October Trees

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October trees paint the landscape
with bright colors,
their branches a display
of yellow, red, orange,
tinged with gold by the sun low in the afternoon sky.

October wind blows,
the leaves rustle and tremble.
Wrested free from their branches,
they scatter,
chasing, teasing each other
as they flutter through the air.
Patterns of red, yellow, orange
litter the ground below.
Branches undress for the coming winter’s mantle of white.

Some trees give up their leaves quickly,
leaving a sudden circle of yellow
around the base of their trunks.
Others are more reluctant –
yellow leaves still cling tenaciously
to their branches,
unwilling to join the blanket of color
beginning to curl and dry up
without the nourishment of their mother tree.

Beauty and sadness mingle
in this turn of the seasons.
The green of the trees’ canopy,
the bright colors of flowers
that have delighted the world have reached their end.

The trees, appearing unchanging
in long summer days,
suddenly change every day
in a flurry of activity.
The natural world embraces this change,
knowing that soon will come the season of sleep.
Squirrels scuttle up and down tree trunks,
through their branches,
shaking more leaves loose,
chasing, playing together,
vying for acorns and nuts to store for hibernation.

(A piece of discarded pumpkin
lies nearby,
an unexpected feast
for the rodents and birds.)

Rabbits sit motionless
in the presence of potential predators.
When the coast is clear,
they munch on garden fodder –
perhaps a lone tomato on a vine,
grasses and sweet herbs still plentiful
until the first frost hardens the soil.
They will burrow in their holes
that puncture the lawn,
warm as they nestle together in their downy coats.

The spring’s baby birds
now adults, are ready
to migrate in V formation
high above the autumn color.
Those birds who stay to shiver
and survive the winter
go about their business,
plucking bugs from the earth,
greedily pecking at seeds and bread crumbs
blown onto the grass,
preparing for snow-covered days of food shortages.

Ants, bees, butterflies, cicadas
have mostly died leaving behind their eggs,
hidden protected in tree branches,
on the bottom of leaves,
or buried underground,
for next year’s generation.
An occasional ladybug
crawls lazily up a fence,
seeking some warmth.
Cricket songs that punctuated summer nights
and cicadas’ incessant screeching
for weeks of summer,
have been replaced by silent autumn nights,
interrupted by rainstorms or fierce, cold winds as winter approaches.

Wind blows through the trees,
loosening their last, dried up leaves,
shaking their branches which clatter
and bend with the force of moving air.

October trees gradually give way
to stark November trees,
then turn into winter trees,
seemingly abandoned:
their branches, now bare,
spread nakedly in their complex network.
Large branches carve a path toward the sky,
smaller branches jut out from them;
the smallest ones weave their way in between their larger companions.

A light snowfall etches a contrast
between dark and light,
the blanket of white
showing off the branches’ intricate beauty.
The winter trees lie in wait,
as snow, ice and wind
each have their way with their branches.
Yet the branches,
supported by a solid trunk,
remain unscathed by these harsh forces of winter.

Branches sway and bend
under strong, cold winter winds;
they are weighed down by heavy snow,
icicles dripping from their limbs.
Yet their survival is assured:
while winter is transitory,
the trees have stood resolute
in their places,
anchored by roots beneath the earth,
growing and thriving for many years
to carry on for many more.

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Copyright © 2017 by amoralegria

This is a poetic reworking of an essay by the same title written in 2013.

 

 

 

The Historic City of Leon, Nicaragua

If you have only one day to spend in Nicaragua, León is a great choice. León is the 3rd largest city in Nicaragua and is considered the historical and cultural capital. According to our guide, Pedro Mejia, it has the largest art gallery in Latin America with over 2,000 works on display. It had been the private collection of some rich person and was donated to the cultural patrimony of the country. We would be visiting that museum later.

León is located on the western, or Pacific, side of Nicaragua, which is the developed side. The east –Atlantic/Caribbean side is the location of two autonomous regions, each about the size of Israel, with few people and little development.

León is both the intellectual and revolutionary capital of Nicaragua. In 1854, there was a civil war between the liberals (Democrats) of León and the conservatives (Legitimists) in Granada – a friendly rivalry has existed between them since.

The current socialist government provides both citizens and visitors free health care and free education through college. Dental care is not free, but it is inexpensive, and people must pay for eyeglasses.

Nicaragua today is the second poorest country in the Americas (Haiti is the poorest). Because of this, according to Pedro, there is little crime stemming from drug cartel activity. The cartels are not interested in Nicaragua because the people there are too poor to buy drugs! Pedro himself is an immigrant; he is originally from Peru but lived many years in Canada. He met his wife, a Guatemalan, in Canada, and they chose to emigrate to Nicaragua because it was cheap and safe. They own a restaurant in León, where they struggle to make a profit.

Tourism, however, is growing in Nicaragua, and Pedro makes extra money by working as a tour guide. He told us he was going to take his wife to the movies that night with the extra money he earned that day. They were planning to see the new Beauty and the Beast movie and even buy popcorn!

 

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We passed this movie theater on the bus. This was where Pedro was taking his wife to the movies with the money he earned being our tour guide!

 

As we entered the outskirts of León, out the window, I could see the more obvious poverty as we passed dirt roads lined with houses little better than shacks and working class neighborhoods with faded colors and windows covered with paper. However, it was also apparent that people did their best to keep their neighborhoods attractive with rose bushes growing through the cracks in the sidewalk, modest bright sidewalk family-run cafés, and residents diligently sweeping the front of their homes.

Downtown León was characterized by brightly painted store fronts, hotels and homes lining streets filled with cars. Pedro remarked at the number of cars clogging streets that he was surprised because few people could afford these luxury items. He used to have a car, he said, but it got wrecked and now he rides a bicycle.

Our first stop was at the central square, teeming with people, especially school kids on their midday break. In the middle of the square was a fountain flanked in lions. The square had several important government buildings, two schools, a church and a restaurant called El Sesteo, which we used to go to the restrooms, since Pedro knew the owner.

The restaurant had some interesting décor, including painted masks, a wall of illustrations under the heading “Nuestras Leyendas,” and a blackboard imprinted with a poem by Ruben Darío, the most famous Nicaraguan poet. Over the bar were four portraits of poets, including Darío.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

From there, we went to the main church, the Basilica Catedral de la Asunción, built in 1747. Its façade was totally white with six bells above the entrance, each in its own chamber. Inside was a famous sculpture of the “black Jesus” hanging on the cross in a white columned shrine. The altarpiece was gold with a royal blue interior, which offered a striking contrast.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Some famous people (including Darío) were buried in this cathedral, many of them also poets. Pedro pointed out Darío’s tomb, the “tomb of the weeping lion,” under which the poet’s body is buried.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

I liked the aesthetic of the cathedral’s décor with bas reliefs in black and white as well as the domed ceiling and arches.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

KODAK Digital Still Camera

The Centro de Arte Fundación Ortiz Gurdian with its many rooms surrounding a lush courtyard was our next stop. This is supposedly the largest collection of paintings in Latin America. We weren’t allowed to take pictures of the paintings, but we could take pictures of the various courtyards, which were really pretty.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

 

KODAK Digital Still Camera

My husband is so disobedient! He took photos of a few of the artworks:

Our final sightseeing stop was the poet Ruben Darío’s house which we were given time to view. I noticed that the informational signs were all in Spanish only, so I imagined that was why many on our tour finished looking around very quickly.

Finally, we had lunch at a convent that has been converted into a hotel, aptly named Hotel El Convento. There are many religious artworks on display and during the buffet, we were entertained with traditional music and dancing.

 

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Haiku for a diffident daffodil

I planted daffodil bulbs three autumns ago, because I love these beautiful yellow flowers that make their appearance in early spring, bringing hope of warmer weather and growing things.

Since then, the daffodil plants have pushed up out of the ground and I get excited when I see their leaves. Last year I only had one daffodil bloom. This year…will there be two?? Not so far. My one yellow daffodil brightens an otherwise still dull garden. It braves all the nasty weather that follows its appearance: wind, rain and even snow flurries, graupel and hail, all of which we’ve had since April started!

So I wrote a haiku dedicated to my daffodil.

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Doughty daffodil
undaunted by storms and cold;
Spring’s daring herald

Writing 201/Poetry: Haiku – Visions of Water

Water….grand as in an ocean or a waterfall, the reflection in the surface of a lake, frozen as icicles in the winter, or a mere drop on a leaf…

These were my visual inspiration for haiku about water:

River

River meanders,
winding and twisting its way
down to the ocean.

meandering river

Upper Kaubashine Lake

Orange and pink sunset:
Reflection on a rippled
surface of the lake.

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Winter

Water dripping down
freezes into icicles
hanging from my roof

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La Paz Waterfall (Costa Rica)

La Paz encanta:
Magia meditativa ,
templo natural.

Enchanted La Paz :
White meditative magic ,
temple of nature.

La Paz waterfall

One drop of rain

A fallen leaf holds
pebbles gathered in one drop
after a rainfall.

126(Images of river and waterfall downloaded from google; other images by author).

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Daily Prompt: Seasons

The April 8 (yes, I know, but I haven’t checked my email since then) daily prompt was:

For many of us, winter is blooming into spring, or fall hardening into winter. Which season do you most look forward to?

This one is easy – summer, always summer. I like spring because I like to watch the earth come alive again, but also because it leads to summer. Summer means warm weather. Summer means vacation. Summer means watching thunder storms at the cottage.

Summer means long bike rides and hikes. Summer means shorts, t-shirts and SANDALS!

You would probably be hard pressed to find a teacher who didn’t like summer the best. Summer is the time when we can do those things we don’t have time to do during the school year, or just to RELAX. Sometimes, though, summer is a time to catch up on classes we need for a further endorsement or credits toward renewal of our teaching certificates.

When I was younger, I liked fall the best – crisp, cool air, brilliant colors on the trees, shuffling through the fallen leaves. The worst thing about fall is that it eventually got colder and turned into winter. I have never liked winter because I don’t tolerate the cold well. However, there are some good things about winter also: the Christmas season, drinking hot chocolate curled up under a warm blanket, sitting by a warm fireplace, and when the snow has freshly fallen, the landscape is brilliant and beautiful. I like the way the snow traces the branches of the trees. I DON’T like to shovel it! I’m not into sports, especially winter sports.

All the seasons have their attractions, and I would miss them if I were to live in a place where it is summer all year round. It is a marvel of nature to witness the cycle of life every year. It’s a reminder that nature is really in charge of our planet and that no matter how our own lives are going, nature is going about doing what it always does:

Seeds and bulbs lie dormant, waiting for the sign…

Life is born as tiny plants shoot up out of the ground after a long hard freeze,

birds return to budding trees and sing their joy to the warming spring air,

flowers invite visitors by opening their petals, revealing their fertile interiors,

insects hatch and reappear, their buzzing and busyness signaling their quest for food.

Rain falls, sometimes in tempestuous torrents, providing nourishment to the soil and plant roots,

trees in full foliage provide shade and green beauty when the sun shines down its greatest heat and helps manufacture the chlorophyll

collected by their abundant leaves.

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Green gives way to red, yellow, orange and brown as trees lose their green chlorophyll and the sun diminishes its heat,

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the air turns colder and the wind blows the fallen leaves,

trees are bare, waiting for

snow, which coats their branches and blankets the ground.

The ground freezes and animals hibernate,

the land is white and silent,

early shadows extend over the blinding white landscape,

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snow falls or doesn’t,

ice melts on sunny days, dripping down into the frozen ground,

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snow melts into water and

flows down, down, soaking the ground and the dead grass…

giving a sign, with the help of the rising sun

that it’s time for life to awaken and

begin its cycle again.

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