Musing and Moving

Friday, two weeks ago, I sat in the middle of my bedroom floor, surrounded by piles of clothing, books, art supplies, cosmetics and documents.  What would I need most during my six months away from Merida? Of course I had a vague idea of what my daily activities would be, and what the weather would be like – but still – nothing felt sure.

Friday, a week ago, Jorge and I visited Mexico City’s Soumaya Museum – a collection of art and culture, created by gifted artists throughout the centuries. Earlier in the week we had seen the Convent of San Jerome – the cloister where Sor Juana Ines dela Cruz wrote some of the most timeless literature of the XVII Century. We also made a trip to the Dolores Olmedo Museum, which houses works by Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. I felt overwhelmed by so much accomplishment.

This Friday, I have my back propped up against the outside wall of my sister’s cabin at Allison Lake. I can see a path that I know winds and climbs all the way around the lake.

Friday, a week from now – I will be on Pender Island at a knitting retreat – and I don’t even knit!

I seem to spend much of my time musing – about the past, where I am right now, and about the future – maybe I should just let go of all the wondering? Maybe I should get moving?

Time to close up my computer,  lace up my runners – and hit the trail around the lake.

More to come!

Credit: Painting by Chris Sampson

Kamloops

           The view from my bedroom window

Hello Everyone!

I only had time to post once while Jorge and I were in Mexico City, and I hope this first post from Canada finds you well – wherever you are. I’m waking up in Kamloops – it’s not even 5 am, and already fully light outside.

I know I’m going to enjoy this space that my sister and brother-in-law have lent to me. The steep flight of 18 worn, wooden steps up to the apartment brought back memories of Amsterdam! But after Barb and I lugged up my two 50 pound suitcases and several bags of groceries, I realized the climb was not at all difficult.

The dining / living room, a kitchen, two bedrooms and a bathroom (with a claw-foot tub) take up the whole top floor of a 1930s vintage house – so I have quite a bit of space to ramble around. The peaked ceilings and irregularly-shaped rooms are charming. My two tall bedroom windows face north-west, so I have a view that fans over the town’s rooftops, and out towards the sage-colored hills. There is a lot of bird song. The temperature is cool and dry.

I live right in town so I have easy access to the shops, library, and community center.  Just down the hill, there’s a beautiful river path, and a bit later on today, I plan to go for my first walk there.

Writing and painting will be a focus for me over the next few months, and of course, I’ll have lots of sister time with Barb. We will both love this.

My Merida cell phone seems to be working well, and so I am able to talk with everyone back home. Skype, Whatsap and Facetime are other good options for staying in touch.

I must say, I feel a bit like a fish out of water. I have lived in Yucatan for most of my adult life, so this is a huge change. But as my good friend Jose says – We move slowly.

El Claustro de Sor Juana Ines dela Cruz

In 1651, Juana Inés de Asbaje y Ramírez de Santillana was born in San Miguel de Nepantla. Juana learned to read and write at the age of three, and unable to handle her precocious daughter, Juana’s mother sent her to live with well-to-do relatives in Mexico City.  Her talents in literature and music, as well as her beauty caught the attention of the Spanish Vice-regal court, and Juana was invited to be the maid-in-waiting to the Viceroy’s wife. Juana impressed the court and professors with her knowledge, her debating skills.

In XVII century Mexico the Inquisition was powerful and much-feared. There were only three paths open to a lady: become a wife, become a courtesan, or become a nun.

Because she was illegitimate, she was deemed unmarriageable. Nonetheless she was devout, so the courtesan role would not fit. That left only the third option – and indeed, she spent 26 of her 44 years as a nun. On the day of her final vows, she took the name, Juana Ines de la Cruz.

Her order of contemplative sisters lived at the Convent of San Geronimo, less than a kilometer from Mexico City’s Zocalo – the Main Square. She constantly defied the authority of the Catholic Church by writing – poems, prose, plays, essays and letters – that today are recognized as the most brilliant, but subversive literary works of the colonial period. As a woman (and a nun at that) she was not supposed to write at all). She died in the convent in 1695.

368 years after Sor Juana’s death, the cloister is now a liberal arts university that bears her name – Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana. I think she would be pleased to know that her former prison is now a place of enlightenment and learning.

Jorge and I visited the university’s on-site museum that features several portraits and sculptures of – La Musa – The Muse.  Her resting place, her cell, confessional, and even her blue-tiled bathtub can be viewed. A section of the convent that sunk over the centuries has been excavated and covered with thick acrylic panels, so visitors can tiptoe over top of the foundation of the former kitchen and annexed patio.  Later, as we strolled along the worn garden pathways and under the stone arches, I tried to imagine what it would have been like, to be an exceptionally intelligent woman, forced to conform to the laws of ignorant, misogynist clerics.

Sor Juana was Latin America’s first feminist, and she quickly shot down the theological dogma and cultural constraints of the Spanish colonial society. At the time, the secular and religious leaders proclaimed women to be intellectually inferior. Sor Juana insisted that she (and in fact all women) had a God-given, intellectual right to read, study, write, publish, and teach.

In her convent cell, Sor Juana had as much liberty as the times would allow. The space was large enough to house a telescope, thousands of books, scientific and musical instruments. After compliance with her strict religious observances, she would escape to her sanctuary to study, and of course, write—poetry, plays, romances, dramas, letters, and songs.

Much to the dismay of her clerical critics, Sor Juana’s work was smuggled out of the convent and printed. She became extremely popular in New Spain and even Spain itself. Fear, manifested by envy and resentment spurred the Archbishop to launch a campaign that he hoped would break her spirit.  Self-flagellation, penance, and mortification of the flesh became daily requirements. She was forced her to renew her vows and then sign the document with her own blood. After that, the Archbishop removed her books and writing tools:

The plague of 1695 claimed Sor Juana’s life, but her work lives on.

In a thoughtful mood, Jorge and I joined our author friends, Michael Schussler and CM Mayo for lunch at the Zèfiro Restaurant. We enjoyed a delightful meal and of course we talked about Sor Juana and her legacy. Thanks to her and others like her, we have the freedoms we have today.

Authors’ and journalists’ rights of expression are constantly challenged and questioned by society, and we auto-censor as well. If I had even 1% of Sor Juana’s bravery and conviction, my writing would be riskier. Maybe this is one of the changes coming into my life?

 

MEXICO CITY

Jorge and I are spending a week in Mexico City prior to my departure for Canada on Saturday. This city is so amazing and over the next few days we plan to visit:

The Cloister of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. This is where La Musa – Mexico’s best known colonial writer lived and wrote her most beloved poems and letters.

The Dolores Olmeda Museum, which houses a superior collection of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo original paintings.

Cloister de Sor Juana Inès de la Cruz

Xochimilco, the floating gardens of Mexico City – always the setting for a good time

The Soumaya Museum  the museum built by Carlos Slim to honor the memory of his late wife. It showcases their personal art collection.

In the coming days, I will do my best to post a few pictures and anecdotes about our visits…

My Heart is in Two Places

This spring has been unbelievably busy and I’ve not had the chance to do much writing. I hope I can get back to blogging and other projects soon, but BIG changes are in the wings. In fact, until winter rolls around, I won’t be “Writing from Merida” .

I plan on spending the remaining six months of this year in Canada, and if the sun, the moon and the stars all align – winters in Mexico and summers in Canada will become my annual pattern. Some people have told me this shocks them because I have always been a staunch supporter of Mexico.

And I am still a staunch supporter. In 1976 I left Canada to marry Jorge, an amazing man from Yucatan. He taught me about the history, culture and geography of this unique country. We built a home, raised our children and founded a college in Merida. We have a rich, meaningful life here, but as I’ve already said, it is time for “Changes in our Lives”.

I will miss the colors, the music, the food and the flair of Mexico. I will miss my friends, my neighbors, people I know in the markets, and the countryside. Most of all, I will miss my family here.

Not all of them fully agree with my choice. Jorge would prefer I stay here full time, and he doesn’t want to spend half the year in Canada. He will join me there for two months this summer – maybe more as he gets used to the idea?  Our grown children are now building their own lives – they don’t want me to go either, but we will stay in touch by phone, facebook, and whatsap. I have to say though, my eyes fill with tears when I think about not being able to read, play, paint, read, laugh, sing and swim – whenever I want to – with my darling granddaughter, Emma.

I keep reminding myself and others that I’ll be back before we know it. But still, there’s no way to ignore the facts. This is a HUGE change and many wonder why I am making it.

The reasons are complex. I love Jorge, my family, friends and my home – I am truly grateful to have lived four magical decades in Mexico. Nonetheless, full immersion in a country where the language, culture, climate and politics are so different to what I grew up with – has not always been easy. Up until recently, with Jorge’s support and the insights he shares, I have always been able to deal with any challenges that come along. But now we are older, and my priorities are different than when we were young.

When I married Jorge at 24, health care was the furthest thing from my mind. At 64, it is an important consideration. IMSS, the national health care system in Mexico, provides basic coverage but it does not meet all my needs. At my age, I cannot purchase private insurance.

I am fortunate though – even after such a long time away from Canada, I am still a citizen, and therefore eligible for Canada’s health plan. To receive this benefit, I must reside in Canada six months each year. I think the Canadian government is more than fair, and I am  appreciative. I have kept up my relationships with my Canadian family and friends, so I don’t think living there will be hard.

However, as happy as I’ll be to live closer to my loved ones in British Columbia, I know there will be days when I’ll wish I had never left Mexico. As I check items off my to-do-before-departure list, the consequences of my choice weigh heavy.

Yes, change is complicated, and because I am no longer a sweet young thing, I can’t let fear or uncertainty dictate my actions. I have to follow what seems like the best course. I wish Jorge would be flying up to Vancouver with me, but he wants to live in Merida, where he grew up. He is respecting my decision, and I must respect his. Forty years ago, at our marriage ceremony, my aunt read from The Prophet, by Kahil Gibran, and this stanza stuck with me:

“Let there be spaces in your togetherness,

And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.”

This is not the first time Jorge and I have swum against the current – it gets harder as we get older – but we do have a lot of experience. Truth be known, we have been swimming upstream for most of our lives.

So, we’ll see how it goes – this time.

My new blog is (appropriately) called:

CHANGES IN OUR LIVES

https://changesinourlives.wordpress.com

Go to the link, and scroll all the way down to the end of the posts. When you arrive at the footer, you’ll find some general information about me and my writing. You’ll also see the FOLLOW button – click on it if you wish to receive an email alert each time I post.

I look forward to hearing from you.

The Miniaturist

What to do on a hot day? Maybe it’s best to give up on the idea of running errands and slogging through the chores? Why not play hooky and spend the day with a good book? I did that last week, and am still savoring my escape into the golden era of the Dutch masters, XVII century guilds, silk roads and sailing ships.

The Miniaturist, by Jessie Burton begins with 18 year old Petronella (Nella) Oortman, arriving into Amsterdam from the Dutch countryside. Poised on the stoop of her new home – with a caged parakeet and suitcases at her feet – she feels alone and out of her depth. Her husband, Johannes Brandt is a rich merchant, almost double her age. This is a marriage of convenience – and no one pretends otherwise.

When the young bride is given entrance, she feels overcome by the scent of pungent spices – especially cinnamon and cardamom – swirling through the opulent canal house. Johannes has commissioned so many paintings that they crowd the walls. Oriental rugs cover the floors and maps of lands unknown to Nella lie scattered about. The exotic feathers and dried bones she discovers make her curious about her husband’s travels.

She soon realizes that he, his sister Marin, and their servants Cornelia and Otto, have secrets that both fascinate and terrify her. Brandt does not make himself available to Nella in any way, but eventually Marin convinces him to take his wife to a splendid Guild banquet, where she again feels unsettled by the wealthy world she is now part of.

Johannes gives her an unusual wedding present – a dollhouse – a reduced replica of their own home on the Herengracht. Her sister-in-law provides her with the address of a local artisan, the miniaturist, who will make furnishings and dolls for the house.

Nella orders a few pieces and is delighted with the detail and craftsmanship, but she’s taken aback when she receives items that she has not ordered. She cannot understand the significance of the tiny pieces. But as strange events unfold around her, it seems as though the miniaturist is warning her of what is to come.

The Miniaturist is Jessie Burton’s first novel. As an author I am impressed by her writing style – her depiction of the historical period drew me right in. Because of my Dutch background, I found the tale absorbing even though sometimes the characters confused me with inconsistencies. Never to the point though – that I stopped enjoying the read.

The scenes of frigid canals and the even-chillier puritanical society that Nella Oortman has to navigate, captured my imagination and transported me to a world, both miles and eons away – a welcome diversion on a sweaty, steamy day in the month of May!

The heat in Yucatan

Have you noticed that most people have been in a good mood for the past couple of days? A few drivers (one of them behind the wheel of a bus!) actually let me merge into the traffic. The neighborhood dogs have barked less, and all over town, folks are out and about. Obviously, the cooler temperatures have made for a happier Merida.

I started wondering about the scientific studies that measure the effects of extremely hot weather on our physical health and mental wellbeing? Come to find out that tons of them are posted on the internet – and every single one of them starts with a basic assertion:

Worldwide climate instability is caused by global warming. Period.

This means there will be longer, hotter summers in many places, including Yucatan – so heat-related physical and emotional health problems are on the rise.

Earth’s warming oceans and changing climate improve the habitat for mosquitoes. Mosquito bites can infect humans with diseases – both new and re-emerging – like dengue, chikungunya, and west Nile. As the climate continues to heat up there is a real risk that we’ll see more cases of malaria. Ticks also thrive in elevated temperatures, allowing them to feed and grow at a faster rate. The black legged tick is a carrier of Lyme disease.

How can you avoid mosquitoes and other disease transmitters? In Yucatan, you cannot. But you can significantly reduce risks by using insect repellent when you are outdoors, especially in the evenings. Put screens on all your windows and doors, and to prevent propagation, be sure there is no stagnant water in your home or garden. It won’t be pleasant if you are infected – but  don’t panic – follow your doctor’s advice, and you should recover with no lasting side effects.

In the tropics, dealing with the high temperatures is really the biggest challenge. The human body copes with heat by perspiring and breathing. However, if you live in an environment with high temperatures and high humidity, you may be sweating but the sweat won’t be drying on the skin, and this can lead to heat exhaustion. Be alarmed if you feel dizzy, or have a headache. If you begin sweating profusely, your skin turns red, or you have muscle cramps, you can be sure you are being overwhelmed by the heat. These symptoms can usually be quickly treated with rest, a cool environment and hydration (including refueling of electrolytes, which are necessary for muscle and other body functions). Don’t fool around – if you do not deal with this – your condition will move from heat exhaustion to heat stroke.

How can you prevent this from happening? Drinking water – at least 8 glasses a day – in addition to other fluids is essential to good health in Yucatan. The systems in the human body that enable it to adapt to heat cannot cope if dehydration sets in. One more thing – a number of studies show that people taking diuretics for high blood pressure, and beta blockers could be at increased risk.

Fortunately, in Yucatan, the temperature usually falls in the evening, allowing for respite. But on the nights when it remains elevated, the body can get overwhelmed, and you’ll need to be extra careful the following day.  Certainly society has evolved in dealing with the heat—the biggest boon in hot, humid climates is the development of efficient air conditioners. Fans are not enough, and can actually make it harder for the body to adapt to heat. Like a convection oven accelerates cooking time – blowing hot air on a person can heat them up rather than cooling them down. Although some hardy northerners do manage, I would go so far as to say that if you are moving to Yucatan from a cooler climate, you will absolutely need at least one AC unit.

We’re living to older ages, and Yucatan’s climate is nothing to take lightly. Be careful with the I-can-handle-it attitude. Watch how the locals manage the heat and mimic them.

  • Make the daily siesta (at least lie down) part of every day.
  • Only exercise in the early morning or late in the evening.
  • Stay out of the noonday sun.
  • Walk on the shady side of the street.
  • Wear a hat, or carry an umbrella to protect yourself from the direct rays.
  • Use cotton clothing
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Go easy on the heavy food and alcohol.
  • Do your socializing in the evenings.
  • To bring down your body temperature, take frequent showers or frequently dip into a pool.

Look after yourself, and you’ll live happily in the heat, you’ll save yourself a lot of grief and you’ll be healthier – body, mind and spirit.

 

La Ciudad Blanca

Normalmente, escribo en inglés, pero hoy redacto en español, para que todo el mundo se entere:

A primera hora del día de hoy, leí un artículo en La Jornada Maya, escrito por Ricardo Tatto, titulado: “Mérida: una ciudad viva” y subtitulado: “Pide silencio la otra ‘elite blanca’ ” (SIC). (https://www.lajornadamaya.mx/2017-03-27/Merida–una-ciudad-viva )

Desde hace tiempo, esperaba un artículo con este enfoque. Por desgracia, las relaciones entre México y sus vecinos al norte nunca han estado peor. Los mexicanos tienen toda la razón de estar molestos y ofendidos. También yo lo estoy. Pero no es lo apropiado, sacar la ira contra un grupo de expatriados viviendo en Mérida, como tampoco es el trato tradicional de la gente del sureste de México. Al contrario, desde hace un siglo los peninsulares han dado la bienvenida a los turistas extranjeros y a los foráneos que han establecido sus hogares aquí – todos han recibido los beneficios de esta convivencia.

Yo nací en Canadá y llegué a vivir a Mérida, hace 41 años. Me sentí muy bien recibida. Me case con mi novio yucateco y aquí hemos vivido durante las últimas cuatro décadas. En los años 70 había una población de apenas 250.000 habitantes, y el centro de Mérida era un lugar muy vivo. Recuerdo como mis suegros sacaban sus sillones a la puerta de su casa, sobre la Calle 56 para “tomar fresco”. Recuerdo cuando muchos “taxis” eran calesas jaladas por caballos. También recuerdo cuando casi no había supermercados y todo el mundo compraba en los mercados.  Recuerdo con nostalgia cuando los centros de diversión eran “Los Tulipanes”, “La Prosperidad”, y “El Aloa”.

Luego, en los años 80, muchos de los vecinos y negocios se mudaron al norte de la ciudad. Pronto el centro se convirtió en un lugar de tristes edificios abandonados y calles oscuras. Unos años después, hubo una especie de renacimiento, y el centro se transformó nuevamente en un lugar precioso. ¿Y quiénes empezaron esta restauración? ¿El gobierno? ¿Los comerciantes? ¿La sociedad yucateca? ¡No – no – y otra vez – no! Aunque no quieren creerlo, fueron los extranjeros jubilados que llegaron a nuestra ciudad en busca de un lugar tranquilo.

Es verdad – desde la época del Presidente Reagan, muchos ciudadanos de los EEUU han salido de su país porque están en desacuerdo con la política. Compraban los predios vacíos – casitas y casonas por igual – y les devolvieron su belleza. Corrió la voz de lo lindo y tranquilo que es Mérida, y en los años 90 llegaron más estadounidenses, canadienses, europeos y nacionales de otros estados de la República, quienes también compraron las casas en ruinas, y las transformaron en sus hogares. Ya para los principios del siglo XXI, los gobiernos municipales y estatales siguieron el ejemplo – poco a poco – la ciudad volvió a lucir como la ciudad blanca que hoy en día nos llena de orgullo.

Vivo en la García Ginerés, pero desde hace 27 años mi esposo y yo tenemos una escuela de educación superior en el mero centro de la ciudad – en un predio familiar que adquirió mi suegro en 1956, razón por la que vamos al centro histórico todos los días, mas de una vez.

En los últimos años, hemos observado que muchos negocios se han establecido sobre las calles y alrededor de las parques del centro. Otros negocios, existentes desde hace muchos años, han modificado su imagen y ahora gozan de mucha popularidad. Están aprovechando el flujo de gente y no hay nada malo en esto. ¡Qué bueno que hay vida de nuevo y más prosperidad en el centro histórico de nuestra ciudad! Pero, por las noches, realmente es un escándalo – el ruido es insoportable en muchas casas y negocios vecinos de ciertos bares y antros.

Como es de esperar, los vecinos (nacionales y extranjeros) están desesperados porque no pueden ni dormir. Acudieron a las autoridades municipales, mismas que han ha convocado a dos reuniones para escuchar opiniones de los vecinos, comerciantes y  propietarios de bares. El artículo en La Jornada Maya menciona que no todo el mundo fue invitado.

Yo estuve presente, y me consta que por lo menos la mitad de los asistentes era gente de negocios de Mérida y sus trabajadores. Una persona de este grupo estaba sentada junto a mí, y me comentó que ella fue invitada a la reunión. Si ella fue invitada, yo creo que los demás también lo fueron.

Realmente, asistir a esta reunión fue una experiencia desagradable. Me lleno de vergüenza escuchar las acusaciones a gritos de parte de algunas personas de Mérida – hacia los extranjeros – una señora norte americana, me dijo después de esta reunión, que alguien pateo su silla – ¿Qué es esto? No es la Mérida que yo conozco.

Al terminar su artículo, el reportero de La Jornada Maya pregunta:

“¿Al final del día, sin afán de ser reduccionista, todo recae en preguntarnos qué clase de ciudad queremos, ¿un centro de retiro para los expatriados jubilados que sólo vienen a Mérida a morir…” (SIC)

Pues yo quiero una ciudad donde “la paz empieza con el respeto al derecho ajeno.” (Juarez)

  • Hay que dialogar – no insular
  • Las autoridades necesitan establecer reglas y normas para todos – y todos tienen la obligación de respetarlas.
  • Si no lo hacemos – todos vamos a perder
  • Si no nos cuidamos de nuestras acciones y modales, caeremos al nivel de una ciudad sin leyes.

Somos mucho mejor que esto – todos tenemos que comportarnos como gente civilizada – no como bárbaros.

Finding Balance

Good wine does not just happen. The owner of the vineyard must tend to his land and the vines. During the growing season, the amount of sunshine and rainfall helps determine the excellence of the grapes, as does the severity of the winter weather. The harvesting and pressing are crucial factors, and the aging process must be timed just right. Producing a good vintage is an art. When the wine is ready for market, the vintner must find the right distributor. He prays the long-necked bottles will be transported and stored with care, and that wine connoisseurs will enjoy the result of his labor.

In ways, writing is like making wine. The more care a writer takes and the more experience she has – the better the results. A writer needs solitude, but not so much that she grows absolutely dependent upon it – the world around her plays a vital part in the creative process. When the manuscript is finished, the editing begins. More revision makes for a better book. Hopefully the writer finds an agent, publisher and distributor who will take her book to market – it has to be where readers can find it. And of course, the author hopes her book will be read over and over again – that it will find a forever home in public libraries, and on private bookshelves.

Those who enjoy wine need some restraint. All of us know that drinking in excess is not a healthy habit.

And writing? Truth be told, too much time in front of the computer is not good either. When I am deep into a lengthy project, it is easy to get so involved that the book’s world becomes my world. I think about my characters all the time. They take on a life of their own, and if I fail to keep perspective, they could become as important to me as my real time family and friends.

And this is the crux. To reach our full potential in any pursuit – winemaking, writing, painting, cooking, carpentry or whatever – we have to spend time away from our day-to-day lives. . I’ve heard it said that 10,000 hours of practice are necessary  to become proficient at anything. During those 10,000 hours, the danger of ostracizing family and frieds is definitely there.

Is excess involvement ever a good thing?  Some artists argue that “the work” must come first. But hey – of those who truly dedicate themselves to their art – how many have happy home lives, solid marriages, and children who do not feel ignored?

The other day, someone asked me when I would write another book. I want to – I do – but my real world needs a lot of attention right now. I hope that I will soon be able to carve out enough time and make the commitment – I’ve got ideas I could develop – it’s all about finding balance..

This Garden

Yesterday afternoon,  I filled a tall glass with ice cubes, and poured hot mint tea over top. The crisp pops and snaps made by the fissuring ice sounded like a promise – a refreshing moment soon to be savored. Taking the drink in one hand, I used the other to pull up the latch of the screen door and swing it open. I wanted to enjoy the last half hour of the Saturday sunlight.

My husband had just finished watering our garden and the spicy smell, unique to Yucatan, floated up from the soaked red soil. It swirled around the leafy orange tree where my chair waited. But before settling down, I picked my way around the perimeter to check on the plants’ progress and wellbeing.

Every year I try coaxing a few non-native species to adapt to life in the tropics. The success is spotty. In this hot, humid climate, they struggle – much like many people I know. The magnolia bush has not budded yet this year, but to my surprise, the dusky blue pom-poms on the hydrangea seem to be holding up. They bring forth memories from the garden I knew as a child – my mom had banks of them along one side of our North Vancouver home. The baskets of multi-colored petunias are thriving but the poor tulip – a gift from my daughter – has completely given up. So sad.

Meanwhile the endemics are thriving. Lilies – the deep coral-colored ones, the white with red stripes, and the delicate-looking ones with long skinny white petals are in full bloom. The Desert Rose, Crown of Thorns, and red hibiscus are also flowering at peak this March. The magenta  bougainvillea spilling over the top rim of the high front wall is a prolific marvel of nature. Basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano aloe, lemons, figs and oranges are as delicious as they are pretty.  But the showpieces of our garden are the orchids.

Orchids are amazing, and most of ours have made their home in the branches of the very tree where I sit to drink my tea.

This garden soothes me and helps me put problems into perspective. I vow to spend more time out here. Life is too short to dwell on issues that are (fairly or unfairly) beyond my sphere of influence.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Reinhold Niebuhr

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