Mini-Mums

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Permit me to introduce you to my two Mexican mini-mums, in the market square in Oaxaca, with their mini-mums. They sell them at minimum price, a giveaway for tourists who arrive with the all-powerful dollar and yell and holler about how this year’s prices are so much higher than last year’s prices. The flower girls giggle and smile. They have heard it all before. They know where each of the prospective purchasers comes from. They now how they walk, talk, slur their words, cajole, bully, and offer absurd amounts of money, either much too much or much too little. Those tourists: they seem to know the price of everything and the value of nothing. Meanwhile, in spit of appearances to the contrary, the cakes are on sale and the flowers are on sale, but the flower girls, Mano y Petate, and no, those are not their names, those things are definitely not for sale.  “Everything,” the tourists say, “has its price.” True, perhaps, in some circumstances. But people are not things and it’s brutally cruel to put a price on people. Occasionally, a tourist will recognize these girls. They are the ones who decorate the altar in the main cathedral in the square. They have also been known to sing, in Spanish, Latin, and Mixtec, along with their mother, before the high altar in Santo Domingo. Santo Domingo, the church with more than six tons of gold and gold leaf layered throughout its magnificence, a true treasure of humanity and an internationally protected building. Once, though, a long time ago, God’s Dogs, as the Dominicans were then called, ran baying through the Valley of Oaxaca, gathering workers with promises of heaven and visions of paradise. The work, they said, was the Lord’s and the Lord wanted them, the people of the Valley of Oaxaca, to build this temple in his name. And here they would stay, under lock and key, until the Lord’s work was done. El Cristo de la Columna: Christ tied to the pillar, stripped to the waist, and flogged. This symbol stands in every church in Oaxaca, and all the People of the Valley of Oaxaca knows exactly what it means, fr it is the punishment meted out to those very people if they do not work hard enough, long enough, fast enough, at their vision of heaven, their taste of paradise, this building of the Church of a Lord who is not even theirs. The tourists marvel at the church, the gold, the paintings, the statues. They praise the mother and her children singing at the high altar: “what beautiful children, what beautiful voices.” But they know nothing about the blood, and the sweat, and the tears that went into the temple’s building.

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Reyes 2019

 

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Reyes

On the night of January 5 – 6, The Three Wise Men, Los Reyes Magos in Spanish, visit all the children in the world as they travel to Bethlehem. They bear gifts to these children and January 6 is a time of visitors and gifts.

First: the visitors. Three deer walked out of the woods this morning (6 Jan 2017). They paraded in front of the garage, luckily we had the door open, and equally luckily, I was able to get these photos of them.

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This is the lead deer. At this stage, the road was empty and I hadn’t been seen.

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The camera’s click sounded the alarm. The deer froze … and so did I. We gazed at each other for several seconds. I was afraid to move.

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I took another photo. The feet picked up as the camera clicked and away the deer went.

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Baby came last, but didn’t stay long.

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Up went the tail and away baby sped. Wapiti, White-tailed deer, tail in the air.

After the visitors, came the gifts.

Below is a link to my first Poetry book of 2008: Iberian Interludes. It arrived just in time for Reyes … the little boy that still dwells within this old man’s heart is delighted with his gift: the majority of my best poems about Spain gathered together beneath two new covers. Click below and open the box!

https://www.amazon.com/Iberian-Interludes-Bulls-Blood-Bottled/dp/1539911411/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

May you all have a great visit from the Three Wise Men (los Tres Reyes Magos), and may you all have a prosperous and joyous New Year, full of excellent writing and wonderful new accomplishments.

Ice

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Ice, so many meanings: sliding on ice, as cold as ice, icing the puck, walking on thin ice, skating on thin ice, ice-blue eyes, an icy stare … ice is also nice, as in icing on the cake, ice lollipops, ice in the drinks, holding it on ice …

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Stalagmites and stalactites, like ants in the pants, the -mites go up and the -tites come down. Ice giants, ice demons,  silent ice, groaning ice, ice floes, the river iced up, the head pond so many different shades of grey and blue and white, fading in places into black, and these look like black-and-white photos, but they aren’t, there’s always a tinge of color, even when you least expect it.

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Silent ice, singing ice, groaning ice, and the steady drip-drip of melting ice and what a show, sunshine stealthy on ic, stepping across it on tip-toe, and the ice as radiant as a stained glass window … and oh, there was so much more I wrote and still want to write. Too late now. It was incredible! I added a third photo to my original post early this morning, and, when I updated the post, the whole blog post was deleted and I uploaded a blank page. How tragic. Never mind: the ice will have to speak for itself in its own silence, in its own creaking and groaning, in its spectacular ice palace of glimmer and glow.

 

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Nativity

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Nativity

We keep this beautiful, hand-carved nativity scene on the sideboard all year round. It is tiny, approximately 2″ x 2″ and came from Central Europe, possibly Hungary, where a friend was travelling in the mid-seventies. He brought it back for us as a gift and we revisit it every Christmas, moving it into a more central place of honor and beauty by the Advent calendars and the Christmas scenes.

It will soon be time to remove most of these Christmas adornments. Some will stay up longer though and this is one of the pieces that will remain in sight to delight us all year round.

 

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This is another piece that will stay with us. It shows our photo of Tigger being visited by Kiki the Cat and several little puppies. Tigger gazes at them from his Royal Portrait, making them all feel welcome and protected as he endows them with the seasonal spirits that will extend well into the New Year.

Washington Bear

 

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Washington Bear

Washington Bear crosses the Potomac in a boat filled with Christmas oranges. Well, that’s what it looks like. Though of course they may be tangerines, or clementines, or mandarin oranges. It doesn’t really matter, because Christmas is now over, the Potomac is crossed, and world and wold have returned to whatever normality is currently available.

Brave Washington Bear. He was the first to pose for my pre-Christmas present: a new small Canon Camera. Hand-size, it fits in a pocket but takes the sharpest of pictures. It’s a Wifi camera, so they say, but we spent the largest part of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day trying to set up the Wifi connection, without success. When we checked trouble-shooting online, we found about 400 links complaining of the difficulty of linking Windows 10 with the Wifi Canon cameras. Oh dear: all fingers, thumbs, and steamed up glasses, with miniscule codes thumbed onto Lilliputian screens. How frustrating and, as we grow older and sight and touch grow frailer, and brain power for new things lessens, and new things encroach more and more and faster and faster onto our sensibilities … how triply and quadruply and really bigly, big league frustrating. As we slow down the world and the increase in daily innovations speed up. It is only now, that I begin to understand the frustrations of my grand-mother: “Thread the needle for me, Roger, for I cannot see too well and my hand is shaking.” Little did I know then that I too would be making the same and similar pleas when my turn came around, as it is coming.

The optometrist scheduled three eye operations. all minor, for me in October. I have had one already, the removal of a cyst, and now have two more to go: cataracts in both eyes. It will be good to see clearly again. Perhaps I will be able, once more, to thread my own sewing needles. I like sewing. I find it very relaxing. I have a wire needle threader (from Spain), an automatic needle threader (from my time quilting in Moncton), and I have my own sense of direction, corrupted now both by vision and shakiness. I guess that, like Washington Bear, I will be crossing my own Potomac soon, not to mention my Rubicon.

Not that it matters. Not that much matters in the enormous scheme of this world that rolls onwards and onwards, perhaps to its own inevitable end. Others have become extinct before us. We too are faced, once more, with our own extinction. Washington Bears, one and all and all for one, we must stand together in the prows of our boats laden with oranges and step forward, bravely, into whatever awaits us. Fortune favors the brave or so they say. But don’t be too happy about it, for they also say that “those whom the gods would destroy, they first make happy.” So bravery, yes, but with a little pinch of doubt and a peck of cynicism, please. Enjoy the old year. Welcome in the new. But don’t be too happy, not just yet. Let’s see what’s ahead of us first.

 

Boxing Day

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23 December: my mother and I travel to my mother’s mother’s house, leaving my father to follow, if he wants to. No instructions as to where we’ve gone, or how, or when. But he’ll know and follow eventually, like the good dog he is, when the Pavlovian Parties are droolingly over.

24 December: Christmas Eve. Everyone is very secretive, wink, wink, nudge, nudge, and the ‘boy’ is sent from the room while the grown-ups discuss whatever secrets grown-ups discuss when the little one is not present. I never ask questions any more. Why should I? Little boys should be seen and not heard is the only answer I ever get.

25 December:  Christmas is here. Late last night, my grandfather, on hands and knees, shoved a box under the double-bed in the front room where my grandmother sleeps using his walking stick like a billiard cue. I could see him clearly from my bed on the floor on the far side of the room, beyond my grandmother’s sleeping place. I had a feeling it would be him. It’s been a long time since I believed in Santa Claus, let alone the spirit of Christmas. The Christmas spirits, yes, I believe in them. My grandmother keeps them locked up in a little bottle beside her bed labelled Hennessy Cognac. I have sampled the Christmas Spirits. They are nice. I believe in them. My grandmother has already risen. I’ll get up soon. I guess my father will be downstairs and the Christmas Spirits will be here in plenty. My guess is they have already begun. Joy to the world, peace at Christmas, and a truce and a laying down of arms throughout the joyous day. Perhaps I’ll get a soccer ball and we’ll play soccer in the no-man’s-land that lies between the barbed-wire tongues that simulate the trenches.

26 December: Boxing Day. By the time I get up, the gloves are off and the sparring has already begun. I hear voices, walk into the kitchen, and a hush falls on the room. Knife-edge glances slash the thick atmosphere. It’s Boxing Day. On my left, in the blue corner, my mother, smoking what is probably her tenth cigarette of the day. A thin haze of grey smoke escapes from bruised lips. Whether they are beaten or bitten, I will never know. On my right, in the red corner, my father. White-faced, hungover yet again, truly into the spirits of Christmas. He is breathing heavily, like a Boxer Dog in mid-summer heat, snoring and snorting at the leash. In the middle, my grandfather. He is keeping the combatants apart, creating his breathing space so the true Spirit of Christmas can disentangle itself from the Christmas Spirits and bring peace to earth again for at least sixty seconds between each round. I look around the heaving, threshing silence of the room. My father breaks that silence, pointing at me: “It’s all your fault!” he says, his red-dimmed eyes blazing with a sudden and renewed anger. He starts to rise, but my grandfather steps between my father and me. “Go and see granny. She’s in the kitchenette, by the stove,” he says. “Go now.” I run a gauntlet of staring eyes and go to my gran. As I shut the door behind me, voices rise higher in the room I have just left. Boxing Day, indeed. The gloves are off. The battle has begun again.