3.30.2008

Baby Bald Eagle Flying Over Rt. 2 and Fresh Eggs Sold at the Side of the Road

We thought we'd spend the last Saturday in March out in Western Mass. There was short debate about not going--the area's still snowy, and the trip means a couple hours in the car--but we agreed: "It just feels good" to be out there. And it does. It feels really good. By 11am we were seated in the cafe of the Bookmill, in the sun where Peaches could admire my blue mascara, watching a baby laugh at dominos and awaiting our grilled brie and pear sandwiches. I'd already found two Robert B. Parker novels, a vegetarian cookbook, a workout book for stuntwomen, and a design book by Chip Kidd. I'd also read several chapters on a book for hip witches and decided a.) witches are the same as any spiritual seekers b.) aspiring to magic is good and c.) not to buy it. I reminisced to Peaches about the days spent in the same cafe, thirteen years ago, when my dear friend Chris worked there, in the old Ecstatic Yod location, selling records, and I would go just to get off campus and work without interruption, and to spend the drive there and back in his quiet company. I could feel both of our presences. I am always relieved that I feel so easily connected to life there.

A visit to terrarium wonderland Black Jungle was followed by a slow drive down the Main Street of Turner's Falls. We wanted to buy my dad a present for his birthday next weekend. "Maybe in the antique store?" "My dad likes old things." "But he's not a thing guy." "Nah, he doesn't really need any of this stuff." "How about that bookstore?" "My dad likes books. And movies. Old things. Mild cheeses. Milk chocolate. Humor." But nothing stood out, not even the cool air plants at Black Jungle or the old tractor seats in the dusty antique store.

We turned and drove down the back street of town, along the abandoned mill buildings. The handsome brick buildings stood close to one another, maybe once continuous, even, but now entire sections of building had crumbled. The remaining windows were smashed out and the long, wide flexible pipes that were so carefully installed, floor to floor, to help ventilate the building now sagged garishly, popping ends out in our direction, like a lewd invitation. Behind them the old floors were evident, the places where floors and ceilings had been. Through the open windows you could see big open floors, through the smashed windows on the other side, over Connecticut River canyon, right across to the trees on the other side.

Taking a sharp right turn, the worn bridge revealed just how fast and narrow the river is right at that spot, and the abandoned buildings stood essentially in the water, crumbling brick and smokestack dramatically vulnerable-looking in a spring rush of melted snow. Of course, we realized, that's why they were there: to generate power, once, for the town, and beyond, back when the forests were gone and the air was thick with pollutants and people in the area were gainfully employed. Now everything was overgrown, like a Mayan ruin in the jungle.

Over fried clam rolls and fries and apple pie, we looked at land prices in Wendell.

3.24.2008

Feeling Easter

I made Ouefs a la Niege last night. A classic French dessert, as I told my husband, not an Easter dish. But it was perfect for Easter, not just because it looked like fluffy white "eggs" floating on top of sweet custard and dusted with cocoa powder, but also because it was a mix of irresistible textures and flavors: salty froth of egg shapes, grated dark chocolate, milky sweet custard, rich dry cocoa. For me, Easter is a masterpiece of sensual experiences. Luscious, ripe, juicy mango sliding down your throat; perfect sweet cheese croissant, flaky and yeasty and filled with sticky rich cheese; fine chocolate at two out of three meals. And it wasn't just the food; I kept burying my nose in the pink hyacinths Blue set up on my desk as a surprise. We took a walk in Mt. Auburn Cemetery and held hands as we listened to bird song: bluejays, redwing blackbirds, chickadees, and a lone warbler. Oh, he wasn't technically a warbler, but then I don't really care about bird names: he was a warbler in his heart. He was a career warbler. He looked like a fat striped sparrow on the outside, but on the inside he was a stage crooner.

He'd tentatively start with a shaky little note, and then stop if some other bird in the park started singing. Li'l Warbler didn't like to get cut off. Then he'd start up again and sing a really sweet, melodious little song, unlike one either of us had ever heard before. That was the thing about Li'l Warbler...he was original. It was a good start to spring, that wavery, but sure-fire little voice. I liked his pluck.

3.16.2008

Tulum, Mexico

The walls are made of sticks, and people and housecats pass by in the night in soft forms stepping on the sand. My eyes watch them from bed: stick, edge of dark shoulder, stick, back of head, depart. Happy Gecko singing on the wall behind our heads. Ocean sounds all night. Salt water never really washes out of my hair. Shower water was salt. Ocean water was salt. Sunburned skin hurt on sheets. Rolling under D., mosquito netting over his head, candles flickering across the thatches of palm leaves over our head. Kissing him moistly in the morning. Walking down to easy water and lying in the sand. Reading, reading. Sun moves; edge of the water comes closer and falls away. Naked Europeans play in the big waves. We play in the big waves. We took a long walk one day across a mile of rocky coast. The sun was so hot, hotter than the hottest August day in Boston.

Squinting into the camera, iguanas and ruins, ruins topped with iguanas, tourists and tourists, tourists and strollers. Overhead, an osprey moves on the wind. Hiding in the shade from the hot sun. Taxi back to sticks and salty showers.

Quiet bay in the biosphere: wink at a little brown fish through my snorkel. Blue on his edges. He ventures out from under his rock to get a better look. A sweet face. Swim with a school of bay fish. Startle a sting ray. Ask D. to hold me so I can recover from my startle. He holds me as he stands in sea water up to his shoulders, somewhere a sting ray swimming safely away. "Phew!" thinks the ray. We put our masks back on. Tiny bumblebees swim up to us, the size of my fingertip, striped with yellow. The look at each other. They must be too small to see us. We hold hands and stop kicking to move, instead fluttering our flippers as they flutter their fins. Back in the car to soak the seats, we find a soft beach not far away. Crackers and peanut butter and D. pulls down a coconut to break open. We drink the coconut milk. Lie in the shade of the palm and read, read. Easy.

Another day we drive through villages and dry and rocky jungle. Long straight road. Cenotes! Fish and deep, deep caves. Cool water. Far below us, a flashlight has fallen from someone's hand. A snorkeler takes a deep breath and plunges many feet into the deep dark cavern. A small light from the bottom gets bigger and brighter as the snorkler kicks back up, holding it in his hand. I lift my head up to take a gasp and a bat swoops by and circles a nearby stalactite.

At more ruins: Coba. These have more trees, more shade, I'm more at peace with the sun. But a tall pyramid nearly undoes me; I try to climb and vertigo wins. All the heavyset sunbaked Ohioans climb confidently up while I return to a tree shade in tears. My husband makes it to the top and looks out at the jungle. He's a winner.

I redeem myself a little from this failure by orchid-hunting for him and finding instead uncovered ruins, and partially covered ruins down underused paths where Mayan feet once walked. We climb smaller pyramids, some covered in jungle trees, and photograph a few orchids. I kiss him. We clamber down and buy ourselves quesadillas and guacamole. The corn tortilla has just been made and is perfect.

Our last night in town, we get strong salty margaritas. "The ice is fine," says a grumpy solo American, and that's all it takes; soon we're drunk. It's Tulum; the stars are stunning; the rope lies across the road in one of many surprise speedbumps; the mangoes are 15 cents each and melt like butter, juice dripping down your feet to be sampled later by blinking, shy ghostcrabs. On my plate, fish wrapped in palm leaf; singing along with Mariachi; walking along a little road in my sundress at night. Pelicans in formation. Holding my husband's hand underwater. Catching the waves in my throat again and again until I had to rest. That was Tulum.