What we did on our fall vacation:
Immersed ourselves in spring.
Each day balmier than the one before, with occasional chilly rain. Crescent moon from another point of view, an unfamiliar family of constellations in the night sky.
In Lelé de Troya’s green room (there are also red, yellow, and blue rooms), Malbec by candlelight, the Beatles, two couples celebrating 25th wedding anniversaries reminiscing about disco dancing in NYC, leisure suits, and long-ago first jobs. Finishing dessert at midnight while the rest of Buenos Aires just gets started.
Talking with many a taxi driver (Claudio, Lila, Juan, and a few more whose names I don’t recall) thanks to one of our foursome’s exuberant Spanish. (Buenas noches! Cómo estás? Yo hablo español pero no comprendo nada. Háblenos de Buenos Aires.) Our drivers are warm, friendly, opinionated, proud of their city but wanting things to be better, eager to speak with us. Trying to follow their rapid-fire Spanish, wishing we understood more.
Spanish haiku in the Japanese Gardens, a circle of Spanish-speaking Japanese women deep in conversation under a silk floss tree.
Reading in bed Pico Iyer’s Falling Off the Map: Some Lonely Places of the World, disliking his essay on Argentina in which he contends people here strive for the wealth and sophistication of Europe, but are only pale imitations of it. True for some, perhaps, but I see down-to-earth, hard-working Argentinians and a genuine, vibrant culture that is what it is.
Watching amazing tango dancers, learning the tango was partly invented by Italians who emigrated to La Boca, a working class section of Buenos Aires. Never before realizing the inventiveness and variation possible within the structure of tango.
More reading in bed after a long day walking the city, Lawrence Thornton’s novel, Imagining Argentina. Letting myself imagine, for a moment, what it would be like to have one’s teen-age daughter stolen away to the pampas in the night, never to be seen again. Recalling the crosses and banners of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo we’d seen.
Iguazu evenings, drinking Caipirinhas in the secret garden of our bed and breakfast run by a photographer from Calcutta who has spent forty years in Argentina. John cares deeply about local flora and fauna and plans to offer walk-about tours to teach people about the region’s ecology. Meeting Natalie (British), Christina (from Mexico, now British) Helen and Andre (British and South African, respectively, now living in Austria). And some Argentinians from Buenos Aires who say the middle class here is disappearing. Does that sound familiar?
In Iguazu National Park, hundreds, thousands of butterflies: deep purple on brown, art deco, Italian modern. They hitch a ride on our hats, sleeves, shoulders. Clusters of mint green and yellow-winged moths delicate as parchment, scattering like confetti in the wind. Monkeys, coatis, lizards, turtles, toucans.
Ending our trip viewing some of the 300 waterfalls in Iguazu. People from all over the world come to this remote place where Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay meet. Standing before the immense, overwhelming Garganta del Diablo (the Devil’s Throat), welcoming the cool spray after our subtropical hike. Like Andre said one evening after he and Helen braved a boat that takes you as close as you can get to one of the biggest waterfalls, every particle of your body awakens.
You feel totally alive.
If you’ve been to Argentina or can suggest good books about this beautiful country, please tell us in the comments below.
Zen in Nature
I was interested to read “Finding Zen in a Patch of Nature” in the New York Times today. David Haskell’s new book, The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature sounds wonderful. Plan to add it to my reading list.
[El Carrusel] nos permite viajar como viaja un niño. Dando vueltas y más vueltas y otra vez a casa…a un lugar en el gue sabemos que nos quieren. Don Draper, “Mad Men”
The Carousel allows us to travel as a child travels. Going round and round and home again … to a place where we know we are loved. Don Draper, “Mad Men”
We visited Prometeo Libros, an excellent bookstore on Avenida Honduras in the Palermo Soho neighborhood of Buenos Aires.
I bought Madmen: Reyes de la Avenida Madison, by Jesús G. Requena and Concepción Cascajosa, figuring if I’m familiar with the subject matter it will be easier for me to understand the Spanish. I like the quote especially because I produced slide shows for the Carousel when I worked for Kodak.
Also a collection of poems by Jorge Luis Borges, El oro de los tigres/La rosa profunda. Short bits of poetry are easier to understand than long prose passages.
Cupcakes, shoes and many other fine things in the shop windows of Palermo Soho.
Quote from: MadMen: Reyes de la Avenida Madison, Jesús G. Requena and Concepción Cascajosa, Capitán Swing Libros, Madrid: 2010.
Last meditation class.
He says pay attention, notice.
He says look forward to getting old.
He says keep changing, you just get more who you really are.
He says live with the world inside you.
Contentment is Life living through you.
excerpts from Hokusai Says, by Roger Keyes
In meditation class, our instructor read a poem by Rumi about welcoming all emotions as you would a house guest, even the negative ones, as they may be clearing you out for something else.
Also a poem by Derek Walcott about loving again the stranger who was yourself, published in David Whyte’s book, The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America. For a time, David Whyte was a visiting poet at a major corporation. I’ve never read a book quite like it.
You can sample some of David Whyte’s poems on his beautiful, rich website. David leads groups on hiking tours in Italy, England, and Ireland, where he reads his poetry and visits artists, cooks, gardeners, farmers, and other creatives committed to their locales.
A moment of pleasure: Sitting under the pergola at my brother’s house outside of Cleveland. Taking in the Cleveland-ness of being here.
I can’t really explain this. Something in the air has a distinctive quality, maybe the humidity and the heat of Ohio, and it takes me back to summers growing up here: listening to the Beatles on my transistor radio (WIXY 1260), swimming with my friend, Nena, at Stafford Park, play-by-play of the Indians’ baseball game always in the background….
Tonight I attended the first of five mindfulness-based stress reduction classes, which include instruction in meditation. Four years ago, I took a similar series of classes; this summer I hope to renew and re-commit to my meditation practice.
We followed our breath for several minutes. We ate a raisin, mindfully. We practiced the body scan (progressive relaxation of each part of the body, preferably while lying down.) I thought I was totally relaxed, lying on my yoga mat on the hardwood floor. But when our instructor read Mary Oliver’s poem, “The Summer Day,” I found myself lying in a field of grass, giving myself up to it as if I were a kid.
That was my second encounter with Mary Oliver today. The first occurred in my wanderings around the Internet, where I found out she will publish a new book of poems this fall, “A Thousand Mornings.”
When I came home from class, my son had just arrived with fresh-picked raspberries. I ate some with whipped cream. Mindfully, of course.
I’m surprised at how often I’ve read or heard, “This book changed my life,” and “This book saved my life,” since I began writing this blog.
If you have a Books Can Save a Life story, please consider guest posting it here. I’d like to create a virtual scrapbook of stories so we can share our reading journeys and find that next special book to read.
What do I mean by a Books Can Save a Life story? I mean any book that made your life better in a significant way, helped you through a tough time, or guided you through a major life change. Any book that occupies a sacred space in your memory or is intrinsic to your identity.
It could be a picture book, a novel, a memoir, a poem or a book of poems, a biography, a graphic novel, a collection of short stories. Any genre, or no genre at all, from any time of your life.
On my About Valorie page, I mention a few books that made a difference in my life. Books that helped shape who I am and influenced my path in life. I’ll be writing about other reading moments in future posts.
If you’d like to share a story, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: My Book Story. Please include a post of about 500 words or less in the body of the email or an idea/book you’re interested in writing about.
If you’d like, include a short bio and a link to your website or blog, if you have one.
If you prefer to remain anonymous, that’s fine. (Of course, you can always post anonymously in the comments.)
Please keep it simple. I’m looking for a personal experience of value to others that’s honest and from the heart.