Posted by: ktzefr | October 25, 2019

Fiestas! San Miguel de Allende

La Alborada, a celebration of San Miguel Archangel, the patron saint of San Miguel, takes place every year during the last weekend of September.  Parades, music, and the world’s best fireworks.  It’s one of my favorite times in the city!

La Alborada, San Miguel de Allende; Photo:KFawcett

One day…

On the street below, there’s a parade.  Two mojigangas, a bride and a groom — ten feet tall with real eyes peering from slits at the belly button.  They’re followed by a mariachi band, black suits with silver studs…violins and trumpets and guitars.  

The click, click, click of a donkey’s hooves on the cobblestone street sings out between songs.  The donkey wears a big straw hat with its ears sticking out holes in the sides and a wreath of flowers wound around his neck.  The real bride is astride and the groom walks at her side.

I am peering between the big clay pots of lavender that line the edge of the rooftop.  I watch the mojigangas dance, twirling round and round.  When the bride’s skirt flares out you can see the red running shoes beneath, navigating the cobblestones as if dancing on air.

Behind them…an empty street except for a man washing his green truck.  The parade maneuvers its way around the truck and goes on.  It’s not a big deal.

In this town a parade can happen anytime, anywhere, for any reason or for no reason at all.  Life is for living, at this moment — the only one guaranteed.

Sometimes it’s not enough to be a spectator.  There is nothing left to do but hurry down the stairs, out the door, and into the street to catch up.

*****

Some photos from San Miguel’s patron saint fiesta — what great costumes!

La Alborada, San Miguel de Allende; Photo:KFawcett

 

La Alborada, San Miguel de Allende; Photo:KFawcett

 

Folkdancers, La Alborada, San Miguel de Allende; Photo:KFawcett

 

La Alborada, San Miguel de Allende; Photo:KFawcett

 

Papantla Flyers, La Alborada, San Miguel de Allende; Photo:KFawcett

 

Indigenous dancers, La Alborada, San Miguel de Allende; Photo:KFawcett

 

Mojigangas, La Alborada, San Miguel de Allende; Photo:KFawcett

 

Mojigangas, La Alborada, San Miguel de Allende; Photo:KFawcett

 

La Alborada, San Miguel de Allende; Photo:KFawcett

 

La Alborada, San Miguel de Allende; Photo:KFawcett

 

La Alborada, San Miguel de Allende; Photo:KFawcett

The fall fiestas and events — from Independence Day in mid-September to La Alborada at the end of the month and Dia de los Muertos in November — are the most fun and interesting and rewarding times to visit central Mexico.

Photo:KFawcett

*****

 

 

 

Posted by: ktzefr | August 13, 2019

Tuesday Tea: Words and Flowers

I drink black tea minus the frills.  No sugar, honey, lemon….  I like it straight, strong, and hot enough to make me flinch on the first sip.

Black tea (Golden Monkey, Yunnan Noir, a good Darjeeling) is my breakfast preference.  But…as of late, I’ve been drawn to a few flowery and flavored brews for my afternoon cup.  Today, it’s Rare Tea Cellar’s 2010 Vintage Caramel Dream Pu-erh — a deep, rich brown color with caramel scent — brewed for five minutes.  A small chunk of dark chocolate was the perfect sweet to go with it, along with a flip through some of my favorite summer flower photos and a few “lines I like” from various sources.  

 

“The things you are passionate about are not random, they are your calling.” ~ Fabienne Fredrickson

Crepe Myrtle; Photo:KFawcett

“Happiness is absorption, being entirely yourself and entirely in one place.” ~ Pico Iyer

Lily; Photo:KFawcett

“…what matters in life are those things contained in moments as fleeting as lightning.” ~Elena Santiago

Blue Morning Glories; Photo:KFawcett

“I’d rather learn from one bird how to sing/than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance.” ~e.e.cummings

Rose of Sharon; Photo:KFawcett

“Cultivate interior life as though it were a garden sanctuary.”  ~Frances Mayes

Honeybee; Photo:KFawcett

“In another life, the sun shines and the clouds are motionless.” ~ Charles Wright

Hibiscus; Photo:KFawcett

“Your music springs from the soul of birds, from the eyes of God, from perfect passion.”  ~Federico Garcia Lorca

Flamboyant tree blossoms; Photo:DFawcett

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.  Live the life you have imagined.” ~Henry David Thoreau

 

 

Photo:KFawcett

 

Enjoy the summer blooms while they last…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: ktzefr | August 9, 2019

Spider at the Door

Silver argiope spider; Photo:KFawcett

He builds it every night and I dismantle it every morning.  Why does he keep coming back to the door handle to toil for hours on a web?  Though it may be full of insects the next morning, he will not get a meal.  I get up early.  I go out to walk and it’s gone in a single swipe with a stick, a paper towel, or my finger.

The door handle stays bare all day.  I come and go, fill the birdfeeders, add water to the birdbaths in the tree and on the ground, toss peanuts to the squirrels and blue jays.  After my late afternoon walk, close to dusk, the door handle is still clean and clear of webbing.

So, I put the spider out of mind.  I don’t want to have nightmares.  I don’t like spiders.  I don’t care if they are tiny and harmless and able to construct fanciful webs in pretty circular labyrinths with no obvious beginning or end.  Their skills are truly remarkable, but I don’t want them building webs on the front door.

However, I do admire persistence in all creatures.  I admire that obsessive ability to do something again and again in order to reach a goal.  But this morning the web had trapped a firefly.  Enough is enough!  I swiped it away, but the firefly was dead.  I’m determined that my obsession with the spider will outlast the spider’s obsession with my door handle.  I’m thinking a good cleaning with alcohol may do the trick.

***FYI  The spider pictured above is not MY spider.  The door-handle culprit has never shown his/her face, just the overnight handiwork.  This one, a silver argiope female, was building her web on St. John in the US Virgin Islands a couple of years ago.  I spotted her while hiking and noticed the clever zigzagging in the web indicative of this type of spider.  Her body looks like a seashell.  She’s building a web in the woods, which is a perfectly acceptable place for a spider to live.

*****

Posted by: ktzefr | August 5, 2019

Bees, Weeds, and Little Orange Vampires

Honeyvine Milkweed; Photo:KFawcett

It’s a wild vine, a weed, a nuisance.  Well…maybe for some.  But it can mean life or death for others — primarily the Monarch butterfly.  Milkweed not only serves as an immediate food source for Monarchs but also as a place to lay eggs and provide nourishment for their caterpillars.

There are at least 80 species of milkweed in the US and it’s critical for Monarchs on their migratory journey.  Loss of these wild plants over the last several years is a significant factor in the dwindling number of butterflies. 

I didn’t plant the honeyvine milkweed that drapes and dangles across my holly bushes.  It came up on its own and continues to do so every summer.  The tiny white flowers that are now blooming have a strong, sweet scent and are being enjoyed constantly by the bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and all sorts of other tiny insects. The holly bushes are abuzz with life.  

Bumblebee enjoying the milkweed blossoms; Photo:KFawcett

One of the most noticeable of the lot is the oleander aphid.  Bright yellow with black legs, they reproduce quickly.  Females are viviparous and parthenogenetic; their progeny are clones.  Sexual reproduction is not necessary for offspring.  Some people call them little orange vampires as they suck the juices from plant stems and can be devastating if there is an infestation.  Not likely to occur often, however, since they live short lives and have a number of predators, including lady bugs, certain types of wasps, and some fly species, which consume them for dinner on a daily basis.  

Oleander Aphids on Honeyvine Milkweed; Photo:KFawcett

Every summer I have someone point out the “weed” to me, and I tell them I’m aware of its presence, and then I mention all of the good reasons to let it be.  

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Posted by: ktzefr | July 18, 2019

Pockets of Time…

“Where we live in the world is never one place…”

~ Naomi Shihab Nye

The snowy egret no longer has pearly white feathers.  They are dingy and his legs have turned brown with rust.  He never moves, never closes his eyes to sleep.

A fake bird can last a long time; it cannot fly away or turn its head to look at a bloom or a butterfly.  But still, the egret is not just a figure to stick in the garden.

This bird was carefully chosen, picked from all the other garden decorations in the shop.  It was not that the other figures – ducks and rabbits and frogs and squirrels – were not handsome. 

It was this:  the metal egret with its dingy feathers reminded me of the snow-white birds that nested in the pecan trees outside my window in Mexico years ago.  They woke me up every morning with their jabber and squawk as they made their way from the nests, stretching their long legs before tucking them beneath their bellies, like the wheels of a jet, as they took flight and soared off to the Rio Laja to fish for the day.  At sunrise the yellow-orange sky is specked with hot air balloons floating soundlessly above the deep purple humps of the distant Sierra Madre…the tap, tap, tap of a donkey’s hooves on the cobblestone street…the scent of jasmine from the garden.    

“Had I not been awake I would have missed it…”

~Seamus Heaney

Snowy Egrets; Photo:KFawcett

I have accumulated a great deal of objects that would be worthless to anyone else but hold little “pockets of time” for me.  Charles Wright in his “Journal of the Year of the Ox,” says, “Time hides in our pockets, not stirring, not weighing much.”  And in Elizabeth Bishop’s “A Short, Slow Life” — “We lived in a pocket of time…”

What’s in your pockets of time?

  Do you have any worthless trinkets

that hold a special meaning? 

**********

 

 

Posted by: ktzefr | June 28, 2019

5 Facts About the Flying Dragons of Summer

Dragonfly; Photo:KFawcett

The first visitor to my office in the trees this morning was a dragonfly.  One wing caught the sunlight just right, giving it a rosy streak.  The see-through wings might look as fragile as a spider web or a piece of fine crystal, but these insects are pretty tough critters.  Here are 5 characteristics of dragonflies that may surprise you:

— Dragonflies are an ancient group, one of the first insects to inhabit the earth, with more than 3,000 different species. (They used to be a whole lot bigger and scarier.)

— They have spectacular flying ability.  They’re fast (some species can fly up to 18 miles per hour!) and they are adept at flying in every direction — forward, sideways, backwards.  They can even hover like a helicopter, a great attribute for a predator.

— The Globe Skimmer dragonfly is only 1 to 1/2 inches long, but it migrates across oceans!  It can fly 4,400 miles through the air without landing — farther than any other insect on earth.  A Boeing 747 can fly approximately 9,500 miles on a full tank of fuel, but it’s a whole lot bigger than a dragonfly!

— They lay eggs in water and the larvae hatch and can live underwater from 2 to 6 years, depending on the species and the environment.  They are ferocious underwater predators.

— The dragonfly’s head is all eyes.  It has 30,000 facets and near 360-degree vision.  It also can see a world of colors that humans cannot even imagine.  Human beings have tri-chromatic vision, seeing colors as a combination of red, blue, and green.  We have three different types of light sensitive proteins (opsins) in our eyes.  Dragonflies have no fewer than 11 opsins.  Some species have 30!

So, the next time you see one of these extraordinary creatures of summer, let it be.  Or, better yet, watch it hunt, especially if you’ve been swatting at gnats.  One insect will dive through a cloud of gnats again and again until the air is clear.  

**********

 

 

  

Posted by: ktzefr | June 24, 2019

Words from the Hills…

I was home in Kentucky last week and was reminded again of the natural way people talk in the hills — in metaphor and simile, in “straight talk,” saying what they think without hesitation.  Over the years, when I’ve met with students or book clubs to discuss To Come and Go Like Magic, some readers have mentioned their favorite sayings and expressions in the book.  I’ve collected a few…

 

1. “The whole world can change in a year.”

2.” Grass is grass.  One side of the fence is as green as the other.”  

3. On plastic coverings for winter windows…“It’s like looking through water or into a dream world from some other place and time.”

4. “I like school enough, but it’s nothing special.  I get mostly Bs and don’t crack a book.”

5. Another lifetime… “when teachers were still allowed to hit you with wooden paddles one minute and pray with you the next.”

6. On gaining weight/pregnancy… “Fat does not collect in one spot the way a baby does.”

7. “Light as the powder on a moth’s wing.  Light enough to float away.”

8. As heard from a stranger in a dream… “All the dreams in the world are waiting.”  

9. “…it’s hard to imagine an empty floor under the Christmas tree.”

10. “Words can change the world.”

11. “A true home is where you started out…that never changes.”

12. On standardized tests…”The page is a dance of words.  Treacherous.  Prudery.  Gesticulate...I could collect a million words from this test alone.  We don’t talk like this, so how can they expect us to answer the questions?  How can we beat the people in other places?”

*****

 

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

 

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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

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