Saturday, July 27, 2002

Fiesta Update #5

Saludos Damas y Caballeros,

We have heard of several families booking hotels for the party, and Bill and Alison will be dropping in on Hans and Gretchen. It sounds as though everyone is finding shelter. Let us know if further assistance is necessary.

We aren't kidding about dancing and fun, so shine your shoes and press your petticoats. Also, we, here at El Rancho, have been hard at work in search of the best chocolate cake in town. The French bakery made one that was favored by William and Alex. Max preferred the Napoleon. Grandma likes cheesecake, but not the one with almond flavor. Her favorite, so far has been the German chocolate from the market. I'm thinking of trying out a carrot cake. Once a week we buy 3 different dessert slices and split them 7 ways, and then we constructively criticize. It's tough, but we want the best for our guests.

Fiesta Update #1

Fiesta Update #2

Fiesta Update #3

Fiesta Update #4

Thursday, July 25, 2002

Ramona :: 1970's

Alex asked, "Where do rhubarbs grow?"

I remember when rhubarb grew in my mother's garden. She baked them into pies. Strawberries, squash, corn, sunflowers, cilantro, and onions grew there too. There are photographs that capture moments and bring to my mind all the sights and sounds of many summers ago. Each snap shot, grainy and small, is like a synapse triggering memories so vivid I am transported back in time. I can smell the pungent squash blossoms, and newly turned dirt. And I can taste each strawberry; one for the bowl, two for my mouth.

In one photograph, we are crouched together, Billy, Mom and I, and at our feet are the zinnias she grew from seeds. The heads of the flowers are big and brightly colored; they match the intensity of the sunlight that makes us squint at the camera. We are in the front yard, beside the driveway, where Dad parked his red pick up. And the ground looks hard and dry. Mom must have been diligent about watering those seeds. She must have worked very hard to make anything grow where it was so dry and harsh.

I recall the green hose, and Billy in drooping diapers, and the look of impish glee on his face. He loved to splash people with the hose, to be in command of the water. We feigned anger when he wouldn't surrender the hose, but I can still hear the laughter that ensued when he sprayed us, or even when we talked about Billy and the garden hose. There must be a picture of him, somewhere, full cheeks dimpled and wet, standing in the overgrown grass by the front porch. He will be smiling so fully, you can feel his joy.

And it was summer when Hans was born. He is in the garden too, and it must be early evening, but still hot enough to wear nothing but diapers. A blanket is spread on the ground. Bill sits proudly beside the baby, who lays next to him. Hans is small, with dark hair and he looks healthy, and even determined. Who could say, then, what he was prepared to do in his life, but his newborn body is decidedly strong and alert.

And there are sunflowers over my head, not in the picture with my brothers, but in my recollections. I remember standing on a chair to look into the face of a sunflower and feel the hard black seeds packed in rows. I remember walking the two or three blocks to the feed store to buy a packet of sweet corn seeds. And I can smell the bales of hay and straw, alfalfa, the chocolates on the counter. I wandered through the tack room, where saddles, boots, and the smell of leather filled the dimly lit space. In the adjoining room were the aquariums, lit and bubbling. The fish pretty and bright. Finally, in the back shed were chicks and ducklings, and stacks of grain sacks and feed. Every bit of the Woodward's Feed Store was captivating. Walking home, with the heat radiating up from the asphalt, I watched the sheep in the pasture across the way.

It is past and present. It is recalling and surrendering. It is immersion. It is so deeply engaging, that I can touch and hear, and smell and feel those places and events.

'Rhubarbs' grow in gardens, where summers are hot, and children are born, and play. They are harvested, with strawberries, and baked into pies, by women who dig in the dirt, rake, and plant seeds, and water and weed, and work very hard to help things grow, even in difficult places. Rhubarbs have poisonous parts. They are not sweet. It takes extra care and effort to allow them to fulfill their potential and become healthy, and good, but some have the patience and love to make it all come together.

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Showdown at El Rancho

William, Alex and Max are in and out. The doors have bells hanging from the knobs, and frequently, they can be heard ringing and banging. The boys' voices move from the side yard, above the pasture, to the front porch, and then I hear them out by the chicken coop. They are in and out, and on the move.

Sometimes Max is plaintive; trying to keep up. William is out of sight. Alex and Max are in pursuit, and armed. Plastic pistols, lime green and lemon yellow, cool, damp and fully loaded, are carried in their steady hands, as they cross the yard, and slip through the house. In the shade of the pine tree, Alex pulls the loading mechanism, peers down the drainage pipe, and lets loose a full blast.

"He could be any where," Alex warns.
Max absorbs the magnitude of their situation, and in hushed caution he agrees, "Ya, any where." He lets a squirt hit the window; point blank.

A chilling cry, clucking and squawking, breaks the late morning calm and heat. Then Sunshine crows, and the boys run in the direction of the outburst. They arrive just as the last feathers are falling to the dirt. Gracie is trying to regain her composure, Sunshine is strutting and eyeing the boys with his cocky glare. Alex surveys the situation and surmises, confidently, "Sunshine's been loving Gracie."

Sunshine, full of vigor and bravado, steps up to the boys. William is cool, and with a stealthy hand he executes a ripping stream that hits the rooster in his right drumstick. The hens nod their heads, gratefully. Peace is restored. Sunshine is admonished for breaking rank, and the boys retreat to the kitchen to regroup and reload.

Back in the house, where Grandma is preparing Grandpa's breakfast, and the cats are preparing for their first naps of the day, the boys praise the quality and handling of their weapons. The water pistols load easily, the pumps are solidly built and perform well.

"And it squirts good. Real good."
"And mine is awesome," adds Max.
"Jola gives really cool presents at Henry and Alexander's birthdays."
"Let's take these in the pool, when it's finished."
"OH, Yeah!" William relishes the thought.

Sunday, July 21, 2002

Here Comes the Sunshine!

I am listening to crowing. It is immature, unripened, and I liken it to a distant toot on the horn of a Model T. We've had a few accounts of Sunshine's crowing. A couple of days ago, one of the workers reported to me, laughing, that he heard poor Sunshine singing, "pero, feo!" Grandma heard what she supposed could be an inexperienced bird. She thought it was pretty ugly too! But this morning he has achieved a decidedly more pronounced rooster's crow. The note is bolder, the tone is fuller, and his composition is richer. It is not shrill, like a Bantam's, and so far he hasn't adopted the habit of crowing at every blade of grass (there aren't any, by the way). It is a sound I have waited to hear, and I like it. It reminds me of places I enjoy; Tacupeto, and Hamakua.

The other sound coming from the hen house is boastful, relentless and downright clucky. Luna has all of sudden become a scandalous clucker. She is loud and proud...hmmm

Egg! Egg! Egg! It's only one egg, but it bears repeating! It is small and rose brown, smooth and perfect. I found it in the metal tub Luna has adapted as her nest. It sat on the straw, like a patient gem, waiting to be discovered. Luna couldn't wait to be let out of the coop and to roam the garden, as is her daily habit. The egg has passed from child to child. A family of seven is about to enjoy an egg breakfast!

Requests are pouring in, while the egg sits in a milk glass dish, ceremoniously, on the kitchen table. Fry it, scramble it, divide it between everyone; maybe with chorizo, beans, potatoes and tortillas, or as part of pancake batter or a cake. Alex has reservations; did he hear the egg "cheep-cheep?" I want to assure him. "Luna didn't want to nest, and chicks are better off hatched in the spring. We'll try to collect a clutch, and see which hen enjoys nesting, in time for Easter." He feels better, and votes for "Cookies!" It's a circle of life thing; Spring is for chicks, and summer is for chocolate chips!

Luna is in the pasture, with her sisters and that strutting crooner. She laid her egg, and sang her song, and now she is content to scratch for grubs, and hop on the tops of the ripening pumpkins. Her frame is low and wide, and her plumage is plush and flamboyant, showy, but appropriate somehow. I marvel at the qualities of her visage. What is it about her appearance that conjures the very best qualities of maternity, nurturing femininity, warm and ample, an avian Earth Mother? I highly regard and admire her broad form, her generous proportions, her dignified and decorous trousseau.

I think Luna, and her sisters, have retained the natural qualities of being female, without excuses or shame, that humans in popular culture and media have abandoned or vilified, or distorted and exploited for profit. Fashion suggests a desire for flat, unobtrusive women; women with bodies that conform to clothes, or clothes that recreate the form all together. Pregnant women are supposedly celebrated, but a postpartum woman ought to appear as though nothing at all has changed about her body. Every extra pound and inch is a reflection of poor self will or lack of control. Luna is possessed of a body that is full figured, more so than Rosie or Gracie, and she looks good. She doesn't diet or fret. She hasn't scratched the words 'body shaper, please' in the dirt. And I haven't seen little Rosie pining away for a push up bra, or wondering where a hen can get her claws on some botox. They are a testimony to healthful living, in body and mind. I delight in their flighty, feathery, clucky pursuit of joyful living, unfettered and unabashedly themselves.