It’s not difficult to feel grumpy, irritated and downright depressed in this city of ours, what with grey winter days, carjacking, house and mall robberies, traffic gridlocks and hooded vandals destroying and looting during weekly student demonstrations. These scenes have become our daily bread. Days ago a water main broke on a principal artery of the city. A deluge of escaping water flowed down towards the center of town. Surface traffic and a major metro line were cut. The news showed streams of city folk walking long distances to work.

But, all is not gloom. I laughed out loud at the sight of a young, well-dressed woman, desperate to cross the street, clambering aboard a grocery cart pushed by an ingenious Chileno. For a few pesos he delivered her across the river to the opposite corner. Oh, those enterprising Chileans. At the first drop of rain, they’re selling umbrellas at metro stations, or cellophane wrapped roses for Mother’s Day, or ready-made salads and sandwiches at lunchtime.

I see glimmers of hope and humor as I go about my city.  One night a friend and I decided to go to a concert of the Santiago Symphonic Orchestra downtown, which meant boarding the metro at peak commuter hour. We are not the pushy type but, when it came to a packed metro car, we had no choice but to squeeze and elbow our way in, that is, if we wanted to go anywhere.

The live performance of Tchaikowsky’s glorious Fourth Symphony swept me away on a wave of wonder to the steppes of Russia and the glittering halls of the Hermitage. Unbelievable, the magic created by those violins, violas, cellos and bass.

Returning home on the metro, passengers eyed us as we broke into giggles, lifting our feet to avoid contact with two large balls of hair rolling down the aisle and back again, not an unusual sight in the otherwise clean metro cars.

A sharp clear blue sky greeted me this morning and, in the distance, the snow-covered ridges gleamed. A gaggle (at least a dozen) of rowdy green parrots invaded the liquidambar tree next door, gorging on the seeds of the prickly pods. On the ground turtle doves grazed on the fallen leftovers.

Like the seeds of the liquidambar, abundant reasons for joy and laughter are here for the taking in this urban landscape. It’s a matter of paying attention.

Quaker parrot

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