“We’re definitely in Mexico now,’ says the Munchkin as our bus makes its way out of Mexico City headed for Cuernavaca. “How do you know?” I ask. “Because there are stands instead of stores, and old buildings, and bumpy roads.” The munchkin is right (although there are stores, of course), but she neglected to mention the food, which is quite different in Cuernavaca than in our little beach town. We arrive in the early afternoon and our Mexican relatives take us to a little market where we indulge in blue-corn gorditas. Mine is filled with beans and cheese. I sample the salsas and choose one that is not too picante. With that, we enjoy a licuado de mamay–a sort of smoothie made from the mamay fruit. Delicious. The next day we are treated to tacos al pastor, the meat cooked on a vertical spit. “Do we like it?” our relatives ask. To which we reply, “Can we come back tomorrow?”And let’s not forget the stuffed chicken breast served with Oaxaca cheese and cactus, and the flan, and the Pinguinos, and the coffee and … PS: I broke my rule of not being invasive with my camera to take these two pictures for you.
We’re excited to be abandoning the beach for part of this trip to Mexico to visit Cuernavaca, the City of Eternal Spring, founded seven centuries ago. This will be a very different view of the country for us. And the joke of the t-shirt? vaca = cow Lonely Planet: There’s always been a formidable glamour surrounding Cuernavaca (kwehr-nah-vah-kah), the capital of Morelos state. With its vast, gated haciendas and sprawling estates, it has traditionally attracted high-society visitors year-round for its warmth, clean air and attractive architecture. Read more here: http://www.tourbymexico.com/morelos/cvca/cvca.htm
We’ve been recycling for a long time and the city we now live in promotes recycling. We go down with one tiny bag of garbage and several big bags for recycling of paper, bottles, glass, hard plastic containers, milk cartons, soft plastic, foil lined bags, and returnables such as beer cans and wine bottles.
We have a special container and bags that decompose for organic items which will be used for soil enrichment.
And, yes, the food is delicious.
It’s a beautiful sunny day in May and we’re off on a bit of an adventure. We take the ferry to Salt Spring Island to meet our friend, Wesley Clark. We own one of his paintings and we want at least one more for our new home.
Wesley meets us at the ferry terminal and takes us to his new place. He’s carved a space in the woods for a cabin and a studio. The first thing we notice as he drives into the yard is the wooden fish sculpture on the fence. Beautiful, but it wouldn’t fit in our condo.
Wesley gives us a tour of his property. Wesley builds. His wife gardens. Both the buildings and the gardens are works of art in themselves.
We go into his studio and two new paintings—so new they’re not even signed yet—hanging on the wall across from the door snag my attention. They’re dark and gritty and edgy—vertical stripes of black and grey with a few—very few—touches of color.
Me: Oh, I like those.
Wesley: They were inspired by a road trip to Mexico.
Me: It’s the I-5!
Wesley: That’s exactly right. I can’t believe you knew that.
Me: How could I not? You’ve captured the horrors of that drive too well.
And he has. The endless streams of traffic, the dull grays of the tarmac, the guard rails, the minute glimmers of green on each side of the roadway—the monotony.
We move on to see his other paintings. His works are varied. Primitive pieces, landscapes, nudes, abstracts … My favorites are the primitive shaman pieces, but we already have one of those and another would be overkill. We settle on an abstract full of dramatic color, but I’m drawn back again and again to the I-5 pictures.
Do I buy one of the I-5s? No and yes. I do not want the black pictures that so vividly depict the agony of that drive that we did more than once and yet I do. Wesley offers a compromise showing us his first I-5 painting—also vertical stripes, but with more color. They’re not as gritty or edgy, but this picture will look great in our entrance and be a wonderful reminder of the time I instantly “got” a piece of abstract art.
To see more of Wesley Clark’s work go to: http://www.wesleyclarkfineart.com/
A couple of months after we move to Comox, Heather arrives. No, she’s not the Shaman, she’s my friend. I’m thrilled that she could come for a visit and we trot about town, checking out the stores and the markets, the marina, and the beaches.
On her last evening with us, we take her out for dinner at one of the many great restaurants to be found in the area. Martine’s is just a few blocks from our place and known for fine dining. We settle at our table, Heather sitting across from us. I look up and behind her is the most amazing painting. It’s full of color and cave like paintings with outlines of horses and snakes and fish—and yes, the shadowy figure of a shaman or two or three. It’s a semi-abstract that draws us in. We know it’s the right piece for our new home.
We’ve fallen in love with it and, luckily for us, there is a tag with the artist’s name—Wesley Clark—and a phone number.
We call Mr. Clark, negotiate a price and after dinner, pay the restaurant owner for the painting and the food—easily making this the most expensive meal we’ve ever had.
The restaurateur has nothing to wrap the painting with so we lift it off the wall, and to the apparent astonishment of fellow diners, walk out the door.
We carry it home and a few minutes later it is hanging in its honored spot—a painting that we will love and admire for many many years. A painting that will be handed down to our granddaughter.
To see more of Wesley Clark’s work go to: http://www.wesleyclarkfineart.com/
A half ton truck goes by.
“Cummins diesel,” he says.
“How do you know?” she asks.
“By the sound.”
She shakes her head. “How can you men know stuff like that?”
He shrugs. “We just do.”
She turns to the neighbor sitting on his porch. He’s a cancer research doctor. He won’t know. She’ll prove her husband wrong.
“Say, M, what kind of engine was that in the half ton that just went by?”
She sighs in defeat. She’s a feminist and hates to admit it, but some things are gender specific.
Howling winter winds pounding the snow into hard packed drifts. Howling summer winds snatching the precious top soil from the fields. Isolated. Lonely. No electricity. No radio. No television. What was a child to do?
Read. No matter that there were less than half a dozen books in the house. They could always be read and reread.
The fuzzy wuzzy Santa lost much of his fuzz from all the touches. The pop-up book barely escaped tears from all the pulling to see what treasures were in those pictures.
And what did that child do when she was an adult? Bought books of course—and to replace the pop-up books of childhood, she bought Nick Bantock’s Griffin and Sabine series with their letters to be pulled out, unfolded, read, and tucked back into their envelopes.
And what did that child do when she had children of her own? Bought them books of course, the favorites being pop-ups which they read over and over again. That mother marveled with her children at the magic of the books with their pullout bits, their wheels to turn, their pages that magically grew as they were opened and the school house with all the windows to peer into.
And what did that child do when she had a granddaughter? Bought her books of course, the favorites being pop-ups which they read over and over again. That grandmother marveled with her munchkin at the magic of the intricate designs–whole playgrounds that popped up to surprise and delight them.
We’ve come a long way, baby. A long way.
Santa Claus and the Little Lost Kitten by Louise W. Meyers 1952
Santa’s Christmas Party by Helen Sterling 1951
Mother Goose – Hallmark (no date)
School Bugs by David A. Carter 2000
I lived in Mali some years ago. My husband and I have been here before for an extended visit and now we’re here again.
Despite our experiences in Mali, our host Raymond seems to feel a need to be “poule mère” or mother hen.
First it’s at the airport in Bamako and in the crowds his help is much appreciated. We whizz through customs as he seems to know all of the officers. Makes sense since he’s probably the one who taught them their self-defense courses.
Visiting the doctor, we once again appreciate his presence as he helps translate for us. Mind you, I could have done that myself. But the best part is his and the doctor’s glee in meeting a real “Bill Jones.” It seems that a certain Bill Jones figured largely in their English language lessons.
Then it’s off to the market to buy souvenirs and gifts for the folks back home. Raymond takes us to his preferred vendors and shakes a finger warningly as he admonishes them to not over charge us. He leaves us then to meander.
I’ve not forgotten how to bargain, and though it’s been many years since I lived in Mali, I know that 12,000 francs is way too much for the item in question. We bargain back and forth until we’re coming close to an agreement at 3,000 francs. Just then, Raymond walks up. The vendor takes one look at him and says, “1.000 francs, Madame.”
I stifle a giggle and hand the man a wad of francs that he will later discover to be 1,500 for I’ve tried, seemingly in vain, to explain to Raymond that a couple of dollars isn’t a big deal to us, but could be and likely is a big deal to the vendor and his or her family.
Note: Currently the Internet tells me that 10 Malian francs (CFA) equal about 10 cents.