Category Archives: Creative Writing and Poetry

Take Heart Day, Dear Valentine, A Parody: Breaking News by Ellen Benson

Ellen Benson, my Oaxaca artist friend who has wintered here for the past umpteen years, wrote these three pieces in the voice of Agent Orange as her way of getting through the political grief and PTSD that many of us experience.  Ellen is  the famed Philadelphia Dumpster Diver Diva and her art also reflects the way she sees the world.

Our Oaxaca hearts stretch out to you around the world

I hope you enjoy this. It is witty and funny. Perfect for a Take Heart Day.  I asked her permission to share it with you. I think we need this.

ONE: Congratulations from Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny

Yesterday Santa Claus called from the North Pole to congratulate me. Yes he is real,  and i’ve known him personally for many, many years. A fantastic, fantastic guy. He promised: no presents going to Mexico!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! To keep those presents here,  Mike Pence has given Santa Air Force One, since I have my own plane,  but all reindeer will keep their jobs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. The Mexican children will get coal in their stockings which will also help the coal industry make a comeback. A win/win!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Santa will be working directly with Ben Carson to move all low income housing to the border!!! Not just walls but whole housing complexes!!!!!!!!!! I’ve put Jared Kushner in charge, but Santa and 3 mice will administer the “blind trust.” Let’s see if the “failing New York Times “ even reports this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I also got a call from the Easter Bunny. Yes he is real, i know his whole huge family. A terrific terrific guy. He called to report that his personal hackers have found that a hamburger joint in D. C. has been putting pot in all its deluxe burgers with fries!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This hamburger joint is a front for the Clinton Foundation. Jewish columnists Tom Friedman and Paul Krugman have been seen in the vicinity. Information verified by National security Advisor-elect Mike Flynn!!!!!!!! Enough said!!!!!!!!! I’ve not even been sworn in and already Mike is arranging a  landing pad for UFO’s on the White House roof!!!!!!! Good work Mike.

The Tooth Fairy was also on the line but I couldn’t take her call. Yes, she is real. I definitely know her. On her day off from overseeing  her teeth- for -money program, she does hair dye jobs. And she’s the best. The very best. 

Melania and Ivanka are busily planning the inauguration. Unfortunately, due to construction on the White House to make it look more like the Hermitage, the inauguration will be held in New York. Any country where i have business dealings will have the chief executives of its BIGGEST COMPANIES invited to the festivities!!!!!!!!!!! Nothing expected in return!!!! this is how business is done!  Many of these execs are graduates of Trump University —so you can bet they understand the Art of the Deal!!!!! We are just now nailing down the entertainment. Very exclusive. Very in-demand.  It’s top secret classified but I’m the President-elect so i can tell whoever i want. The star attraction at the biggest and best inaugural ball will be the cast of the new musical, “PUTIN”!!!!!! Very hard to get tickets—believe me!!!  

TWO:  Breaking News, A Call From Humpty Dumpty

Mar-A-Lago seems to be sinking so I called in Al Gore just to hear his preposterous statements that people, like the overwhelming landslide number of people who absolutely love me, are the cause of so-called global warming. He thought i would offer him a Cabinet position but he did not give me a huge campaign donation!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And even after his movie and speaking engagements he is not yet a billionaire or even a multi-millionare and he never even worked for Goldman or Exxon or even the World Wrestling Federation!!!! A loser! Everyone knows there is NO AIR POLLUTION IN THE USA!!!!!!! The Chinese have been manufacturing it cheaply and shipping it over here!!!!! I don’t need a focus group to know why Mar-A-Lago is sinking—my very large, enormous and gigantic brain tells me everything!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   And it is verified by my National Security Advisor Mike Flynn—The problem is caused by the lost continent of Atlantis rising!!!!!!!!!! Also—he saw a man jumping over the moon—and everyone knows the moon controls the tides!!!!! There will be a big big investigation of this after Jan 20!!!!

My good friend Humpty Dumpty called to warn me that many people want to see me fall!! I’m sick of all the lying media criticizing my Cabinet appointments!!!!!!! They have about as much credibility as Graydon Carter’s failing VANITY FAIR restaurant reviewer in the things he said about the Trump Grill!!!!!!!!!!Terrific terrific restaurant!!! Chris Christie and Jack Sprat love it!!!!!!!!!  I took Mitt Romney there!!!!! People think it was to discuss Secretary of State job. WRONG!! Obviously it was for Mitt to convince me as to why i should endorse his niece for RNC chair over the very very qualified BABAR, who i may still change my mind and endorse!!! And i keep creating jobs! just this week alone, i opened up positions at Goldman Sachs and at Exxon!!

Ben Carson was honest enough to admit that he knows nothing about housing or running a government agency. That’s refreshing! Just the kind of experience I’m looking for! He tells me his decisions will be guided by the invisible hand of the market. Rep. Tom Price will not only repeal Obamacare but will cut out all waste in the Medicaid and Medicare programs. As I’ve said many times, it is a BIG FAT WASTE to cover disabled people!!! We will keep the good parts of Obamacare: lobotomies, breast enhancement and hair transplants will still be covered. 

Full steam ahead on the inauguration!. Kanye West, if he had voted, said he would have voted for me!!!!! We are working in how to blend mental health meltdowns, inflammatory tweets and the Kardashians into a program that THE WHOLE COUNTRY WILL LOVE!!!!!! There will be heavy- duty medication at every banquet table instead of flowers!!!! (Kanye’s idea!  Brilliant!!)The Breitbart event will be giving out free taco bowls and free tickets to the new big hit musical PUTIN!!! which Rex Tillerson and I are backing!!!!!! And of corse, catering by Hardee’s! Kudos to Labor Secretary-elect Andy Puzder for a brilliant idea: food of the little guy! All servers at the inauguration will get free Hardee’s gift certificates in lieu of minimum wage! Can’t wait to see Ivanka’s dress! The president of Taiwan made it herself!!!!

THREE: Breaking News, I would have won the New Hampshire primary

I just want to remind the American public that i would have won in New Hampshire if outside voters had not been bussed in by the thousands, a FACT that is WIDELY KNOWN!!!!!!!!! What you don’t know because the failing New York Times refuses to report it, is that drones also transported hundreds and hundreds of people from Nigeria and Ivory Coast  to polling places in North Carolina and other places EVEN THOUGH THOSE PLACES ARE HARD TO FIND because we had to shut down so many polling places where the blacks might vote!!!! Some of Obama’s Kenyan friends got in too! Somehow they found polling places and i will have the FBI look into it!!!!!! I will have a floating wall built the length of the Atlantic Ocean to prevent such blatant disregard of our borders. As we speak, Mike Flynn is trying to shut down the underground tunnels to the pizza parlor in DC that is now the hub of voter fraud activities!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SAD!!!!!!

I am sooooo proud of Jack Kingston, Representaive of Georgia for his stand against free lunches for poor children! of course they should sweep cafeteria floors to earn their keep and learn the value of a buck! My little Ivanka had to go all the way to China to check out the floors of the manufacturing sweatshops that make her clothing line !!!!They made her look through fabric swatches for hours before they even gave her an egg roll for lunch!! And when they were kids, Donald Jr. and Eric had to pick up all their candy wrappers from the floor of the limo, right outside the BEST PRIVATE SCHOOL in the U.S., maybe the world!!! —before their private chef would even give them a taste of their grilled salmon with caviar!!!!!!! 

And contrary to what the lying media are saying, the fCalifornia  armers are doing just great!!!!!!!!!!!! Yes, we did have to round up thousands of their best workers and put them on cattle cars back to those swamps they came from!! !! But now, under my new regime, poor school children can be hired after school to work off their subsidized health care!!!! It’s a WIN-WIN!!!!

Can’t wait til Neil Gorsuch is confirmed!! EVERYONE wants him!!!!!!!!! He has told me privately that not only are corporations PEOPLE with rights to free speech, but cars and refrigerators are people too!!!!!! That’s why the new cars  cars  can drive themselves!!!!! Next year, cars and refrigerators get the vote in all red states!!!! And—cheeseburgers, in their role as citizens, are inundating the Republican party with contributions to fund our agenda, whatever it may be!! Even the little guys—Big Mac Jrs.— are getting in on it with small but important contribtions!!! 

Putin requested that nukes be considered people but i’ll let Gorsuch decide—we DO have separation of powers, you know!!!!

New Mexico Dry. After the Santa Fe Folk Art Market.

By Tuesday after the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market ended, most friends returned home or continued with travels. Market weekend was HOT, over 100 degrees fahrenheit with no rain, unusual for July when afternoon thunderstorms usually cool things off, they say. There’s no air conditioning here, my local friends remind me. Adobe, shade and water are the natural coolants.

Taos Pueblo, New MexicoThe high New Mexico desert is beautiful, austere, the color of salmon, sand, sage and terra-cotta. Only the cloudless blue sky, jagged mountains and cottonwood banking the rivers give relief to the landscape.

Beautiful pottery comes from this region

Beautiful pottery comes from this region

It is big country with expansive mesas and tumbleweed. Still the wild west with scattered oases.

Cemetery, Taos Pueblo, with adobe chapel

Cemetery, Taos Pueblo, with adobe chapel

I drive an hour and a half north across Native American pueblo land — Santa Clara, Tesuque, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso — climbing up through a mountain pass along the Rio Grande River Gorge to Taos to visit friends.

Native American Tiwa people live in the pueblo

Native American Tiwa people live in the pueblo

Beneath the mountain, under a cloudless sky, I see dust dancing in the distance, a funnel cloud likeness of Kokopelli blowing his flute.

Jerome Church, Taos Pueblo with Blue Altar

St. Jerome Church, Taos Pueblo with brilliant blue altar (no photos inside)

Despite the heat, it is easy to love it here, the mix of silver, turquoise, coral, casinos, fry bread, corn, indigenous pride and creativity, ripe nectarines and peaches — prolific local bounty. This is more than an enclave for opera and art aficionados.

Colors of New Mexico

Colors of New Mexico

The Taos Pueblo looks much like it did forty years ago when I first visited and felt drawn by the region’s history and her native peoples.

Taos Pueblo as it was

Taos Pueblo as it was

There are a few more tourist shops, but the pueblo is otherwise untouched except by bus loads of visitors who come in early morning to avoid the sun.

Tributary of the Rio Grande runs through the Taos Pueblo

Tributary of the Rio Grande runs through the Taos Pueblo

It’s not difficult to make the comparison between Mexico and New Mexico both visually and culturally. Spanish is a primary language here, and roots go deep into colonizer oppression and conversion (read about the 1680 Pueblo Revolt).

Three foot adobe walls, wood beams called vegas to hold up cedar ceilings

Three foot adobe walls, wood beams called vegas to hold up cedar ceilings

From history, we know that political boundaries do not define the origins of people (think Maya people of Chiapas, Mexico and Guatemala).

Handwoven blanket. The Spanish brought sheep and looms to New Mexico, too

Hand-woven blanket. The Spanish brought sheep and looms to New Mexico, too

Descendants of Mexican landholders subsumed into U.S. territory in 1853 with the Gadsden Purchase populate Nuevo Mexico.

Tiwa people of Taos Pueblo are known for drum-making

Tiwa people of Taos Pueblo are known for drum-making

Taos Pueblo is a UNESCO World Heritage site

Taos Pueblo is a UNESCO World Heritage site

Many of my New Mexico friends are equally at home in Oaxaca, and it is easy to see why.

Stockade fence, adobe wall, unresistable texture

Stockade fence, adobe wall, irresistible texture

Just like Oaxaca, I love the colors and textures here, the traditions of the native people, their art and creativity. The synergy between these two places is strong and as I drive through the country, I have this feeling of peace and deep history.

Hand-hewn logs provide sun shelter

Hand-hewn logs provide filtered shelter from the sun

At this moment, I’m in Huntington Beach, California, with my son Jacob. The ocean breezes bring chill to the air, even though days are warm. It’s great to be back in the land of my growing up and connect with family for more than a few days.

Turquoise doors, Taos Pueblo

Turquoise doors, Taos Pueblo

 

2017 Oaxaca Women’s Creative Writing + Yoga Retreat: Lifting Your Creative Voice

For the 7th year, women will gather in retreat for a week of creative writing, daily yoga, meditation and exploration in Oaxaca, Mexico. Our workshop is limited to 10 people. Will you be one of them? Some of us are novices. Others are published poets and writers. All are welcome and encouraged. If this is something you have always wanted to do, please do not hesitate. We fill quickly!

In 2017, we are based in Oaxaca City — a UNESCO world heritage site!

Arrive by Friday evening, March 3. The workshop ends Friday morning, March 10, 2017.  The workshop fee includes 7 nights lodging in a top-rated Bed & Breakfast Inn, all instruction, daily yoga, personal coaching sessions, daily breakfast and some lunches.  You might want to arrive a day early to settle in, avoid a late night arrival or missed connection.

Templo Santo Domingo at sunset, Oaxaca, Mexico

Templo Santo Domingo at sunset, Oaxaca, Mexico from rooftop terrace

Chicken at the Tlacolula Market: The Gift

A group of 12 women are immersed this week in our sixth annual Oaxaca Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat. All except two have never been here before. Two came all the way from Melbourne, Australia.

Chicken on the spit, seasoned with local chili salt and delicious!

Chicken on the spit, seasoned with local chili salt and delicious!

Going to the Tlacolula market is a highlight for any visitor, especially for those who have a gift list. And, we are writers, so before boarding the Teotitlan del Valle bus and entering the frenzy of market day, Professor Robin Greene, our instructor, gave us a prompt to tie the often dizzying experience to the written word:

  • What does it mean when we give or receive a gift from someone?
  • What do we remember about childhood gifts?
  • What associations do gifts bring up for us?
  • How was a gift received and by whom?
  • Is giving a gift about asking for forgiveness? For showing love?
  • For expecting something in return? A transaction?
  • Who deserves what type of gift and why?
  • When we buy something for ourselves instead of someone else, what comes up?
  • Is a purchase associated with a relationship between the person who sold it and why?
A new artisanal mezcal from Miahuitlan

A new artisanal mezcal, Tzompantli, from Miahuitlan

At the Tlacolula market, there are the obvious gifts: bottles of artisanal mezcal from Miahuatlan, colorful embroidered blouses from Mitla, hand-woven tablecloths and napkins, brightly painted gourds from Guerrero, hand-hewn wooden trucks for little boys, flouncy dresses with lace trim for little girls, a new apron for grandmother.

These did not turn my head.

I saw a lot of chicken today. I don’t know why I focused on chicken. Barbecue chicken. The women selling cooked and raw chicken. Whole chickens and parts.

There was chicken roasting on the grill. Chicken turning on the spit. The people sitting at long tables eating chicken. The chicken legs and thighs at Comedor Mary that could be topped with mole negro or mole rojo.

Chicken at Comedor Mary ready for mole negro

Chicken at Comedor Mary ready for mole negro

I ate chicken for lunch at Comedor Mary although there were many other things to choose from. Took the meat off the bone. Looked at the bone and the meat and thought about my grandmother from Eastern Europe. She killed what she cooked and then ate it.

Rosticeria, where roasted chicken is prepared.

Rosticeria, (roas-tich-air-ee-ah) where roasted chicken is prepared.

Most people here do that. Have a reverence for raising the animals, then slaughtering them for food. Would they say a prayer like my grandmother did? Do they imagine the food as a form of gift? Protein is still scare here for those who don’t make more than 150 pesos a day. That’s about $9 USD.

A chicken on Sunday is a gift. I thought so.

Portable outdoor butcher shop

Portable outdoor butcher shop

 

 

 

Giving Thanks and Remembering: Happy Thanksgiving to All

In Mexico we say, gracias, thank you. We give thanks for el día de acción de gracias, which is how our Oaxaca friends greet us.  May your day with family and friends be stuffed with turkey, gratitude, peace, laughter and remembrance for those who came before you to give you life, wherever you are.

Guajolote

I hope whatever you choose to eat — guajolote, turkey, turducken or tofucken — be delicious and abundant. An abundant life is a blessing to appreciate and to help give to others.

Sunset3

Our mom was buried a week ago in Santa Cruz, California. She died peacefully on November 15, three months before her 100th birthday. Her life was long and meaningful. We are missing her. Today we celebrate and remember.

RustyDoor

Today we will give special thanks for her life and ours.  Listen to I’m standing on the shoulders of the ones who came before me by Grammy Award-winning Cantor Doug Cotler. We will share memories, look at photos, play Scrabble — our mom’s favorite game, and how she honed her amazing vocabulary and helped us develop ours.  In the last six months she taught us the word risible and used it frequently. We all laughed.

Mom_4_16_2013-9

I am here with my son, sister, brother and brother-in-law. This last gift from our mother was to bring us together for Thanksgiving, a first for all of us.

WildMarigolds

In the past weeks as I was with our mom, helping her, my sister and brother to ease her to end of life, I realized how important it is to be in Oaxaca for Day of the Dead. It was even more meaningful this year as I prepared to make the journey to California knowing what would come.

Cactus

As I was with my mother as she made her journey, I realized this was another gift she gave me — how to leave us at peace and with dignity.

Mom

I was raised in a home where science was truth and mysticism was for the ultra-religious. Concrete proof was required to test all beliefs. Things change. I have learned from the Zapotecs who embrace the spirit world and blend it into a continuum of life and death. For me now, the ethereal is more acceptable than the concrete. Someone I knew once said, the dead don’t care. I believe they do. To know that they care is to acknowledge that we cared about and loved them.

MasaMetate

Now, I have a different experience and I’m inclined to believe that our parent’s molecules are mingled with earth and sky, that the soul, the spirit, the essense of their being and those of our ancestors are with me forever. There is much I do not know about life and death.  Life is a mystery and death a destination.

I know that I will visit my mother and she will visit me each year when I build a memory altar with food, copal, candles and a sense of  life as mystery. But this won’t be the only time either.

Candlesmoke

I am thinking of creating a Day of the Dead memory and rituals program next year to examine the way Mexico honors and remembers the deceased. I want to contrast this with how we approach death and dying in the El Norte culture. If you like this idea, please let me know!

bougambiliasflowers