Monday, July 28, 2014

Mystical Mistical Pond!

This is the pond after a heavy heavy rain.

What a gift Mother Nature is.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A NYC church praying for deceased soldiers

Strolling along 29th Street in Manhattan the other day, I came across a very moving project. It is the work of Marble Collegiate Church, best known for once hosting the sermons of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale.

In 2006, the church decided to start praying for all the American soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Every soldier's name and age are typed onto a piece of paper, and slipped into a plastic sleeve. The name tag is then tied to a long golden ribbon which hangs on the wrought iron gate outside the church.

The church also prays for the thousands of people in Iraq and Afghanistan who have perished. Those ribbons are blue.

Finally, green ribbons denote prayers for peace.

The railings are crowded with ribbons. Seeing the names of the soldiers -- most of the whom were in their 20s and 30s -- really brings home the painful loss of life connected to the wars. The project is reminiscent of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., which names more than 58,000 soldiers who either died or went missing in Vietnam. The names are engraved on the memorial's black granite wall.

The church has worked hard on the prayer project and they are to be commended for raising our awareness.  The ribbons force you  to think hard about war and the terrible loss of life that goes with it.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Perfect Day, Count the Ways

My mother said it best: today is a ten out of ten day. Crystal clear blue sky, perfect temperature. With all the rain, the garden is lush with lilies: yellow, butterscotch, salmon, orange and my favorite, sizzling red.

The only problem on a day like this is how do you take it in? Never mind saving it, how can you savor it?  Maybe the only way to enjoy this day is to stay in the now, breathing in and out and counting the special moment as a blessing.

One of my blessings is having a small pond, filled with giant bullfrogs. Incredible the sounds they make. Back and forth across the pond, the deep humming sounds coming from these frogs sounds like some crazy symphony instruments warming up for the performance!

As day ends, light turns the maple leaves a brilliant green. The pond is bright and shimmery. No better place to be.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

By Camincha

It is always summer when Alba thinks of Miraflores. The sun is always shining when Alba thinks of Miraflores although she knows very well it wasn’t so. The fact is that the climate was capricious, in the summer often foggy, cold, grey with a fine garüa, a mist, good for vegetation but not for Alba because she liked to go swimming and the garüa made her cold when it settled on her skin and frustrated, especially if she had plans to go to the beach to swim, which she enjoyed. But she and her friends would go anyway and walk into the freezing water, some days not even holding on to the rope set there for those worried that the violent surf would rough them up, tumble them, push them against rocks and deposit them bruised and cut on the stones under the surf. So what’s that got to do with caigüas (a plant that bears fruit similar to bell peppers.) Both happened in the summer.

After swimming, still shivering, they would make their way to the dressing rooms. Still damp, and by then hungry, their wet hair sticking to forehead, shoulders, neck, clothes, they carried their heavy uncomfortable bags with their wet towels and bathing suits up the hill to El Malecón (seawall.) Hug good bye before going on walking to their respective homes. Alba felt lucky, she had only four more blocks to walk to her house at Porta Street where a delicious lunch of caigüas stuffed with meat, black olives, bits of hard boiled eggs, sauté onions and garlic awaited her. Or caigüas soup. Or purée of caigüas. Caigüas stew. Caigüas...cooked in as many ways as was possible for they grew in such profusion that mamacita had started to invent some recipes of her own.

This situation with the caigüas came about because their house front was flushed with the sidewalk, no front garden. But mamacita loved to garden. And was good at it. Knew all the plants -- the secrets of roses, dahlias, geraniums, carnations, lemon trees, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, garlic, corn. She grew all of these in an eight by eight space in the center of the house built for that purpose. She also put to good use the three and a half square feet of dirt next to a wall in the middle of a raised cement border walkway that nurtured a jasmine so fertile that it had spread all over and looked like a beautiful lace tapestry. The little yard and the small patch were full of black, rich dirt that mamacita kept fertile by periodically mixing it with compost made of blending chicken droppings with vegetable cuttings and crushed eggshells. And caigüas? Oh! the caigüas. Well the compost, the black dirt and the regular watering she gave it produced, out of a few seeds she had dropped on it, an enormous amount of succulent caigüas. And they harvested them in such abundance that years later were still talking about it. It was a miracle the jasmine survived the intrusion.

Alba remembers mamacita directing the servants to fill boxes and baskets with caigüas and sending them to friends and neighbors and finally to the owners of the vegetable and meat store on their block that smelled of fragrant herbs and fresh meat. Owned and operated by two Chinese men who if Alba happened to go by while they were having lunch could be seen eating a couple of light color sticks in one hand, from porcelain bowls they lifted to their mouths, while their dark eyes above the bowl peered at her. The Chinese did not live in Miraflores, Alba knew this because she had seen the tall men get off the bus from Lima at the corner of Avda 28 de Julio and Porta half a block from her house early in the morning and walk in their gaunt manner. Their heads up in the air like testing the wind trying to divine what the day would be like. Deliveries on time? Enough sales to cover the expenses? But on the day of the caigüas Yin Yin and his partner had a smile on their faces for Alba’s mother sent the caigüas as a gift.

Meantime The Baths, which is what everyone called the beach at the foot of the cliffs in Miraflores had very little sand, mostly stones that hurt your feet so it was necessary to use sturdy foot wear and certainly a thick towel to lie on. It was rough, some days more than others. Like when the rope that ran from a pillar at the edge of the surf to about a hundred feet into the ocean was helpful to the timid and not good swimmers. Because when the tide was high the waves that angrily came to explode at the beach sometimes were monumental. Other times they had lost their strength just as they arrived and barely rolled in playfully before going out again. But the ocean was always cold, thinking of a warm lunch of caigüas in any form was most welcomed.

Camincha is a pen name for a writer living in northern California.