Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Carols


For the past five hours  a bird has been sitting in a tree outside our window, singing. Since he began he has not stopped, or barely even paused for breath. He is singing his little heart out - he chirps, he chirrups, he warbles, he hopsup and down his branch, working up the most fantastic runs, tweeting and whistling and chortling, harder and louder and louder and faster until he chokes on his own whistle, and with only the slightest of pauses to clear his windpipe, he starts again -
            It is three o'clock in the morning, We can't sleep. The sound of this one small bird echoes off of the building to our left, and echoes off of the building to our right, and bounces up and down the parking alley between the two buildings across the street, and on its way back to us, meets the bird's next terpsichorean assault, and it grows and it grows and it grows-

We are afflicted with a lover. You know the guy, the one crouched below the window of his beloved and strumming furiously on his guitar - the guitar strings are smoking, his fingers have turned to rubber and his shoulders are on fire and the stem of the rose between his teeth has been crushed to a bloody pulp, but he will show her -
            He'll show everyone - 
            Beneath his love the world will give way -
            Ooooh, you just watch and see how deep is his love.
            Right above him, his senorita's daddy is out on the balcony, ready to dump a bucket of ice water over the edge.
            Or if we're back to talking birdies, he's got a cat.
            It might have been amusing, but an hour ago the lover from hell was joined by a second bird. They are not friends. Feather to feather, they are trilling their little beaks off. There's no quarter being given - this is war. If one pauses for breath the other finds it in his tiny diaphragm to double his volume and show of just what sort of deathless devotion he is made -
            The father is still upstairs on the balcony, but this time, the he's got the full complement of family retainers lined up on either side. Sleepless and grim, they've all got buckets, ready to go.  He's traded in his bucket for a shotgun. And the seƱorita is inside on a sofa, with an ice-pack on her head.
 

Merry chirping Christmas.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Summer in Santiago

Summer Summer has hit. For real. The air is light and balmy, the platano trees are a mass of green and a bird is chirping its little heart out just outside our window.
            This afternoon I went places. I took a taxi. We were stopped at a light; the windows were down and I lay in my seat with my head back and my eyes closed, enjoying the early summer warmth, overlaid with the smells of petrol and hot tarmac. There was music coming from another car nearby, happy boppy summer pop-
           "Look." The taxi driver said.
            I opened my eyes. The music was coming from the next car over - a red Volkswagen beetle; not fire-engine red, but ladybird red, which is brighter and more alive, and behind the wheel was a girl. Her lips were painted a bright barbie pink. Her long hair fell down a high ponytail, tied up with a blue twist, and she was dancing in her seat, shaking that long fall of hair, bouncing her fingers on the wheel, singing and shimmying her shoulders, sending her summer-blue shirt slithering and slithering from one bronze collarbone to another.
            It was a performance, but she wasn't playing to anyone. She was dancing her heart out for herself in her bright red summer car.
            "Look." The driver said again, and his voice was one long sigh. "She even has a flower."
            I looked. There was a flower, a peony tied with a bit of ribbon to the rear-view mirror.
            "Es ella una maravilla." (She is a marvel.) "Una maravilla." He folded his hands on the wheel and watched.
            She was Joy, and in a whole day full of summer, she was the most wonderful thing I saw.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Pumpkins


Way back in October, for a bit of family-rated Halloween fun, we had Kids # 1 #2 around to carve jack-o'lanterns. It was the first time carving for both of them. Halloween is a relatively new import to Chile. Children's costume parties and lots of candy are definitely a thing, but the less candy-conscious elements of the holiday haven't arrived yet. This year, however, for the two weeks before Halloween, the Jumbo Supermarket chain was selling big orange American pumpkins.

            Over in the candy section of the supermarket, hunting through Haribo mixed assortments for the ones with lots of licorice, I became aware of a sotto-voce conversation behind me.
            "You ask."
            "No, you ask."
            "Are you supposed to eat them?"
            "How would I know?"
            "Ask her, then."
            "You ask!"
            I turned around. Behind me, a family of four were bending over my cart prodding bemusedly at the pumpkins.
            "You want to know what the pumpkins are for?" (A dim reply, but one has to break into a conversation somehow.)
           
"They're all over the supermarket!"
            I explained.  With a google-image search even, and they thought it was pretty neat.  They thought it might be better done in autumn, the way the north-Americans did it, but the candle part sounded lovely. Last I saw of them, they were making a straight line for a big stack of pumpkins in the fruit-and-veg department.




            I hope they have as much fun as we did.  Kid #1 is 9 now, and taking life very seriously indeed.  All afternoon, she diligently scraped and drew and carved, but it was Kid #2 (age 6)  who really grasped the possibilities.
            He put the top of the pumpkin on his head and wore it as a hat, and offered it to his sister who thought it was disgusting- "There-is-nobody-as-gross as-you-anywhere! On the whole planet."
            So he dipped his hands into the big bowl of orange pumpkin guts, he came up dripping. "Raaarrrggghhhh!"
            His sister scooted back from the table and yelled.

            "Get away from me! You get away from me right now!  Mom - make him go away! He are so disgusting, take it away!"
            Looking thoughtful, Kid #2 wiped the worst of it on the seat of his trousers, and with an air of innocence that would do credit to a baby rabbit, he turned to his sister and held out a hand.
          "Shake?"
            This time, she made it halfway across the room. "Make him stop make him stop I can't bear it make him go away why is he even here I can't work like this take it away take it away take it away!
           "Kid #2 lifted his face up to mine.  He was suffused with happiness - there was so much of it that it was almost too much. He kicked a chair leg to relieve his feelings and crawled under the table and sat there for a while, sighing deeply.

Stickiness and screaming aside, both Kids #1 and #2 reckoned that carving pumpkins was pretty good fun, but it was when we added candles that the afternoon reached it apotheosis.

            In the bedroom, we closed the door and drew the blackout curtains. I lit two tea lights and lowered them into the pumpkins - 
            and magic happened.
           A slow, quiet magic that rose up with the candles and spread out until the room was filled from ceiling to floor - 
            The children were enchanted.  It was their magic; magic they'd made themselves with their own hands. It's something you only see in children: the unquestioned acceptance of wonder.  There's no looking for the wires behind the illusion, just a simple, absolute yes, an utter absorption in the moment.  In the darkness, they sat and they watched, and they sat and they watched -
            That was magic too.