Posted by: ktzefr | April 9, 2018

15 Favorite Haiku: Celebrating Cherry Blossoms!

Cherry blossoms, DC; Photo:KFawcett

In 1912, the people of Japan sent more than 3,000 cherry trees to the United States as a gift of friendship. First Lady Taft and the Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese Ambassador, planted the first two cherry trees at the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC.  They are in bloom! 

The significance of the cherry tree in Japanese culture goes back hundreds of years.   The blossom represents the fragility and the beauty of life.  Japanese masters of haiku wrote many verses about cherry blossoms that express this sentiment. 

Though pages of haiku can be read in a few moments, a quick read doesn’t do these little gems justice.  A haiku is kind of like having a tiny diamond in your hand as opposed to, say, a huge chunk of quartz.  Examine…see what meaning you can find.

Here are some favorite cherry-blossom haiku:

from Basho…

From all four quarters

Cherry petals blowing in

To Biwa’s waters!

(Biwa is a lake in Japan)

*

from Onitsura…

They blossom, and then

We gaze, and then the blooms

Scatter, and then…

*

A mountain stream:

Even the stones make songs—

Wild cherry trees.

*

When cherry trees bloom

Birds have two legs

Horses four

(The perfection of cherry flowers reawakens the poet’s astonishment at the obvious)

*

from Buson…

The cherry-bloom has gone—

A temple, in among the trees,

Is what it has become.

*

To cherry blooms I come,

And under the blossoms go to sleep—

No duties to be done!

*

As the moon-brilliance makes its

Crossing, so

Cherry-blossom shadows eastward

Slowly go.

*

Scattered petals lie

On rice-seedling waters:

Bright is the starlit sky.

*

Departing spring:

With belated cherry blossoms

Shilly-shallying.

*

from Chora…

Women, children, men:

Into cherry bloom they push—

From bloom come out again.

*

from Issa…

“Cherry blossoms!  See!

Cherry bloom!” – and it was sung

Of this old tree.

*

In my old home

Which I forsook, the cherries

Are in bloom.

*

Under cherry-flowers,

None are utter strangers.

*

Ours is a world of suffering,

Even if cherry-flowers bloom.

*

from Shiki…

Coming to see cherry bloom

He had his money stolen—

The country bumpkin.

*

from Ishu…

Hey there, wait a moment,

Before you strike the temple bell

At the cherry blossoms.

(In Japan the lifespan of a cherry flower is only 3 days; the poet is afraid the vibration of the bell will cause the flowers to fall too soon.)

*

from Teishitsu…

Look at that!  and that!

Is all I can say of the blossoms

At Yoshino Mountain.

(For this one to be meaningful it is helpful to know that Mt. Yoshino is a large hill in Southern Japan that has groves of white mountain cherry trees totaling more than 100,000 and for three days in early April the hill is a cloud of intense whiteness.)

*

See the 2018 cherry blossoms in DC.  Photos from WTOP news.

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Posted by: ktzefr | April 6, 2018

Favorite Foto Friday:Monarchs

I can’t wait for the return of these beautiful creatures.  Looks like it may be awhile, however.  The weather forecast is snow again this weekend!  

Monarch butterfly; Mariposa monarca; Photo:KFawcett

Posted by: ktzefr | April 3, 2018

What’s in a Word?

One of my favorite coffee shops has a slip of paper with a new word and its definition taped to the counter every day.  Each time I stop by for coffee I make a point of checking out the new word.  Most of the time I have no clue what it means.  Where do they get these words?  How are they chosen?  Someday I’ll ask.  I get excited each time.  Yippee, I’ve learned a new word.  Sometimes I discuss the word’s meaning with the cashier or the barista or someone waiting in line for their joe.  Small talk.  Something besides the weather.

However, it occurred to me today that, considering all of the times I’ve gone in and out of that coffee shop over the years, I cannot — at this moment — recall a single new word I learned! 

I don’t have a clue.

Did you know the word “clue” originally meant a ball of thread?  This is why one is said to “unravel” the clues of a mystery.

*****

One week from today, snow is predicted.  There’s a little flake beside the day on my cellphone.  In fact, the weather report for the week shows great diversity in the weather, something different happening every single day — rain, lightning, sunshine, wind, cloudy, partly cloudy with some sun, and snow — in that order.  I have come to pay little attention to the weather forecasts.  

Eskimos have more than twenty words to describe snow.  If it does snow next Monday or any other day before next winter, I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to come up with more than twenty words to describe it!  And they won’t be nice.  

Do Eskimos really rub noses?  I Googled and they do, but they also kiss.  Speaking of kissing…did you know that what is called a “French kiss” in the US and England is known as an “English kiss” in France?  That kinda ruins the whole mystique, doesn’t it?

*****

In the vast majority of the world’s languages, the word for “mother” begins with the letter M.  Examples:  mother, mom, mama, madre, mati, mere, mutter, mana, ma, mater, madar, maire…the list goes on and on.

*****

Fuzzy, the squirrel; Photo:KFawcett

As of late I’ve had to “paint” the birdfeeder pole with vaseline to keep the squirrels from climbing.  I’ve been using an old paintbrush and a jar of petroleum jelly.  Sometimes the squirrels give up; sometimes they keep trying and sliding until they have rubbed off all the vaseline.    

I learned recently that paint brushes,those with soft bristles, are often called camel-hair brushes.  They are NOT made from camel hair.  More often than not they are made from “other natural hairs,” which usually means squirrel.  No lie.  But what brush manufacturer is ever going to list “squirrel hair” in the description?

I do not tell the squirrels that the brush I’m using to grease the pole to keep them from getting thistle was made from the hairs of their ancestors.

What about those really expensive brushes labeled “superfine camel hair” that artists use?  Yep, superfine squirrel hair.  It occurred to me that many a “nude” painted by famous artists have come to life on canvas via equal parts talent, passion, and squirrel hair.  

By the way, as far as words go, “nude” and “naked” are not the same.  Naked implies unprotected; nude means unclothed.  Famous artists do not paint portraits of naked people; they are nudes.

Tell that to the squirrels.

*****

 

 

 

Posted by: ktzefr | March 30, 2018

Easter in Latin America: music, musings, memories

I’ve spent some of my favorite Easter weeks in Latin America — Mexico, Ecuador, Costa Rica.  Those experiences seemed, at the time, very different from the Easters I spent growing up in Kentucky.  So why did I always feel so eerily at home?   

A shop in San Miguel de Allende; Photo:KFawcett

Today, listening to music from the Andes, I thought of Ecuador.  One Easter week we stayed in a monastery on the grounds of a 400-year-old hacienda at the foot of Imbabura Volcano.  We didn’t dye eggs or see any giant bunnies that year.  Instead, we rode horses up a steep, narrow trail at cliff’s edge and watched the sun set behind those high mountain peaks.  On the grassy slopes below us, the local women did embroidery work while keeping an eye on their sheep.  A young boy on a bike came zipping by us one day, cracking a whip, herding his cows home for the night.  Llamas ran to greet us from fenced-in pastures.  It was nothing like home, and yet this place the locals call the Valley of the Dawn, a flat slice of land between the towering Cayambe and Cotocachi volcanoes, seemed strangely familiar.  Perhaps it was the scent of wood fires at night, the roosters crowing before daybreak, or the “family” dinners around the table by the fire that reminded me of Kentucky.  When I was growing up I dreamed of faraway places; in faraway places I have often been reminded of home. 

Music is a powerful connector to the past for me.  My favorite Andean musicians — Nanda Manachi, Andes Manta, Leo Rojas.  I was in college when Simon and Garfunkel’s haunting melody, El Condor Pasa, was released.  One night 30 years later I heard this tune played by local musicians in the Andes.  S&G had added words to the melody, but no words are needed.  In fact, the words seem like an unnecessary afterthought.  Here…a version by Leo Rojas.

The year we were in Costa Rica it rained on Easter.  In fact, it rained every day and/or night in the rainforest.  The scent of wet earth never went away.  It smelled like the Appalachian woods after a spring rain.  I recreate that scent now each time I water my green things — the ficus and banana trees, the hibiscus and jasmine, the coffee bush and the orchids.  In the village of Tortuguero on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast the little one-room church was similar to the Apple Grove Baptist in eastern Kentucky where I spent many Easter Sundays as a child.  And the path through the rainforest led to a small village store much like the store my parents owned.  One big room with shelves of goodies, an ice box full of ice cream, candy on the counter.  And locals milling about swapping stories.  Like home.  

Church, Tortuguero,Costa Rica; Photo:MFawcett

The pilgrimages and parades and spectacular decorations and events during Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Mexico are far removed from my own childhood experiences of Easter.  But the spirituality that permeates everything, the ringing of church bells, and the devotion to tradition and to family all seem familiar.  There are few places I’ve been in the world where I feel closer to “home” and childhood than in one of my favorite Mexican hill towns — Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende, and Doloros Hidalgo.

Palm Sunday Procession, San Miguel de Allende; Photo:KFawcett

Check out the amazing alfombras painstakingly produced in Guatemala during Semana Santa.  These amazing “carpets” are not the work of professional artists, but rather the devotion to tradition and the special sharing that takes place amongst family and friends.

 

The forsythia is in bloom, the daffodils have flowered, the crocus have buds ready to burst open.  The colored eggs are on the table.  I haven’t seen the yard bunnies yet, but I saw their footprints in the snow last week.  On March 20 at 4:15 pm the plane of Earth’s equator passed through the center of the sun’s disk.  Spring is here!

Years ago in Ecuador I stood over the equatorial line with one foot in the northern and one foot in the southern hemisphere.   Some days it feels like I’m still there.  

Happy Easter!

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Posted by: ktzefr | March 23, 2018

Orchids for Easter: 11 Favorite Fotos

Orchids; Photo:KFawcett

When I was growing up in Kentucky, Easter was celebrated with flowers.  Women wore corsages to church, and the ultimate corsage was an orchid — the flower tied with some organdy and a ribbon.  Everyone complimented everyone else’s orchid.  Some took note of the color;  others looked at the size of the blossom.  After church the orchid was put back in the florist’s box and placed on a shelf in the refrigerator.  It lasted for days, but it was rarely worn again.  One “enjoyed” the orchid each time the refrigerator door was opened.  That’s  about it.

I have seen orchids growing wild in the rainforest high in the trees.  I’ve been to orchid shows and exhibits and greenhouses.  And I have several plants at home that sit in front of windows during the winter and enjoy the back porch in summer.  Here are some of my favorite blooms:

Orchid; Photo:KFawcett

 

Orchid; Photo:KFawcett

Orchids; Photo:KFawcett

Orchids; Photo:KFawcett

 

Orchids; Photo:KFawcett

 

Orchids; Photo:KFawcett

 

Orchids; Photo:KFawcett

 

Orchids; Photo:KFawcett

 

Orchids; Photo:KFawcett

 

Orchids; Photo:KFawcett

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Posted by: ktzefr | March 21, 2018

SNOW is a 4-Letter Word

Snow out my window; Photo:KFawcett

I’m watching it snow and wishing it wasn’t so.  While listening to harp music, drinking tea, and looking through an old notebook, I find a list of unusual weather words that appear to be in a foreign language.  Of course, many of the weather and Earth science terms we use are derived from other languages — hurricane, tornado, and derecho from the Spanish, tsunami from Japanese, etc.  In fact, most words in the English language have roots somewhere else in the world.

So, how many of these do you know?

Haboob (a dust storm) This happens when a collapsing thunderstorm collects dust and grows into a dark cloud that blocks visibility.  A couple of years ago when a haboob rolled through Lubbock, Texas and the weather service referred to the “haboob” (a word of Arabic origin) some folks were annoyed.  Haboobs may happen in the Middle East, they said, but in Texas it’s called a dust storm.  Well, the weather service was right.  Haboob is the correct scientific term, no matter where in the world the dust gets stirred up.

Petrichor (scent of rain)  I love this one!  When I was growing up in Kentucky I often heard older folks say they could smell the rain coming.  It seemed silly to me at the time, though this pronouncement was often followed by sprinkles.  Turns out the earth actually releases an oil when rain starts to fall, creating a special scent in the air — the scent of rain.  Next time you get a whiff of that smell you’ll know what to call it.

Frazil (ice in the river)  Not to be confused with frazzled nerves or frizzled hair, frazil refers to the first crystal slivers of ice that form in rivers, lakes, streams, and oceans when temperatures drop (sorta like slush).  Frazil has also been found beneath glaciers where the crystals have formed from water filled with sediment and, in some cases, chemicals, such as tritium, that were produced by nuclear weapons testing and therefore almost entirely absent in ice frozen before 1945.

The list goes on…

Some words dance on the tongue — williwaw (a violent squall that blows in near the polar latitudes), bombogenesis (the bomb cyclones caused by low-pressure systems that intensify rapidly) and gloriole (the bright circle around the sun or moon).  When I was growing up we called these circles halos.  They were exciting to see on a warm summer night, but it usually meant a storm was coming.  And that scent in the air?  

There is this:  my snowball bush is heavy with snow…and the beginnings of blossoms.  The crocus are up a couple of inches.  The daffodils have sprouted.  There are buds on the cherry trees. 

And this:  Matsunnaga Teitoku, a poet whose work has been mostly neglected, lived in the late 1500s and made haiku a part of the legitimate poetic canon.  It is full of tiny gems like this one that seems perfectly fitting for today (utsugi is a shrub that has white flowers that gleam like snow in the moonlight) —

“It lets one see

Snow, moon, and blossoms — all at once.

oh, utsugi!”

 

All at once…a miracle of sorts.  But I’m ready to let the snow go!

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Posted by: ktzefr | March 6, 2018

Limin’ in the Guadeloupe Islands

 

Rochers Caraibes…It is 2 a.m.  The rain is intense, a downpour without thunder or lightning, doing a wild dance on the rooftop.  It comes without warning and then stops suddenly, as if an enormous water spigot has been turned on and off in the sky.  A cool breeze slips through the open shutters.

Rochers Caraibes Eco-Lodge, Guadeloupe; Photo:KFawcett

It’s February in the Guadeloupe Islands.  Blue skies.  Showers.  Night rains.  Sunsets.  Every day is pretty much the same.  Eighties during the day, seventies at night.  Just about perfect.  Here at the edge of the rainforest on the island of Basse-Terre it often rains with the sun still shining.  Dark clouds sweep across the sky and disappear out to sea.  Most days there is a rainbow somewhere.  Most days the sunsets are spectacular.  At night the sky is a blanket of stars.

Rochers Caraibes, Guadeloupe; Photo:KFawcett

In the morning I lift a door/wall of the house and enjoy the outside from the kitchen table.  Lizards scamper across the porch and slip into the bougainvilea blossoms — a flick of a green tail and gone.  It’s birdwatching made easy — we fill the hummingbird and the sugar bird (bananaquit) feeders every day and sit with a cup of tea and wait.  There are places to go, things to do and see — but it’s tempting to do nothing.

Lizard in the night light; Photo:KFawcett

 

Bananaquits (sugarbirds) at the feeders; Photo:KFawcett

The view of the sea from this perch on the hillside is expansive.  There are palms and seagrape trees and many other varieties of trees, bushes, and giant clinging vines that I cannot name.  The bougainvillea is in full bloom with clusters of purple flowers clinging to the deck.  Far below, through a veritable wall of green, the beach is a small curve of black sand and pebbles with a few little cafes and a good dive shop.

Rochers Caraibes; Photo:KFawcett

It feels like we are a long way from the rest of the world, and yet there is so much nearby.  In town, a kilometer away, a boulangerie makes fresh croissants and French bread on early mornings, rich pastries for afternoon tea.  And the little market next to it has a good selection of French cheeses.  Ripe pineapples, bananas, oranges fill wooden crates on the porch fronts of tiny shops.

We stop to buy fruit for the week from a friendly local woman who busily instructs her young son to make room for us.  He has a collection of plastic cars that he has spread out amongst the crates and hurries to put them away in a box.  I grew up in a country store in Kentucky, and I enjoy shopping in small markets where local life happens, where it’s easy to meet people.  The Guadeloupe Islands offer those kinds of experiences every day.

I met Brigitte Barth via email several months before we went to Guadeloupe, and with her little bit of English and my miniscule bit of French, we managed to plan a trip.  Our stay at her place, Rochers Caraibes Eco-lodge, was like coming to the islands to visit a friend.  It felt like home.

Gorgeous Plage de Grand Anse, Deshaies, Guadeloupe; Photo:KFawcett

It was not fun to come back to snow and freezing temperatures and a wind storm that knocked out the power for two days!  I was ready to pack and go back to the Caribbean.  But then, again, I’m always ready to pack and go back to the Caribbean.

*******

NOTE:

Brigitte receiving an award for her lovely lodge.

Rochers Caraibes Eco-Lodge is located one kilometer from the small town of Pointe Noire on the west coast of Basse-Terre Island in the Guadeloupe archipelago.  It is easy driving distance to many fun attractions, including the Jacques Cousteau Underwater Reserve, the beautiful Jardin Botanique in the town of Deshaies, a number of rum distillaries, the national park zoo with its many swinging bridges in the canopy of the rainforest, and the gorgeous beaches — Plage de Grand Anse, Plage de la Perle, Leroux, Reflet, and numerous others along the coast.  This part of Basse-Terre is also the site of filming for the British-French tv series, “Death in Paradise” now in its seventh season.  The town of Deshaies also stands out for its many superb restaurants — French, creole, Italian, and even a good burger joint.

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Posted by: ktzefr | February 26, 2018

Rainbow Sand, Pretty Pictures

We were driving around the dark “wing” of the butterfly looking for the sand art place.  It had been described as a one-of-a-kind gallery, not to be missed.  As it happened, we had passed the turn-off many times and didn’t notice.  We were going too fast, the road signs were too small, it took too long to read the French.  The gallery was five minutes from our villa.

**********

 

The island with wings…

 

Basse-Terre Island in the Guadeloupe archipelago is the left “wing” of the two butterfly-shaped main islands, the other being Grand-Terre.  I refer to this wing as dark because of the color of the sand along many of its beaches — shades of black and gray, resulting from La Soufriere, an active statovolcano and the highest mountain peak in the Lesser Antilles, which rises to 1,467 meters.  The roads here are mountainous switchbacks with stunning views of the rainforest and sea.

Reve de Sable, Pointe Noire, Guadeloupe; Photo:KFawcett

The sand art place, Rêve de Sable, is in the small town of Pointe Noire at the edge of the rainforest alongside the coast.  Michel and Marie Coste have set up shop in a cottage by the road.  Their studio is filled with sand paintings of hummingbirds, turtles, lizards, fish, local heroes and villagers, flowers, and maps of the islands. 

Marie Coste at work in her studio; Photo:MFawcett

The scenes are created using all natural materials, from beach sand to riverbed rocks, the remnants of sea shells, fossilized algae, and volcanic lava that they collect and sort, crush and sift themselves.  The natural world is colorful here.  Even flowers can be “painted” with the pink sand from Marie Gallant Island or the amazing golden sands of the long, beautiful beaches north of the town of Deshaies on Basse-Terre.  The paintings are sturdy (witnessed when a TSA agent dropped one on the tile floor at the airport without damage) as they are designed on wood.

 

**********

It was almost dark when we left the gallery with our treasures in hand, having experienced, again, one of the best reasons to travel — getting to know a place, a tiny dot on the map, and its people.  Henry Miller once said this: “One’s destination is never a place but a new way of looking at things.” 

 

Meeting new people in faraway places never fails to offer a new way of looking at the world.  I’m glad we made the effort to find Michel and Marie’s lovely house of sand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

***GPS is not always accurate in finding places here.  Check the map:  From the intersection of the Route de la Traversee (crosses through the national park on Basse-Terre Island) and the D1, head north on the D1 toward Pointe Noire.  Look for the big public swimming pool on the right in Pointe Noire and take the next right turn.  Drive slowly and look for the sign for Rêve de Sable on the left (0590 986 174).  

Posted by: ktzefr | February 23, 2018

Flowers of Deshaies…

For Friday’s favorite fotos:  some of the lovely flowers (and birds) in the Jardin Botanique in Deshaies, Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe Islands.

Jardin Botanique, Deshaies, Guadeloupe; Photo:KFawcett

A peek through the trees at the sea…

Jardin Botanique, Deshaies, Guadeloupe; Photo:KFawcett

Jardin Botanique, Deshaies, Guadeloupe; Photo:KFawcett

Parrots as pretty as flowers…

Jardin Botanique, Deshaies, Guadeloupe; Photo:KFawcett

 

Jardin Botanique, Deshaies, Guadeloupe; Photo:KFawcett

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Posted by: ktzefr | January 21, 2018

Squirrels: From Cooking to Coddling

Fuzzy, the squirrel; Photo:DFawcett

My dad shot squirrels.  Mom skinned the critters and fried, stewed, and served them with dumplings.  Our biggest worry about eating squirrel was accidentally biting down on buck shot.

When the first day of hunting season rolled around mid-August my dad would get up at 2 a.m. and drive for two hours or more, first crossing the Kentucky hills on a curvy mountainous road to the long stretch of flat land bordered by tobacco farms and dotted with a string of small towns in order to get to the Blue Grass Region by dawn.  He usually took along a friend or two.  There were always stories when they returned late afternoon with the critters.  Red squirrels.  Gray squirrels.  They had stopped on the way back at the Dog Patch Zoo (yep, that was the real name) for chocolate milkshakes.  “The best in the world.”  The world was small.

 

As I sit by my window in the suburbs, drinking coffee and looking out at the bare trees, everything except the evergreens stripped of their leaves, squirrel nests are visible everywhere.  Across the street in my neighbor’s maple a nest is held in a wide fork in the branches.  If I walk around, looking out windows, I can, perhaps, spot a dozen or more nests.  In the mornings the squirrels come down to search for food.  And they know where to come…

 

I give them names and feed them peanuts.  Shelled hazelnuts on holidays and an occasional pecan that has gone stale.  We had a squirrel buddy we named Fuzzy (see photo above) a few years back who had a small black dot beneath one eye.  It seems this characteristic has been passed down the generations as the friendliest of the squirrels appear to be descendants with the trademark beauty spot.  The taste for squirrel, however, has been lost.  I haven’t eaten squirrel in decades and don’t plan to do so.

Squirrels at Christmas; Photo:KFawcett

I’m always surprised to see a squirrel when I’m traveling.  Somehow I never thought about squirrels running around the woods and parks and neighborhoods of other countries.  I wonder if even the critters speak a different language elsewhere.  Somewhere in one of my boxes of junk and treasure is the squirrel call my dad used to take hunting.  It only makes one sound, as I recall.  Surely, squirrels have a more sophisticated language than that.

Talavera squirrels

I found these two in the tiny mountain town of Santa Rosa de Lima in Guanajuato, Mexico, high in the mountains in a huge shop overflowing with thousands of Talavera dishes and figurines and water pitchers.  Enough designs and colors and characters to boggle the mind.  But these guys jumped off the shelf and into my hands.

I keep an old pewter dish full of peanuts by the front door.  It says: Salud, amor y pesetas y tiempo para disfrutarlas — health, love and money (Spanish currency before the Euro) and time to enjoy.  A fitting dish for the neighborhood squirrels.  Though money is meaningless to a squirrel, the peanut-diet keeps them healthy, they have all the time in the world, and, since new babies are born between February and April, there’s a whole lot of love happening.

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Happy Squirrel Appreciation Day!

 

 

 

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