it more like the consistency of soup, just add some broth or water.

The salad was made with a mixture of greens, chopped red bell peppers, dried bing cherries, and sliced leeks broken up so you can see the circles. These bowls have been in my family for decades. They were the everyday dishes my mom used when I was growing up.

Note: For those out there who question, and rightfully, some of the ingredients in meat substitutes, I do get it. However, once in a while I like to jazz up the food a bit.

Christmas Thoughts


While many around the world are celebrating the birth of Jesus today, it seems worthwhile to recall some of the things he taught:

Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.

I keep thinking how much better this world would be if people would follow these teachings, care for others. be kind.

Note: painting is by Israel Guajardo.

An Old Bowl and the Silver Spoon


My Aunt Julia, Mom’s sister, lived to 94. She loved fine antique china, linens, and French furniture. The ordinary bowl in this photo defies those inclinations, its origins a mystery. How did she acquire such a plain bowl and why? I will never know. In spite of its age, cracks, dull finish, I have used it every morning for decades. It is my breakfast bowl, filled with yogurt or cottage cheese with dried blueberries and a handful of walnuts, or, occasionally, oatmeal.

The spoon, on the other hand, is not ordinary, but rather good silver from the set Dad gave Mom on their first wedding anniversary. Unlike Mom, who saved her good silver for holidays and special occasions, I use these spoons daily and think of her unconditional love, strong will, determination, and love for beauty.

A Christmas Tree Story


Decades ago my parents, long deceased, started going to warm Arizona from cold Missouri. They gave me their artificial Douglas fir tree. It was the old fashioned kind of tree where you had to put together a column, add alphabetically labelled limbs one by one, then add the lights of your choice, and finally the rest of the decoration. Every year I unpacked it and went to work. This year was no different except a crucial part of it was missing. I still do not know whether moving was a factor or somehow I did not pack it up correctly. Regardless, it was obvious I would not be using it. What could I salvage? The limbs, the top so I used parts of it to decorate.

I used various limbs and some unbreakable, red Christmas balls to decorate the front of my house.
I stuck the top part into a big pot and added some Christmas balls I have had for years and stuck a star on top.

Then my daughter, Ema, told me I could use her tree which is too wide for her current place. We took it out of the box, she showed me how it works, and I decorated it this afternoon. It is wider and I had to move some furniture but I love the result. I have a tree, but still could salvage parts of the tree I have treasured for all these years since Mom and Dad gave it to me.

Daylight view.
Evening view.

Now it is time to finish the shopping and wrap the gifts.

Persian Rice with Chicken and Saffron


Per request from a friend who actually has recently harvested saffron and wanted recipes. No photos because I have not made this recently.

2 cups rice

4 cups water or enough to allow the rice to roll around freely in a large pot

salt to taste

1 large flour tortilla or chapati or a similar sort of flat bread

melted butter

onion and chicken breast

saffron

Rinse the rice until the water runs clear. Add rice to boiling water and boil until the rice grains easily break between your thumb and forefinger but not done. Rice should still be firm. Drain the rice in a colander. While rice is boiling, saute one finely chopped, medium sized onion in oil or butter. Add one large diced chicken breast to the onion and saute until tender. Do not overcook the chicken. After rice is drained, add the onion and chicken mixture to the rice. In the bottom of a large pot pour enough oil or butter to cover the bottom and place the tortilla/chapati on top of the oil. Scoop the rice and chicken mixture onto the tortilla forming a cone. Do not let the rice touch the sides of the pot. With the handle of a wooden spoon, punch several holes through the rice mixture all the way down to the tortilla/chapati. Add strands of saffron to the melted butter and pour over the rice cone. Place several layers of paper towels or a thick tea towel over the pot. Place lid firmly on top. Cook at medium low heat for 30 to 40 minutes. To test, place a small amount of water on your index finger and touch side of the pot. If it sizzles, the rice mixture is done. Turn onto a platter and serve. You will have this heavenly crunchy rice and tortilla/chapati mixture at the bottom of the pot. Serve with the rest of the rice and chicken mixture.

You must use long grain rice like Basmati for this dish. Do not use short grain or Jasmine rice. The goal is to have every rice grain totally separate when the dish is done.

Fuerte


An “exercise” to write a poem about ones origins with the words I am from… inspired me to write this poem.

I am from the dark side of the moon, blood born, secretly shining.

Fuerte

I am from puma, stalking your memories, invading your minds,.

Fuerte

I am from Gottlieb, who left Swiss mountains 150 years ago at 18 to avoid

becoming a mercenary, moved to Missouri, created a farm. His cultivator

sets in my front garden.

Fuerte

I am from persons Gujarati, Bengali, Punjabi, who sailed seas, met strangers, loved.

Fuerte

I am from Esan, a Nigerian tribe about which I knew nothing until a DNA test revealed,

ancient, black, beautiful.

Fuerte

I am from Latin America, Colombian, Peruvian, Puerto Rican–wanderers, explorers.

Fuerte

I am from Slavic peoples. Byzantine, Macedonian, Alexander the Great.

Fuerte

I am from brave wandering ancestors–Asian, Latin, Toscani Italian, French, German, Swiss, Slavic, Iberian.

Fuerte

I am from J haploid group, people who left the northern Middle East 7000 years ago,

wandered, explored, populated Western Europe.

Fuerte

I am from farmers, Doyle and Barbara, who grew corn, wheat, soybeans, Hereford and Charolaise cattle

to whom I carried salt blocks as a child.

Fuerte

I am from Sacred Corn, the nourisher, singing on hot summers, growing.

Fuerte

I am from the sweet smell of Jasmine, Roses, Honeysuckle, winding up walls, overgrowing gardens,

giving people hope.

Fuerte

I am from lemons, figs, dates, pomegranates, golden, dark, red, tropical, lingering.

Fuerte

I am from Stars, universal child, born on sacred ground, singing infinite songs.

Fuerte