Letter to my sister

Feb 7, 2021 | 15 comments

Dear Paulee,

When I woke up this morning the sky was nearly clear. I thought the flotilla of clouds sailing far down the valley would find moorage on the coast, but they tacked upwind instead, gathering strength in numbers until they became a single vast grey ship hauling fuel for the god Thunder and his mate, Strong Water.

Perhaps it is the weight of cloud itself that causes the rain to spill with the urgency that it does. I don’t know. There could be a secret garden, cached high in the Andes, brimming with row upon row of fresh raised water, scooped up in buckets by the keepers of the cloud works and splashed down the valleys washing away dust, broken branches, and the handiwork we neglected, or cast aside — a dollhouse made of scrap wood, bits of cloth from an old shirt, a small carpet of woven grass.

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But, it is the clamoring river after the storm subsides that more often grabs my attention: the echo of thundering water straining against immovable stone, desperate to make room for the next shipload of rain. The chisel of waves carving the river banks is a constant reminder that permanence is fleeting, and that nature provides for the fertile flatlands by renewing the contribution of mountain streams sending essential nutrients stored far upland.

We are all dependent on one another.

Ecuador’s presidential election is on Sunday. Just as yours did; ours will have significant implications for the future. William Inge’s observation that, “Democracy is an experiment in government,” rings true. If we have learned anything these last several years it is the absolute necessity to be diligent in securing a safe and inclusive future – and understanding that our work is never done. All things excellent are as difficult to accomplish as they are rare – perseverance is required.

Most citizens of Ecuador are required to vote, gringos with residency can but aren’t required to, but I am already looking forward to next year when I will qualify to participate in the fundamental responsibility of citizenship. I’ve been enjoying the parade of candidates and supporters waving flags and shouting slogans of their intentions as they meander city streets calling attention to their cause.  The carnival atmosphere is a welcome relief from the vitriol and violence we have come to expect elsewhere.

Unfortunately, quite a few gringos were also campaigning loudly all week, but not regarding the merits of the candidates. They were bellowing with self-righteous indignation because there will be no alcohol served in the country all weekend. Ecuador has a long-standing law that no booze can be consumed in bars, or sold in stores for 36 hours prior to an election…even if it falls on the head-banging spectacle of Super Bowl Sunday.

As for me, I really do not care. That party boat drifted far downstream and away from where I live a long time ago.

Someone asked me a while back what I did on Thanksgiving and seemed surprised when I said, “I called it Thursday”. I told them that in all the years I lived in the U.S., I never once celebrated an Ecuadorian holiday, and I expect the reverse will be true here.

I may not enthusiastically care about Abraham Lincoln’s birthday as I once did, but I surely lamented the cancelled festivities celebrating the “Feast of the Traveling Christ Child” just as I stoically missed celebrating the day Simon Bolivar drove the Spanish into the sea of defeat, establishing our Independence Days. Both of ‘em.

Photography still consumes a bit of my day, every day. Writing my column comes less painfully, but still requires many hours of solitude and the patience to allow the words to arrange themselves to their own satisfaction and to the best of my ability to accommodate them. I still rise a little before dawn each day to sit at my desk and suss out the makings of the day while still occasionally confusing myself into musing,

“Why use a simple declarative sentence when four paragraphs will do?”

I still spend a little time most mornings sipping cafe con leche at Casa Azul on San Sebastian Plaza, often joined by an international and changeable assortment of characters who have become my friends. I count four nationalities with heavy representation, and one guy who has traveled for so long, and lived in so many distant locales he no longer wears a badge of nationality. He is simply an Earthling. I love the poetics; the warble of folks slipping into French, English, and Spanish, casually chatting about nothing at all while pitching dice in a game I do not understand and enjoying the company of others living in the moment.

Well, alrighty then. I’ve taken a bit of your time and given a bit of mine. Of course, I hope all is well with you and the family, and of course, I grieve for your country.

Drop me a note so I know my best wishes were gathered and sprinkled on all.

I hope that you are content.

Peace and Love,
Bob

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