Posts Tagged ‘Antigua Guatemala’

Free

Wednesday, March 13th, 2019

I sent off my manuscript to a first wave of Beta readers and for the first few days after, I felt adrift and purposeless. Shouldn’t I be writing, editing, rewriting? That was my existence for the past (many) years: sitting at a table or desk, opening my laptop, and beginning to work.

Now I’m floating in the sweet space of possibility, hoping my readers will like my first novel, and not yet faced with the million more edits I’ll undoubtedly need to make based on their feedback.

The first real writing workshop I ever attended was in 2006, at Squaw Valley. My project-in-progress was my memoir, Mamalita. I remember the first night, during orientation, sitting in a room filled with other writers and feeling like I’d made it to somewhere great, finally. And then, during workshop the next morning, having my pages–the pages I’d agonized over–ripped apart.

I came home, devastated. My book was trash. I’d never finish it. I spent a few weeks flattened by despair, then steeled myself to re-read the workshop’s comments. They were as bad as I remembered, as harsh, but contained within were morsels of hope: “A good story,” someone said. “I’m interested,” said another. “Keep going,” urged a third.

The criticism could make the work stronger, if I was willing to listen. The key was to stay open enough to receive the knowledge generously offered.

For years, I studied dance in New York. One of my teachers once said only two things were required to master technique: the desire to learn, and someone to teach you.

I don’t know if I’ll ever “master” writing. But the desire is there, and I’ve found the teachers.

Regardless of what happens with my manuscript, I needed to write this novel in order to tell this story. At last, I’m free of it. 

Photo credit: Jeffrey DuFlon; poetry reading with friends.

 

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Antigua Front Door 2018

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

 

Olivia grows taller while I shrink. Still nice to revisit this memory.

The Antigua house where I lived with Olivia in 2003.

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Haircut. Antigua 2018

Saturday, August 11th, 2018

Astringent scrub, straight edge razor, powder.

Red leather chair, magazines, TV in the corner.

Haircut. Antigua, Guatemala. 2018

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To finish and to begin

Friday, May 4th, 2018

One day this March when I was in Guatemala, four of us hiked up a mountain near Antigua. The hike is a favorite of my friend, Wende, an American who has lived and worked in Guatemala for decades; she and her husband, Jeff, raised their three children there.

It was Wende’s idea to read a poem after the hike, and she chose one by Irish poet John O’Donohue, For a New Beginning. We each took a stanza and the poem unfolded that way, in our different voices.

I was lucky to read the first verse:

“In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.”

As soon as I said these words aloud, I knew they were intended for me. Eighteen months ago, I began an MFA program in creative writing, fulfilling a dream that, yes, had been quietly forming since I graduated from college. After my mother died, I decided not to wait any longer. Enough stalling. I was ready to emerge.

Before the trip, Wende had asked us each to choose a single word to guide and inform our actions through the year. One friend chose “Explore,” another “Create,” and a third, “Trust.” My word was “Finish.”

Finish the MFA.

Finish the Critical Paper required for the MFA.

Finish the Final Manuscript that is my MFA thesis.

Finish. Finish. Finish.

Tonight, I’m reflecting on my word because May 25 is the end of this Project Period and I’m hurtling toward that deadline. My Critical Paper is done (!!!!) and in Format Review. My reviewer has sent it back to me three times for revision: the citations must conform to MLA format, a requirement far more onerous (to me) than researching and writing the thing. What’s left now is to finish the manuscript. Or, more accurately, finish my millionth rewrite of the manuscript.

I wish the same for you, in whatever is your challenge. To finish. And first, to begin.

For a New Beginning

By John O’Donohue

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

 

 

 

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Antigua in Spring

Wednesday, March 21st, 2018

We returned home from Guatemala more than a week ago and already it feels like a dream. Before heading to the capital, we spent one night in Antigua, and a procession from the church in Jocotenango passed by our hotel. Members of our group made a pine needle carpet covered with flowers: the purple-clad pilgrims walk around it, leaving it to the carriers of the “anda” or platform to walk through and over, disrupting the design. (I’ve been told this symbolizes the transience of life on earth.) Finally, musicians. An essential part of the solemn processions, here posing to smile for me.

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Trip to El Tenador

Sunday, August 6th, 2017

I wrote this a few weeks ago, when we were in Guatemala:

We caught the shuttle from Casa Santo Domingo to the restaurant on the hill, El Tenador. (the Fork.) Admired the Quetzal and VW sculptures of Efrain Recinos and the Jaguar mosaic of Roberto Gonzalez Goyri. Toured museums dedicated to Guatemala’s 1967 Nobel Laureate for Literature, Miguel Angel Asturias, and Pope John Paul II, also ran around the grounds and aviary. The view from the restaurant is spectacular. We recommend the tacos. (Today was our third visit. We love this place.) (They also have a zipline: Not as dramatic as in Panajachel, a bit pricey, fun.)

 

 

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Our front door 2016

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

Every year when Olivia and I return to Antigua and visit the house where we lived together in 2003, we take a photo of us standing by the front door. Last summer, we forgot to take the picture, or so I thought. I found this on Tim’s phone, from 2016.

Kids hurtle through changes at this age! Here’s Olivia in 2011 and 2013..

And 2003.

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Ruth, the one and only

Monday, September 12th, 2016

With school back in session, summer vacation seems eons away. But here we were in July in Guatemala, visiting with the legendary weaver Ruth, who sells her wares outside the ruins of Antigua’s El Carmen. Ruth’s design skills are matched by her formidable memory for faces. If Ruth meets you once, and sees you again a decade later, she will remember your name and your child’s name, and maybe even the size and color of the textile you bought. Ruth is that good.

Look for Ruth the next time you’re in Antigua. Or, if you’ve met her already, Ruth will look for you.

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Guatemala calling

Sunday, July 24th, 2016

In Guatemala, I use a tiny blue phone locals call a “frijolito,” because the phone size is like a little bean. You don’t need a complicated ownership plan, just add minutes with a phone card you buy at any tienda. Mateo and I arrived back in California, and this morning, my frijolito rang, which surprised me, because I thought I turned the thing off. And even more puzzling, the Guatemalan carrier is “Movistar,” which doesn’t exist in the US. Yet, just now a new message urged me to buy a phone card because, “Today is Quadruple Minutes!”

Feels like a small piece of Guatemala, calling out to me. xo

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Canillas de Leche

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015

For his 5th-grade cultural project, Mateo chose the food of the Ancient Maya. Mostly this involved discussing the history of chocolate and tracking down roasted cacoa beans like the ones Mateo learned about this summer at Antigua’s Choco Museo. Because Mateo loves to cook, he also decided to make the very sweet Guatemalan milk candy known as canillas de leche. The candy is sold everywhere in Guatemala, and especially in the shop Maria Gordillo, located on Antigua’s Fourth Calle, up a block from the textile paradise, Colibri, and across from Hotel Aurora.

I don’t recommend making this particular version of canillas de leche. Recipes abound on the internet, and there’s one in the cookbook, False Tongues and Sunday Bread. Mateo and I used a “quick” version we found in the comments section of a blog I can no longer locate, which called for sweetened condensed milk instead of evaporated and confectioner’s sugar instead of regular. We also bypassed the hours of stirring and cooking required while waiting for various “soft ball” stages. Although our process was quicker, our finished product in no way resembled the sublime sweet smoothness of Maria Gordillo’s.

According to Mateo, though, none of his classmates complained. ~

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