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


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.”


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!”



“Many, many things

they bring to mind —

cherry blossoms!”



“From all four quarters

cherry petals blowing in

to Biwa’s waters!”

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



“Cherry-bloom, cuckoo,

moon, snow — and already

the year is through!”



“Cherry blossoms, more

and more now! Birds have two legs!

Oh, horses have four!”


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…”



“The cherry-bloom has gone–

a temple, in among the trees,

is what it has become.”



“As the moon-brilliance westward makes its

crossing, so

cherry-blossom shadows eastward

slowly go.”



“Scattered petals lie

on rice-seedling waters:

bright is the starlit sky.”



Cherry Blossoms; Photo:KFawcett

“Oh, the wide world’s ways!

Cherry blossoms left unwatched

even for three days!”



“Women, children, men:

into cherry bloom they push —

from bloom come out again.”



‘Cherry blossoms! See!

Cherry bloom!” — and it was sung

of this old tree.”



“Atsumori’s tomb —

and here there is not even

a cherry tree to bloom!”


(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.





Posted by: ktzefr | March 21, 2019

World Poetry Day: A Celebration


“Walking by flashlight

at six in the morning,

my circle of light on the gravel 

swinging side to side,

coyote, raccoon, field mouse, sparrow,

each watching from darkness

this man with a moon on a leash.”

~ Ted Kooser (Nebraska, US), “November 18” (US Poet Laureate 2004-2006)



Not sky-blue, but…

Monarch butterfly; Photo:KFawcett

“Take a pen in your uncertain fingers

Trust, and be assured

That the whole world is a sky-blue butterfly

and words are the nets to capture it

~ Muhammad al-Ghuzzi (Tunisia), “The Pen”


“…I want every instant

to be lovely as crayons.

I’d like to draw–on chaste white paper–

a clumsy freedom, eyes that never wept,

a piece of sky, a feather, a leaf,

a pale green evening, and an apple.”

~ Gu Cheng (China), “A Headstrong Boy”



“…Peace to past memories that loom

Like a covey of pigeons crossing the sky.

Peace to returning ships

and their singers in moonlight.

Peace to the sails in the Gulf,

Roaming the seas, loving risk.

Peace be to women beating tambourines

And their triumphant vows that make dreams

Come true.”

~ Muhammad al-Fayiz (Kuwait), “A Sailor’s Memoirs”


“…They are like everybody,

the parakeets:

the ones that talk best

have separate cages.

~ Alberto Blanco (Mexico), “The Parakeets”


Bug love…


In the tangled boughs

Of the jasmine tree

And sometimes

On the green emerald floor

A nightingale sings

The poignant melodies

of love.”

~ Muneer Niazi (Pakistan), “A Dream of Paradise in the Shadow of War”


“When you arrive in our town

I would like to sit on the roof

and play the violin…”

~ Zoltan Zelk (Hungary), “Salt and Memory”


“The house was steaming itself in a dream of laundry.

I want to tell about the fire, the red floortiles, the

cupboard where lavender-water was kept, about candied

lilies and the soul of bread…”

~ Jean Joubert (France), “Childhood”



“…we could also go to the shore

Where the willows have already released

their soft, soft swings.

We could swing all the way from March to August…”

~ Chang Shiang-hua (Taiwan), “An Appointment”


They say reading

a poem a day

may keep the doctor



Posted by: ktzefr | March 19, 2019

A Walk in the Maya World

Chac-mool from Chichen Itza, at the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya, Merida, Yucatan

     I first came to Yucatan in the early 1980s and it was all about hanging out on the beach and shopping for souvenirs in San Miguel de Cozumel.  I didn’t learn anything about the Mayan people and culture until years later. When I became interested in Mayan history, I went back to Yucatan, skipped the beaches, and discovered what would become one of my favorite cities in Mexico. 

Plaza Principal, Merida, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett

    Merida is on the west coast of the Yucatan peninsula, a city of a million-plus people, full of history and far from the sunseekers on the Riviera Maya.  It’s sunny and hot here year round, and the Gulf is only 30-45 minutes away, but Merida is much more than a place to stretch out in the sun.  There is a lot to love — the pretty plazas, friendly people, great restaurants, and  the city is bursting at the seams with cultural events and activities, museums and galleries and theaters with something happening almost every night.  In February we spent an afternoon with a Mexican friend at the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya.  

    The Grand Museum of the Mayan World is a world-class museum that celebrates Maya culture and traditions with more than 1,000 well-preserved artifacts, including a chac-mool sculpture (top of page) from Chichen Itza.  It’s the perfect place to visit before (or after) seeing the ruins at Chichen Itza, Uxmal, Coba, or the myriad other ruins of Mayan cities along the Puuc route.  The building itself is modern, almost otherworldly, with the main part designed in the form of a ceiba tree, sacred to the Maya who believed that it connected the living with the underworld and the heavens.  It has numerous interactive exhibits and is trilingual (Spanish, Maya, and English).  The four halls include The Mayab, Nature, Culture; Ancestral Maya; Yesterday’s Maya; and Today’s Maya.  

Here’s a quick look at a few of the interesting displays:

Maya Codex, Gran Museo del Mundo Maya, Merida, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett

The museum has a complete facsimile of the Madrid Codex, one of only four pre-Conquest Maya manuscripts in existence.  

Maya Codex, Gran Museo del Mundo Maya, Merida, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett

The ancient Maya considered jade to be divine and much more important than gold.  Jade was used to fashion jewelry, as well as artistic and religious objects.  Rulers were often buried wearing jade death masks.

Jade necklace, Gran Museo del Mundo Maya, Merida, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett

A stunning red wall shows the face of a Mayan ruler, a replica of the Temple of the Masks at Kohunlich.

Replica of the Temple of the Masks at Kohunlich, Gran Museo del Mundo Maya, Merida, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett

The various exhibits contain Mayan weapons, pottery, and a miscellany of other interesting objects.

Gran Museo del Mundo Maya, Merida, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett


Gran Museo del Mundo Maya, Merida, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett

Gran Museo del Mundo Maya, Merida, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett

Merida is a great base to explore the Mayan world and enjoy an inviting contemporary world as well.  For more info about this terrific museum check out the website here: Gran Museo del Mundo Maya



Posted by: ktzefr | March 7, 2019

What’s in a Word?

     Two things I like about my favorite coffee shop, besides the varieties of great-tasting coffee, are these:  the perfect designs of fern leaves and hearts in the latte foam and the shop’s “word of the day.”  The creative designs make me smile and the challenge of a new word keeps my brain clicking.  Sometimes I recognize the word and can rattle off the meaning, but not that often.  Usually I admit that I don’t have a clue.

     Today the “word of the day” was “melic” – I thought “medic” and “melancholy.”  It sounded like a mood.  Are you melic today?  Or, perhaps, an herb or spice.  What if you add a pinch or a dollop or a teaspoon of melic to the turmeric and ginger? But this reminded me of metallic and that was no good.  Who wants food that leaves a metallic taste in the mouth.

     I read the meaning — “of/or relating to song, especially of Greek lyric poetry.”  So it’s all about turning Greek lyric poetry into song. 

     I could relate to this.

     When I was a child and was alone and bored, I would turn the poetry in my dad’s The Golden Treasury of Songs and Lyrics to song and sing to an empty house.  It wasn’t Greek lyric poetry, but imagine classic poems set to the rhythms of 1960s rock.

     Herrick’s”Thou art my life, my love, my heart,/The very eyes of me,/And hast command of every part,/To live and die for thee…” or  Hood’s “I remember, I remember/The house where I was born…” (Sort of like Springsteen’s My Hometown but, of course, I lived in Kentucky then and that song came 20 years later).  I recall the times I may have sung Lord Byron.  “If I should meet thee /After long years,/How should I greet thee?/With silence and tears.”

     Sometimes I imagined a boy walking about his house on the other side of town or the other side of the world singing poetry and thinking about me.  Lord Byron’s “She walks in beauty, like the night…” or Wordsworth “She was a Phantom of delight…” or even Coleridge  “She is not fair to outward view/As many maidens be;/Her loveliness I never knew/Until she smiled on me.” 

     Can you imagine a teenaged boy ever doing that sort of thing?!

     In those days I spent hours thumbing through the old book of poems, singing verses I often didn’t understand, finding notes here and there that my dad had written in school – dates that must have had some special meaning (Friday, March 19, 1923?), references to Bible verses (II Kings 19, 6-36 – I looked it up but found no connection to the poem), underlined passages – Wordsworth’s “Though nothing can bring back the hour/Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower…”  The underline must have been after 1961, the year the movie “Splendor in the Grass” came out, the story of a young girl dealing with her own coming of age and the love and heartbreak that accompany those years.   I must have underlined that one myself because of the movie or just because I liked the phrase – or simply the word “splendor.”    What event or act could ever be better than one described as splendor?

     Those old poems were filled with meanings to cover any and every emotion.  The words were mostly read by adults, but they had – and still have, I hope — the power to touch a teenaged heart. 

     Discovering the meaning of the word “melic” sent me on a journey into the past.  Of poetry and song.  Of alone times.  Of the difficulties of growing up.     

     I love the power of words.  Strong  words.  Tender words.  Pretty words.  Words that sound like music. 

     Don’t you?


Posted by: ktzefr | December 28, 2018

12 Slightly Wacky New Year’s Resolutions 2019


— River of shadows, river of light; it goes on without us.  Remember humility.

— Take time to watch the finches turn from gold to green, from green to gold.

— Be aware of the distant storm approaching before you get caught up in the wind.

— Whenever you cry, take heart and find the positive.  The Lobocraspis griseifusa is a moth that lives on tears.

— Hot coals in the fireplace are covered and dampened to last another day, but old newspapers quickly become ashes of the past.

— Don’t be too swept away by sweet memories; don’t be tempted to forget the rock-hard times or to recall the first crackle of chance.

— Extraordinary days can begin with cold words or warm croissants.   Go for the pastries.

— Rain falls, mist rises, and you can’t stop the wind.  Accept it.

— Faces in the clouds never stay put.  They’re transient; they’re not what they appear to be. 

— A bird cannot fly with one wing.  But it can still eat and still sing.

— The face in the mirror is real.  And, yet, it’s not real at all.

— White roses, blue horizons, the workings of time and space have rules.  But dreams have no rules…they’re sorta like rats in the subway. 

Go wild in 2019 and dream on!


« Newer Posts - Older Posts »