Posted by: ktzefr | October 16, 2021

Tea, Time Travel, and Tortillas…

 

Jacarandas in bloom; Photo:KFawcett

Years ago in San Miguel de Allende I met a French woman named Beatriz who ran a little inn at the end of a tree-lined, cobblestoned street.  The inn sat on a slight hill, each room a separate casita, with a view that swept down through the town, up the far hillside, and all the way to the distant, smoky-blue Sierra Central mountains, part of the Sierra Madre Occidental.  I would open the French doors to the balcony early in the morning and smell the jasmine in bloom, see the profusion of blue/purple flowers of the jacarandas gracing the courtyard, and sometimes get a bird’s-eye view of a rainbow-striped hot air balloon hanging above the city.

Senora Beatriz kept an immaculate property with ponds for turtles and fish, a tall stone wall covered in jasmine flowers…

Jasmine in bloom; Photo:KFawcett

the surprise of an orchid bloom in crevices here and there…

Photo:KFawcett

and every size and shape of succulents and cacti imaginable…

Photo:KFawcett

Every morning she left early for market to buy fresh eggs and tortillas and returned to supervise the kitchen staff cooking everything from the French toast she enjoyed as a child to the perfect chilaquiles and sopes and huevos rancheros she had come to love and perfect in her years in Mexico.

There was always freshly-squeezed orange juice from the orange trees in the orchard and lime tree tea.  Although the weather is spring-like year round, early winter mornings in the Bajio can be cool because of the altitude, so there was usually a fire in the fireplace that felt good and set the mood for the whole day.  I enjoyed those unhurried breakfasts and sitting with a third or fourth cup of tea in front of the fire.

Photo:KFawcett

Lime tree tea.  I didn’t have it again for years.  After Beatriz went back to live in Mexico City, I started staying other places on visits, some with mango trees or guava or papaya.  But no lime trees.

Then I discovered Kaffir Lime Leaves.  Rare Tea Cellar offers an air dried version of these lime leaves for an herbal brew.  The tea is light-colored with a delicate hint-of-lime taste.  Though I generally like a strong black tea for breakfast these days, the Kaffir lime tea is a great afternoon brew.  And, since there’s no caffeine, it’s okay to drink a whole pot.

I’ve been drinking tea on my own back porch for more than a year now, listening to the birds and the occasional frog song, but I miss those times in Mexico – the flowers and the music and the colors and the people.  It’s amazing the parade of memories that come dancing back with a teaspoon of leaves in a cup of hot water.

I have a lot of “time travel” stories.  I’ll bet you do, too.  How do you travel – via a Beatles song back to the 60s?  Christmas music to that first remembered holiday or special gift?  The scent of coffee or bacon or homemade chocolate fudge from a long-ago kitchen?

How about sharing in the comments…

**********

Posted by: ktzefr | October 8, 2021

Last Bees of Summer…

This time of year the bees are less energetic and seem not to mind being photographed.  Our butterfly bush has exploded with a last hurrah of blooms and the last few days have been abuzz with activity.  Here, then, are a few of my favorite bees posing…

 

Honey bee on Butterfly Bush; Photo:KFawcett

“Out comes the bee

from deep among peony pistils —

oh, so reluctantly!”

~ Basho

Not peonies, but…

Bee on Chrysanthemum; Photo:KFawcett

 

Bumblebee; Photo:KFawcett

 

Bumblebee; Photo:KFawcett

*****

Posted by: ktzefr | October 2, 2021

A Squirrel is a Squirrel…

These cool afternoons we sit on the deck and read beneath the shade of the maple and the beechnut trees.  Blue skies, bright sunlight, and the sound of fake rain.  High up in the beech tree two acrobatic squirrels swing from limb to limb.  They stop and eat beachnuts and drop the shells.  Plop.  Plop.  Plop.  Like raindrops.   On this sunny autumn day it’s raining nuts.

Squirrel Days; Photo:KFawcett

So many every day activities connect people from around the world.  I wouldn’t consider our squirrels princely and we have beechnuts instead of hazelnuts, but otherwise this poem from Syria could have been set in my own backyard.

The Squirrel

“The first hazelnut trundles down from above

The second hazelnut, the third, the fourth, the fifth, and 

the sixth, trundle down from above.

The hazelnuts trundle down, nut by nut, to the ground beneath

the dumb tree, the tree whose memory the squirrel collects

nut by nut, rolling it into his den.

Each year a memory of hazelnuts rolls, nut by nut, into

the den of the prince with the merry tail,

and the tree forgets.”

~ by Saleem Barakat, Syria

**********

Posted by: ktzefr | September 29, 2021

Between Daylight and Doing…

My favorite time of day is early morning, especially at the Eastern Shore.  In that short period of time between dawn and the start of day, the time before “people noise,” you can hear clearly the sounds of the natural world — the birds, the wind, the waves.  It’s good thinking time…

Bethany Beach; Photo:KFawcett

“I kindle my light over the whole Atlantic…

Unknown worlds, night-covered lands

awaken toward me!”

~ Edith Sodergran, from “Dawn”

***********

Posted by: ktzefr | September 27, 2021

Last Blooms of Summer…

Monday…this first full week of autumn.

Years ago, older women would sometimes criticize themselves or another on bad days by saying that he/she “looks like the last rose of summer.”  Well, this isn’t a rose but rather a type of trumpet vine, but  it looks pretty awesome.  Enjoy the summer colors while they last…  

Photo:KFawcett

“The bird and butterfly

unknown, a flower blooms:

the autumn sky.”

~  Basho

 

Posted by: ktzefr | September 1, 2021

19 Shades of Blue

Every year at back-to-school time I recall memories from my own school days. I remember cramming the red book satchel (no backpacks then) with paper and notebooks and No. 2 pencils and a box of brand new crayons, the tips still sharp and untouched.

A box of crayons then had eight colors: red, blue, yellow, green, orange, brown, black, and purple.  Everything you wanted to color in the whole world had to come from that box.  When we colored at school the trees were green, the sky was blue, hair was yellow, brown, or black, and the sun was always yellow unless it was a sunset, in which case there was orange. 

Nowadays, a big box of crayons has 120 different colors!  And that doesn’t include the extra smaller boxes with specialty hues – the Neon box or the Metallic or Confetti or Glitter crayons.  There are 23 shades of red, 20 greens, 19 blues, and 16 purples, amongst the multiples in this box.  The only lone crayons with no like siblings are the white, gold, and silver.

Since my favorite color is blue, I was curious to see how blue gets created in 19 different ways.  I visualized the way the Caribbean Sea changes color from the shallow to the deeper water, from early morning to sunset, but even 19 shades of sea is stretching the imagination. 

So…here they are (plus two other blues from specialty boxes):

Blue, navy, denim, midnight, wild blue yonder, blue green, cerulean, indigo, sky blue, cadet blue, cornflower, robin’s egg, turquoise, Pacific, periwinkle, blue violet, aquamarine, blue bell, baby blue, azure, b’dazzled blue.

It struck me that, of all the things one has to be concerned about in going back to school, the size of the box or number of colors doesn’t matter.  When I went off to school with my box of eight crayons I was as happy as a kid could be.  I felt safe and loved and ready for adventure.  I wish we could guarantee today’s kids, off to school toting their mega boxes of colors, a world of rainbows and blue skies, safety and love and adventure.   The one thing I do predict, if the past is any indication of the future, is that the Crayola boxes will only get bigger.

It’s 4 pm.  Tea time.  I decided to have a cup of Butterfly Peaflower (blue tea) and call it a day.  Hey, what a great name for the next new shade of blue!

*****

 

Posted by: ktzefr | July 12, 2021

To Catch a Thief…or not!

It happened years ago at a time when I was using a cleaning service.  I had been working fulltime and was on maternity leave.  On cleaning day I grabbed a bag and the baby and left for the day. 

It was spring, the closets were already switched to the new season.  I would not miss the skirt to my best suit until the weather turned cold again.  I would not miss my old high school class ring until I discovered the wool skirt missing and got suspicious.  I would not miss the fire coral necklace from a long-ago trip to Hawaii because I rarely had occasion to wear it and had forgotten about it.

I stopped using the cleaning service when I stopped working fulltime.  When I discovered stuff missing I berated the maids in absentia, even though I didn’t know their names or their values or whether or not they had always been thieves.  Occasionally, I wondered if one of them was still wearing my class ring.  The fact that I hadn’t worn the ring since high school didn’t matter.

Years later, I saw an identical fire coral necklace in a glass case at an antique shop and imagined that it could have exchanged hands many times from my jewelry box to this junk store.  I even imagined the book I might write about a lost necklace making its way from one person and place to another over the years.  Could a few bits of coral strung together shed light on the experiences of different people the way Annie Proulx’s little green accordion had in Accordion Crimes, linking the voices of disparate characters with the music they loved and the lives they lived?

Alas, I never started the book.  But a few years ago I was putting a piece of jewelry back into my jewelry box and one of the drawers would not close.  It kept bumping up against something.  So, I unlatched the sides and slid the drawer completely out.  There, in a back corner, something bright orange had jiggled loose from its hiding place — the fire coral necklace!

I felt a twinge of guilt and regret for having accused the maids.  But the guilt didn’t last long.  After all, the skirt half to my favorite suit never magically reappeared and neither has my high school class ring. But, to be honest, the person I was when I wore those things hasn’t been around for a long time either.  Besides, I’m sure neither one would fit anymore.

*****

Posted by: ktzefr | June 16, 2021

3 Dad Stories…

With Dad, 1971

WESTERNS

My dad loved all the old cowboy pictures and TV shows of the 50s and 60s.  When we got our first television I was in early elementary school.  It was a small black and white with reception from only one channel in Knoxville, Tennessee.  The first program was The Lone Ranger.  Such was the beginning of years of watching TV Westerns. 

Each show climaxed with a shoot-em-up and the good guys always won.  The endings were immensely satisfying.

“That’s what happens in life,” Dad would say.  “You can’t do wrong and get by.”  A lot of moral lessons could be taught watching Gunsmoke or Rawhide or Bonanza.  When the men of the Ponderosa got into some kind of trouble I became anxious with worry, but Dad would laugh it off saying, “They’ll be okay; the stars of the show never die.”

The good guys always win and the stars never die – in cowboy shows.  It would be a few years before I discovered that in real life the good guys didn’t always come out so well and all stars eventually die.

Still, if I could give one piece of advice to new dads on Father’s Day it would be this: Childhood is an awesome time.  Let your kids be kids.  Reality comes soon enough.

*****

GAMES

My dad was good at games – cards, board games, the tricky set-ups where few win at carnivals.  Every year in August the carnival came to town and there were various game booths that offered prizes for tossing rings or coins or darts.  I liked the Duck Pond best.  Pick up a floating duck and compare the number on the bottom to the prize – usually a tiny stuffed animal or toy that fell apart before I got home.  But Dad mastered the right angle for tossing quarters into dishes in the middle of a ring to win a variety of carnival glass bowls and platters.  Mom used them to hold fruit and nuts at Christmas.

I still have the carnival glass mixed in with other odds and ends – every day dishes, pieces of silver from our wedding, and the Talavera pottery I’ve picked up on trips to Mexico over the years.  I discovered a long time ago that food doesn’t taste any better on expensive china.  It’s what’s in the dish that matters and the memories that come along with it  – shrimp layered with ice on the big silver platter, tortillas and peppers in the colorful Talavera, the English trifle I made the first time in the big yellow carnival glass bowl.

Every time I use a piece of the carnival glass I remember my dad and there’s always a story to tell.

*****

DELIVERIES

My parents had a small grocery store in the country and a few of the customers in those days didn’t drive and had a hard time coming to the store.  So my dad delivered groceries once a week to a few houses, and occasionally I went with him.

I especially liked one elderly lady who lived with her middle-aged son in a small house up a hollow.  Dad always blew the horn when we came into the yard to give the son time to come out and get the dogs.  They had a pack of ferocious dogs that would run to the truck barking and baring teeth.  But, once the son corralled the dogs in the crawl space beneath the old house and locked the door, we could get out with the bags. 

The house was wooden frame, never painted, three rooms – kitchen, living/bedroom, and another bedroom.  No bathroom or running water inside.  But all around the room, pinned and taped to the walls with Scotch tape and straight pins, were glossy pictures torn from magazines.  Pretty snapshots of faraway places looked very different from the Eastern Kentucky hills.  Advertisements for televisions and vacuum cleaners and kitchen appliances the old lady was not likely to ever own.  But she was proud of her “pictures,” as if she’d painted them herself.

My dad complimented people sometimes on things that didn’t seem worthy of praise.  But he respected people who had less, and he respected people who had more.  I was taught not to be envious and not to hate and to look for the value in all people.  I learned that one of the worst things you could do is to openly pity someone because it made them feel worthless, as if they had nothing of value to offer. 

In this world, in our time, there are people who hate the poor and others who hate the rich.  I’m grateful that I learned early on not to hate anyone for what they had or didn’t have, that everyone has value, and everyone has something to offer. 

*****

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY TO ALL DADS!!

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: ktzefr | June 10, 2021

What’s Under Your Bed?

“…little packages, oh yes,

all old women make little packages

and stow them under their beds.”

~ José Donoso, from The Obscene Bird of Night

One doesn’t have to be an old woman, of course, to store stuff under the bed.  It’s a great space for useless treasures.  We didn’t have much storage space when I was growing up, so this was the best place to put something out of sight, out of mind.  Besides, a room could look clean and organized with everything in its place in a few minutes time by simply lifting the spread and giving a shove to any extra odds and ends that had nowhere to go.    

The clematis is blooming! Photo:KFawcett

In Botany class one spring I had to collect and classify 50 different plants.  I gathered leaves and blossoms and sprouts in the yard and the woods and arranged them on individual sheets of paper with the corresponding information.  Years later, on a visit home, I found the box of disintegrating plants and paper under the bed.  It was still hard to toss out all of that work.

Today, the only things under our bed are two long boxes that hold a bookshelf with the instructions for assembly.  I bought it four years ago.  I tried twice to put it together, but didn’t get any further than the instructions before putting everything back in the boxes and slipping them under the bed.  Nothing exotic, no family treasures.

Judith Ortiz Cofer in her poem, “Old Women in Their Rooms,” writes: 

“Stored under groaning mattresses

are the remnants of lives

wrapped in little packages, taped

or tied with string: photos

jaundiced with age…

stacks of magazines…

balls of string…

and old shoes curling tongue-to-heel.

In the thick air

of wet coughs and medicinal tea, 

everything returns to what it once was: 

paper to pulp,

cloth to fiber,

dust to dust.”

My mom kept a chocolate-covered cherry candy box under her bed filled with old family photos that we took out from time to time.  There were stories, some happy and some sad, to go with every snapshot.  With so much dependence on computers nowadays and photos being stored “in the cloud” I fear that this simple bonding activity between generations may be lost.  

Mom kept her “good” shoes in their boxes under the bed, too, and after my dad died and she was living alone, she purchased a handy security system —  a pistol that she slipped between the mattress and box spring. 

Some people say it’s bad to store anything under your bed because it messes up the room’s energy, its Feng Shui, and causes nightmares or prevents sleep.  Old photos may keep you stuck in the past, or magazines with all those words in other people’s voices may be distracting.  Or not. 

A box with extra blankets or pillows, however, is considered perfect to slide under the bed.  But how boring is that?  

What’s under your bed?

**********

 

Posted by: ktzefr | June 9, 2021

Magic at the Museum

2003ish…

Otavalo Market, Ecuador; Photo:MFawcett

I’m sitting in the museum on a stone bench that is part of an exhibit of a village in South America.  I have returned recently from Ecuador and the surroundings are familiar.  The bench is perched outside the little plaza church with its tower and bells across from the market place where plastic women in colorful skirts sell fake corn and potatoes and quinoa.  The men, dressed in fedoras and ponchos, are open mouthed, forever caught in conversation.

The llamas at the market have big eyes and peaceful, almost smiling, faces.  Surprisingly, llamas look that way in real life, too.  Behind them in painted green fields with blue skies and high, cloud-shrouded peaks are other llamas that grow smaller and smaller in the 3-D distance.  The least of them is the size of a toy.    

Real people, mostly tourists, walk through and gaze at this exhibit of a “moment caught in time” in an Andean village.  At the far end, at a coastal scene, they admire the white cliffs where plastic seagulls perch forever with their flocks.  When kids read the plaque that says the whiteness of the fake cliffs mimics the white bird poo splattered on the real ones, they point and laugh.

They all ask the same question:  why is that boy wearing the clothes of an old man?  A poncho and fedora.  Black rubber boots.  The children in the exhibit are little copies of larger images.   Some people stop to find answers, to read about the traditions of the Andes – the clothing, the music, the food.  Most don’t bother.

I’ve been sitting still, reading, remembering the real village plazas and marketplaces of Ecuador and thinking how this lovely, authentic exhibit looks, but doesn’t feel, real to me.  Then, in a quiet moment, I notice a small boy letting his eyes wander to take it all in, looking up at the little chapel and the towers with their bells that will never ring.  Suddenly, his mouth falls open.  He points to me and says: 

“Mommy, that statue looks almost real!” 

Almost, indeed.

I hold my breath for a few seconds and then watch his widening eyes when I smile.  There’s always unexpected magic at the Museum of Natural History.

**********

Some pics from the very real village of San Pablo near Otavalo in northern Ecuador…

Herding cows at end of day, San Pablo, Ecuador; Photo:KFawcett

Taking the sheep and pigs for grazing in the highlands, San Pablo, Ecuador; Photo:DFawcett

April, Hacienda Cusin, San Pablo, Ecuador; Photo:MFawcett

*****

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