¡Feliz Año Nuevo a tod@s! Happy New Year! I am back (to this writing platform) and wanting to share some musings with you this month. Last year I tried to write for every day of January, and I would like do the same this year. At the very least, write more than the 15 entries I did last year.
I will eventually post something on my past semester in Bolivia and Peru (that’s a way of saying that this will happen this month). That is where I was with my two trusty co-instructors and 12 students for the last three months (plus 3 weeks in Quito, Ecuador to visit my brother and his flia in December). Now that I am in Indy at my parents house I have a chance to sit and reflect. And sitting and reflecting is much easier to do when it is below zero because there is not much else to do.
The few cards that I sent out for the New Year and the messages that I have texted, Whatsapp’ed and Messenger’ed, have included
“I wish you light, love, and courage for the new year.”
In retrospect I might change that to
“I wish you light, love, community, and courage. Ingredients of a successful approach to our current realities. Light and love to encounter the joys and challenges that life so graciously gives us and courage and community to continue this work sustainably and meaningfully. ”
This kind of recipe is one that you can make over and over again. A kind of Masala Chai that requires the combination of spices, brewing, and drinking and then the repetition of the same each time you’d like to take a sip.
Here is a poem that I wrote (through a combination of recycled and new verses) that I wrote and compiled during this past semester. I shared it while I talked to the youth and my co-instructors about my life-story. I think it’s pertinent for this time right now at the beginning of something new and at the end of a holiday season.
Writing a new poem is always a challenge in its own right because it means digging up something from inside that is still unripe
Taken from the Earth
poems are like the first crop of the season
The carrot you tentatively pull from the ground to see if it’s ready
So here goes…
Community for me is the expanse you till around you that will eventually grow fruit
if you take care of it well enough and the weather behaves.
It takes work, lots of sweat, and, sin falta, some tears.
The first community that I can remember is one that I revisit fondly in my head when I am feeling lonely
The film is a slideshow of photos caressing my innermost sensitivities
My extended family lived thousands of miles away from me when I was little and so I developed an adopted family:
Tía Milka, Tío José, and La Abuela lived right across the street.
The ginormous tree on the side of our lot spread its branches to the sky
And through which you could see Don Jose’s carefully groomed roses peeking through the slits of light
like red, pink, yellow, and white, Christmas lights
The three of us kids came over a lot.
Any time we wanted to watch TV (our house didn’t have one)
Eat something not too healthy (imagine anything fried or sweet)
Or be spoiled by Abuela’s hugs (nothing like a hug from someone whose soft rounded belly touches your body in all the right places)–
We would show up unannounced yet welcomed each time.
On rainy afternoons
We looked through the windows of our house at the drops of water
Falling from the sky
With certainty and indifference at the same time
We searched for our raincoats and made our way down the well-trodden road to our aunt and uncles’ house
Abuela would be in the kitchen making the dough
Tía Milka, dressed in an apron
With a kitchen towel draped over the apron string tied at her waist,
Serving mate [ad infinitum]
The television buzzing in the background at a volume that was almost indistinguishable from the rain that fell outside, and serving as a reminder of the world without.
“Come in, come in, kids,” tío José said with a relaxed air that mirrored the weather.
And the three of us kids entered eagerly, sitting down at the table, and telling our aunt, uncle, and abuela about how we were and the news of the neighborhood.
Tía started to heat up the oil on the burner closest the back of the stovetop
Abuela cut pieces of dough into small balls,
Ready to be rolled out into circles,
Slashed in the center with a knife so they would fry evenly.
When fried, the circles made of flour, oil, salt, and water are simply delicious
In and of themselves, but
Spreading on dulce de leche made them better still.
My mom and the tíos put homemade kumquat jam from the last harvest on top of the tortas.
And all of us ate, talked, and drank mate until our bellies nearly ached.
And so, my first loving community (from memory)
formed out of pure necessity, love, and dedication.
Then, eight years later I left this community
I felt pulled from the ground that held me steady and comfortable.
Many hugs and kisses and promises of being in touch passed between the gringos and our familia adoptada and my ears and cheeks were red with fear that my community was gone.
Many years later I visited José and Milka
La Abuela had passed peacefully in her sleep the year before
Which reminded me of the time I had shared a bed with her to watch a late-night tennis match between Gabriela Sabatini and I don’t know who else
The match didn’t come in because of bad weather so I stayed awake listening to the storm outside punctuated with the even louder snoring of La Abuela.
The next time I visited Tío José and his floppy dentures were just one more picture in the slideshow.
Tía Milka and I ate dulce de leche and mint-chocolate chip ice cream straight out of the Styrofoam one-kilo bucket and talked about everything and nothing.
Each and every time I felt community, I feel love.
And so what I wish for all of you is more community and therefore more love.
Light and courage are also pretty active ingredients in the life balance.