Posted by: ktzefr | March 9, 2015

Waiting for the snowbirds to leave!

No, I’m not writing from a beach in the tropics (though I wish I were), so I’m not talking about folks from the North heading my way in winter.  I like to head south in winter, too, and I’m tired of the white blanket outside my window.  My snowbirds are real birds.  The kind that fly with their own wings.

junco1

Juncos.  They’re pretty — dark gray on top with snow-white bellies.  They come in flocks and stay the winter.  One day in late fall, when the temps take a plummet or the first snow falls, they simply show up en masse at our feeders.   In the past they have crowded around our main feeder with its mix of seeds, and they’ve had to share with the cardinals and sparrows, the titmouse and doves.  I didn’t pay much attention to them until this year when they started to annoy me.  It’s all about bossiness.

Last summer I bought a thistle sock to try to attract goldfinches.  It worked.  A few days after hanging the sock in the snowball tree I spotted a couple of bright yellow male goldfinches swinging and eating.  I was thrilled.  Then it rained and the goldfinches disappeared.  I talked with an ornithologist friend who said the sock probably got soaked from the rain and the thistle mildewed.  So I bought a wire thistle feeder so the seed could dry out after the rain or snow.  Gradually, my goldfinches came back.  And that’s when the trouble with the juncos started.

It seems that juncos like thistle, too.  Most of the other birds don’t bother with this feeder, but the juncos have put themselves in charge.  They’re aggressive toward the smaller male goldfinches and run them away from the feeder.  They’re aggressive toward each other, too.  A bossy little bunch.  So, I’m waiting for them to leave.

I suppose, too, that I’m looking forward to their departure because it will be, finally, a signal that spring is here.  Meanwhile, I’ve been doing a little research in an effort to find something fun or interesting about them.  I’ve learned that, like everything else in nature, the juncos are just doing what juncos were meant to do.

Juncos at my thistle feeders; Photo:KFawcett

Juncos at my thistle feeders; Photo:KFawcett

1)  They breed farther north in the spring and come down to our area in the winter.  Studies have shown that these birds tend to return to the same area every year.  They apparently love ground feeders — created by making a flat platform or simply spreading cracked corn on the ground.

2)  They are programmed to be bossy.  Once a winter flock arrives, the members decide amongst themselves who is going to be top bird and this social hierarchy remains all winter.  In addition to the one top bird, everyone else gets ranked as well from the second-ranked bird on down.

3)  This behavior is often obvious at the feeder and, if you watch long enough, you can tell who’s in charge.  Apparently, there are occasional fights in the flocks, but I have not yet witnessed this behavior.

4)  Snowbirds talk to each other in a variety of sounds, depending on whether they are arriving, leaving, or arguing about the politics of the flock.  Though I recognize the songs of many birds, mostly the ones that fill our trees in summer, I don’t have a clue to the language of the juncos.

5)  Although there’s only one species — the dark-eyed junco — the bird’s plumage varies in different areas of the country.  Male juncos that hail from the East (my birds) are slate-colored with snowy bellies; the females are browner.  There are Oregon juncos and Rocky Mountain juncos and birds from the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming, all with slightly different colorings and markings.

So, as interesting and pretty as they are — especially in the snow — I’m waiting for the juncos to sniff spring in the air.  At some point they will start to chase each other and flash their tail feathers and the males will spend a lot more time singing pretty songs, a sure sign that the breeding season is approaching.

Then…one day I will look out the window and they will be gone.

I hope by then the goldfinches have their pretty yellow feathers and can easily take charge at the thistle feeder.

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The book by my window — The Bird Feeder Book: An Easy Guide to Attracting, Identifying, and Understanding Your Feeder Birds by Donald and Lillian Stokes

 

 

Posted by: ktzefr | February 25, 2015

5 Amazing Beaches…or 5 reasons to love the tropics

I’m looking out at the snow and feeling cold, thinking about how the first snow of the year is always exciting and how snow at Christmas is a gift, surprising even when expected, and how walking in the night snow with the ground so white you don’t need a flashlight is pure magic.  But, after a snow or two or three, I’m ready for spring.  Spring fever seems to come earlier and hit harder when I don’t get away to the tropics in winter.  This has been one of those winters.

So I warm up with a pot of tea and music — steel drum, reggae, mariachi and trova — and I surf through my stash of photos taken closer to the Equator.  Sometimes friends and family and people I don’t know ask for travel advice.  There are many hot spots I’ve never visited and can’t say much about, but I’ve been a lot of places once and a few places many times.  I’m not always sure I give the best advice, however, as I have discovered that I often love all the stuff that tourists don’t usually like about a place.  This is especially true when it comes to the tropics.

British Virgin Islands; Photo:KFawcett

Layers of blue before the rain…British Virgin Islands; Photo:KFawcett

1)  Rain.  It’s the first thing people worry about when they’re planning a trip to the islands.  Will it rain?  How hard?  How often?  How long does it last?

I love rain in the tropics.  A heavy downpour at night is spectacular.  Afternoon showers are refreshing.  Morning rains often bring clear, bright skies and decorate flowers and foliage with brilliant beads of moisture.  Afterwards, the world looks and smells brand new.  The tropics are green and lush and full of blooms because…they get a lot of rain! 

Virgin Islands National Park, St. John; Photo:KFawcett

Virgin Islands National Park, St. John; Photo:KFawcett

2)  Shade.  Many people like to bake in the sun, but I prefer shade on beach vacations.  Sunbathing is both uncomfortable and unhealthy, but there’s nothing quite like spending the day in the shade of a seagrape tree, looking up now and again as the round leaves stir in the breeze to reveal patches of sunlight.

Hawksnest Bay, St. John, USVI; Photo:KFawcett

Hawksnest Bay, St. John, USVI; Photo:KFawcett

3)  Quiet.  Some people look for beaches with a lot of noise and action.  I don’t.  I want a strip of sand with few people, no volleyballs, no parties, and no umbrellas — that includes drinks with umbrellas.  Fruity drinks are fine at the bar and in restaurants, but I’m not partial to people walking up and down the beach all day juggling trays of treats for other people who get louder as the day wears on.  I like to hear the birds and the sounds of the sea and the breeze slipping through the leaves of the flamboyant and palm, the tamarind and calabash.

British Virgin Islands; Photo:KFawcett

British Virgin Islands; Photo:KFawcett

4) Critters.  Lizards, iguanas, crabs, birds, deer, wild donkeys, goats…the more the merrier.  Some people freak out if they find a lizard in their room at a “good” resort; we just give him a name and are careful not to step on him.  Last summer I was sitting alone on a beach in the British Virgin Islands listening to the waves, almost soundless as they came to shore, and I heard a rooster crow somewhere on the hillside behind me.  Hermit crabs made trails in the sand at my feet and hid amongst the rocks.  There were iguanas in the trees, sea gulls crying from the air, and a happy-sounding goat serenade coming from the same direction as the rooster’s crow.  Now, that’s my kind of beach.

DSC00642

 5)  Sunsets.  I love sunsets in the islands.  I think most people would agree on this one.

Sunset, Dorado Beach, Puerto Rico; Photo:KFawcett

Sunset, Dorado Beach, Puerto Rico; Photo:KFawcett

 

 *****

Posted by: ktzefr | February 9, 2015

5 Facts about Pileated Woodpeckers

I saw him when I was having breakfast.

Pileated Woodpecker; Photo:Wikipedia

Pileated Woodpecker; Photo:Wikipedia

My feeders are crowded every morning with purple finches and cardinals and chickadees. There are titmice, juncos, and the occasional nuthatch, too. Grackles come during the migratory season, as do the cow birds and red-winged blackbirds. Downy woodpeckers and the big red-headed guys love it when I have peanut butter suet or nuts in the feeder and they come back until it’s all gone. I give whole peanuts to a family of blue jays that have been visiting for years. They sit in the snowball bush outside my kitchen window and squawk until I come out with the treats. Crows stop by sometimes, too, and I don’t really mind them. They’re interesting creatures. Very smart.   They like peanuts, too.  And there’s always a large contingency of doves.   I do watch for hawks, however, and I’ve been known to rush out the door on occasion wearing a black cape and flapping my “wings” to scare them away.   But every now and then there’s a special visitor.

I saw him when I was having breakfast. He was not the least bit interested in my feeder, but was terribly obsessed with something in my neighbor’s maple tree. My guess is a nest of carpenter ants.

Pileated woodpeckers are rare sights in the suburbs.  They’re big, beautiful forest birds that easily get one’s attention. I grabbed the binoculars and watched. For a minute or two I debated whether to get out the camera or just enjoy watching the bird. Since it seemed he had found a jackpot of ants and would stay awhile, I hurried upstairs for the camera. I was all set, zoom lens pointed in his direction, when a woman suddenly came down the hill with her dog. And the bird was gone.

Little “miracles” happen all the time in a birdwatcher’s world.   Surprise visits. First sightings. “Friends” that return again and again. And then there are dogs. Or cars. Or the shrill beep of a garbage truck. Special moments are fleeting. They just “fly” away.

Five Fun Facts about Pileated Woodpeckers

(from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

1) This woodpecker is one of the biggest and most stunning birds on our continent.

2) It can be almost as big as a crow.

3) The bird is black with cool white stripes down its neck and a fiery red crest.

4) Dead trees and fallen logs are a big attraction in the search for food. The tastiest meal is a nest of carpenter ants.

5) The woodpecker drills rectangular holes in the wood, and the nest holes are often used as shelter for swifts and martens, owls and ducks, and even for bats.

I have learned over the years to listen, as well as look, for birds.  Their voices used to mingle and become one big song of summer for me.  Then one morning I followed a Mayan bird guide in the Yucatecan jungle and watched him “find” birds by listening to their call.  I started to listen, too.

Check out the Pileated Woodpecker’s call at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

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Posted by: ktzefr | January 26, 2015

Snow, Sleet, Soup

Sweet gum in the snow; KFawcett

Sweet gum in the snow; KFawcett

On snow days I make soup.  Today, as the monster blizzard skips by us headed north, it leaves behind only a mix of sleet and snow.  The trees and bushes and lawn are dusted white on green and brown.  The little seed balls hanging from the sweet gum outside my window have white caps.  Wind chimes sing to the birds crowded round the feeders. 

This morning the squirrels came early for peanuts.  It’s easier to beg at my door than face the frozen ground and dig up last fall’s stash of nuts.  It’s been a busy morning…

and I’m cooking soup.  Vegetable soup.  It’s different every time I make it because the refrigerator rarely has all the same stuff in the same amounts to clean and chop and toss into a pot.  But it’s always good.  Hot soup full of vegetables and herbs in a chicken-flavored, tomato-y broth. 

If you’re enjoying warmer climes today — blue skies, sunshine, shorts and sandals — go back to what you’re doing.  I wish I was there!  But, if you’re wearing wool and bringing in firewood, you may want to try this soup. 

Snowy Day Vegetable Soup

Snowy Day Vegetable Soup; KFawcett

Snowy Day Vegetable Soup; KFawcett

(I cook with a lot of pinches and dashes, so adjust to your own taste)

3 or 4 stalks of celery chopped

1 onion diced (good sized chunks so it doesn’t totally dissolve in the broth)

2 or 3 carrots chopped

1 turnip

hand full of Brussels sprouts chopped in half or quartered

3 or 4 small sweet peppers (the long, colorful red, orange, yellow ones) or a big green pepper (chopped)

1 potato (or a handful of tiny potatoes) diced

1 can beans (pinto, black, or other or a hand full of frozen green beans) 

hand full each of frozen corn and peas

8 to 10 cups of water

3 or 4 tablespoons salsa (favorite brand — mild, medium, or hot)

2 Knorr Chicken bouillon cubes (homemade broth is better, of course, and one of the gourmet stock bases is amazing, but Knorr will do)

basil, oregano, thyme (dried or fresh leaves)

cumin seeds (a couple of big pinches)

pepper to taste

turmeric, smoked paprika (a dash or two of each)

*****

Add olive oil to the empty pot, heat, toss in the vegetables (if you use canned beans, leave those until everything else is in the soup).  Let the vegetables cook for about five minutes and then add the water.  Add all of the other seasonings.  Add the beans, stir.  Bring to a boil.  Finally, cover and turn down the heat to simmer until you’re ready to eat. 

*****

Posted by: ktzefr | January 21, 2015

Reading Across Borders 1: Mexico

books1I’ve been cleaning the study, shelving books, organizing.  I discovered that I’d spent a lot of time these past few months reading books from either north or south of the border.  Though I have never been personally drawn north (I’m not fond of cold weather), I have for a long time held a special place in my heart for our southern neighbors — Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador and all those beautiful islands spread across the Caribbean. I love the scent of the tropics, the vivid colors, the flowers, and the people. When I’m not there I am apt to be spending time reading about being there, and it doesn’t matter if it’s fact or fiction, poetry or prose, a plot-driven or character-driven story.  I like Latin American authors and settings, as well as authors from other places who have experienced this part of the world and write about it with a rich, authentic voice.

 

Here are a few of my recent favorites (in no special order):

(1) Oaxaca Journal by Oliver Sacks. In this fascinating account, the author sets out in search of exotic ferns – and discovers Mexico. With a group of fellow fern-lovers Mr. Sacks heads to Oaxaca, a state in Southern Mexico where botanists have found more species of fern (almost 700) than are present in all of the United States.   But the book isn’t just about wild plants. Though the science is interesting, there is also a whole world of adventure, extraordinary sights, cultural experiences, and layers of history in this lovely little tome. It’s one of my favorite reads of last year.  It was a nice surprise, too, that it became a hit with my book club.

2)  Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros.  A beautiful tale, set on both sides of the border, told by an articulate and observant young narrator.  In an attempt to tell her grandmother’s story (the Awful Grandmother, as she is referred to in the book) Lala uncovers the history, lies, and loves of the various members of her family over the generations.  The characters and settings are so richly and authentically drawn that reading Caramelo is like opening a colorful family photo album and having a poet whisper its secrets.

3)  Lovesick by Angeles Mastretta.   I discovered Ms. Mastretta (internationally acclaimed and bestselling author in her native Mexico) this past year.  This one is a wonderful love story spanning a half-century of Mexican history.  Emilia Sauri, a privileged young woman in Puebla society during the midst of the revolution in the early 20th century, is torn between two loves — one is determined to join the fight wherever it takes him and the other is a physician who helps Emilia realize her own potential as a doctor.  This is a story filled with joy and grief, peace and fear, politics and unpredictability.  Can a woman love two men at the same time and also be independent enough to pursue her own dreams?  Vogue (Spain) calls Mastretta’s work “a kind of alchemy”; I agree.  And I couldn’t wait to read the next from this author.  I’ve just started reading Women with Big Eyes.

4)  Harriet Doerr’s  Stones for Ibarra, The Tiger in the Grass, and Consider This, Senora.  I read the first of these last January when I was getting ready to head to Mexico and I was so enamored by this author’s beautiful prose that I had to read the others.  Ms. Doerr finished her college degree at age 67.  She published Stones for Ibarra at 73 and won the National Book Award.  The story is intelligent, powerful, and authentic in its portrayal of characters and setting.  I’m not sure why it took me so long to discover her books.

My favorite of the three is Consider This, Senora.  Doerr’s characters are so well drawn they feel like old friends — both the American newcomers to this small village in Central Mexico, as well as the local families. The landscape is as much a character as the people and it’s wonderfully described through the change of seasons and years, fiestas and times of hardship, failures and triumphs.  There are heartbreaking moments and a stunning acceptance of fate. I especially enjoyed the way the novel was written in vignettes. One chapter does not necessarily lead into the next. Sometimes there are days or weeks in between and different characters hold center stage at different times, so it’s a novel that can be read over a period of time, a chapter at a time. The people and their predicaments, against the background — beautiful and ugly, harsh and exciting — are so well realized right from the start that it’s easy to pick up where you leave off.

5) Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo.  I picked up this book because I had read that it was a favorite of Gabriel García Márquez and that he had memorized the whole tome!  It’s the story of a man who goes on a quest for his heritage.  His mother’s dying wish had been for him to search for his father, but the town he finds is in ruins, populated by ghosts, hallucinations, and memories.  Published in 1955,  this was the first book to use the style that later became known as “magical realism,” which had a huge influence on García Márquez.  Readers usually love it or hate it.  I fell somewhere in the middle.  I found the first part fascinating, magical, hard to put down — and oddly believable.  But, for me, it lost some of the momentum midway when the multitude of voices, constantly shifting tenses, and jumping around in time became more distracting than fascinating.  However, the setting (as bleak as it was) made me think of the abandoned mining towns, such as Mineral de Pozos, and the ruins of haciendas in Mexico with the strange, magical beauty these places still exude.

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Posted by: ktzefr | December 30, 2014

10 Not-so-Wacky New Year’s Resolutions: 2015

1)  Don’t be the gnat that follows the swarm, circling round and round in the same old path for nothing.

2)  Don’t be the heron that hides in the rushes or the flamingo afraid to fly.  Step out into the water; let the pink feathers show and flutter in the wind.

On the Rio Celestun, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

On the Rio Celestun, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

3)  Don’t let cobwebs cling to the corners of the porch or the mind. Take the time to dust.

4)  Don’t concentrate on the way the years sometimes send black rivers running beneath blue skies. The full moon still looks the same through the branches of the wild cherry tree.

5)  Don’t hang around a puddle slinking into the shadows; jump in and dance with the water bugs.

6)  Don’t forget the sun comes and goes. Accept the clouds and enjoy the rainbows.

Great Bay, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands; Photo:KFawcett

Great Bay, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands; Photo:KFawcett

7)  Don’t equate alone times with loneliness. It can make you “brittle,” a bull’s eye, a heart haunted by specters. Instead, find in moments alone an oasis of solitude.

8)  Don’t doubt that, in a single instant, a secret stolen can be a treasure lost forever.

9)  Don’t fail to be happy in your freedom when you don’t know the sadness of a donkey’s burden, the short, orchestrated life of the butterfly, or whether a rose feels pain when its plucked.

Swallowtail butterfly; Photo:KFawcett

Swallowtail butterfly; Photo:KFawcett

10) Don’t let the old images slip away – corn rows turning green to brown, sweet gum leaves dropping like falling stars, candlelight and ripe mangoes, jasmine tea and church bells and bird song – for remembered moments hold a mirror to the soul.

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Posted by: ktzefr | December 21, 2014

How to Buy the Perfect Gift in 5 Easy Steps…

Christmas house

DON’T GO OVERBOARD!

I like to talk.  But I also like to listen — eavesdrop, that is — in coffee shops and markets and galleries.  Anyplace, really.  So, this is some gift-buying wisdom I’ve garnered from a lot of eavesdropping and a little bit of experience.

1)  Don’t buy what YOU want her to have.  Listen.  Has she ever mentioned that she wanted a silver bangle, always dreamed of seeing Paris, would like to learn how to make a souffle? You may think the incredibly expensive diamond bracelet you’ve found would look beautiful on her wrist.  It probably would.  Tickets for a weekend in Las Vegas could be fun, too.  And a “how to make perfect brownies” cookbook would fit nicely on the kitchen shelf.  Besides, YOU love brownies.  But…if you really want to buy HER a gift, take the money you would have spent on the diamond bracelet and buy the silver bangle and tickets to France.  She can pick up a great cookbook in Paris.

2)  Don’t ask other people what to buy for him.  If other people know him better than you do, perhaps working on that issue would be a good gift to consider.  Besides, other people will probably tell you what THEY would like for him to have, rather than what he wants.  What if the person you ask thinks he would look great in red, but he hates red?  Don’t buy the red sweater.  He won’t wear it, and you’ll consider yourself the victim and bring this up to him ad infinitum.  Perhaps he could stand to lose a little weight and a friend suggests getting him a membership at the local gym.  He, however, has never, ever mentioned an interest in the gym.  Don’t do it.  Just don’t do it.

3)  Don’t buy a gift for him because “everybody has one.” No. No.  And no.  If “everybody” has it, he would have already purchased one, or at least mentioned it — if he actually wanted one of his own.

4)  Don’t buy a gift because it’s prettier, better, or more expensive than the one her best friend, sibling, or great grandmother owns.  If she wants something just because it’s prettier, better, or more expensive than someone else’s…well, that’s kind of obnoxious.  Consider buying gifts for someone else.

5)  On the other hand, if he simply loves a particular designer or drinks good Scotch or keeps mentioning this new little gourmet chocolate shop around the corner (and doesn’t just want these things because his best bud has them), save up for the designer sweater or the good Scotch or the must-have chocolates and tie up the special gift with a pretty bow in his favorite color.

Final note:  Gift cards are fine and dandy as a last resort.  But don’t buy him a gift card to the movies because you want to see more movies.  Buy a Bass Pro Shop card instead, if you know he’d rather be fishing.  You should, however, ask for a movie card of your own and take a friend who’s also a fan of the flicks.

Posted by: ktzefr | December 11, 2014

Music, Memories, and Chickens at Christmas

I’m listening to Handel’s Messiah this afternoon and ordering chickens.  Must be Christmas!

messiah

Every year about this time I dust off and crank up the old stereo and set the records to spinning.  Highlights from Handel’s Messiah, by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic.  This album is from 1982.  From the first measure of “Every Valley Shall Be Exalted” to the last “Amen” I float through the house on a cloud of memories. 

Singing the “Hallelujah Chorus” in my high school choir in Kentucky. 

Eating boiled custard and peanut butter rolls and chocolate fudge. 

Peppermint canes and logs and pillows. 

The sound of church bells and “Jingle Bells.” 

Chimneys puffing and the scent of coal smoke in the air. 

Fresh sausage in the morning, a chunk of side bacon in the shuck beans. 

“I’m dreaming of a White Christmas” on the radio. 

Sometimes dreams came true, 

like the year I got a pair of real Bass Weejuns for Christmas,

or the blonde walking doll with the big eyes that opened and closed

or the books I would read quickly and never forget –

such as the simply-told 365 Bedtime Stories,

a book full of characters whose lives I would still recall years later

and read, again, their tales to my young son. 

Memories are the best gifts.

I always listen on an afternoon in December when I’m alone and can turn up the volume to the hilt so even the dog walkers and kids getting off the school bus might swivel their necks and try to figure out where the glorious music is coming from.  I sit by the window with a cup of darjeeling and a bowl of Harry and David’s Milk Chocolate Moose Munch and imagine what they’re saying…

What are their dreams?  What will their memories be?  

*****

And now to the chickens…

I grew up with chickens.  They are wonderfully gentle, soft, accommodating creatures.  They are frightened easily, but they are never frightening.  I’ve gathered eggs from beneath a hen still on the nest, watched new chicks peck their way out of the shells and into the world, and witnessed the final moments of a hen’s life when my mom or Granny would wring its neck in preparation for Sunday dinner. 

A chicken is a gift that keeps on giving by producing eggs and more chickens.  A flock is a nutritious gift for a malnourished child or family in a poor country.  Money for basic necessities — clothes and medicine and education — can be earned from selling eggs.  Heifer International calls these “Opportunity Flocks” — “give someone a real nest egg” they say.  So, that’s what I’m ordering this year.  Chickens.  For $20 I can buy a flock of chicks or ducks or geese.  Or a share of a llama, two shares in a goat.  Thirty dollars buys a beehive or a share in a school of fish or a water buffalo.  But it’s chicks for me this year.  The girl in the picture reminds me of my younger self with my sweet chicken Bess who was bright pink on the day I got her (they used to dye baby chicks at Easter but, thankfully, that doesn’t happen anymore).  Helping people help themselves — what better gift?

Chicks for Heifer International...

Chicks for Heifer International…

Heifer International has been around for 70 years helping provide people with an opportunity to support and feed themselves.  Check them out online at http://www.heifer.org

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Posted by: ktzefr | November 25, 2014

Travel the world in a day — in DC

It may be hard to believe, but there’s more to the nation’s capital than politics.  And some of the best things to do here are free.

In spite of the chill last Saturday my niece Katey, my friend Laura, and I decided to head down to the mall and have a girls’ day at the museums.  The first stop on my list was  the Smithsonian’s American History Museum to see Sandra Cisneros’s installation of “A Room of Her Own: My Mother’s Altar” in the tradition of Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). 

Sandra Cisneros's altar in honor of her mother at National Museum of American History in DC; Photo:KFawcett

Sandra Cisneros’s altar in honor of her mother at National Museum of American History in DC; Photo:KFawcett

Cisneros has been one of my favorite Mexican American authors since I discovered her wonderful little book, The House on Mango Street, many years ago.  After three decades, this book is still being taught everywhere, from elementary schools to universities.  This story, written in a series of vignettes about a young girl growing up in a Latino neighborhood in Chicago, inspired me to try the vignette style for my own book, To Come and Go Like Magic, about a young girl growing up in Appalachia.  

There was no way to get a photo of the complete exhibit with my IPhone without capturing a whole bunch of people in the pic, but you can go to the link above and get a better appreciation of this lovely altar with its flowers and candles and antiques and all the foods and photos of her mother and the people she loved.

cisneros altar2

People watching is always fun in the summer, but it was way too cold to sit on a park bench and imagine the lives of passersby.  We did stop for a few minutes, however, to watch the skaters in front of the National Archives.

Ice skaters at the National Mall in DC; Photo:KFawcett

Ice skaters at the National Mall in DC; Photo:KFawcett

Then we “danced” in the cold over to the National Gallery of Art to see Degas’s Little Dancer. The National Gallery has the largest and most important collection of Degas’s surviving original wax sculptures in the world. Its wax version of Little Dancer Aged Fourteen is the only one formed by the artist’s own hands and the only sculpture he ever showed publicly.

Degas's Little Dancer Aged Fourteen at the National Gallery of Art in DC; Photo:KFawcett

Degas’s Little Dancer Aged Fourteen at the National Gallery of Art in DC; Photo:KFawcett

(Note:  This exhibition is presented in conjunction with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ world-premiere musical Little Dancer, which runs from October 25 through November 30, 2014.)

We strolled through the halls of the Dutch masters and then briefly visited my favorite “old friends,” the French Impressionists — Pissarro, Renoir, Cezanne, Monet — before pausing to wave goodbye to Vincent on our way out.

Van Gogh at the National Gallery in DC; Photo:KFawcett

Van Gogh at the National Gallery in DC; Photo:KFawcett

The sun was going down and it was getting colder and we were lucky to hop onto the Metro right away.  By the time the lights came on we were drinking latte at the Starnut Gourmet.

Time to go home and flop, right?  Not tonight.  We finished the evening in Ecuador — traveling from the Andes to the Amazon with these terrific musicians at the Alden Theater.  Andes Manta…

It’s possible to spend a whole day in DC and not think about politics at all.  It’s also possible to travel around the world in a day.  That’s one of the things I love most about living here.  After four decades in this city, I still find new things to do and still enjoy revisiting favorite places.

**************

 

 

 

Posted by: ktzefr | November 18, 2014

One Day Can Make a Difference…

Before…

trees with leaves

After…

trees no leaves

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