Saturday, November 30, 2013

Puerto Rico for Thanksgiving!

This year we decided to spend Thanksgiving in Puerto Rico, which was a good idea, considering that we avoided the coldest week in November, exchanging it for the greenest greens and bluest blues of my beloved island.

As we do each time, we went up to the ancient walled city of Viejo San Juan to visit my father at his grave in the old cemetery of patriots at the foot of El Morro Castle.

Although I have visited that cemetery countless times, I re-discovered the tombs of Pedro Albizu Campos, Lolita Lebrón, José Gautier Benítez, and many other patriots who lived and gave their lives for Puerto Rico. My father is definitely in good company and I can only imagine the great conversations that must be held each night once darkness falls in the cemetery.

This time, like we did in February 2012 when we lived in Puerto Rico for three weeks, we stayed at the tiny studio in Isla Verde that we really like. It's right across the street from a supermarket and we can walk a mile to the nearest Starbucks and the Spanish repostería that we love is also a few blocks away. It definitely feels like a little home away from home by now.

The walks on the beach in the morning are my very favorite and they always give me the feeling of really being on vacation. Strolling barefoot on the sand and occasionally dipping my feet in the warm ocean is such a treat. Another gift is coming across a cocolía, or tiny crab, a rare sight despite the tiny holes that are apparent all over the sand.

When we're on the island, we always spend at least one day in Old San Juan. This time, we walked from the bottom to the top of the ancient city, with its steep blue cobblestoned streets, and after visiting my father in the cemetery, we walked back down in search of a bookstore where we found children's books about Puerto Rico in English for my dear friend who's mom to two luminous boys.

Although being in Puerto Rico was a treat, and we were happy to spend Thanksgiving with my mom and visit my Titi Bebi at the home where she is nowadays, the re-entry to Ohio was difficult because we found ourselves completely acclimated to the 80-degree weather, not to the 20-somethings that welcomed us when we returned.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Robins and first snow!

November has roared in with a snow storm and 20-degree temperatures already. It's really a fallacy to call November part of fall and to say the winter begins on December 22nd. Winter, around these parts, is already in full swing. Brrr.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Feast of colors

Although, most years, trees are already denuded by November and autumn hues are gone, this time many trees still boast their true colors. They're a breathtaking experience each time I walk by them. This one, in particular, is a glorious beauty and the photographs cannot do justice to how its leaves glimmer in the sunshine. It is a feast for the eyes and it invites me to stop and look and look some more.

In my work on Sophia Peabody, I've written about how she complained that her letter readers in New England (mostly her family in Salem but also friends in Boston and including her husband-to-be Nathaniel Hawthorne) would not believe what she had to tell about her experiences in Cuba, where she spent 18 months to recover from migraines that had turned her into a near-invalid. She bemoaned the fact that words simply were not enough to describe a Cuban sunset or the full moon shining, unfettered, in an indigo sky above the coffee plantation where she spent her time on the island. I understand how she felt because words, and not even the camera, can express, or capture, the glory of fall around these parts. There is a sense of loss, of sadness, at the fact that such beauty cannot be replicated or captured, except in the recesses of memory, where it will ultimately fade, like dying stars do. Sophia Peabody sketched what she saw and, as her biographer has said, created "word paintings" to translate from her to her readers' eyes. I have the advantage of photographs which, though they can't equal what I see, they can at least give you an approximation of what it might be.

What is most touching is that the glory of fall is made up of each individual leaf. Recently, as I walked Lizzy on a carpet of fallen leaves, I realized that each one is, like a life, unique for that one year in which it sprouts on a tree. Another leaf will be born next spring but it's another one. These ones, the ones still hanging on for dear life, will never come again. They've had their moment in the sun, and, on so many trees this fall, the leaves are determined to make the very best of it up until the very last minute. Seems like a good attitude to me.

Though I adore the azures and greens of my island, I can't deny that the reds, oranges, and ocher yellows belong to fall. Everywhere you look, if you stop and take a minute to look, there is some tree or bush or grass clamoring for attention, showing off what they can do, even if fleetingly, even if only for a moment.

Also clamoring for attention around here recently has been Lazarus, the possum, which was completely unafraid recently when my husband went outside with his camera (the photo above is also his and you can tell because it's so much better than any of mine could be). Lazarus was the possum, as you may remember, that Rusty "killed" a few times in years past but who would always reappear, just as my husband said he would. But then we moved away from here and had no more Lazarus stories to tell.

We're not sure if this is Lazarus' great-grandson or Lazarus himself, but there's a possum that still hangs out on the porch. There's no dog to "kill" it anymore (Lizzy is now safely gated in the backyard) so it's obviously thriving. Neither one of us had ever seen such a huge possum before!

Also doing well is Hester, our feral cat who lives on the porch now. She's been there since we trapped and rescued her litter and since she was returned to us spayed by a rescue group that kept her kittens. On blustery days, like today, she's nowhere to be seen and I worry very much about her out in the cold. But on warmer days she eats and sleeps and plays and brings us her kills (mostly birds and moles and mice) to the porch, though she won't let us touch her, even after all these months. Perhaps by next year, in spring (and I can't believe we're almost at the end of 2013!), Hester will finally trust us and let herself be petted. We'll have to see.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Farewell, October!

October came and went in a flurry of wind-blown multicolored leaves. Most of the month was spent, of course, working here in front of my computer, with Darwin being the most "helpful" furry child of them all. I had to give up working on that old, cheap Target desk because the keyboard drawer gave up the ghost so I'm now working on a smaller, cheaper Target desk until, someday, I get a desk that is actually worthy of that noun.

The month started off with the partial renovation of our old kitchen (yes, there's a pattern of "renewal" here) with lovely black granite countertops to replace the warped 1980s Formica ones that we had. Later in the month, we splurged on new appliances (not shown on the photo below) after the ancient dishwasher (pictured) went kaput. I am ecstatic that I now have a gas-fired oven that doesn't cook food at 75 degrees above what you set the temperature at, like the old one did. I have to thank my gynecologist (of all people) for pointing us to an appliance discount store to make this change feasible for us.

October is also the month when the house gets decked up for Halloween, and when the sunlight begins to take those lovely fiery amber tones of fall.

October was also the month when the cold set in quickly and irrevocably, and we found Chiquita trying to keep warm any which way she could. There is nothing fun about the day when we put down the storm windows for good (that means no windows will be opened for the remainder of the year), and when the timer on the living room light gets set back to 5:30 p.m.

This also was the month when our new president, the first African American president at my small college on the hill, was inaugurated and I was asked by Harvard's president to act as delegate. My Alma Mater sent a Crimson gown for me to wear that day and I was proud to represent Harvard at the inauguration, while at the same time wearing my Ohio State hood.

This month was unusual in that, by month's end, a lot of the leaves were still on the trees, which was nice for my mom, who usually comes to visit for my birthday once the trees are all mostly denuded. But not this time. The colors were bright and lovely still.

Last night, on the 31st, I rushed home after a busy day (as usual) at work so I could be in my appointed place when Beggar's Night began. The blustery, rainy, cold weather prevented us from having the usual troops of children accompanied by their parents but I still got to enjoy the evening and most of our candy was gone by the time we turned off the lights and called it a night.

Despite having had to spend one more night at the emergency room the weekend before my birthday (and while my mother was visiting), October proved to be the wonderful month it always is (and I'm being totally objective here). My husband made his world-renowned pizza on my birthday and we went to the local bakery for Halloween cookies after. All in all, it's sad to see October go.