Simple pleasures define life in Cuenca

Aug 12, 2018

I love mornings like this; gray flannel clouds are barely muffling the sounds of yawns, creaking bones, and percolating coffee. Pretty soon, I will hear the gas sellers song rolling by; the crow-like caw of Allan pushing his cart. Car noise will increase like waves on an incoming tide. Doors in my apartment building will start banging open to allow busy people to rush to places I know not where, but sure to contribute to the building crescendo made of clearing skies, bright sunshine, and the gas sellers song once again.

I rose early to mosey down to the plaza before the day opened. I watched a man walking his dog while casually telling him about his dreams of the night before; at least I imagine that was the conversation. What I do know is that whatever he was saying was flowing and calm and detailed. I could tell the dog was listening to this morning ritual, as well. He feigned interest by looking up from time-to-time patiently fulfilling his role as confidant, friend, and companion while imagining his own fantastic stories composed of the fragrance wafting in the early morning breeze. Soon he will be back on his bed, with his dreams all to himself.

Sunrise is announced by ringing pots, pans, plates, and glasses rattling over pancakes, sizzling bacon, and frying eggs. “Whole wheat or white? Over easy or scrambled?”  

Another day begins in Cuenca.

I received an email this morning from a good friend of mine who is headed north, to Kansas.  Her mother is 87, and beginning to spend more time enveloped in the foggy treasure of memories, some so long ago that even the sounds of the morning were different. Hooves and cackles and crowing – days long since past. I imagine Kansas is still quite distinct from California, but even the smallest crossroads of Kansas are no longer immune from the silence of extinct birds and lost opportunities. My friend is anxious to be leaving to tend to her mother but is already looking forward to the date of her return.

As for me, I’m not going far; my job is to visit people, and places, and gather information on the goings on for the week right here at home.  The hot springs of Baños are on my list, so is an upcoming symphony and yet another new restaurant opening.

There is a feria this weekend, a furniture making class is wrapping up, and another is beginning.  I have a writer’s workshop on Wednesday, a gallery opening showing the works of my friend, Alberto Soriano, on Thursday, and a movie matinee and potluck on Sunday. Such simple pleasures have become the cornerstone of my time.

The pace and beauty of Cuenca suit me.  I’ve become accustomed to shopping for a chicken in the mercado, dropping by the tea shop for some Earl Gray, and then buying a flat of eggs from “the egg lady.”  I am still in the hunt for Cuenca’s best coffee roaster, so I buy a pound here, and then a pound there, all the while keeping track of who roasts too dark thereby bringing the oils to the surface, and those who roast too long, drying the beans out.  

Shopping for the week can take all day, but what better way to spend it than picking and choosing, chatting with vendors and taking in all the wondrous aromas, flavors and brilliant colors that make this place so special.


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