Introduced Species

The tales of a Colombia RPCV who lives the life of an “introduced species” in Chile.

1
Ready or Not
2
The Calm of Cutting Dead Lavender Flowers
3
Resisting the Tortoise Hibernation Instinct in 15 Simple Steps
4
Earth, Wind and Fire (and Rain)
5
Patagonian Moments
6
Listening to Glaciers
7
More Loose Change or The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
8
Loose Change
9
Blogger Muse
10
Day and Night….

Ready or Not

It’s done. I’ve launched my baby, my decade of long, laborious hours, of multiple versions and wrenching rewrites. My memoir, Marrying Santiago. I still can’t avoid the sensation that the words “my memoir” sound pretentious. And now I’m not totally comfortable in this new role of promoting my book and putting myself out to the world. Heartening comments from those who have read the book – that they couldn’t put it down or that it caused them to laugh or cry – lift my self-confidence. When a day goes by with no input, the doubts march in. It’s not that well-written. Or that chapter is lack luster. I reread parts at random to reassure myself. Early this morning I lived a vivid dream. I say “lived” because it was very real. I was there. In the small bookshop in my hometown, I’m talking to the owner (to whom I did . . .

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The Calm of Cutting Dead Lavender Flowers

The lavender bush in our front yard maintains a magnificent state of endless blooming. Not only is it pleasing to my eyes; it provides a bounty of pollen for the honey bees. It is fall here now, and the choice of flowers for the bees and butterflies has diminished. I stand before the bush, scissors in hand, the soft warmth of the fall sun on my back. I do not want to prune the lavender, so must cut the dead flowers one by one. I work with care so as not to disturb the industrious bees as they labor with their velvet touch. The flowers nod in acknowledgement to the visiting bees. Like the bees, I must work with patient precision, paying delicate attention to detail. I inhale deeply the lavender scent and watch how the furry creatures go about their business of gathering. I feel immensely rich, having the . . .

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Resisting the Tortoise Hibernation Instinct in 15 Simple Steps

Our tortoise, Speedy Gonzalez, has not gained enough weight after his summer long bout with pneumonia, dehydration and kidney disease. According to the veterinarian, he won’t survive months of hibernation. I’ve followed instructions to construct a terrarium for him, a winter hangout. 1. Buy a very large plastic box (33 x 20 in. minimum). 2. Take this unwieldy box to the vet’s shop where she demonstrates how to attach two clamp lights, (one for light and one for heat), a thermometer and a timer.  Purchase this equipment and a multiple extension cord. 3. Assemble terrarium at home, lining the bottom of the box with shredded newspaper. 4. Add a shoe box cut in half for Speedy’s sleeping quarters and plates for water and food. 5. Insert Speedy. 6. Check the next morning. The thermometer is way below the 27 degrees C necessary to activate Speedy’s metabolism. He isn’t eating. 7. . . .

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Earth, Wind and Fire (and Rain)

The peaceful, benevolent skies we encountered ten days ago in the wide open Patagonian pampa of grazing sheep and guanacos turned dark and turbulent this past week, releasing a two-day torrential deluge, isolating ranchers,  engorging rivers and washing away hundreds of sheep. Having recently explored that landscape heightens the distress. Though we know that this is a land of extremes, it continues to shock and surprise. Last month, the news carried scenes of massive mudslides in the northern desert region and raging fires in southern forests. This week, without any warning, the Calbuco volcano, inactive for forty-five years, spewed columns of red hot lava and gigantic, lightning-pierced clouds of ash and stone skyward. The ash and gravel settled in thick layers on nearby villages, farms, roads and fields. Locals were evacuated until it was deemed safe to return their homes. We city dwellers watch in shock televised scenes of horses . . .

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Patagonian Moments

Magellan Straits: Is there anything as white as a seagull’s breast? The Brookes Glacier creaks and growls as it shifts on its granite perch. Turquoise columns break off the glacier and thunder into the bay. Again and again. I watch in absolute wonder. Our zodiac speeds past sculptures floating on the water’s steely surface. I hear the mountain ridges proclaiming: We are. Impenetrable. Immovable. You are just passing through. I learn the names of the hardy, local vegetation, adapted to this rugged climate: wild strawberry groundcover, berry bushes, mosses and gnarled beech trees of the Nothofagus family. Beagle Channel and Darwin Cordillera: Young, sleek seals frolic in successive arched leaps as if imitating dolphins. The total whiteness of the Darwin Cordillera overwhelms. It is home to over six hundred glaciers. A full, yellowy moon glimmers in our wake as we navigate through the last of Glacier Alley. Cape Horn Island: . . .

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Listening to Glaciers

I just finished reading “The Lathe of Heaven” by Ursula Le Guin, my first excursion into science fiction. I decided to give a try to this genre after several visits to Mrs. LeGuin’s  blog, which inspired me to declare her as my blogger muse. The plot evolves on dual time tracks and alternate universes, leaving me perplexed. Mrs. LeGuin published the book in 1971, while the actual present of the story seems to occur in the early part of the second millennia, thus being in our past. Tenuous, permeable lines distinguish between present, past and future. This started me wondering about time. The present is now the past as I write, yet it was once the future. The story overwhelms with a plethora of man-made disasters: pollution, the greenhouse effect, continuous wars, overpopulation, famine and riots; and natural disasters: volcanic eruptions, plagues.  It’s frightening to accept that this scenario is . . .

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More Loose Change or The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The hummingbirds are back in town. Strange that they leave during the summer months. I wonder where they go. Maybe, like so many Santiaguinos , they’re escaping the heat. Out on my walking route, ads on posts proclaiming “Perro Perdido”. How many dogs get lost just in our neighborhood! Mug shots of missing pets change weekly. Went to see the movie “Selma” last night. I needed to refresh my memory about those events. Then I realized why I seemed to have a memory gap about those years….I was in Colombia in the Peace Corps then and had little contact with US news. It’s disturbing to me to think that was the situation in my country just fifty years ago. And it’s not over yet. Fires rage out of control. Chile is living the consequences of climate change. Years of drought has converted much of the landscape, even in the normally . . .

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Loose Change

One night hubby and I clicked the numbers on the remote control hoping for a glimpse into the wonders of the natural world on NatGeo. Question marks appeared on the screen. We checked other nearby channels. Nada. Nothing. A message at the bottom of the screen informed us that the cable server had “rearranged” their grid of channels. Nobody consulted us. Where were our favorite channels? Just when we finally had the channel numbers engraved in our memories, they up and CHANGED them! It’s like at the grocery store, when someone gets the brilliant idea to change the location of their products, and shopping takes an hour and a half instead of the usual hour. On my yearly visit back to my hometown, I head to a favorite shop and…it’s no longer there. Slow changes, fast, surprising changes. Changes in our aging bodies. Stiffness getting out of the car. When . . .

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Blogger Muse

Ursula Le Guin. Her name comes up in my writing group. A familiar name but I don’t remember if I’ve ever read any of her books. I resort to Google where several surprises await me. Familiar names and places. She grew up in Berkeley, where I lived for eight years, though our years didn’t coincide. She was the daughter of Alfred and Theodora Kroeber, renowned anthropologists, her father being director of the University’s anthropology museum. Theodora wrote one of my most-loved books, Ishi in Two Worlds, the account of the last Native American living in the wilderness of California. Ishi went on to become a research assistant at the museum, then located in San Francisco. With low resistance to ‘diseases of civilization’, he suffered ill health, spending much time in the University hospital where my great aunt, a nurse there, met Ishi. How I wish I’d asked her about her . . .

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Day and Night….

Controversy and disgrumplement are rampant. (I’m exercising my writer’s license to invent whimsical words.) No turning the clock back in the fall? No on and off daylight savings time? The government has decreed that Chile will remain on the current time system throughout the year. Voices of protest point out the disadvantages for school children and workers who will enter school rooms, offices and factories in murk fit only for alley cats. This also means I’ll have to readjust my thinking when calculating the time when calling friends in California or Skyping with son in New York. A rather drastic decision to be made without consulting the populace forced to grope half their mornings through the penumbra. This morning hubby asked, “What happened?” referring to my early rising on a Saturday. “I want to go out for a walk while it’s still cool,” I explained. Every summer day in Santiago . . .

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