Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Senora is alive and well

     I'm pleased to report that modern life in the 21st century hasn't erased the figure of the Spanish senora.  The senora is the woman who wears housedresses and a special housecoat over them to do the daily chores.  I see her leaning out of the balcony window to wipe down the endless dust settling from Barcelona traffic.  She's the one in the market shouting out, "Qui es el ultim?" so as not to be deprived of one second of attention.  She's the fighter with mala leche who won't hesitate to run over your toes with her shopping cart in an attempt to get to the fruit stand first.
     It's been ages since I've been stared at.  Here it's the senoras who have settled in for their midmorning cafe.  They look me up and down, and of course I'm the stranger here and despite the saying to the contrary "Paris, Londres, Reus", this city, Reus is not a capital of the world.  I'm not the only one they dismiss.  The elderly gentleman who approaches their table is waved away.  There's no time for him.
     The senoras have their own world- the hairdresser does their special styles and there are even glasses for them as I found out when I was trying on a pair and the shop assistant pointed at them and said, "No, no.  Those are for senoras." Yet the senoras have their dignity, something that seems to be lost in the American world where at 8 or eighty, women are all wearing the same styles.  One thing to be grateful for is the fashion of very short shorts hasn't reached the US with  60% of its population being overweight.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Change and a poem for Father's Day

              Change and a poem on the occasion of Father’s Day
What triggers the major changes in our lives?  At what point does the marriage become untenable, the roommate impossible, the job intolerable?  We go on day after day until something snaps.  Case in point-  I was never planning on moving now.  I have a trip to Spain which falls smack in the middle of summer and which means a big expense.  So what happened?  One day my landlady told me her three grandchildren (they are a bit wild- one put a hole in the wall) were spending 6 weeks with her downstairs from me.  My apartment suddenly became a place I had to escape from.  I could have coped with the visit; after all, I’ll be gone some of those weeks but this was the crisis point.  All along I’ve been aware that I need more space- that I can’t spend any more time looking at the walls of this flat but I’ve resisted.  I easily could have been stuck here for years.
   We all resist change but it’s better to adapt and play a part in it than face a possible earth shattering event that really shakes up our lives.  I remind myself as I sit in the chaos of bags and books.
    Years ago a Peruvian shaman told me I had a “genetic muy poco vista” and that I had more genetic material from my father than my mother.  When I told my sister- she said she knew that.  I think I inherited the physical, the wanderlust, but fortunately not the character.

Father’s Day a la Sylvia Plath

Winter black and white
weighs down
until green spring erupts,
he searches the barn for the kittens,
his touch tames.
He shells peas,
lines them up in equal piles
for me and my sister.
The storms lash out.
There is no peace in this house
Wind whips through
tightly closed windows.

He’s the one I search for
in shapely dark madness. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Moving and exile


I  am sitting in a room that’s in the process of being dismantled, bit by bit, box by box.  Where does moving fit on the scale of life’s most stressful events?  Somewhere up there, after death and divorce.  My many moves are bookended by long periods spent in the same place.  17 years in the farmhouse in Varysburg, the small town where I grew up, and then 15 years in the atico flat in Barcelona with its terraces and views of the sea as a distant blue line and Montjuic, the city’s hill off the port. 
Since my American adventure, I’ve lived in three places- my sister’s home in Atlanta, a sublet in Buffalo, and my present apartment where I’ve been for, hard to believe but four years now.  Four years of living alone.  Surprisingly except for one brief stint here when I was in college, I have never lived alone.  Now that I’ve done it, it seems easy.  Solitude doesn’t weigh but there is that occasional need to find a witness for the daily details of life. 
So now, encumbered by a lot more stuff, I’m preparing for move 4.  I left Barcelona after twenty years with three suitcases and a few boxes of my papers which I sent.  How is it possible that I have amassed more stuff in four years here than in all that time abroad? 
My first trip away from home to Paris for my junior year abroad only required one suitcase and a small carry on.  With every subsequent voyage I’ve been weighted down with more stuff.  I have my books (heavy, aren’t they?), DVD’s, papers (way too many), CD’s, and more clothes than I could ever wear.  What do I really need?  Comfort is a way of life in America and every object is designed for that finality.  How much can I shed?  As I look around the chaos that is now my pre-move life, I’m going to find that out.

                                                                        “You can’t go home again.”  Thomas Wolfe   

Cross the yard
to open the gate,
my mother stands
at the door.
Inside, the grey carpet
with faded roses,
consumes my breath.
The mismatched couches
 are covered over again,
a paint by numbers seascape
hangs on the wall.

I reclaim these rooms,
the medicine stained floor,
my father metes out drops
so he can breathe.
His voice, the backdrop
to my dreams,
as he reads aloud to my mother,
their secret night life.

Stripped naked
I try again to enter,
13 steps to my bedroom,
Petal pink, a girl long buried,
still wants the Barbie dress up world.

My mother’s closet holds two suits
from her past life,
strappy heels, red leather,
thick ankle straps,
I touch and identify,

She never wanted to be here,
in this farmhouse in America.

Yet she greets me,
we share for a moment
this white house,
this undersurface dream space.