Glass Windows

trapped inside
i stare through glass windows
at the sky
separated
from the sun and rain

i would give my life
to be a leaf
making sugar from sunshine
even only for a season

i would be a bee, my
face buried in flowers and
let winter kill me
once and for all
when it comes,
dissolve my little wings
in its rain that
taps chilly fingers against
glass windows

From the Journals: Two entries about Tia Flor

January 31, 1998
(Guanacaste, Costa Rica)

We went, on Friday night, to visit Tia Flor in El Silencio. It made my heart ache inside its cage because the blessed silence was there that once lay over the world before everybody had televisions. All was silent and crisply cool in the moonlight. Through the open-air window a star hung over the mountain and ranas and solococos sang their hymns. Tia Flor gave us coffee and fresh hot bread.

I love my pretty house with its windows and floors and I know I am living a relatively simple life compared to some people in the world, but when I stood in El Silencio I felt the same hunger for simplicity that I felt in the USA, ironically, living here.

November 15, 1999
(Washington State, USA)

I am haunted by Tia Flor. She is what stands between me and any ability to become contented with a “normal” life. She has what I do not.

I thought about her on Saturday night as we were driving out of the Tri Cities on 395 North. It was dark and the cars driving with us and toward us made up a great high-speed pulse. The night was lit up by giant bulbs surrounding shopping malls, over gas stations and on road signs. The earth in all directions: asphalt, concrete.

And here comes the unreasonably agonizing understanding that all of this is artificial. Superficial. Fake. Unnatural. Contrived. Illusory. Night isn’t yellow. Night is black. People can’t travel at 70 miles per hour. People walk. The ground isn’t hard and black. The ground is soft and has many colors. Everything that is the common agreed-upon reality of the moment is bullshit.

I cannot stand it.

Tia Flor appears to me. She is everything a “beautiful”, “successful” person is not. She is old. She is fat. She is poor. Her clothes are out of fashion and her hair smells of smoke. She wears big glasses, cheap flip-flops and her shins are full of lumps. In Tia Flor’s house, there are mice. She has a cat to catch them, to keep them out of the tortilla corn. There are spiders and spider webs connecting the rafters of the house with one bare bulb in each room.

She gave me the most delicious scandalously sweet coffee I have ever tasted that she made on her woodstove and warm bread she just baked over the coals. I sat on a sunken chair too sorry, even, to throw away and looked out her window open to the sky. The moon lit up every leaf on the mango tree and outlined their movements, like dancers, when the breeze ruffled. The rooster crowed from his perch. Frogs giggled and hooted in the quebrada. An owl said it name.

It will drive me mad. These are not pictures of affluence and poverty. They are pictures of illusion and truth. Dementia and sanity. Quebrantamientos and wholeness. It causes me pain to look out the window, to look in the window, and not see black sky, a moonlit mango, a wood stove, a pile of corn. Even now that I know of the hardships suffered by a person like Tia Flor. Even so, she has what I do not.

From the Journals, November 1995: Generosity

(Guaitil, Cost Rica.)

I have seen and known the generous heart of the Earth and I keep praying to God to give me a generous heart.  I find that, at least comparatively,  my culture is not one of generosity, but of stinginess and fear.  Stinginess and generosity are fear and love dressed in other clothes.  And perfect love drives out fear, they say.   If I keep more than what I can use, it is because I fear I may need it later.

Today I went to Santa Cruz and when I finished my mandados, I started walking home.  I got almost to the Cooperativa when the same guy who picked me up the last time picked me up again.  He risked a 20,000 colone fine for taking me on his motorcycle without a helmet.  As we flew back I thought about Generosity – him taking me and even risking a fine.  And in this country, you can count on Generosity.

I thought about the generosity of the Earth that we barely see in North America.  Here, the lemons and oranges and papayas fall from the trees.  Cows give their milk and one tiny kernel of corn gives 2 or 3 elotes.  It requires work, but work to gather what is being freely given.  The 20th century thinks that milk, corn, wood, water, fruits have to be extracted from the earth, and extract them we do.  In quantities immeasurable.  We don’t receive them; we demand them.

But the truth is that the mango tree, if you leave it alone, has a generous heart and the hen and the cow, too.  The mango will make you more mangos than you can eat and the hen will leave you eggs whether you ask her to or not.  The calf will share the milk of the cow.  Irma will bring choreadas and Maria Elena will give arroz con pollo when there is extra and the river always gives Renan fish to bring home for us to fry.  The nature of Earth, when it is left untormented, is Generosity.  I guess the orange tree doesn’t worry about the other 10 months when it has nothing to offer but shade – it gives what it can.

Slowly, I am reading the gospel of Luke and, I think, understanding some things.  Jesus wanted to be a teacher, but he had the same generous heart and couldn’t turn people away.  That’s what got him.  That’s why the Pharisees became interested in him and felt threatened by him – he couldn’t turn the sick away.

I have thriftiness ground into my being so deeply that generosity is hard for me.  The open-hearted generosity of Martina who bought me fried chicken when her money was running out is not in my culture or my habits.  I would not have done that.  She called me over and invited me.  She could have just as easily let me walk right by.  That is the ridiculous generosity that amazes and shames me and demonstrates to me a life that is truly without fear.

I guess believing in the generosity of others helps to eliminate fear.  Hmm.   I came home from Santa Cruz and cleaned the entire house.  Generosity in favors is part of my culture, even if generosity with money is hard for me.

a thousand years

I wait
like a mountain
so still under
stars, you
cannot see me breathing
I think if I sleep, maybe
the night will go faster

when dawn turns
gray the sky I
have not moved
I am still here

a thousand
years will change
my face but
only a little

(from Tell Me About The Telaraña)