Thoughts on New Year’s Day


16 degrees, windchill 2, flurries.

Keep warm, reflect, remember, don’t relive,

forgive, move on.

Work hard to become the change you want to see worldwide:

-Empathy

-Kindness

-Love

-Patience

-Understanding

 

IMG_2908

Advertisements

A Season of Gratitude


It started Thursday with the Winter Solstice and the full moon:  the love, the presents, my astonishment.  You cannot go wrong with moonlight hanging over a canyon.  It never disappoints.

Then on Friday, astonishment.  Teachers never expect what I received.  I expect excellence and hope most learn something new, learn that books they will like exist, that they can do more than they ever dreamed.  We do not expect presents.

By ten on Friday, my classroom was covered with gifts and food.  Here is a list of some of the presents I received from my students:

frankincense and myrrh soap

a book about wine–yes, it seems they know me

a 4 by 4 black block that says Love, Smile, Enjoy, Laugh, Sing, Live

two gifts cards from a brother and sister for renting movies along with popcorn

a Picasso scarf

a thermal cup full of almonds–I received lots of almonds

all sorts of homemade candies, cookies, and other goodies

To top it all off, a mother walked into my room and handed me a bottle of red wine with this written on it:  “Our child might be the reason you drink so enjoy this bottle on us, Merry Christmas.”  I am still chuckling about this one.

My daughter and grandson are on a cruise and will get to see several ancient Mayan temples, my son is on his way here and will arrive around noon or early afternoon, I attended a beautiful Christmas Eve service last night, then came home and continued reading a fascinating book until late, and shortly I will make pumpkin bread using Mom’s old recipe.

The moon still shines, hanging in the Western horizon.  I feel grateful.

Happy Holidays to everyone.

Juliana

 

IMG_3530

Note:  The Christmas tree my parents gave me decades ago with a skirt, simple fabric brought from Africa many years ago.

 

The Sim Card


At exactly 8:28 this evening, after returning from dinner and Christmas light viewing with my daughter and grandson, I threw my purse and antique, red,  flip top phone on my bed, and let Athena, my dog, out.  Shortly thereafter, I inadvertently knocked the phone on the floor between the foot of the bed and my grandmother’s (the one I never knew because she died long before I was born) cedar chest.  Rather than moving the chest, I retrieved a long handled duster and gave it a swipe, thinking the phone would fly out intact.  Unfortunately such is not the case.  First, the back of the phone removed itself from the rest and flew out.  I tried once again and the rest of the phone flew out.  I picked it up and the notice read, “Insert Sim Card”.  I looked at the phone.  Sure enough, no Sim Card.  Subsequently, I moved the cedar chest, pulled out the bed, retrieved a larger duster and totally cleaned under the bed.  I even went to the garage, got the flash light, and looked under the bed everywhere.  Still no Sim Card.  Finally, in disgust, I went to the kitchen, poured a glass of zinfandel, The Seven Deadly Zins to be specific, and continued to read “There Will Be No Miracles Here” by Casey Gerald.  How apropos, except I have never suffered like he has (or if I have, I have conveniently forgotten), I am not black, nor male, nor gay, nor poor (he probably is no longer either), and, comparatively speaking, I am very old.

IMG_3536

 

 

 

The Christmas Tree


In childhood, no fake tree for us.

Just after Thanksgiving, the family search transpired.

Mom and Dad preferred Douglas fir, six feet tall.

Dutifully, we kept the tree holder filled with water,

never used real candles.  We put on lights, big ones,

blue, green, red, an inch long, then carefully hung on delicate,

colorful, round balls.  The most difficult task: the icicles,

long, silver, reflective.  They had to go on just so.

Years later, children gone, Mom and Dad bought an

artificial tree, fake Douglas fir, incredibly real in appearance.

 

When they left Missouri for Arizona every winter after harvest,

they abandoned Christmas trees, gave me the fake Douglas fir.

I still have it.  How long?  Decades, several at least.  State of the art

when they bought it, it requires work, assembly, strings of lights.

Every year, I tell myself it is time to get one of those new trees with lights

already installed, so much easier to take up and down.  I never buy one.

I cannot bear to part with Mom and Dad’s tree.  One year, annoyed with

putting on lights, I decorated it lightless.  I missed the lights.  Now every year,

decades later, I assemble it, take the time to string the lights.  Some of the lower

branches no longer stay, but I work around that, hang the colorful, delicate

Christmas ornaments I love, collected over years and years, wrap the base in

the red and white cloth given to me from Africa. On cold evenings, like this one,

I turn off the other lights, drink tea like my mother did, and remember my

childhood.

IMG_3526

IMG_3530

IMG_3534

 

 

 

You’re Gonna Eat That?!


This is the title of my newest book which currently resides at the designers for formatting, placing the photos in the correct place and position, making sure everything is just right.  The subtitle is:  Adventures with Food, Family, and Friends.  It includes family and travel stories, adventures, poems, and recipes. Here are a couple of food photos which will be in the book with recipes.

IMG_3474

SAM_1570

IMG_3495

Every Sunday until publication, I will post an update as to progress.  My goal is to have it available for purchase for Christmas presents for those who love food adventures.

 

New Adventure: A New Teaching Job


Monday I went to my new job, finished decorating my new room with a few posters, a giant puma drawing from one of my former students, and an old National Geographic photo of a giant redwood tree with several men stationed at varying heights.  This year I will be teaching English Language Arts to grades 7-10, a writing class, and Spanish 1 and 2.  The 7th and 8th graders will be a new experience.  However, several have already come by to meet me, chat, hang out.  Hard to knock that for starters. It is a nearly new building out in the country surrounded by fields and pasture with a feed lot down the road–ranching country where rodeo is a major activity.

On the east side of my classroom a giant window takes up 1/3 of the wall.  A small section of the window even opens.  Twice I have opened it and listened to the birds singing outside. The window sill can hold several plants because it is long and at least one foot wide. Plant shopping occurs this weekend. Students begin next week.

IMG_3482

Cutting Yucca


Yucca will take over if you let it.

 

Every summer after the blooms dry, I tackle them with long,

red-handled clippers and cut off  long stalks.

Not bothering to put on boots, I set out in black and grey Chacos,

cutting stalks in places unreachable by tractor.

 

I climb down to a rough area, open these long, red-handled clippers,

chop off the dead blossoms, then look down.

She lies there, her body slightly bigger than the size of my upper arm,

fat, not long.

A snake stretched out, only 1/8 inch from the front of my Chacos.

 

I look again.  Crap.  She’s a rattlesnake, one of those short,

stout prairie rattlers, perfectly blending with the grey and brown

rocks and soil.

 

Slowly, I inch backward, taking care not to fall on the steep slope.

When several feet away, I run to the barn, grab two shovels off their hooks,

run back.  She’s gone.  I search everywhere around.

 

I never find her.

 

SAM_1546

 

 

The Clerk


He’s gorgeous!

 

I walk into the department store,

plan to pay a bill, order a griddle for the new stove,

see a bald headed 30 something with a big, brown beard.

He is not what I get.

 

A younger man walks up, “Can I help you?”

Explaining what I want, I look.

Wow.

Caramel skin, five inches taller than I,

obsidian ringlets falling, not long,

cut short to a form a big ball, a glossy poof.

 

He’s not too thin, not too chubby.

Just right.

Straight nose, not too long, not too short.

Just right.

Arched eyebrows, oval face.

Just right.

 

He’s drool worthy.

It’s ridiculous.  I’m old enough to be his grandmother,

maybe older.

 

Do we ever get too old to look, to appreciate?

 

 

Argentinian Adventure–Cafayate in the Calchaqui Valley


One of the highest wine growing regions in the world exists in northern Argentina in the Calchaqui Valley.  This lovely hotel where we spent the night reminded me of New Mexico.

IMG_3149

The hotel garden.

IMG_3155

The ceiling above the walkway.

IMG_3150

The walkway from the garden to the front of the hotel.  Spanish colonial architecture and design seem much the same everywhere.

Cafayate is small and lovely.  Like every other city, it too has a square with a church on one side. We went there instead of Mendoza, the city most people in the US associate with Argentinian wine, because Hugo, Gaston’s dad, prefers the wine from there over that from Mendoza.

IMG_3158

The church on the square in Cafayate.

IMG_3159

Many trees were in bloom there.  Gaston’s mom and I collected some seeds from this one and I have two plants growing in pots at my house.

IMG_3156

More colonial architecture.

Although most of this valley is filled with vineyards from one mountain range to the other, I did see fields as well.

IMG_3204

Behind the hotel where we parked the truck, the guy was raising fighting cocks.  I never had the chance to take of photo of them.

IMG_3205

After a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, we needed to the oldest winery in the valley.

 

 

Argentinian Adventure–La Finca


After sitting in the airport in Iguazu for four hours because the plane was delayed over and over, we finally arrived in Cordoba around midnight and rushed to La Finca, the family place out in the country, for dinner.  Yes, dinner.  Gaston’s family, including his 92 year old grandfather, uncles, cousins, aunts, everyone had actually stayed up and waited to meet us.  I could hardly believe it.

I know Argentinians are the biggest consumers of beef in the world.  We did not have beef; we had leg of lamb grilled over the special grill his father and uncles had built–a separate house just for grilling and eating.  It was a warm night and we ate outside. It is a family ritual for everyone to congregate on weekends, but especially Sunday afternoons at La Finca to eat and socialize.  Gaston and I went there both Saturday and Sunday.

IMG_3100

It was the end of summer (Southern Hemisphere in March).  The crop in the distance beyond the trees is potatoes.  Gaston’s grandfather, who is 92 now,  bought this land, planted the trees, created this peaceful get away in the country.  Gaston’s uncle and aunt now live there with their college age children.

IMG_3104

The building in the background houses the grill–chimney on the left–and the dining area I mentioned earlier.  We ate inside once around the table that must sit at least twenty.  The rest of the time they hauled the tables outside and we ate under the trees.

IMG_3095.JPG

Gaston’s grandfather and I standing before the trees he planted decades ago.

IMG_3110.JPG

The same trees upclose.  Yes, those are very sharp protuberances sticking out all over the tree.  You see these trees in cities too, but there they have cut off all the sharp pieces so people cannot get hurt on them.  I could just imagine what would happen if a person pushed another person against one of these.

IMG_3108

The drive from the main road to La Finca.  Sunday afternoon Gaston’s mom and I strolled up and down this drive while Gaston with his dad and uncle and a cousin installed a drip line to water the bushes on each side.  Like here, they are suffering a drought.  They did not want years of work to die.

IMG_3093

The original house where Gaston’s uncle and his family live is on the left.  I loved it here and felt very privileged to spend a weekend with the family doing whatever they do on weekends.  On Saturday, the men all went to help someone move while I sat with Gaston’s aunt, her friend, some cousins.  We chit chatted, drank mate, took naps, ate pear tart and other desserts, and whiled away an afternoon.

IMG_3101

Occasionally the peace was disturbed by the raucous chatter of parakeets.  The huge nest in this tree is shared by many parakeets.  They do not build individual nests.  When they get going, they are really loud.

IMG_3107

Just as in New Mexico in the US, water comes through acequias.  The drive goes over this little bridge in the foreground.

IMG_3106

Near this acequia the family grows lemon trees, vegetables, flowers, and other delectables for family use.

IMG_3103

It was so lovely and peaceful here, I did not want to leave.

IMG_3094

IMG_3099

Gaston’s aunt and mother love succulents and flowers.  This is only a tiny portion of the plant collection growing everywhere around Gaston’s aunt and uncle’s house. His aunt is very proud of her plant collection. Many of her plants were familiar.  Some even have the same names in English and Spanish probably due to their Latin origins.