Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds

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Do hummingbirds hum? Only when they’re humming birds. Otherwise they are quite silent, when alone, and the whirring of their wings is what whisks them up and away. In Oaxaca, the colibris are the souls of dead warriors killed in action. Their bravery is rewarded by their transference to a colibri in the afterlife, for colibris are given the gift of serving the sun in Mexican Mythology.

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Here in Island View, New Brunswick, we only see the ruby-throated hummingbirds. No ruby throat, and they are usually females. Obviously, when they have their backs to us, then it is more difficult to determine male or female.

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I desperately wanted to catch one feeding in the hollyhocks. Alas, they vanished inside the larger flowers. Also, they were much too quick for these old eyes and ageing fingers. So I just clicked away and hoped and this was the best I could do. I am still hopeful though… there’s still quite a bit of summer left.

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Carousel

Carousel

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Around and around a roundabout! I love it when the painted wooden horses open their mouths and rock up and down, and the little children hold out their hands to watching parents and grandparents, and big sisters and brothers hold them tight and keep them from falling off and the world passes by in a blur and open mouths are black holes in faces sucking the carousel in as it spins past in triumph.

And never forget the dodgem cars, weaving in and out, never dodging anything, but jousting like armor-clad knights of old, bumper to bumper, and ready, steady, charge! Or the old swing boats, twin-roped, non-mechanical, lifting us up to the skies and dropping us back to earth with that stomach-churning fall from stardom to the loss of innocence as the wooden break grinds, our thruppence is spent, and the ride is over.

Those days are as forgotten as one a penny, two a penny, or the tuppenny loaves that the elephants dropped, or the sing a song of sixpence where the twenty-four blackbirds descended like clothes pegs to devour the bread and honey and peck off the nose of the open-eyed innocent who never tired of the joke until the ultimate childhood squeal as his or her freckled or un-freckled nose was pinched and stolen away. So much lost, so much forgotten.

For two weeks now I have tried to photograph the hummingbirds, colibris, who visit the hollyhocks. Tonight, after a hundred or more photos, I managed to catch one in the fish-net of the camera. What joy: success after days and days searching for that delicate flash of red and green, only to find nothing there. Oh hummingbirds, I weep to see you, to capture you in the camera’s eye, to preserve you … for such a short, brief, moment of time.

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Wanderer

Wanderer
El Árbol de Tule

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So many tales are told about the árbol de Tule, that thousand year old tree standing outside the city of Oaxaca. Hernán Cortés is said to have sat beneath it when he came to Oaxaca in 1525, or thereabouts. And it was old then, and famous in folklore. The tree is also famous for the pictures that nestle in trunk and branches. For small change, the little boys, released early from school, will point their mirrors up, into the tree, and spotlight with reflected sunshine the features that you seek. A thousand years, or more, have produced a thousand images, or more. Even the face of  Hernán Cortés himself is said to be captured somewhere along the tree-trunk’s art gallery, if you can only find it.

Like Borges’s eternal library, your own portrait can be found there, somewhere. You must search patiently for it, staring into the tree bark until it takes on your features. Then you can move on, knowing that whatever happens you will be caught forever in the life of one of the world’s wonders: el árbol de Tule. But beware of imitations and avoid the plastic imitations and the photos from cheap camera’s that will trap your soul forever, leaving no trace of you in the real world. Ignore these warnings at your peril, or you too will be locked into your cell phone and sentenced to life imprisonment within those digital walls.

Breakdown

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Commentary:

This was the first time I had been to the baths in Oaxaca. These came highly praised  by family and close friends and the combination of mist, steam, and herbs, combined to loosen the body and soothe the soul. The Mixtec baths and massage are very highly regarded, incidentally, and one can go to the equivalent of sweat lodges in order to enjoy a day at an ancient historic spa. The masseur himself was incredible. I lay face down initially. When he want to turn me over, he got a bucket of cold water, threw it over me and flipped me in mid-air as I reacted to the ice cold water. Hard to believe now. I also remember having to buy a small bar of paper-wrapped soap. And locking my valuables up in a little chest to which only he had the key. These baths feature in my novel, People of the Mist. Unpublished, alas, but I may get around to revising it one day. All I need is some encouragement!

 

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.

 

Autumn Leaves

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Commentary

This is another of my beloved’s multi-media mock-ups for one of my Oaxaca Prose Poems. I have enlarged the photo so the text of the prose poem is more easy to read. I have several more of these and will post them one by one. I visited Oaxaca regularly, teaching there in November -December (1995-2001).  I came to love the city and I was entranced by its streets and squares. The casco histórico was particularly interesting.

Coffee in the zócalo, a walk through the cathedral, up the andador turístico to Santo Domingo where the old lady sang so beautifully, every day at twelve. Then back via the shops and home for lunch. I was always astonished by the leaves that swirled through the zócalo. They hustled, rustled, and bustled through the arched colonnades on the main square, gathered at the post office, and hurried and scurried  away from the trees where they dwelt to drift, who knows where, on the wild winds that blew in from nowhere and then blew out again.