Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Rain shadows

Here on the bone-dry llano, I struggle to comprehend how the other side of America could be under water. I've seen the pictures of angry sky and ocean, but here the sun just keeps shining like a megaphone in a sky that's got the perpetual blues. If a wind kicks up, the dust dances just to drive the point home.

"You there, Dog? It's me, Cat."
Humans are amazing - we build real airplanes and virtual cats. We are the inventors of both duct tape and twinkies. And here in New Mexico, folks regularly fix ancient farm equipment with only duct tape and twinkies to hand.

In spite of such ingenuity, humans remain powerless in the face of Nature. It rains too much, or it rains too little, but it never rains just right. In Noah's shadow, we remain at the mercy of the elements, praying for rainbows.

So me and Cat are sending dry llano vibes back east. We are wishing like hell that we could do something more useful than that. Till then we cower at the thought of Nature, and our own shadows.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Dark arts

The days are numbered. Nighttime stars are turning into icicles. La Llorona's teeth chatter on the 2am riverbank where only weeks ago cricket song filled the void.

Leaves have gone through the various stages of grieving and come out at acceptance. Being dust ain't half bad if all your friends are dust too.

Halloween country.
Tis the season of little kids nestled in beds, visions of Halloween candy dancing in their heads.  Pumpkins are surrendering to the knife, while medium kids are busily sharpening their toilet-papering skills.

Big kids always get the short end of the October shtick. They must appear uninterested in all this childish crap, despite the certainty that as adults they will break down one day and confess to never having outgrown it. Thank goodness mine are still littles, and I'm already a broken grown-up.

You can't teach an old dog new tricks, but if La Llorona had any sense she'd pack in this business of child-terror in the bosque and get a snug cabin in the woods. Frightening campers on a part-time basis still affords time to keep the toes warm. Or maybe Hollywood, where the pay far exceeds what an undead working gal can eek out in a duck marsh.

But La Llorona - bless her - is a bit of a turnip, and pretty unmotivated for a psychopath. With a little more drive, she'd be spending October on the silver screen with the Trementina sisters of Guadalupe, instead of knee-deep in pond slime.

Seasonal witchcraft. 
I reckon the producers of 'Bless Me Ultima' couldn't have picked a better month to open the show in New Mexico. Rudolfo Anaya's masterpiece is a book that takes a greater interest in witchcraft than your average book. I think of it as Anaya's answer to Ray Bradbury's 'Something Wicked This Way Comes.'

The film premiered at the Lensic in Santa Fe on the 18th. It's a pretty cool movie, and very spiritually true to the book. I loved being there on opening night, and it was an honor to meet Anaya.

The film takes a brave linguistic stand, with dialogue moving freely between Spanish and English, as it would in real life. No screen space is wasted on subtitles. So while audiences in Vermont might miss some of the jokes, I applaud the decision not to dumb it down.

La Llorona may disagree with me of course. But that rather proves my point considering the whole turnip business, and the fact that her days aren't even numbered.

Monday, 15 October 2012

The girl who cried centipede

Once upon a time there was a little girl who did not share her mother's profound fear of mostly-harmless creatures. The girl and her mother lived in a peaceful hamlet, surrounded by green fields of real and imaginary fauna.

Nemesis centipede, a cousin of the Minotaur.
One day the girl and her mother were tending an invisible flock of crickets in the kitchen, when a ginormous centipede came out of nowhere and made a beeline for the mother's juicy ankles.

The quick-witted girl raised the alarm, whereupon her mother morphed into a giant shrieking chicken and climbed barefoot into the safety of the kitchen sink. Eventually the chicken-mother regained her humanity and offered the centipede a tupperware transport to the outside realm.

All returned to normal in the peaceful hamlet, except for one minor irritating detail. The girl, having apparently found this episode very amusing, took it upon herself to taunt her mother with cries of "CENTIPEDE ALARM!" every time the poor matron-in-distress tried to enter the kitchen to access her coffee supply.

The first dozen alarms sent the gullible mother running for the shelter of the sink, but eventually she learned to ignore her child's bug alarms. The bug alarms persist to this day like Old Faithful, in spite of the mother's consistent efforts to read to her child every night and securely hold her hand at all street crossings.

With such rampant abuses of the bug alarm system, the mother knows that it's only a matter of time till she meets her nemesis face to ankle. One day soon, the centipede will come marching again into the kitchen on his hundred nasty legs, thirsting for revenge, wielding nunchucks and dripping poison from his five-inch fangs.

On that fateful day of the centipede, the girl will raise the bug alarm, and the mother will take no notice. Then one of them will take it right in the ankle.

Till then, all is quiet in the peaceful hamlet where - thanks be to goodness - at least there are no wolves.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012


Infant joy. 
In Spanish, the moon is feminine and the sun masculine. In German it's the reverse. Both languages agree that sun and moon share an unending vigil over earth. When one goes to bed the other rises.

I spent last week at my sister's home in the clouds. Each morning, I woke to church bells and sunshine through skylights. By day, I joined forces with my mama and my sister to hand-stitch a bird mobile for the newest family addition. By night I anticipated moonrise over the rooftops with my nephew.

Taking wing. 
I watched my niece wake from newborn sleep and focus her eyes on a face for the first time - no easy task for an infant. Now she passes the time staring intently at her mother sun and father moon, the bright spheres of her world.

It's a privilege to witness a baby waking. When one is occupied with the demanding business of being an infant sun-god, one just has to muddle through and try to survive. But as a mere witness to the sun-god transformation, it sure is easier to brush aside lovely little details like mastitis and neck poo. As witness, it only looks like a new day dawning and a fire lantern lifting off to light the night sky.

The sun and moon have my sympathy for the work ahead. Babies have a lamentable lack of consideration for normal working hours, and they don't understand that grown-ups have to pee and take the odd once-in-a-blue-moon shower for the purposes of mental health. Rising like the midnight sun to sooth a tiny, fuming insomniac sure feels like a never-ending hangover from a party that never happened.

But when you are important enough to watch over the seasons and the tide, that's just how it goes. In years to come (I am told) there will be time for pee and sleep. Till then, each 2am infant smile is like a tiny glimpse of heaven.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Dearly departed for space

Ana used to hang out with an imaginary boy called Kid who lived in her hand. He liked to put in an appearance on trains and buses  If it was a particularly exciting train or bus ride, sometimes Kid's mama would come out too (in the other hand).

Kid wandered off into the mists of growing older - to that great cabinet in the sky where all wonderful memories go that parents struggle to keep. In the end, it was just his time and we had to let him go.  

Not rocket science. 
Now Ana has found a new imaginary boy called Cookie Banane. Conveniently, Cookie was born on the same day as Ana. He loves cookies and bananas, and is in all other ways a pretty cool kid. 

The other day, Ana told me that Cookie Banane is in fact her brother, and that he comes from the farthest reaches of outer space. Since Ana used to have an older sister living on the moon, I wasn't completely shocked. Then she told me that Cookie Banane is in heaven.  

A memory returned to me in a flash, of all the childhood nights that I tried desperately to keep my sleepy eyelids open, terrified that I would fall asleep and never wake up. As a kid, I wasted a lot of valuable Barbie playtime worrying about the Great Beyond. 

Our new drive to town passes by a final resting place, where engraved stone angels wait quietly in the prairie grass for the living to join them. Ana is curious about the angels. So on a recent drive in we talked about things like time passing on, dust returning, and love living on like starlight. 

She listened to me trying to make sense of the infinite and the impossible for a long time. Eventually she grew bored and realized that we were wasting valuable Barbie playtime, so she pulled out her engineering ancestry to end the conversation.

"Heaven is on the sun," said Ana. "We'll just build a rocket to get there."