1.06.2017

San Cristobal de las Casas


San Cristobal de las Casas is an ethereal colonial city in the center of Chiapas, the state with the largest population of indigenous people in all of Mexico: 12 federally-recognized groups. Known for jaguars, cloud forests, coffee, chocolate, marimbas, amber, jade, Zapatistas, textiles and Mayan ruins like Palenque, we came looking for adventure and we've found it. We love the food, the markets, the climate, the landscape, the history. But the best part of being here, and indeed this whole time traveling in Mexico, are the people we've met. 

Where to begin? There are so many people we've met briefly who stop to comment on our children("Muy Hermosos! Preciosa! Princesa!"), kind vendors at stores and markets, proprietors and servers at restaurants, strangers on the street quick to smile or answer questions. And so many more wonderful interactions:

Margarita de la Pena, the artist whose home we are renting here (I could live in her house forever), sold me one of her prints I can't wait to frame back in Seattle.

Gabriel, the owner of a restaurant who invited our family to his son's birthday party the next day, which was so much fun. 

Enzue, an artist who told me all about the symbolism of the animals in her work and invited me to come play in her studio.

The taxi driver who picked up his smiling wife to join us on an outing to shop in another village nearby, all of us laughing as we shifted seats in the rickety car to ease the bearings, me holding my breath and my babies tightly. All our taxi drivers have been so friendly, full of recommendations, helpful and polite. And they always know the best taco stands.

Vincente, the 13-year-old boy who showed Xavier how to solve a Rubix Cube in 24 seconds and gave him one of the three he had with him.

A man at the orchid botanical garden who gave us an impromptu tour, enthusiastically showing us plants and speaking in rapid-fire Spanish about botany with such gusto and totally incomprehensible to me.

And, possibly my favorite moment of the entire trip, in the small village of Tenejapa during their Thursday market, a crowd of women and girls who speak Tzeltal and not Spanish, gathered around me smiling and laughing as they showed me how to tie the simple wrap everyone uses to carry babies or goods. We were the only gringos in town and Christian towered over everyone. Afterwards, a family observing from the door of their restaurant ushered us in and fed us tacos as if we were family guests, introducing us to their daughter Georgina (her nickname is Geo, pronounced "Hey-o").


Tomorrow, we travel to Isla Holbox, for our last week of the trip. We are going on full digital detox, so more to come when we return to Seattle.


1.01.2017

That New


I love my tradition of searching for, selecting and sharing a poem for the new year. I found this one right about the time I found an actual piñata for us to break on Christmas Eve, a new holiday tradition for us in Mexico. Another wonderful serendipity about this poem for me is that New Year's Eve is the anniversary of my courthouse wedding to Christian. We are seven years in now, with two children new friends recently called "beautifully-spirited." As in any good marriage there are happy days, exhausting moments, laughter, routines, magic, sporadic date nights, arguments, forgiveness and the effort to remember to focus on us as much as our kids. The line "...and I want to bring it back to him, that new" resonates deeply. 

Wishing you all that feeling, that new, in 2017 and "all the lives you might live, each unnamed, until you name it."


That New

At the market today, I look for Piñata
apples, their soft-blush-yellow. My husband
brought them home last week, made me guess at
the name of this new strain, held one in his hand
like a gift and laughed as I tried all
the names I knew: Gala, Fuji, Honey
Crisp—watched his face for clues—what to call
something new? It's winter, only tawny
hues and frozen ground, but that apple bride
was sweet, and I want to bring it back to him,
that new. When he cut it, the star inside
held seeds of other stars, the way within
a life are all the lives you might live,
each unnamed, until you name it.

~ Susan Rothbard

12.29.2016

Inheritance

Today my beautiful and beautifully-spirited mother turns 70 years young. She is an inspiration for me for so many things:  how to be a caring human being, a strong and resilient woman, a steadfast and fun parent, a loyal friend, a contributing member of the community. She is a light.



Inheritance

My mother floats on her back in the ocean,
arms outstretched, embracing the wide sky.
She has a knack for being fully present.
I watch her and wonder what genes

have I inherited from her, what values?
Hopefully bits of her deep capacity for joy,
flexibility amidst change, gratitude for the little
and big things, childlike enthusiasm, 
a bountiful heart, that enviable 
who-cares-what-other-people-think
attitude. She has a rare ability to laugh 
at herself and patience honed from thirty years
teaching plus raising four kids. She values thrift
with a creative spin, recycling gifts for others,
offering to eat the left-over fruit garnish off
someone else’s drink to waste nothing
beautiful. She holds no bitterness.

She is the grandparent who gets
down on the floor to play, the one
who rides a bike all over town,
tries paddleboarding because, why not?
she’s never done it, laughing as she falls
into the water. She’ll kick off her shoes
and lie down in a patch of grass
to luxuriate in sunbeams. She sings in her
church choir, enjoys helping others,
plays a spirited game of cribbage.
All this surely the definition
of an enlightened being.

Nearby my fifteen–month-old daughter,
another bodhisattva, naps after a busy morning
tottering, chasing dogs and her brother,
digging in the sand, splashing in the sea.
For now, she too has a gift for living
fully in the present. I look at her, wonderingly.
What will she learn from her grandmother?
What will she learn from me?

12.21.2016

Dawn Light Just Coming In

Happy Winter Solstice!

A poem to share from Patricia Fargnoli, former poet laureate of New Hampshire, from her book Winter. My gift to you.



Should the Fox Come Again to My Cabin in the Snow

Then, the winter will have fallen all in white
and the hill will be rising to the north,
the night also rising and leaving,
dawn light just coming in, the fire out.

Down the hill running will come that flame
among the dancing skeletons of the ash trees.
I will leave the door open for him.


~ Patricia Fargnoli

12.20.2016

A Winter Portrait of 1122 S. 2nd Ave.

Being in tropical Mexico this holiday season, I'm dreaming of all the white Christmases we had in my childhood home in the Midwest.


My parents bought the house at 1122 S. 2nd Ave. in Sioux Falls, South Dakota the year I was born. They bought it from my father's parents, who had lived there for 15 years. My parents had just had me, their second child, and they were ready to settle down. They raised their four kids here and sold it 20 years later. They put a clause in the sale that my older brother should have first dibs if and when the buyers should sell it. None of us live in Sioux Falls anymore, but I think we all dream of living in that house.

I loved growing up in that house. I loved our fort in the garage, the attic playroom, the white picket fence around the back yard, the tree swing, the alley where we played kick-the-can. My parents planted trees for all four of us kids in the yard. Best of all, I loved the two sun porches; we used to sleep in the upstairs one during the summer.

And oh how I loved celebrating Christmas in that house. Our stockings hung over the blazing fireplace, my sister and I would play dolls with the nativity scene, my mother made oyster stew on Christmas Eve and later that night, meat fondue. My dad read us O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi." Candy cane cookies, clove-studded oranges, a felt candy cane advent calendar, the heavy red goblets filled with sparkling apple juice. We'd devour Grandma LaVerne's fudge and caramels, Grandma Dolores's Pecan Sandie cookies, my mother's Chex mix and cheese balls with Triscuit crackers. The tree crowned with the delicate heirloom angel and the memories associated with each tree ornament.

One year, Santa brought a kitten. One year, when there were just two of us, my brother and I unwrapped a bib and a rattle for gifts - we were to have a new baby. One year I was suspicious Santa wasn't really real, so I insisted on sleeping in front of the fireplace and when I woke up, the room was transformed and a big Victorian dollhouse was waiting for me; my faith in Santa fully restored.

The year after my parents sold this house, my father's law partner gave them this portrait in winter. I'm glad we have it in the family. I have so many happy memories in that home.


12.04.2016

Salsa de Piña

When one is cooking in Mexico (or anywhere) it is very handy to have a brother who happens to be a salsa master. While living in Brooklyn, Matthew was making batches of salsa regularly and one of his friends said, "you should seriously bottle this." And they did. The result was The Brooklyn Salsa Company, aka BK Salsa which over the next several years became a foodie favorite and eventually hit the shelves at Whole Foods. Christian and I gave jars of it to our wedding guests.

Despite accolades and a devout following, the company ended up being a labor of love as the margins never paid off to make the enterprise sustainable. Matthew moved on to other projects, got married, left Brooklyn for Los Angeles and continues his work as an actor, something he did all the while serving as CTO (Creative Taste Officer) and Co-Founder at BK Salsa. Looking back again at the write-ups like this one on Forbes.com about BK Salsa and all the photos I'm reminded of how proud I am of him for this and for all his creative endeavors. He's a cool cat.

Matthew texted me this recipe off the top of his head:

"10 tomatillos, raw
half a pineapple
juice of three limes
1 or 2 jalapenos,
half an onion
salt
avocado optional

Blend it up or chop fine."

And I did.


Not knowing my peppers very well, I grabbed a serrano, which gave this batch the best tingly-tongue action ever. 



Some mistakes end up being just right.

Matt added this:

"Replace pineapple with 2 or 3 pomegranates if you can find them for my favorite salsa ever."

It is granadas season. This batch is up next...