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.

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?

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.

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

Moving–6, The End


Finally settled in my new home in San Dimas, CA. I finished hanging all but one piece of art and family photos this morning. In addition I discovered a new rose bush I had previously not noticed since it is among the constantly blooming oleanders. This makes rose bush no. 25 I think. What I thought was a lime tree is a lemon–now that some are turning the color of lemons. What others said was an apple tree is a pear tree. One tree is pomegranate and full. As to when to harvest, I remain clueless. Supposedly, another tree is mandarin orange but not sure yet. Flowers in bloom everywhere make my heart sing.

Because this area is not right next to the mountains, I thought probably no pumas or bears around. While we walked around the large lake in Bonelli Regional Park on Thursday, my neighbor informed me that both are here and related a story about a bear on the golf course–the back of my house adjoins a golf course, and someone watching a puma chase a bunch of coyotes. I have heard the coyotes sing more here than where I lived out in the country in Texas. The weather has been such that I have not used the heat or the AC yet. Next task is to learn the names of the birds I see here all the time. I know the raptors I have seen but not the little ones rapidly consuming something in the grass nearly every morning. Another change from the Panhandle of Texas is the absolute lack of wind. Right now no wind at all and when it is windy, it is like ten miles an hour or so basically a nice little breeze.

There is a rose bush here which just started to bloom. I had not even realized it was there. When I took this photo, it was not blooming.

Moving 4–Bittersweet


Today I made the first leg of my journey from living in the Panhandle of Texas to living in the San Gabriel Valley in LA County, Ca. I have crossed New Mexico many times at various times of the year. I doubt I will ever again drive all the way across it again. One thing was very different this time, green. Usually, by this time toward end of summer, it is dry and hot. Not this time. Emerald green contrasting with the red rock outcrops proved quite lovely and dramatic. The green prevailed all the way to Flagstaff. The hottest temperature today along I-40 was 83 in NM and briefly a bit above 90 for a few miles in Arizona.

Just before I left my daughter’s house in Amarillo, I took a few photos. I have been going to her house for more than 18 years. My 17 year old grandson has spent almost his whole life there until a month ago. Will I ever return? Probably not. Nevertheless, the lovely memories of their life in this house will linger for the rest of my lifetime.