Thursday, May 28, 2009

Not us

Not us we are not like them I told you so this was your fault your idea you forgot again were careless again you never listen to me you don’t care anymore we don’t do this not ever I know only I can save you from me only you can save me from you 


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Answer (to a FAQ)

I have no curtains so it can't hide behind them doesn't like my car or airplanes or public places is never idle on the sofa or twisted between my sheets it does like it under the bed outside loves the beach but not on a sunny day it sometimes sneaks into my purse I often find some in the watering can the bottom drawer of the refrigerator near where I hang my bathing suit to dry under the kitchen counter the backyard inside my boots in the pockets of my jeans tangled in the laces of my hiking shoes these are the places where I find the time to write in my blog

Thursday, May 14, 2009

It's not about being green

I was watching a TV show earlier this week (In Treatment) where a psychologist asks his 12-year-old patient if she thinks about death. She stares at him like he has just exposed her secret. He leans a bit closer to her. "We all do, you know".  

I don't know if everyone thinks about death, but I know I do. I always have. When I was little my burden was the certainty that I’d die young, because I could not conceive becoming a grown up. (Guess what, kid? You were wrong.) When I was a teenager I was defiant, challenging the possibility of my life ending, until a car crash proved I was just as mortal as the next guy (wrong again). I now mostly think of it in the context of vulnerability. My own, and that of the people I love. (Wrong again? Please?)

Through all of this I've assumed that one day I will be returned to the earth, my ashes scattered in a discreet location with a nice view. You know - ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

This is part of the reason I found the subject of the book "Grave Matters" so intriguing.  I know funerals feature metal caskets, burial vaults and embalming fluid, but I had never really considered the consequences: embalmed and encased inside a metal casket, "dust to dust" is, well, unlikely.

The book, by Mark Harris, a former environmental columnist with the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, is "a journey through the modern funeral industry to a natural way of burial".

Whether you think about death or not, the funeral industry is one that most of us will contribute to. According to Harris, Americans bury more than 1.6 million tons of concrete and nearly 830,000 gallons of toxic embalming fluid a year, not counting enormous amounts of steel.

I want a green burial. A biodegradable casket. Maybe an ecopod that is handmade, comes in colors and is made of recycled paper.

In a green burial, my body would be placed in a simple coffin, if not like the one I describe above, then one made from cardboard or soft wood, like pine. I would be laid in a natural cemetery in rural land. No headstone, please. Plant a tree there instead.

If my body can return to the elements it came from, it can contribute to generating new life. And that is all the legacy I need.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Cinco de Mayo

Most people I talk to in the United States believe that May 5th is Mexican Independence day. In fact, it's not even a national holiday. It’s regional, observed in Puebla, in honor of the battle against the French that took place in that city in 1865, when Mexicans defeated a powerful, much more numerous, better equipped French army who had not lost in nearly half a century. 

From a military perspective, winning did not mean very much for us. We lost another battle with this same army the very next day, and the French were not stopped as a result. However, the news of this brief, short-lived victory filled a poor, demoralized Mexico with a sense of place, enthusiasm and hope.  The French intervention resulted in other countries across the American continent to sympathize with our cause, and the Spanish, English and even (select) French media declared that retreating would be the right thing for the French to do.

This battle played a philosophical role in strengthening Mexican’s love for our country and solidifying our national identity. The experience of being invaded by the French contributed to determining many of the basic principles that to this day define a foreign policy I am proud of: respect for sovereignty and territory integrity, no-aggression, no interference in matters pertaining to other countries; conciliating differences through negotiation and not through force, and peaceful coexistence. Maybe this is why this day has become a celebration of Mexican heritage outside of Mexico. (Or, more likely, because it's a perfectly legitimate excuse to drink Coronas and hang out with friends.)

Our Independence Day is September 16, and it is of legendary proportions. I have never met a Mexican who does not observe it. We call it the day of the “grito”, our “cry for independence”. Every year, on the eve of September 16th (the night of September 15th) the President of Mexico rings the bells of the National Palace in the Zocalo, the historic center of Mexico City (one of the largest in the world, so it fits quite a crowd).  He then repeats the “Grito de Dolores” from the balcony of the palace to the hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of people assembled below. It goes something like this:


(Imagine the simultaneous shuffling to attention of at least half a million people.)

“Viva Mexico!" (to which everyone roars back in unison “Viva Mexico!”)

Que vivan los heroes que nos Dieron patria! (Long live the heroes who gave us our fatherland!)

Que vivan los heroes que nos dieron libertad!  (Long live the heroes who gave us liberty!)

Viva Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla!
Viva Guadalupe Victoria!
Viva Ignacio Allende!
Viva José María Morelos y Pavón!
Via Doña Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez!

Que viva México!
Que viva México!
Que viva México!

Attending one of these events should be on the list of things everyone must do before they die. You don’t have to go to the one in the Zocalo: on that day, similar celebrations occur in cities and towns and districts and homes across the country, and in Mexican embassies all over the world. The following day is a national holiday. Perplexingly, it goes by practically unnoticed north of the border. (Another perfectly legitimate excuse to drink Coronas and hang out with friends, wasted.)

Mexican Independence Day is, hands down, my favorite holiday of the year. You can keep Christmas and all the gift giving and New Year’s with its long gowns and champagne and all the chocolates and red roses typical of Valentine’s day. Take the bowl of guacamole and the tequila you drink on May 5th and leave me, in the company of my family, under any available balcony, calling out “Que Vivan Los Heroes Que Nos Dieron Patria! Que vivan!” any day.