Author - Suzanne Adam

1
St. Francis’ Garden
2
A Yearful
3
Table Talk
4
Dry Days
5
A Light Touch
6
Wake-up Calls
7
Going Home
8
Expat Gardening
9
Nicanor Parra Turns One Hundred
10
Getting Past August

St. Francis’ Garden

It was probably the hottest day of the year yesterday – over 90 degrees and definitely hotter along the sizzling sidewalk of the Alameda, downtown Santiago’s main artery at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. I had considered postponing my appointment, but, no, Franciscan Brother Jaime and I had each reconfirmed twice that we’d meet at this hour at the museum of the old seventeenth century San Francisco Church. It was dark and wonderfully cool inside the museum’s thick adobe walls, hung with large colonial religious paintings. Why did colonial artists paint their scenes in such lugubrious colors? A young guide directed me to Brother Jaime’s office in a corridor bordering a central garden, where he met me at the door with the traditional Chilean peck on the cheek, though we hadn’t met before. I had expected him to be clad in the brown Franciscan habit, but instead, was met by . . .

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A Yearful

Time to put up the new calendar. I liked this past year’s so much that I bought the same for 2015, “Nature’s Peace” with watercolors by Molly Hashimoto and words of John Muir. Each watercolor allows me a fleeting entry into the green wonders of nature. Like a butterfly at a buddleia flower, I alight into scenes of woods and meadows for daily sustenance. Aside from the pleasure of my new calendar, the passage from one year to the next – the fireworks, confetti, noise makers, and merrymaking – has never had much meaning for me. But I decided to search for some personal significance. I’d look back through my 2014 datebook for the most memorable, joyful moments: Digging deep into my writing self at our Santiago Writers’ retreat in the country Traveling by land across the Andes to Mendoza, Argentina Setting my eyes on our first grandson (after three . . .

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Table Talk

Recently, we attended a barbecue hosted by one of hubby’s cyclist friends.  After a couple hours, the meat was finally ready and the men had exhausted the topic of cycling. Seated at the long table, I tried to follow the different strains of lively conversation. In spite of the decades I’ve lived here, I tend to be quiet at large social gatherings, self-conscious of my accented Spanish. This allows me to listen and observe – and learn, especially when it comes to politics. Even after forty-one years since the military coup, the circumstances preceding and following the coup continue to be a frequent subject of differing and strong opinions. Last night was no exception as the conversation turned to Chile’s painful past during the Allende government and the military government that followed, now often referred to as the military dictatorship. (Interesting how one different word changes the perception.) What called . . .

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Dry Days

A line of water trickles along the gutter of our sidewalk. I follow it down the street. I can’t identify from which house it came. I do this often – this sleuthing to identify which neighbor is wasting water. I’ve seen a neighbor washing his car on the street with the hose running; gardens being watered mid-day and malfunctioning sprinklers; people hosing off a driveway and sidewalk rather than sweeping. I don’t want to earn the reputation of a busy body with too much time on her hands, so I don’t say, “Do you realize that Chile is in its fifth year of drought? Shouldn’t we be conserving water?” Few city dwellers consider where our water comes from. We’re too far from its source. Captured from wild rivers, it’s channeled into wide underground tubes and then into smaller pipes to buildings and homes and gardens and golf courses and fountains . . .

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A Light Touch

As I walk the long beach under a patchy morning fog my senses are open, alert, receptive– to the rhythmic plunging of the waves, the wind’s feather touch on my face, the scent of the salty sea. And yes! There are the Franklin Gulls recently arrived from their journey from the Northern Hemisphere in their black and white summer plumage. They surge up to then dart into the shallows plucking morsels to their liking. They likely worked up a hearty appetite on their migration south.  Sharing the shoreline with the gulls are several brown curlews that take off and cry in alarm when I get too close. A pair of black and white, orange-beaked oyster catchers mingles with the shoreline avian gathering. This beach has few shells or pebbles for the beachcomber. Clumps of tangled brown seaweed are strewn about, like abandoned tresses of sea sirens. What I notice are . . .

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Wake-up Calls

An explosion of purple sways outside my window – our jacaranda tree. Tiny goblet-shaped blooms blanket the ground below. Some call them “messy”, but why not just enjoy the burst of color while it lasts? It’s a matter of perspective and choice. Choose to notice the wonder of these fleeting purple weeks – or focus on the work required to sweep away those fading velvet petals. The hot days have descended upon us, the hills now singed brown, and the local supermarket bulges with gaudy, Chinese-made Christmas wreaths, snowmen, reindeer, Santas, elves and plastic trees. This in-your-face inducement to buy and consume, this blaring excess, sickens me. Late yesterday afternoon we went to a wedding, much like the many we’ve attended here over the years. The four hundred and fifty plus guests filled the old San Francisco Church, a historic national monument, situated on the Alameda, the main downtown thoroughfare. . . .

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Going Home

Contemplating my California sojourn, all I can say is — my cup runneth over. Immersed in the Ultimate Information Society, I became a sponge, soaking up the abundance of ideas and opportunities, stimulated, energized. Things I noticed: Americans shaking hands when meeting for the first time! So accustomed to the Chilean kissing society, hand shaking feeling stiff and formal. The sex change process now being referred to as gender reassignment. Baseball becoming exciting, especially if the San Francisco Giants are playing (and winning) the World Series. Frisky squirrels, noisy blue jays and shiny, coal-black crows harvesting the abundant acorns. A guitarist playing for money by the line for the cable car sporting a tee shirt with the slogan: Legalize gay marihuana. Love it! The neighbor’s goats, Buff and Sunny, crunching on dry magnolia leaves as if they were potato chips. Petting the goats leaving the scent of goat cheese on . . .

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Expat Gardening

The term “expatriate” bothers me. Although my dictionary defines it as a person who has withdrawn herself from her native land, to me it carries the implication that one is no longer a patriot of her native land. Untrue in my case. Living in Chile for over four decades I feel a deep sense of loss for the land I left and have experienced an increased awareness of my nationality. I’ll always be different, the gringa, the one with the accent. Constant reminders of my country’s politics and influence wave like flags from Chilean and CNN International newscasts and in the deluge of emails from my political party begging for money. I am no longer so far removed from United States’ affairs. A few days ago I watched live reports from the UN General Assembly meetings, dealing with the urgent and troubling state of world affairs. My country is right . . .

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Nicanor Parra Turns One Hundred

Chilean poet Nicanor Parra, a man from a talented, humble family, was a mathematician and physicist until he studied in England. There he read Shakespeare and classic English poetry, whereupon he did a complete turn-about, publishing his first book “Poems and Anti-poems.” Eventually he labeled himself an “anti-poeta.” I visit a photographic exhibit held in his honor and am tickled to notice a photo of him visiting the University of California in Berkeley, invited by Chilean professor Fernando Alegría with whom I studied Latin American Literature. Just two degrees of separation! A second exhibition features his illustrated quotes (“Thought dies in the mouth”), newspaper headline colleges and a display of artifacts, common items with quirky labels: a roll of soft toilet paper labeled “bourgeoisie” alongside newspaper squares for the “proletariat”, a coke bottle labeled “message in a bottle”, a bunch of unmatched socks. I laugh at his humor, irony and . . .

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Getting Past August

August thirty- first is a day of celebration for many Chilean seniors; small towns and senior clubs throw parties; congratulations are in order; our dinner guests last night joked to each other: “Well, we made it past another August.” The reason? Here in the Southern Hemisphere the worst days of winter are past, and we survived, not succumbing to pneumonia, still alive and kicking! I asked our Chilean friends last night: “Do you know where the saying ‘Pasando Agosto’ comes from? No one knew. Everyone repeats it but has no idea how the custom originated. From Internet this curious gringa investigator learned that the saying originated in colonial times when the Spanish, particularly in Chile’s rainy southern latitudes, faced the severe winter cold and damp with no means, other than fires, for heating their modest homes. For those getting on in years to have survived the winter months was reason . . .

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