Monday, July 30, 2007

Weird dreams

Lately, I've had two particularly weird dreams that have made me ponder the layers of consciousness in our minds and the relationship between the conscious and the unconscious.

My initial awareness of the layers of consciousness came when I started doing yoga and realized that while a part of me was intent on focusing and breathing and chanting another part was reviewing my agenda for the day and impatiently awaiting for me to get on with my itinerary. It wasn't that one prevailed over the other, but that they both existed and operated at the same time.

More recently, that awareness has been heightened by two types of dreams I've had.

In one dream, my conscious self is asleep and my unconscious self, but which is the one alert inside my head (or wherever it is that we inhabit when we are not awake), wants my body to wake up. My body does not obey and remains immobile. Recently, I had to scream at myself within myself to awaken my sleeping body into consciousness. That was very weird.

The memory has a high degree of creepiness because I tend to wonder what would happen if at some point I'm unable to awaken myself or, alternatively, if this is what the soul experiences once the body is dead. Creepy, indeed.

The second kind of dream, or whatever it is, happens when I'm trying to get something accomplished in the dream but I'm so sleepy (in the dream) that I can't keep my eyes open and I have trouble seeing what I'm doing or where I'm going (in the dream). Thus, I'm walking around with eyes half shut, thinking that I should actually get some rest before I attempt whatever it is I'm trying to do since I can't even see my way around (in the dream).

That dream is kind of funny since, of course, my actual seeing eyes are shut. But it's almost like my dream body is being impaired by my sleeping body, because my real body is sleeping and dreaming, thereby creating the dream body itself. Very Borges of me, if I may say so myself.

In researching the African presence in Cuba and Puerto Rico for my honor's thesis in college, I did research on santería and on voodoo as well. If I remember correctly back more than 20 years ago, in voodoo the belief is that the soul goes out of the body when we sleep. Thus, it's not that we're dreaming but that the soul is actually experiencing another dimension and having its own adventures wherever that dimension is found. When we wake, we call the soul back into the body.

I'm not sure what dreams are, exactly, but I like the voodoo idea much better than the uptight white European Freud's theories of sexual repression and of women having penis envy and of men lusting after their mothers. What a killjoy that man was!

My most recent dreams, or whatever they are, sure feel like my consciousness-in-dreams is the one that is doing the alert adventuring while my body is inert and unconscious. It's all quite dreamily unclear and weird, indeed.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The hero tree is dead

Long live the hero tree.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Acts of God

Today I witnessed an Act of God.

The humongous 80-feet-tall cottonwood tree that spent almost 100 years in front of my neighbor's house, split at the base in two after a severe thunderstorm struck our area this afternoon.

My husband was at work and I was in the kitchen getting ready to prepare some tembleque, a coconut pudding-style Puerto Rican dessert for him. I was watching my favorite TV meteorologist as he said that the storm had toppled large trees north of here.

Earlier in the afternoon I'd seen a posse of city officials milling around the tree, which has been a topic of conversation in this neighborhood since we moved in several years ago. The neighbors had told us they would have it removed later this year at a cost of nearly $8,000.

The mayor, concerned that the tree had become a public nuisance, came by and told the neighbors he wanted it down today. But they couldn't find any tree-cutting crew with a 70-feet-tall crane so they called in a crew from Toledo and scheduled the cutting down for tomorrow.

"If there's a day when that cottonwood is coming down, it's today," I thought wrily, as I poured the coconut milk into the measuring cup.

That was as far as I got with the tembleque. At that very moment, nature decided to oblige the mayor.

Almost at the very moment that my bruja thought was over, I heard a ripping sound that suggested the earth itself was coming undone at the seams. I rushed to the living room and saw a large green shadow obscure the light and immediately realized that my premonition was coming true: the cottonwood WAS coming down right then and there.

"Please not the house, not the house," I prayed quickly as I wondered what I would do if there was any damage to our home. My husband and I had discussed the possibility of this tree coming down on our property many times, and he had conjectured that our beautiful maple tree in front would save our house. Unfortunately for our maple, but fortunately for the house, he was right.

This is now the view from our front porch. TV and newspaper reporters swarmed the area, as did many curious people who came and parked and theorized and took pictures. I was even interviewed by a TV reporter from the same news program I was watching when all hell literally broke loose.

A city crew came in and cleared the street but the front of our house will likely remain a pile of tree debris until tomorrow afternoon. By about 9 or 10 p.m., the crew from Toledo showed up to take down the remaining standing tree and the show was worthy of a TV program.

The lone guy who cut down the tallest branches was taken up on a mechanical bucket, like the ones the electric company workers use, and then tied himself to the branch. He then rappelled down the tree back to his bucket once he'd secured the branch with rope so the crane could lift it and bring it down to the tree chipper on the ground once Bucket Man had sawed them off. Surely that guy must be an Xtreme athlete when he's not working!

We went to bed past 12:30 a.m. and we could still hear the loud whine of the saw and the mulcher grinding out there. The neighbor on the other side of my neighbor did well to leave her home and spend the night with friends.

As for us, as I told the TV reporter, we have a saying in Puerto Rico: De los males, el menos. Of all evils, this was the lesser one. There was no loss of property or life.

And while I hope my lovely maple tree isn't so damaged that it must be cut down, it was definitely a heroic tree and saved the day for all of us.

Time travel

Funny how you can live in a place for almost a lifetime and still find locations that are brand new and awe inspiring to you, as if you were in another country.

That's the case of the Centro Ceremonial Indígena de Caguana, which my husband and I accidentally stumbled upon last week while taking the long, long way and driving through the mountain range that splits the island in two, on our way to Guánica in the south western side.

Despite having lived almost half of my life in Puerto Rico, I had never -- until this past visit -- stepped onto the eerie and spellbinding place, which is ensconced high in the mountains of Utuado in Barrio Caguana.

It is believed that the Taínos, the indigenous inhabitants of Boriquén (as Puerto Rico was called by its true "discoverers"), played their ball games and worshipped their gods at this site. Caguana is a very large expanse of land, which was in use well before Christopher Columbus thought he had discovered Puerto Rico in 1493.

Clearly a place of large-scale ceremony and ritual, Caguana is believed to have been an important religious center to which thousands would flock from neighboring villages (and perhaps even islands) to participate in obviously significant social and spiritual ceremonies.

I found visiting the beautiful grounds at Caguana a bit disturbing because of the sheer magnitude of being in a place that has survived since perhaps before the 13th century. The hieroglyphics are quite worn and it's now hard to discern the shapes of animals, birds and other creatures etched in the stone, but you can still make out a shape here and there and they truly take your breath away.

An old and majestic ceiba also regales the place, providing an appropriate frame for the Cemí Mountains in the distance, which happen (or is it really coincidence?) to be shaped like the Taínos' main god-symbol, the cemí, with one large mountain in the middle and two smaller heads at its ends.

The silence of the place is striking, even with tourists and visitors busy taking pictures and expressing their awe and wonder at the sights. Most people whisper, as if they were in church, intuiting the religious weightiness of their surroundings.

I almost convinced myself that I could feel the lingering presence of the people who centuries ago made Caguana a place alive and bursting with the chatter and games of families and friends, all gathered for a day or days of celebration.

It's incredible (and a little shameful) that it took more than four decades for me to visit Caguana. But that time frame is nothing compared to the likely 800 years the center has stood as a silent witness of those who came and lived and loved and laughed before us.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

In absentia

When my husband and I go to Puerto Rico my very generous in-laws take care of the dogs, which are their furry grandchildren on our side of the family. Invariably, the stories my mother-in-law tells us after we return are not only hilarious but often touching.

Last year, my father-in-law sat through a 2 a.m. thunderstorm in their tiny garage bathroom with Rusty so that the dog wouldn't be too freaked out (like many dogs, Rusty has a phobia of thunderstorms). This year, it was my mother-in-law's turn to do the same, with the dog pressed against her side and whining all the time. My in-laws are truly amazing people to be willing to do what they do for my impossibly difficult dogs.

After the first 24 hours at their place, during which Rusty went on a hunger strike and refused all food and his medications, he finally bonded with my mother-in-law (another strong woman or mujer de armas tomar, as we say) and reassured himself that all would be well. By the morning of the third day he was eating normally again.

Once he had focused on my mother-in-law as his Alpha, he even allowed her to take Geni's milk bone away from him without tearing out her arm. As she tells it, Rusty had refused his breakfast that day but when she turned around after placing his food bowl away from bottomless-pit-stomach Geni (who will eat anything and everything eatable, as will become painfully obvious soon), she found him happily munching on her milk bone. That's Geni's favorite treat after she finishes her food.

Now, Rusty is not supposed to eat milk bones because of his food allergies, which cause him endless (and costly to treat) skin problems. But my mother-in-law's iron-clad sense of right and wrong also dictated that it was simply unfair for the dog to take the milk bone treat although he'd failed to eat his breakfast, as he is supposed to.

My mother-in-law got pissed and scolded Rusty in no uncertain terms and indicated that she was going to take the milk bone away from him and that he was not to even consider the possibility of biting her (which he surely would've done to someone less self-assured and determined than she is). She then proceeded to make good on her threat and took the milk bone away from Rusty. Although he growled deeply to signal his disagreement with her decision, Rusty did not (thankfully) maul her. To me that's a sure sign that he respects her as his superior in rank (as well he should, if he knows what's good for him).

Once Rusty settles into his routine, all the dogs basically do is eat and sleep and do their business, with the occasional chance to chase my mother-in-law's motorcycle as she rides it down their pretty hill. Notwithstanding that statement, my mother-in-law says that instead of roaming the property, as they would be expected to do, my city-street dogs wag their tails after breakfast and look expectantly at her, waiting for a walk through the property. She invariably must roll her eyes and shoo them away, reminding them that they have almost five acres to explore without need of a leash.

I guess Geni did take her seriously and one day that she was still hungry after breakfast (she is on a diet because of her propensity to develop a huge pot belly even without drinking beer), Geni roamed the finca until she found the carcass of a dead raccoon. Good Puerto Rican street sata that she is, she brought it back to my in-laws' place and proceeded to enjoy it as her snack.

Of course, as would be expected, Geni not only puked her breakfast but also the remains of the dead raccoon, hair and all, which my mother-in-law then had to clean. The woman should be canonized and Geni should be taken to Oz to see if she can get a brain!

There's no doubt that the dogs are a lot of work. I enjoy that work because they're such an integral part of my life. Thus, I'm grateful beyond words that my in-laws, together and individually, put up with them and take care of them so well in my absence.

Rusty and Geni can't talk human but, if they could, I know they'd tell their friends and family of what a cool human grandmother and grandfather they have. I'm sure that they'd also rave about the great summer camp they get to visit each year. Where else would Geni have access to the delicacy of dead raccoon?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


We're back after spending a week in Puerto Rico. Unlike other visits, we didn't stay with my parents (since they had a full house most of the time with both my sister and brother and their kids visiting, too) but instead imposed on the generosity of my first cousin who built a comfortable room atop what used to be an old garage for his mother, my aunt.

A circular metal staircase leads to the quaint French door in the back of his show-house near the beach. The house is beyond gorgeous, with polished cement floors and shiny metal doors, high ceilings and large picture windows, and beautifully groomed and landscaped patio. Our surroundings reminded us of a 5-star hotel rather than my cousin's house.

My entrepreneurial cousin and his wife, the daughter of a famous Puerto Rican artist, have decorated their house so that it radiates nothing but charm and taste. But the best part is that despite all the show-house elements, they keep a warm home with their beautiful daughter and their nicest of Australian Sheepdogs. We witnessed how friends and relatives are constantly dropping by and always welcome. My husband and I were quite impressed with and grateful for their true Puerto Rican hospitalidad. It's quite a different life to the one we lead here in Ohio, that's for sure!

Our favorite part of the house was their azotea, which is a large rooftop area where we spent a few evenings and mornings enjoying the cool ocean breeze and listening for the distant roar of the sea.

We also enjoyed ogling other people's azoteas, like those of the neighbor's house with a blue-tiled roof. Although the neighborhood is quiet, the people in this house have eight dogs of all breeds and sizes, from the largest German Shepherd to the tiniest black chihuahua. And they all enjoy barking in unison at any time they perceive an intruder in the area.

Thus, they serve as largely unwanted and unwelcome alarm clocks. One day we heard them at 3:30 a.m. and another at 5:30 a.m. (I guess when the paper is delivered). But it was vacation and since nobody seemed to mind, we didn't either. My husband and I chuckled thinking how, if we were back in our Ohio neighborhood, the police would have been called already.

We well knew that in Puerto Rico, however, if we'd call the police about barking dogs, they'd likely have laughed at us. And with good reason.

Our azotea adventures were only part of the cool pictures I took of this visit to Puerto Rico. There is more to come later. Now, I'm off to the back-to-reality, vacation-is-over, time-to-do-laundry evening that stretches ahead for me.

The azotea, and all its generous promise of tropical leisure, I will miss.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Children of mine

I've often said that Dios sabe lo que hace in the fact that I don't have children. While I don't agree with my mami and sister, who have suggested that I wouldn't have the patience to deal with a child (well, definitely not with a spoiled one!), I do realize that it's totally best -- for many reasons -- that I have no biological child.

For one, there would be many a school teacher who would dread my entrance into their building. Like my mami before me, I'm a lioness when it comes to protecting and caring for the people I love, most especially those who are weaker or younger or smaller than the rest of us. I would take no prisoners if a child of mine was in any way bothered or hurt by anyone.

But while I have no sangre de mi sangre to worry about, I do have two cats and two dogs and I do plenty of anxiety-pill-level worrying for them.

This week, Magellan is going to have to spend a few days at the vet. I know she's going to be unhappy in a cage (although at the vet they call it a cat condo) but we're going away for a few days and we can't ask our cat sitter to chase her around the house to try to give her the medication she requires. The cat sitter will have plenty of work with Darwin, as it is.

For one, because she is the Devil's Cat, Magellan would likely allow the cat sitter to give her the medication ONCE. But that would be it. The cat sitter would never see Magellan again in the flesh, only her shadow as the evil cat rushed to hide. And Magellan is pretty good at hiding. Many a time she's set my husband and me on searching parties throughout the house to locate her most recent hiding spot.

Because the dogs, especially Rusty, who failed doggie day care, cannot be boarded or cared for by the sitter, they're off to my in-laws' and that brings its own set of anxieties. Each dog takes a whopping amount of medication and is on a restricted diet. You almost need a degree in veterinary medicine to figure out which one needs what. I bet I'd pass the veterinary boards, if I tried, given all the trips to the vet over the past few years.

In any event, while I'll likely enjoy the brief change of scenery (although I hate traveling) and seeing my family, I'll be anxious about the furry children of mine. Thus, I know that, as usual, the best part of being away will be the coming back.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Días de sol

As I've told you before, Magellan worships the sun. True Puerto Rican cat that she is, she has a pasión de amor for the sun at its warmest.

Today, she sneaked past me into the deck and immediately jumped onto my husband's tire-changing table, which is temporarily spending its garage-less days there, covered by a tacky $2 summer plastic tablecloth to protect it from the elements.

Once on top of the table, Magellan quickly proceeded to regale us to a full 10 minutes of squirming, licking her face, stretching and sunbathing with such abandon that by the time we shooed her back in the house her fur was hot to the touch.

My husband spent a good 10 minutes himself trying to get a picture of Magellan that showed her pool-blue eyes in the sun and this is the best we could do. No wonder, he said, that professional photographers hate to take pictures of pets.

Magellan agreed that today was as glorious a summer day as they come. The sun was warm and bright and the breeze was cool and inviting. A flawless summer day that I hope to remember when evil winter blows into town again.

Two days ago, we awoke to something else the sun has brought us as a present. My amapolas, almost obscene in their size and their crimson-ness, flowered and are now festooning the yard with their mid-summer presence.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Shine on

Well, the starcrossed chapter got delivered today. I'm now officially a free woman, if only for a week or so before I move on to tackle my next chapter.

After delivering the finished chapter to my wonderful advisor at his home and visiting a little while with him and his gorgeous dog, I trekked up the highway to visit my small college for the afternoon. I met with students and saw Dr. S, who has beautifully decorated our shared apartment in the woods.

The place is so homey and so nicely appointed that I'm sure to enjoy spending time there when the new semester begins in a month or so. I can't believe the summer is rushing by so fast!

While I was turning in my first finished chapter, my husband was traveling to Virginia to buy himself the coolest "tornado red" motorcycle. It looks like a jet!

And our decrepit, horrid garage was being torn down by a wrecking crew that also almost did away with my only prized heirloom tomato, which had already sprouted two little round green fruits. The tomatoes didn't survive, but I rescued and relocated the plant and hope it will live. A new garage, meanwhile, will soon be raised where the old one withstood almost 80 years of life.

So today marked a big day for both of us. For me, turning in my chapter was a clear validation that I'm right on schedule to finish my dissertation, a confirmation that I have the discipline to do what I must and do it well, and a tangible reminder that the monster is one fourth on its way to being assembled. Nothing else has given me as much certainty that the dissertation will be done as turning in this chapter today.

The heftiness of 62 pages of written text also felt very good in my hands. And it helped to hear my students ooh and aah when I noted that while they had written six or seven pages for their final paper this summer, I still had to produce three more like this one. They were suitably impressed.

For my husband, it's his first new (well, one-year old) motorcycle in years and one that can complement his crotchety 10-year-old Triumph. My husband, who is an expert at self-denial, is a kid in a toy store with his motorcycles. It's a pleasure to see him beam like that. Tonight, he's happily reading the user manual for the new bike.

Earlier this evening, as I walked the dogs in the twilight while I waited for my husband to arrive with his new acquisition, I saw a luciérnaga atop a large green leaf, flashing its neon-green Luciferin, like a tiny flashlight signaling joy to the encroaching darkness. I looked closer and the light dimmed a little, but I could still see that tiny flash of light even as the day ceded its place completely to the night.

I smiled and moved on, satisfied and grateful for any day when even the tiniest light shines on.

The trolls in the computer

I don't usually have anxiety nightmares about the computer. My nightmares are usually, and I guess tellingly for some skilled Dream Reader, about being stalked or misplacing my purse or forgetting where I parked my car. None of which, thankfully, happen in real life.

But that all changed last night.

I had spent almost six straight hours of my day sitting here in front of the super computer my mami gave me as a dissertation-writing present. Intensely focused and happily typing away, I had made great progress at completing my chapter, the first one that is fully finished and polished and ready for the entire dissertation committee to read. The one I had told everyone concerned that I was turning in today.

Close to 5:30 p.m., when I was done and satisfied and proud of my work, I hit the save button with a big smile, thinking of the movie I would watch that evening in celebration of now having a little time to relax before undertaking my next chapter.

Then, the unthinkable happened.

I had been constantly saving to a thumb drive and to the desktop but for the past two hours had forgotten to save to the latter because I had been in my Zen zone of writing. When I clicked on the little floppy-disk icon, the computer flashed several panic-inducing and scream-producing error messages and my finished and beautiful and hard worked file vanished. Yes, the file completely disappeared from the thumb drive.

I sometimes think that wolves are my familiar and my howling might have convinced anyone passing by of that, too.

The version on the desktop, the 3:33 p.m. version, was two hours and a lot of blood, sweat and tears behind. The finished product had gone into computer La-La Land.

I received my husband at the door in near hysterics (the poor man thought one of the dogs was dead) and he proceeded to do anything and everything he could to find the vanished file. But to no avail.

At about 8:15 I gave up and started the process of retracing my steps, trying to reconstruct the lost hours of creativity and effort. It was almost midnight by the time we went to bed.

Oh, well. Of course, it's not even remotely like one of the dogs died. But I'm scarred for life and likely will have nightmares, from now on, about my hard-earned chapters getting kidnapped by the dissertation-eating trolls in the computer.

Monday, July 9, 2007

The yoga of dogs - Part II

Get Fuzzy is my favorite cartoon in the world. For one, Magellan channels Bucky.

And Satchel has the same problems with doga as I have with yoga.

See below:

The yoga of dogs

There's a yoga to dogs that practising yoga can't give me. I speak of that centeredness, that living in the moment, which the philosophy of yoga is predicated upon.

I'm the type who usually attacks everything I embark on with the same zeal. Thus, when I decided to really learn yoga, I bought the DVDs, the books, the blocks, the mat, subscribed to a yoga magazine, enrolled in a yoga studio, donned the yoga T-shirts, tank tops and pants, and even momentarily considered getting an "Om" tattoo. In short, I poured all of my substantial verve into the project of yoga-ing myself, hoping that it would help me slow down and tone up.

Alas, it was to no avail. I guess I'm too much of a "Type Quadruple A" personality to get something out of a philosophy of movement based on quietude and stillness. Not only do I feel totally awkward when I strike a pose in yoga but I started having bodily aches and pains because I was obviously not striking the poses correctly. And I've never been the true-believer cutesy type that yoga teachers take an immediate interest in, so I was on my own.

Plus, and this may be silly, but it's true, I hate working in pairs (unless it's with a friend). Thus, anytime the yoga teacher said: "Now find a partner to do the reverse dog as flying fish pose" (or whatever), I groaned and not just inwardly. I don't like getting into close bodily contact with total strangers and because it usually takes me time to figure out how to do a pose (especially since I'm not the most graceful person on Earth), I hate the added pressure of having to figure it out quickly because someone else depends on my doing something correctly. Groan, indeed.

In short, as you probably can see by now, yoga isn't for me. Instead, I walk about a mile with my dogs in the mornings. Most of the time I try to do it without listening to the radio (I love NPR news!) so I can hear and see what is around me, so that I can stay in the moment for one moment of the day.

I'm a compulsive multi-tasker who doesn't feel efficient unless I'm doing my nails while talking on the phone to my sister, or reading an article while watching a rented DVD, or doing laundry while I'm working on my dissertation.

Walking the dogs is one of the few things I do in my day that is just that: walking the dogs. For those 30 minutes or so, I'm by myself but with them and I enjoy that centeredness, that quietude, more than any yoga class I ever attended.

I also like my exercise ratcheted up a notch (in Emeril parlance) so I do indoor cycling and strength-building classes at the gym. That's also time that I focus on myself and on the moment of being by myself and for myself.

Believe me, I'm not knocking yoga at all. I don't think I would've known the value of this myself-time if I hadn't explored the world of yoga and appreciated its message and its goals. This is one short yoga message titled, "Bound Angle," which I keep on my bulletin board for easy reference:

If you could call it perfection
what would it look like?
How would you know it,
feel it,
be it?

Wherever you are now
call it perfection
and know
that in this moment
it is really enough.

Perfection, as I often tell my students, may be unattainable but that doesn't mean it's not worth pursuing. It took me a long time to figure out that we, as humans, were granted the ability to yearn for perfection but not the ability to achieve it. And that has been one of the greatest lessons I've had to learn in my life.

At this age, I (thankfully) know (and appreciate) my limitations well enough to realize that yoga isn't for me. Instead, my dogs are my yoga. And, best of all, walking Rusty and Geni doesn't require mastering the inverted dog as flying fish (or whatever) pose.

Friday, July 6, 2007

On sultry nights

My husband isn't here right now so I'm cheating. But not in the way you'd imagine, of course.

I'm cheating because I have the air conditioner on. My husband is an anti-air conditioner guy. Even in Puerto Rico, in the many balmy nights we spent in our tropical island, he disliked the air conditioner, advocating for the natural breezes instead of the fake ones (he's not much of a ceiling fan man, either).

I, on the other hand, have had early menopause for a while. Any humidity cranks up my wacky inner thermostat and I become a faucet running watery sweat from the roots of my hair to my toes. Few things make me crankier than sweating at night. Thus, I'm taking advantage of my husband's momentary absence and I'm running the air conditioner until I and the house cool down.

Everyone else here loves it. Geni appreciates the cool air coming into her room and stops panting, Magellan lounges, stretching to her full length near the air vent, while Darwin peers into the vent trying to figure out what's making the air blow out. Rusty just enjoys the coolness that suffuses the usually warm house.

The dehumidifier in my basement office takes a break from working full-time, and my faulty inner thermostat is smiling contentedly. I'm going to enjoy my sneakiness just a little bit longer before it must, perforce, end. Then it'll be back to the muggy, sultry nights of summer.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Exploding July 4th

July 4th is my least favorite day of the year. My nerves have never been simpático to explosions so most of the day, especially the evening, is spent with my nervios en punta, as we say. Pretty much like Darwin, whose pointed ears, enlarged dark pupils and freaked out expression sum up the way I feel, though I (hopefully) don't look the same.

Magellan couldn't care less about the cabooms and sibilant-hisses and rocket-like-swishes and pat-pat-pat-pattings that continually break the otherwise usually near perfect silence of our neighborhood. Geni doesn't like the ruckus and Rusty hates explosions, too, but will take it in stride if his pack leaders (us) are taking it in stride. My husband is immune. I am a basket case.

I also find the need that mostly boys (of all ages) find in exploding things rather annoying. How many times do you need to hear something explode before it ceases to be fun? I don't mind the sparklers (those are lovely, though I never see any anymore) but the malditos petardos like the ones that are tied to rockets and the ones that have parachutes and the ones that sound like the bombs the U.S. Navy would casually drop all over Vieques - those make me want to rush outside and shake the silly kids and throw their explosives away. Of course, I have enough self-control that I haven't done this (yet).

Still, we did enjoy watching the fireworks from an alley behind the football field of the small college near our home. The dogs didn't understand why we'd taken them out to stand still for about 20 minutes looking at the sky. But since they always enjoy being out with us, they put up with our strange behavior, helped (I'm sure) by the knowledge that they would get a treat when we returned home.

I must say, however, that no one does fireworks like Boston does them. I have never seen, in my long life of 4th of Julys, a better fireworks display than the one they put on at the Boston Commons. I guess I was spoiled by the many years of watching fireworks explode in coordination to a live orchestra playing Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture. Anything short of that seems anticlimactic to me.

For many obvious (and not-so-obvious) reasons, there is nothing I welcome more than the morning of July 5th. Not only because it is our anniversary but because July 4th is done and gone and I don't have to put up with it for another whole year. Oh, right. There's still January 31st. Oh, well. There are two least favorite days of the year then.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Of summer and other memories

July is here and summer is now officially on a climb to its zenith. What gives it away, apart from the fireworks I hear tonight cascading over the skies of the large city near my small city, is the maraca-like song of the cicadas during the day.

This ugliest of bugs (a science fiction cross between a gigantic fly and a grasshopper) is a surefire sign that summer is full-fledged-ly here. And while the cicada song, a mix of maracas and hissing-snake rattle, is, to say the least, a bit unnerving, I like to hear them because they confirm that this is, indeed, full summer.

Eons ago, I was in Washington, D.C., when they were in one of their 17-year cycles of crawling out of the earth and propagating like a biblical plague. I don't know how I survived those weeks of cicada infestation with the seemingly intoxicated kamikaze bugs flying all over the place helter skelter. I was convinced that if one of them so much as grazed me I would lose my mind (and I'm not speaking metaphorically).

Thankfully, none of the cicadas came near me and I obviously survived. I hope never to have to endure another cicada plague (which is likely beyond what nature can promise me as long as I live in cicada country).

This July also marks my and my husband's 13th wedding anniversary. As my husband likes to joke, ours was the only shotgun wedding where the bride (me) wasn't the one pregnant. My husband (then my boyfriend of 18 months) proposed to me in May and we had planned to marry in August or September. But I wanted my sister to be my maid-of-honor and she was in the last months of her second pregnancy.

A few days after I had called her to give her the happy news, she called back hemming and hawing about the fact that her gynecologist had said she would not be able to fly after the first week in July. Could I ask my husband-to-be if he would be willing and ready to marry me in a month and a half?

My husband, bless his soul, said the hardest part was making the decision to marry so he didn't mind a bit if we did it earlier rather than later. Thus, our wedding was set for the first week in July. I refused to even consider getting married on the 4th (for many obvious and not-so-obvious reasons) so the next best day was the 5th. Thus, I went into "event-planning" mode and organized and executed a lovely, if tiny, wedding in less than two months.

In Puerto Rico we have a saying: En un martes, ni te cases, ni te embarques. Well, we got married on a Tuesday at 5:30 in the evening in the southwestern town in which the U.S. Navy staged its fateful invasion of the island (also in July) back in 1898. The town is about three hours away from the capital city, where almost everyone who came to the wedding lived.

Despite all the small contretemps that happened -- including having no water for a few hours after we'd been kayaking on the ocean, losing electricity so that instead of the wedding march some other song played when I walked in, and the spurts of rain that fell on my father and me as we did our walk outdoors into the ceremony -- it was a great wedding.

It's not surprising that I love July. This month is hot and tropical and, even with the cicadas, it's the month in which my husband and I pledged our life together. It's been 13 long and sometimes difficult and mostly wonderful years. This July, on our anniversary, I'll tell my husband that Mario Benedetti said the words already and said them best:
si te quiero es porque sos
mi amor mi cómplice y todo
y en la calle codo a codo
somos mucho más que dos.