Lucia has something to say

Friday, March 30, 2007

The Yapa

In Ecuador, when I bought a pyramid of tomatoes at the market from Quechua-speaking women, the tomatoes were dumped in a small clear plastic bag, along with the yapa. The yapa is the extra. One more tomato (or pepper or whatever you’re buying) as a bonus. This post is the week’s yapa.

While thinking about Fairfield, Iowa, and the Yogic flyers buying groceries next to the local farmers (or more likely the local farmers’ wives), it made me recall another grocery shopping experience. When I lived in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, it wasn’t uncommon to turn into the pretzel aisle and find Civil War re-enactors in full regalia. The war between the states brought to a grocery store near you.

I’m reading The Gods Drink Whiskey: Stumbling Toward Enlightenment in the Land of the Tattered Buddha. I just read a wonderful passage about spirit houses. So as an addendum to my post earlier this week, I just learned that people also leave shot glasses of whiskey in spirit houses. In the book, a Lao man said the whisky helps keep the spirits out of his children’s dreams.

In perusing the Chicago Green Festival booklet, I was delighted to see an acquaintance who I last saw in Ethiopia listed as a speaker. He’s written a book - Fermenting Revolution: How to Drink Beer and Save the World (topics include beerodiversity and beeroregionalism). Go Chris!

And last, but not least, happy birthday to farmworker labor leader César Chávez (1927-1993). (Thanks for the reminder, Jen.)

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Fairfield, Iowa

On the road between our houses in Wisconsin and Missouri lies Fairfield, Iowa. By all appearances, Fairfield is a quintessential small Midwestern town. Surrounded by cornfields. A central square. An Old Threshers Reunion in the summer.

But Fairfield isn’t typical at all. There are two large golden domes, one for men and one for women, to practice Transcendental Meditation and Yogic Flying. The town is chock full of artists, musicians, writers, and photographers.

It all started when Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (the Maharishi that the Beatles followed for a very short time) bought the Parsons College campus in 1974 to start what is now called the Maharishi University of Management. The university attracts people from all over the world, and The Raj, the super-spa located on the edge of town, is near an airstrip so people who can afford it can fly in and out in private planes.

Several years ago the Maharishi decided to introduce vedic architecture. In a flurry, businesses with south-facing entrances on the square moved, as south was a bad direction for an entrance. The best direction for the entrance is east. “East,” he said, “promotes health, happiness and good fortune.” There is now an entire Vedic City outside of town in which all the entrances face east.

Fairfield has an unusual number of organic vegetarian restaurants. And multiple Indian restaurants on the square. In a way, it’s a bit of a wonderland. Where local farmers in overalls mix with Yogic flyers at the grocery store. Where there’s a good Indian buffet in a rural area where you’d be hard pressed to find one. And where starry-eyed TM students believe that their meditation will fuel their success and bring world peace.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Auspicious. It’s a word we don’t use much. When I travel, I hear it often. Auspicious days. Auspicious colors. Auspicious events. Part of eastern spiritual practice is to maximize what promises success. To do what one can to be favored by fortune.

A friend in Nepal said, “The oddest thing about being in Europe and North America is that people just open the door and walk out.” There’s no ceremony. No smudge of red on the forehead. No activity saying, “Now I am leaving my house and going out into the world.”

Thai spirit houses (san phra phum) go in an auspicious location. Not in the shade of the house. In a good spot for the spirits to live. If the spirits don’t have a place, they’ll be in the house with you where they’re bound to cause trouble. Each morning the head of household offers food, drink, flowers, incense.

Offerings to the spirits are common in eastern countries. Leaf dishes filled with food and flowers laid out on the walk and in front of the door in Bali. Candles lit at stupas in Nepal. Sometimes I think we have too few markers in our lives. Too few moments of awareness. Not enough sense of who we are in the world and what might be possible.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

True or False?

Researchers at New York University say...

Women who were perceived as the most attractive tended to sway their hips when they walked. The most attractive men, on the other hand, tended to move their shoulders from side to side in a masculine swagger.

Are you a hip swayer or a swaggerer? (I think I might be a swaggerer myself!) Is this true? Or false?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Still Thinking about Rwanda

Why did the world close its eyes for so long to the suffering of so many helpless people? Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that what happened in Rwanda defies comprehension, defies explanation, and defies all conventional remedies. Perhaps it is because there is no frame of reference for such a cataclysmic event. It is too complex, too remote, too unthinkable.
- Rosamond Halsey Carr in Land of a Thousand Hills
I've been reading everything I can get my hands on about Rwanda. I keep trying to understand why. Why did everything spin out of control? And the more I read, the closer I come to believing there is no why. There's no answer. It's time for me to accept that.

I wrote a newsletter article at work today about basket makers in Rwanda. What I see in my head is a woman walking along the road with a lidded basket balanced on her head. It may contain bananas, millet, or sweet potatoes--a gift for a neighbor, a family member, or a newly married bride. Lidded baskets are rooted deeply in the country’s history. Made of coiled sisal, the designs and techniques are passed from mother to daughter. From mother to daughter. From mother to daughter.

Life in Rwanda goes on. Children play. Women get water. Crops are harvested. You can't tell that a genocide happened when you're there.

Everything. Seems. So normal.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Kayak + Lake = Madison Summer

Madison is on an isthmus, between two lakes. Here, when we hear the word rutabaga, we don’t think tuber. We think paddlesports. As in Rutabaga-The Paddlesport Shop. After spending the morning online, lusting after many and varied kayaks, I hopped in the car and made my way to Rutabaga to look at the real deal.

I’m seeking solitude on the lakes. Seeing my world from a different perspective. I’m looking for a beginner kayak. Steady. Not too heavy. My intent isn’t to drive it anywhere on top of the car. It’s to get a little two-wheeled kayak cart and pull it to the lake which is just a block away. No whitewater. No ocean. Just paddling ‘round the shoreline and in the river.

I look at kayaks with stormy names like Hurricane and Tsunami. I look at seats. One with a rudder. Blue, red, green. Ten footers. Twelve footers. Hatches, bulkheads, footrests. Paddles. I take in information. Although I feel like diving in and buying, in 3 weeks when the ice is gone, I’ll be able to test paddle. And I decide to wait.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

In Need

I was pumping gas. Putting in just a few gallons because the price is high. And he walked up. In his 30s. Not well dressed. Not well spoken. He talked in a low voice. “This isn’t a scam. See that van over there? My wife and daughter are in it. We’re 120 miles from home, and I just don’t have any money left. Can you give me $12?” My standard response is no. It’s based on a tap dance about social service agencies, responsibility, yadda, yadda, yadda. Today I didn’t hesitate. I dipped into my wallet and handed him a $20. He didn’t say much. Just walked away with his head down. I realized that reading Jen’s blog has changed me. I don’t know how he’ll spend it. He may buy food. He may buy gas. He may buy meth. He may laugh his ass off about my gullibility. And he may not. He may just be grateful. And me? I’m not going to miss $20.

Earlier this week a wise and wonderful friend identified for me a need we all have, but don’t often think about. The need for the well being of others. This need might be what drives us to work in prisons, in developing countries, and with the homeless. It may motivate us to have families and to volunteer. It may be the need I’m not thinking about but responding to in handing over a few dollars.

Friday, March 23, 2007


In a museum in Guatemala City, this sign stood out.

No smoking, drinking, eating, taking photos. No video, guns, dogs, umbrellas. The guns make sense because people are carrying them everywhere. In their cars. To the mall. But umbrellas!?

A woman did ask why in the world out of everything in the museum I was taking a picture of this sign.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Airport Hell

I returned the rental car right on time. Four hours of driving from the central coast. No delays through San Jose. Confident. My flight is at 2:30. I zip my credit card through the self check-in machine. Canceled. Weather. Somewhere between San Francisco and Chicago. The AA desk agent asks me if Continental through Minneapolis would be OK. Certainly! I smile. But then. She stops. And utters a single word. Travelocity. She stops chirping. My face falls. No inter-airline changes. Travelocity policy. Their corporate dollars up against my time. I lose. There are other AA flights. No, I am told. There are no connections for me from Chicago. People are already sleeping in the airport there. There are no hotels. And I. Must wait. Eleven hours. 660 minutes of my life. And fly through the night.

A nap on the floor. A novel. Knitting. Crossword puzzle. Lather, rinse, repeat. And repeat and repeat. I overhear dozens of cell phone conversations. I do not want to know the details of their [family] [work] [pets] [travel plans] or [intimate lives]. I mentally check "None of the above," but can't find a phone-free space. This is not my finest zen hour. Snarky. Barbed. Rockity. Knowing I won't be home until morning.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Her house is a retreat. A sanctuary. Built by an architecture professor who understood. Big spaces for sparks of movement. Small spaces for nesting and warmth. A house of alchemy. Huge panes frame the newly-green world. Ensconsed in rain. I melt into the house. Pillowed, wooden arms. I knit. The cats stretch toward the warm stove. I sleep. The dewy bunny sits in the kitchen. I rest my mind. Birds pause at the swaying feeder. And I allow. My body. Until night shade.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Berkeley II

The Faculty Club has unisex bathrooms. Three shower stalls, two with glass doors, none with locks. Three toilets. Three sinks. And a urinal.

There's a level of discomfort with the unisexness. We laugh when a Guatemalan woman says she looks up while brushing her teeth to find two African guys brushing on either side of her. These are great guys. But I don't want to be in a bathroom with them or any of the other men here for that matter. They're colleagues. It's too weird.

A Canadian described inching her clothes off in the shower stall, only have the water "hurtle" to the other side, soaking her jeans. Nothing like tugging on wet jeans in the morning. Towels slung over shower doors. People getting up very, very early to play the odds against seeing anyone else in the bathroom, only to find everyone had the same idea.

At dinner, there are a lot of laughs. There's a certain level of oneupsmanship that comes to play when world travelers tell stories. The bathrooms here spurned on the stories of other bathrooms. No bathrooms are topped by odd bathrooms. A Nigerian man tells about a hotel bathroom in Mali that had a half curtain, hanging from the top of the door. He rigged up a sheet, since the bathroom door was in full view of the room door. And we laughed. When a New Zealand woman told about being on a boat and being told to go in a hole that was hovering above baby crocodiles, the whole conversation had spiraled to its pinnacle. And after that, the stories ceased.

I like sitting at meetings with creative people from all over the world. From Kenya and Peru, the UK and Australia, India, Guatemala and Nigeria, the Netherlands. It's stimulating, enlightening, and real.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Berkeley I

Many years ago, I lived in Oakland. And worked in Berkeley. At the anthropology museum. On a Native American Grave Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) project. I'm staying within a stone's throw of the museum, on the UC Berkeley campus.

In the airport van, we passed a wonderful art car, a myriad of Ethiopian restaurants, and a homeless man holding a sign that said, "Bet U Can't Hit Me With A Quarter." Being a regular reader of Jen's blog, I think about the homeless, especially here in the Bay Area. I was thinking about this guy. If, say, 6 people pitched a quarter out their window in a day, that's only $1.50. What can someone do with $1.50? Practically nothing.

Being here brought up a couple of memories, and I'm sure there will be more.

Spending Thanksgiving one year on Alcatraz.
Going to Fruitvale Ave. and having the best tacos and cebollitas in the world.

Heading off to a reception and dinner. Upside: Seeing friends from around the world ...and probably very good food and drinks. Downside: Too much small talk.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Conflicting Desires

A relationship. Two people, multiple desires. Sometimes they match. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes one of the people does not get what they want. Sometimes they do. The dance of negotiation. Of big things. Of little things. Of the toilet seat. Or the job offer. Of the city or the suburbs. Of the tolerable and intolerable. Of the negotiable and non-negotiable.

Remind me why we do this...or why we don't.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


1. Perhaps it was a TACTICAL ERROR. Before writing my last post, I had written Mr. Archetype’s grammy-winning brother to get a mailing address for Mr. A. Said brother is known to be a REALLY NICE GUY. The kind of Midwestern guy you want for a neighbor. I wish to send a POSITIVE letter to Mr. A. However, if I were Mr. A’s bro and hopped over here, well, I might not give ME the address.

2. I tried. I really tried. You know how people say DOGS AND THEIR HUMANS look alike? I wanted to share a photo of my dog with A BANANA ON HIS HEAD. But, being wise beyond his doggie years, he would have NONE of it. Nope, no blog humiliation for him.

3. There’s a DEAD OPOSSUM on the road in front of my house. I hoped he would disappear. But HE’S STILL THERE.

4. My friend set up a TATTOO appointment for me next week with a woman tattoo artist in Santa Barbara. I’m liking that it’s a woman. I’m headed to BERKELEY and then south.

5. I added few TRAVEL PICS in a slide show on my myspace site. Head on over here if you want to see them.

6. I just ate a WHOLE POUND of organic ASPARAGUS. I hope that there's not some toxicity factor I don't know about.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Blowing Kisses to My Archetypes

Let’s get something straight. I do wear fruit on my head every single day, and except for the occasional tickle of a grape on my ear or a rotting banana, I’m good to go.

So, rolling around essences in my head brought me to archetypes. (Hey, stop squirming. Pay attention!) You know, archetypes. Idealized personas to be emulated. Like Greek gods and fictional characters and Hollywood stars when stars were stars.

For me, archetypes usually have qualities that I need to absorb (think really good paper towel).

My first kiss flies to Carmen Miranda, God rest her soul, that glamorous spitfire from the 1940s. Who wouldn’t want to be like her? Everywhere she went people smiled. What’s not to smile at when a woman walks up with fruit on her head?

My second kiss sails to an actual person who has the misfortune of being an archetype for me. I’m sure it sucks to be someone’s archetype, so I won’t name the poor soul, but he has risen to archetypal status for being profoundly creative and free in his youth. Picture a guy at the top of a hill. Somersaulting backwards. Picture an insightful lyricist and guitar player who lost track of himself sometimes. (OK, drugs may have been involved. I don't really know.) I have imbued him in his youth with special powers and remain in his sway.

Not all archetypes hold their own through life. So here’s my love letter to archetype number two.

Dear Beloved Archetype,

Back in the day, you were an amazing man (although a little femmy...but sexy as all bejeebers). Sensuous and free. It’s too bad you became cracked, lost and depressed, and your fear of failure paralyzed your tremendous unbounded creativity. Sorry you’ve went underground, hiding and silent. It pisses me off that someone with so much talent isn't sharing it.

Love always,


Monday, March 12, 2007


Here in blogland, is it all about essence? Is it about our inward nature, our true constitution? Who we really are?

I read your posts and sometimes think... That’s it! This person knows my soul. This person knows my truth. Like art shouted from the wall or music whispered in my ear.

I know they know.

When I don’t post photos of myself, I feel like what you see is my essence. My quintessence. Without distraction. My agelessness. My full human range, from silly to serious. From smothered to smitten. From saint to slacker. From me to you.

And I kind of like it.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


If you could be anywhere doing anything today (whatever day it is right now for you), what would it be?

I think I’d be at my favorite beach in Montanita, Ecuador. It’s a surfers' beach, and the waves are high. I’d play in the waves and then head back to Rincon del Amigo to lay in a hammock and drink cervezas.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Thrift Store Entertainment

I went to the thrift store for nothing more than entertainment.

Inside the door, I see the sign. White tags. Green tags. 50% off. I’m not here to shop...unless I find an art bonanza--bangles or baubles. Or the ever elusive blue vinyl LP. I wind through the sweaters and the misshapen shoes. I look at a kind of familiar top. I had one like it. No, I had it. And I gave it to the store more than 6 months ago. It looks like it’s been wadded in a bag since then. I catch a glimpse of a young, campy Wayne Newton, teeth sparkling, on an album cover.

At the end of the rack, there are heaps and piles of undies, scarves, handkerchiefs and unmentionables 5 for 99 cents that were never, ever meant to go to a thrift store. There’s a big man looking through them. His hairy belly sticks out from under his shirt. If he’s going to wear those women’s underthings, I don’t want to know.

I dodge through the bric-a-brac. An old guy picks up something behind me. I hear him tell his wife, “Look, Long John Silver. Remember when that used to be on the TV?” Huh? I am fully immersed in this surreal universe. Someone walks by speaking a language I don’t even recognize.

I must get out. I head for the door. I’m walking like a cowboy through the parking lot in my jeans. Swaggering. This makes no sense. I grew up in the Chicago ‘burbs. But I am. Somehow I have been sucked into the vortex of the fringe.

Friday, March 09, 2007


I feel like this sculpture. It's called Essence: Image & Reality. Karen Searle, the very talented fiber artist who created this, was in Guatemala earlier this week with me.

It speaks to me. And relates to my web of desires.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Web of Desires

My limbs are tangled in a web of strings, most from my past, some from my present. Desire. I want to write lines like I have sought pure splendor and She caught my star. But they’ve already been written by Mike Doughty (in German, nonetheless). I want intense talent. I want an intense life. I want to bring a dozen books home from the library, toss them on my little girl bed with its lavender bedspread, and decide which to read next. I want to ride the Tilt-a-Whirl. I want to meet Matt Wilson, wordsmith extraordinaire of the 1990s alternative band Trip Shakespeare. I want to stand on the beach with my feet buried in the sand. I want to run out to an ice cream truck, clutching quarters, and return with a Dreamsicle in my hand. I want to get a pixie haircut, become a suicide girl, kiss my dog. I want to go back in time, to be young for one more night. I want to ice skate in the woods and then sit by a fire. I want to be free and live without warning, unfettered and alive.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


I'm gathering. Gathering my life together after traveling.

Looking through the mail. Picking up library books I had on hold. Catching up with a few favorite blogs. Nibbling on gouda picked up in Amsterdam. Thinking about life. Thinking about my amazing friends. I drove through nasty snow last night to collect my dog who I had left with a pet sitter nearly a month ago before going to Rwanda. Gathering. And collecting.

On the trip I was on to Rwanda, photojournalist Gary Howe was with us. He's got some amazing photos posted of dancers from one of our stops. Take a look at There are pics of my trip that are much better than you'll see here. Leave him a message if you like 'em! (No, that's not me there in the foreground.)

I have 10 whole days before I need to fly again (Berkeley)!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Guatemala: Assault on Pacaya

Wisps of steam and smoke drift from the Pacaya volcano. Many years ago, I climbed Pacaya. It was a tough climb. First, it was hiking through the trees. Then it was sliding through loose lava scree (which will ruin shoes in a single climb). My hair was blowing horizontally in the high wind. I didn't think I was going to make it to the top. No how. No way. I kept going. And just as it was getting dark, I reached the rim. It was one of the most magnificent things I've ever seen. Bright bubbling orange lava glowed and let off steam. It was awesome.

I may never climb Pacaya again, but looking up today, I remember.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Guatemala: Mayan Women and Mayan Girls

Asking Mayan women what they need, boiled down to the bare minimum, they said...

A small concrete or adobe house.

Money for corn for tortillas. When there isn't money, people cut back to eating just tortillas and salt.

To take care of their children, and animals if they have any.

A backstrap loom to make weavings to sell to get money.

A small sustenance garden to grow vegetables for the family.

One of the biggest challenges to women's self esteem after Hurricane Stan was that they lost their traditional clothing, and were walking around in sweat pants and t-shirts that were sent as hurricane relief. It was important for them to get back to weaving, so they had traditional clothes to wear again.

And then there are the girls. It started at the pool today when a couple of gringas "fell" in with their passports, cell phones and money stuffed in their pockets. They invited the Mayan girls in. "Go ask your mothers," they said. And the girls did. And in they went, with their underwear on. And the gringas and the girls had great fun in the pool, splashing and playing.

These are girls who live next to a lake. And they said they'd never been in the water before. I think they may remember the crazy gringas well into their adulthood.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Guatemala: El Museo

In a flurry of bright color--huipiles, traditional indigenous traje, weaving--I expect life. But there's a certain deadness, static, at the museum. I want to be surprised. I want something to mystically, magically move...for the dusty loom to be used...for the empty clothing to become animated. But it will not. It remains posed at work, at play, in celebration. Color alone cannot bring it to life.

It is time to go to the highlands, where people live and breathe.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Guatemala: Bars and Locks, Locks and Bars

In Guatemala City, everything is double, triple, quadruple locked and behind bars. There's a gate across the residential street here, with a guard who opens and closes it. There are high walls in front of the house, and bars on the windows. It doesn't matter if the wrought iron is twisted and decorative. It still is keeping other people out and me in. The small tiendas are behind bars, and I have to point to what I want.

Yesterday, a cabbage truck turned over nearby and line formed to toss the cabbages, one by one, back onto the truck. Last week, a big sinkhole in the city made the international news.

I'm very glad to be leaving the city tomorrow, and heading out away from so many bars and locks, locks and bars.

Guatemala: Sharing the Dream

I'm in Guatemala City, but it scarcely feels like I'm anywhere since for a few days we're just parked on the roof of a house having a board meeting. I was in heaven last night with homemade torillas, eggs, beans, cheese, cream, and hibiscus tea--what usually is a typical breakfast, at least in El Salvador. Mmmm, mmmm good!

We are in the house of an organization called Sharing the Dream, a non-profit that promotes fair trade for cooperatives. They're part of some interesting projects including supporting an orphanage, providing educational scholarships for Mayan women and children, and buying school supplies. It's early morning, and I'm in their office, downstairs from where I slept. There are weavings in bags ready to go, crayons and photos of projects around me. The morning traffic noises are beginning to rattle through the house, and I expect my friends will wake soon.

Some of you asked about fiber arts. For the last 7 years, I've been the administrative coordinator for WARP on top of my full-time job with all of its travel. I've resigned this position and will hand it over to someone else in the next couple of months, in part, because I want time to do some other things. I'm what I call a hobby weaver, but for the last 5 years my loom has been buried under boxes in my basement, and I knit, usually through work meetings. It helps me listen and organize my thoughts, and I hope my co-workers know by this point that it's not a distraction.

So, on with my day. I told myself I wouldn't buy anything on this trip because I don't need anything more, but the chances of that are about nil now that I have quetzales in my pocket and am headed to Panajachel, a shopping mecca, in a few days. I should be supporting these indigenous artisans, right? Right!?