Bullfight

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Bullfight

The above photo shows novillos, young bulls, on a bull farm in Salamanca, Spain, bred for the bull ring. They are tested in the farm’s private bull ring and the best and bravest are saved for the bull ring. A series of computer programs tests them at six month intervals to see if they are bull ring material.

Spain is divided on bull fighting with Catalonia banning the bullfight while Castilla and Andalusia are ardently in favor of the three, thousand year old tradition. The Spanish flag, in Castille, comes with a fighting bull, in the centre, replacing the coat of arms.

Many opinions exist abut bullfighting, bull running, and the whole tradition of blood sports. I will not state my position. But I will leave you with a piece of flash fiction, perhaps a short story. Each of you, if you wish, may play the game, click on the Bullfighting link, and decide for yourselves where you, and I, stand. Warning: not for the faint of heart … go on, be brave, remember the toros bravos who have perished in the ring.

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Los Toros de Guisando, mentioned in the Quixote, prehistoric stone bulls, verracos, Celtic carvings from the Province of Avila, Spain. The Roman legions carved their names into these stone bulls. Below, a modern bull, also from the province of Avila. I must, at this point, mention my friend Juanra, who took me to see these monuments and encouraged my interest in his wonderful province. Juanra, te lo agradezco, no sabes cuanto.

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Beaver Pond

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The Beaver Pond at Mactaquac

Oh-oh, wrong Beaver Pond. That’s the Beaver Pond in Fundy National Park. Naughty, naughty! So, if you want to see the REAL Beaver Pond at Mactaquac, you’ll have to click on one of the links and see where it leads. “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive” … except this isn’t the first time I have made a mistake, and no, I wasn’t trying to deceive anyone. This is fun, though. I’ll be interested to see what you think of this little sequence. Let me know.

Balloon Lady

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Commentary:

Nine o’clock in Oaxaca is the ‘witching hour’. That’s when the young children go home and the balloon lady packs her bags and walks with her balloons out of the square. She really does build a castle. She stacks her balloons around her and lives within its walls selling balloons to children. Each Oaxacan child receives a balloon on his or her birthday and name day. These balloons are cherished, held carefully by their strings, walked like aerial dogs through the square.

The State band practices most nights int he central square and the balloons are moved by the music, especially that of the wind instruments, and then they wander to and fro. Sometimes they take on a life of their own and escape, skip away, go absent with out leave, and seek the freedom of the open skies. Sometimes they get caught in the trees. Then the strings are jigged and older children, experts in the art, place sticky tape on their own balloons and send them upwards in rescue missions which can be surprisingly successful. Oh what joy when the errant balloon returns to earth, stuck to its new mate. Oh what wailing when a birthday balloon bursts and the deprived child must persuade its parents to purchase another!

I can see them now, those colored balloons, floating skywards, sailing freely into the freedom of those blue Oaxacan skies. Up and up, level with the cathedral roof, ascending the cathedral tower, up, up, and away  … soaring like souls into the innocence of a sky blue heaven.

Yesterday

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Commentary:

Ocho Venado / Eight Deer is a legendary person who is described in the pre-Columbian Miztec códice known as the Zouche-Nuttall codex. He lived from 1063 to 1115, the date of the codex. The códice describes his life and conquests. I brought a facsimile copy of this códice home in 1995 and my beloved started reading it on Boxing Day. It took her two days to decipher the first page. One day for the second page and, by my birthday, she had read the whole thing. She inspired my love of the codices and they figure largely in my writings from that time, especially The Oaxacan Trilogy (Sun and Moon, Obsidian’s Edge, and Obsidian 22, the first two available on Amazon).

Eight Deer appears frequently in my poetry, partly because we have a family of deer, often as many as eight (!) that walk through our garden in Island View. The joining of the Canadian natural world with the Oaxacan historical and mythical world brings me great joy and it is wonderful to weave stories and poems where the two worlds mingle and become one. Hence the dream world of the prose poem that figures above. Chocolate beans, incidentally, were one of the cash currencies used in Oaxaca at the time of the arrival of Cortés and the Spanish. Oaxacan chocolate (xocotl) is something wonderful.

 

Carpe Diem

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Carpe Diem

Seize the day. Squeeze this moment tight.
Nothing before means anything. Everything
afterwards is merely hope and dream.

Remember how, when you were a tiny child,
you chased wind-blown autumn leaves
trying to catch them before they landed?

Elf parachutes you called them, treading with care
so as not to crush the fallen elves as they lay
leaf-bound upon the ground. I stand here now,

a scarecrow scarred with age, arms held out,
palms up, in the hope that a descending leaf
will perch like a sparrow on my shoulder.

When one condescends to visit me and another
graces my gray hair, my old heart pumps with joy.
I stand up straight, knowing I have seized this day.

Au Revoir

Au Revoir

Au Revoir

Commentary:

This construction (verbal and visual) dates back to my visits to Oaxaca, Mexico (1995-2001). So many friends, so many happy relationships, and then the world turned and I never went back. I remember doing yoga early in the morning on the azotea. Zopilote, the turkey vulture, wings motionless, flew high above the world, the sun lighting up his wings with its fiery flame. Zopilote, aka Trickster, the bird who stole fire from the gods and brought it back to earth so women could make men their morning chocolate over the old wood stoves or open fires. Or was that all a myth, fake news as some would say today when everything we touch is fake? So much has been lost, destroyed. So much beauty, verbal and visual, has been laid aside, destroyed, and forgotten. Au revoir, good-bye, will we ever see it again? Adieu, goodbye, we will never see it again, it’s gone for good. So much meaning in these brief French phrases, synonyms in English, yet carrying such different meanings in French.

Amarrada nuestra barca a otra ribera … Antono Machado wrote those words. We will awake one morning, he suggested, to find our boat moored on the other side of the river between life and death. And so we will. But in our daily lives, we try to ignore that fact. We seize the day, drowning our sorrows in a sea of forgetfulness: for tonight we’ll merry, merry be, we sing, but tomorrow we’ll be sober. Or will we? And nowadays, who cares anyway? As Seamus Heaney writes “my friends and neighbors, let it flow. We’ll be stood no rounds in eternity.”

Yesterday, I met a man in a wheel chair sitting outside the store where I was shopping. He asked me if I could spare some change and I told him I only carried plastic (true). Then next man who approached gave him a cigarette. My beloved was sitting in the car and I gave her a five dollar bill from the parking money and asked her to give it to the man in the wheel chair. So: how did we feel? Good for an act of charity? Bad for not responding immediately? Terrible that we see people living in poverty in a supposedly rich country? Fearful that one day the money would run out and that we too would be out there, begging for money, grateful for a cigarette, a hand out, a helping hand … happy for anything that would help postpone the inevitable end?

And then there was the bird that fell don the chimney and perished in the fireplace. We never even knew he was there until we found his feathers and his body, lifeless among cold ashes. So which is it to be: au revoir or adieu? Or even worse, the middle finger, the scowl, and the old ‘screw you’?