Posted by: ktzefr | June 10, 2019

A Zoo with a View…

Birds and reptiles, monkeys and big cats, turtles and raccoons — the animals are from the Caribean Islands and Guyana, 85 species native to the area.  They are at home here in the rainforests of Basse-Terre in the Guadeloupe Islands. 

There are no crowds of people pressed against cages where big animals are kept in small spaces.  Many of the “cages” here are almost invisible, hiding amongst the thick, green foliage in the shade of the canopy.  The “walkway” consists of swinging bridges.

*****

Here, then, is a trip to the zoo with few photos of animals.  It’s a place where one concentrates on spotting the critters and enjoying the moment while…holding on.

So much green!

Photo:KFawcett

Turtles, Guadeloupe Zoo; Photo:KFawcett

We looked down at the animals through spaces in the wooden slats or over the rope sides of numerous bridges crossing the forest at different levels as we made our way from the ground to the tops of the canopy trees.

Traversing the Guadeloupe Zoo via canopy bridges; Photo:KFawcett

 

Canopy bridge; Photo:KFawcett

Up, up, up…

Photo:KFawcett

All the way to the top…and a view of the sea.  And then…surprise!  The rain came down in buckets.

Guadeloupe Islands; Photo:KFawcett

We became used to the unpredictable nature of the rain after a couple of days.  It often came suddenly in quick, light showers with the sun still bright or in an absolute deluge from a quick-moving cloud.  It rained several times during the day and the night.  Great for sleeping with open windows and the sound of rain on the palapa roof. It’s a different story, however, to be at the top of the canopy without an umbrella, looking down at a dozen bridges swinging in the breeze below.  There is only one way up and one way down.  One person on a bridge at a time. 

Good thing I love walking in the rain!

And it does wonders for all those blooms…

Photo:KFawcett

 

**********

The Zoo de Guadeloupe au Park des Mamelles is located on the island of Basse-Terre along the Route de la Traversee (D23).  Highly recommended for small children and big kids alike.  It’s a unique experience and one not to be missed if you’re visiting the Guadeloupe Islands.  Take an umbrella!

For a rainforest stay, Rochers Caraibes Eco-Village is a great place to be — rain or shine.  

I love the drama of sunsets on the sea!

Sunset, Rochers Caraibes Eco-Village, Pointe Noire, Basse-Terre Island, Guadeloupe; Photo:KFawcett

Posted by: ktzefr | May 12, 2019

A Bloom, A Bird, A Stone: Celebrating Mom

My mother had many great attributes.  She was caring and dependable and honest to a fault.  She would not tell a lie — not even a tiny, white lie — but she did, on occasion, find creative ways to get around the facts so as not to hurt someone’s feelings.  If she didn’t want to do something or go someplace, she would find something else that required her attention.  Likewise, she would never say she hated someone; hate wasn’t in her vocabulary except as it related to snakes.  However, she would confess that she didn’t like a person’s ways.

Mom was curious about the world and a keen observer of small things that often go unnoticed — a bloom, a bird, a stone.  She was a collector of rocks.  “I pick up a rock every place I go,” she would say proudly.  These were not special stones, by any means.  Any rock that happened in her path would do as a souvenir.  

She enjoyed going to the beach with us in the summer.  Though she had developed a fear of the water in childhood and never learned to swim, she liked to walk along the beach and look for seashells.  Every year she would return to Kentucky with a bag of shells and pebbles.  Some were small and almost perfect; most were cracked or broken or mere pieces of shells.  Imperfections didn’t bother her.  Sometimes she didn’t even notice the flaws.  A broken sea shell was a thing of beauty.  

A few days ago I was photographing flowers and I put one photo aside.  At first, I thought a slim white petal from another flower had fallen onto the pink hibiscus.  But then I realized that the blossom had a flaw, a genetic anomaly perhaps — all pink except for one odd strip of white.  I thought: this is Mom’s kind of flower.

I have a pill bottle that she kept at home for years on her whatnot shelf.  Inside the bottle there is a tiny “bead” that looks a bit like a white peppercorn, and alongside it is a folded slip of green paper.  The note says: “I got this in an oyster shell.  This is a pearl.”

I don’t recall the year Mom found the shell or what happened to it or if this tiny bead is, indeed, a real pearl.  It doesn’t matter.  It didn’t matter to her.  A pearl or a stone — one is as valuable in its own way as the other.

My mother left me a lot to think about as I look for small things that go unnoticed.

Happy Mother’s Day!!

 

Posted by: ktzefr | April 26, 2019

Favorite Foto Friday: Blue and Gold Macaw

From the beautiful botanical gardens in Deshaies, Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe Islands…

Blue and Gold Macaw, Guadeloupe Islands; Photo:KFawcett

**********

Posted by: ktzefr | April 24, 2019

Lilacs and Poetry and a Perfect Day…

In celebration of National Poetry Month, a spring poem by Billy Collins that fits this day…and a nod to the just-blooming lilacs.

Lilacs; Photo:KFawcett

Today

By Billy Collins

“If ever there were a spring day so perfect,

so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze

 

that it made you want to throw

open all the windows in the house

 

and unlatch the door to the canary’s cage,

indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,

 

a day when the cool brick paths

and the garden bursting with peonies

 

seemed so etched in sunlight

that you felt like taking

 

a hammer to the glass paperweight

on the living room end table,

 

releasing the inhabitants

from their snow-covered cottage

 

so they could walk out,

holding hands and squinting

 

into this larger dome of blue and white,

well, today is just that kind of day.” 

 

Lilacs; Photo:KFawcett

Posted by: ktzefr | April 16, 2019

Celebrating Holy Week/Semana Santa: Queretaro, Mexico

Over the years I’ve spent Holy Week (Semana Santa) several times in Latin America — Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Mexico.  This week I’m celebrating this sacred season with photographs.  Today: Santiago de Queretaro’s beautiful old churches.  The city has at least 40 churches and 25 chapels!

Located in Mexico’s Bajio region, Queretaro’s capital city has one of the oldest and most historic centers in Mexico.  It was named a World Heritage Site in 1996 and largely remains unchanged since the 16th and 17th centuries.  Though the surrounding area has become a major industrial center, the city is clean, very walkable, and not touristy. It’s one of the most authentic of Mexican cities.

Early morning from a rooftop nearby…

The Templo de la Congregación.  The church is also known locally as the home of the Virgen de Guadalupe.  It’s usually not in English guidebooks and there’s not much info on the net, but it’s a gorgeous church.  It was built in the 1700s with the local cantera rosa, a pinkish stone, in the Baroque style.  Note Mexico’s colors — red, white, and green.  (located on Calle Pasteur Nte. s/n at Calle 16 de Septiembre, Centro)

Templo de la Congregacion de la Virgen de Guadalupe, Queretaro, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Temple of the Congregation of our Lady of Guadeloupe, Queretaro, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Temple of the Congregation of our Lady of Guadeloupe, Queretaro, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

*****

The Parroquia de Santiago (St. James Parish) is another lovely church that is not mentioned often in English-language guidebooks and little is found about it on the net.  The brochure/guide in Spanish to the city’s historic sites doesn’t even include it.  A pity, since it’s a special spot.  I happened across this beautiful place a few years ago while walking along the back streets of the historic center.  (located at Prospero Cristobal Vega s/n and Calle 16 de Septiembre, Centro)

Parroquia de Santiago, Queretaro, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Parroquia de Santiago, Queretaro, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

As is so often the case in an area with a multitude of churches, you can look out the door of one and see another…and the sound of church bells rarely ceases.

Parroquia de Santiago, Queretaro, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

*****

One of the churches that is mentioned in all the guide books and brochures is the Templo de Santa Clara.  This beautiful church was originally commissioned by Diego de Tapia, the son of one of Queretaro’s wealthy founders.  It was started in 1606 and was considered one of the most beautiful architectural achievements in the country during the colonial era.  Parts of the church and convent were destroyed during the Reformation, but it is still recognized as one of the country’s finest baroque buildings.  The interior with its carved altars, painted saints, and other unusual handwork by master craftsmen is stunning.  It is washed in gold leaf.  Not a place where one can duck in and out.  Too many small — and large — marvels to see.  (located at Calle Francisco I. Madero 42, Centro)

Templo de Santa Clara, Queretaro, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

On an earlier trip, a few years ago, the pretty dome was being cleaned and renovated.  My photos were mostly of  scaffolding and workmen.  Today…

Templo de Santa Clara, Queretaro, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Templo de Santa Clara, Queretaro, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Templo de Santa Clara, Queretaro, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

*****

The Templo y Ex-Convento de Santa Rosa de Viterbo is another magnificient temple that is always mentioned in guides to the city’s historic center.  Originally designed and started in 1754, Santa Rosa is distinct from other Baroque churches in Mexico by its ornate exterior with flying buttresses, carved stonework, and garish gargoyles.  (located at Calle General Arteaga 89) 

Templo y Ex-Convento de Santa Rosa de Viterbo, Queretaro, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Templo y Ex-Convento de Santa Rosa de Viterbo, Queretaro, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

*****

The Templo de San Francisco towers above the Jardin Zenea, one of my favorite spots to people watch in Queretaro.  The park is a busy place during the day with people walking back and forth through it’s lovely green spaces to work, to lunch, to shop.  At night it’s impossible to find an empty bench.  Families come to let the children play with friends and be entertained by clowns.  Musicians perform, the parents dance, teens stroll through the shadows hand-in-hand.  And the San Francisco Church, one of Queretaro’s oldest and loveliest, watches over all.  Construction began in the1540s and the original Baroque sandstone entryway is lined with life-size saints.  The former monastery adjoining the church is now a regional muesum with 11 rooms full of historic artifacts.  

Templo de San Francisco and Jardin Zenea, Queretaro, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Templo de San Francisco, Queretaro, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

*****

Easter Celebrations in Mexico:

San Miguel de Allende

Guanajuato City

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Excellent piece from the New York Times archives (2002).  Though some tourist information is obviously out of date, the historic info and the must-see attractions are still the same.

 

 

 

A mouse brain weighs 0.4 grams.

 

This mouse came all the way from Oaxaca, Mexico, but I don’t think he’s going to be causing any trouble. Photo:KFawcett

Spring… 

Time to uncover the barbeque grill and cook in the sun.  But there, beneath the metal grill, in a corner spot nestled away from the wind and cold — a mouse nest.

I clean it out and light the fire, send the burners blazing, scorching off any last remnants of mouse debris.  

Tonight, when the mouse returns, I’ll be inside reading or watching television.  I will have eaten well, the grilled steak or chicken or pork.  I’ll curl up beneath the covers when the temperature falls like it does every night in spring.

But what will the mouse do?  Where will he sleep tonight?

I think about people returning to their homes after a tornado or hurricane or flood and searching through the debris for the smallest memento of a life that has suddenly disappeared.  Perhaps the mouse is lucky to have a brain too small to hold so many memories.  

A mouse brain weighs less than half a paper clip or half a thumbtack.

*****

One morning in autumn…

The dashboard on the car lit up all across, sending a warning to check this and that and something else.  Blinking lights indicated that everything was wrong.  

What on earth?

We had it towed to the shop.  It would take some time.  They would call.

A few hours later…a text message with a photograph.  The mechanic had popped the hood and found —

A mouse nest!

It was a condo or a castle, a place for an extended family.  No mice were home, but they’d been there on cold winter evenings, apparently arriving from the outdoors when the car engine was still warm from the long commute home.    

The photograph revealed that the mouse family had chewed their way through every wire and cable and hose beneath the hood, cutting all connections to build their private passageways from here to there.  One thousand dollars later…

I looked out the window at a back yard strewn with the last of the autumn leaves.  When the mouse family returned they would find only the cold concrete floor in the place where their mobile home once sat.  I could not muster up any sympathy.  Besides, a mouse brain is too small to feel loss.  Right?

A mouse brain weighs less than half a pinch of salt or half a piece of gum.

*****

A Long Time Ago…

In an old house in Kentucky, a house with many nooks and crannies and spaces that let in the winter wind, I turned on the oven to start dinner and heard the scampering feet, the clicking on metal.  I opened the door.

A mouse ran in circles in the warming oven.

We caught it in a cardboard box and walked out into the night, all the way to the end of our block.  Then we opened the box and set it free.

I like to think the mouse scurried off into the weeds of one back yard that led to the weeds of the next and so on until he found his way back home to his clan, with his own wild story of adventure to tell.  “Life sure is surprising,” he might say, telling how he was swept up by some unknown force and sent flying away in a paper machine that caused him to slip and slide with the constant turbulance until he came to a soft landing in sweet grass and a sudden freedom.  He might add a note to his pals to avoid the old white house at all costs.

Sometimes in life it is necessary to go through bouts of turbulance and fear before coming to a soft landing.  Even then, when it’s exciting to look back and remember the adventure, one might not be too keen on repeating it. 

Of course, with such a small brain, can a mouse recall anything?

A mouse brain weighs less than half a dollar bill.

Or, to end this on a sweet note: a mouse brain weighs less than 1/8 teaspoon of sugar — not even enough to sweeten a cup of tea.  

*****

 

 

 

 

Posted by: ktzefr | April 9, 2019

Cherry Blossoms: haiku and blooms

“Under cherry-flowers,

None are utter strangers.”

~Issa

Kobayashi Issa, one of the great haiku masters, said that cherry blossoms were made for haiku poets to exploit.  It’s hard to find an anthology of haiku that doesn’t have cherry-blossom poems scattered throughout.  Here are 14 favorites:

 

“a fluttering swarm

of cherry petals — and there comes,

pursuing them, the storm!”

~Sadaiye

***

“Many, many things

they bring to mind —

cherry blossoms!”

~Basho

***

“From all four quarters

cherry petals blowing in

to Biwa’s waters!”

(Biwa is also called the “lake of the views”)

~Basho

***

“Cherry-bloom, cuckoo,

moon, snow — and already

the year is through!”

~Sanpu

***

“Cherry blossoms, more

and more now! Birds have two legs!

Oh, horses have four!”

~Onitsura

Onitsura looked at life with a whimsical humor all his own, rejoicing in ordinary things, both silly and serious…

“They blossom, and then

we gaze, and then the blooms

scatter, and then…”

~Onitsura

***

“The cherry-bloom has gone–

a temple, in among the trees,

is what it has become.”

~Buson

***

“As the moon-brilliance westward makes its

crossing, so

cherry-blossom shadows eastward

slowly go.”

~Buson

***

“Scattered petals lie

on rice-seedling waters:

bright is the starlit sky.”

~Buson

***

Cherry Blossoms; Photo:KFawcett

“Oh, the wide world’s ways!

Cherry blossoms left unwatched

even for three days!”

~Ryota

***

“Women, children, men:

into cherry bloom they push —

from bloom come out again.”

~Chora

***

‘Cherry blossoms! See!

Cherry bloom!” — and it was sung

of this old tree.”

~Issa

***

“Atsumori’s tomb —

and here there is not even

a cherry tree to bloom!”

~Shiki

(Atsumori was a young samurai in the 12th century who was killed in battle at the age of 15.  Such young samurai were traditionally connected to the falling cherry blossoms.)

***

 

 

 

 

Posted by: ktzefr | April 5, 2019

Treasures, Junk, and Memories

In an antique store on Calle 60 in Merida, Yucatan I discovered an old Singer sewing machine, the kind my mother used to make my clothes when I was growing up in Kentucky.  In those days I wore print dresses with circle-tail skirts, fashioned from bolts of store-bought fabric and from empty feed sacks that had once held the powder we mixed with water to feed the cows.

Now, walking along a familiar street in a favorite neighborhood, I duck inside a shop to flee the 95-degree heat of late February.  I spot the sewing machine amongst a heap of Mexican treasures – colorful pottery and dingy newspapers, clothes and clocks, lamps and jewelry.  The little tienda is bulging at the seams.

A zig-zag path has been cleared from door to counter where the proprietor stands amongst a mountain of pretty junk, an aging woman perfectly fit for the place, dressed like a gypsy with cotton-candy pink hair and a smile that would be hard to match. 

I stop for a moment to grasp onto a memory, the coming together of past and present, the marvel of eccentricity, of sudden joy, of standing at the school bus stop in a neon blue dress with big yellow polka dots.  

***

When I outgrew the polka-dotted dress, my mom turned it into an apron.  I still have it…somewhere.  Her sewing machine was recycled to sit in my foyer and hold fresh vases of flowers. 

But what about recycling memories?

Not long after we left the antique store in Merida, we passed the pink-haired lady going off with a friend.  What if we had not stopped?  Or if she had closed a few minutes earlier?  I would have missed the old sewing machine or, perhaps, the memory it prompted would have been different.  If a young girl or an old man had been tending shop, I might have recalled my mom sewing a simple black skirt for the spring concert, or hemming my corduroy pants like the ones the boys wore.

Did the junk store lady’s surprising appearance cause me to conjure up my most outrageous image linked to the old Singer?  What fun it was!

I wonder what memories are locked up, waiting to be held.  I wonder what memories will never be recovered because there is nothing to remind us?  

What a lost treasure trove!

Or a bunch of junk…

**********

Posted by: ktzefr | April 4, 2019

Morning walks, encounters, memories…

On my morning walk a couple of weeks ago with my head in the clouds…

I don’t notice the boy at first.  A young twenty-something.  He’s squatting on the pavement behind his car with poster paper and markers strewn along the curb, the trunk flung open.  He looks up and hurries across the street with a card in hand.  It turns out to be a list of websites that show how animals are mistreated before they are slaughtered and the meat packed and sent to markets.  I don’t mention that I grew up in Kentucky.  We raised pigs and chickens.

The boy is headed downtown to a protest.  He’s making posters.  He’s vegan, and he tells me it’s all about being against meat-eaters.  He says this to me: “I would live entirely on onions if I thought it would save my mother’s life.” Odd example.  His eyes are wide, his hair the color of a bright red crayon.  He’s very thin and very anxious.  It’s almost as if he has shocked himself with his own words.  If I hadn’t been taken off guard by his sudden appearance, I might have asked about his mother.

He abruptly leaves as he came, crosses the street, and goes back to work on his posters.  I walk on, looking up at a perfectly blue sky and feeling the sun fall on my face.  I recall springtime in Kentucky – the baby pigs, my calf Bessie, the soft, warm feathers of a hen’s belly when I reached beneath her to gather the eggs. 

**********

Posted by: ktzefr | March 26, 2019

If A Frog Could Talk…

 

I remember when he was a handsome specimen,

before all the rains and snows and March winds, 

before the summer hot sun sizzled his metal body.

He’s rusted now, turned reddish-brown, head to toe,

the color of an old toad.  But his body is still smooth

without bump or wrinkle, and he has that look

of eternal surprise on his face, hands at his mouth

as if to control a gasp, with his eyes forever looking up

at an ever-changing sky. 

I wonder what this frog has seen…

the birds bathing in the birdbath,

the red fox curled up in the shade of the beech tree,

or the night creatures — the raccoon drinking

from the ceramic fountain or the cats that prowl

the neighborhood after dark. 

If only the frog could talk.

 

I wish he could tell me who pooped

on the porch last night.

*****

 

 

 

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