Slice of Life in Brazil

20 February 2023

Since I was in sixth grade, I have had an interest in Brazil. It was the year we studied South America, and I chose Brazil for the country I wanted to focus on. I had never been there before last week, so when I got the opportunity to go, I jumped at it. As a fascinated tween, I remembered the built-from-scratch capital city of Brasilia, the Amazon, the cattle ranches, the rain forests. (I don’t think the southern cattle ranches had dangerously encroached into the rain forests at that time.)

After 55 years since studying Brazil, last week I helped to lead a Simply the Story workshop in São Paulo with young people from all over Brazil. The people of São Paulo are called Paulistanos. We felt warmly welcomed in this huge city. Here is an elfchen I wrote with Ethical ELA and Margaret Simon on Saturday about the Paulistanos we got to see each day in São Paulo.

Greet kindly
Pursue life audaciously
Drink deeply of Amor

Here are a few photos. But really, where do I start with all the amazing experiences I had?

One of many neighborhood Carnaval celebration.
Barbecued tilapia with rice and tapioca bread.
Do you see the VW in the garage? There were many on the roads, and lots of graffiti. Not too many stray dogs, though.
So many electrical wires!
I love these little bananas.
One of the lanes in the neighborhood where we stayed.
Did you know they eat mashed potatoes on hotdogs in Sao Paulo?
Brigadeiro is a sweet I saw in a few places. A young man made and sold these ones to help him earn support.
Tereré was a very interesting discovery. It has been “a social beverage for centuries…an important ritual signifying trust and communion.” Two of the participants came from the place in Brazil that practices this gentle tradition.

Now, as we look ahead to a daily Slice of Life in March, would you like to continue in April joining us at Ethical ELA for writing poetry during National Poetry Month? Click here to sign up.

Poetry Friday – Brazil Bound

Today is Poetry Friday and Carol Varsalona at Beyond LiteracyLink has the Pre-Valentine roundup complete with lots of love. 

I am on my way to Brazil for a week! I’ll be part of a team leading a storytelling workshop with Simply the Story.

I’ll write poems in Brazil this week! I’m so excited. For now, I’ll finish getting ready for a 24-hour travel day. I’ll arrive on Saturday morning. (Comments coming on some Poetry Friday posts while I’m on my layover in Dallas-Fort Worth.)

In the meantime, here is a poet from Brazil for you to meet. Her name is Paula Valéria Andrade. She made the image below as a participant in a Visual Poetry presentation:

Did you notice “arco-iris” is Portuguese for rainbow. I think it is such a beautiful word.

I used the English translation of her line for my Valentine Golden Shovel:

I am so happy that I get to
know your technicolor self,
all the ins and outs,
the ups and downs, the
colors of pain and sadness,
of joy and gladness–
the whole kaleidoscope! Every
rainbow splurge of love
with splashes of hope.
You are a treasure!

Here are some more of Andrade’s poems in English. Don’t miss the last one called “Farewell,” with these lines:

…then left
my heart
as a used rug
on the floor.

Slice of Life – A Friends and Family Week

6 February 2024

We learned a few days before they arrived that some friends we haven’t seen in five years were coming to Palm Springs for a vacation. We made plans to spend a day with them visiting Joshua Tree National Park. Last Tuesday I had this text conversation with the friends:

We both made assumptions. First, I had thought that they were still in Michigan when I sent that message. (I guess the “road” I really meant was, “Are you up in the air already?”) I assumed they meant they were leaving in 30 minutes for the airport. I also made the assumption that their ETA was to get to the airport, either in Michigan or maybe in California. I thought it was odd, but I didn’t answer anything back.

However, they had arrived the day before in Palm Springs. They assumed they had the day wrong or that we had had to change the day, so when they saw my note, they changed plans and got ready to come to our house. (They did miss the “tomorrow” in my text.) We were still in our pajamas at their ETA of 9:25.

We all laughed, my hubby and I got dressed, and we spent a wonderful day together, a day early. The weather was perfect–the best of their cold and rainy week of vacation, so that was a bonus!

It was fun to see the park through the eyes of someone who had never been to the desert. They were so genuinely enthusiastic and loved the rocks!

We watched rock climbers. Do you see them?

Then on Saturday, my nephew from Pennsylvania came for the weekend before he went to Las Vegas for a business expo. Two more California nephews were able to join us. My siblings came too, and we spent many hours together over the weekend reminiscing and laughing We laughed over crazy stuff my nephews and brother did together, a brother who became an uncle at age four. He was a ringleader of mischief–swimming in desert lakes without adult supervision, spinning donuts in the sand with younger ones in the back of his pickup, crawling through culverts in out-of-the-way places and more. We marveled with gratitude that they all grew up without a tragic accident.

We have not kept in good touch with some family members who live far away (and who have far and away political views from ours). However, love prevailed, and this visit revitalized my resolve to stay in better touch with those I love.

Thank you for coming, A

Let us forget our differences for a moment.
Mutual affection wins this time, wins over false
love of unwavering political loyalties. Let’s
continue in humble love for one another.

Hebrews 13:1a “Let mutual love continue…”

Poetry Friday – Mini Sealey Challenge and Secrets

Today is Poetry Friday, and Mary Lee Hahn has the roundup with a GoGo’s song, Nancy Kuhl, Sandra Cisneros, secrets and more.

I have enjoyed taking part in The Stafford Challenge, writing a poem a day. A nice benefit of this challenge is I have been reading more poetry as well. This week it felt a little like August, as if I was in my own Mini Sealey Challenge. I’ve read William Stafford (reading a poem or two a day), Ada Limón, Margaret Gibson Simon, and Karah-Jo Procak, a young adult woman who pours her heart out in this, her first book.

Have you read the poem “Sacred Objects” by Ada Limon? Here is a video of her reading this powerful poem. I chose this one today because I love it, and, also in honor of the Inklings, for the phrase “in this secret shadowed place.”

In holds of shame,
this is true, an unshared
secret binds a heart,
shadowed and pinched in a
place of cruel captivity.

Has reading more poetry helped my writing? I definitely get ideas; that’s good. I hope I will learn to write better poetry during this year-long experiment writing a daily poem, but I’m not counting on it. I’ll keep writing nonetheless, like Stafford said, “Lower your standards and keep writing.”

Slice of Life – A Shortened Life of a Roadrunner

30 January 2024

Yesterday on the way home from church
I was sitting in the passenger seat.
From the left side of the road
I watched a roadrunner hurrying
toward us. It happened quickly.
Roadrunner, why didn’t you veer off
or stop? The cartoon Road Runner
has led me to believe you are invincible,
wildly wise, and never take a wrong turn.
But you ran right under our truck’s
front tire, and I was sickened.

Today my heart hurt when I rode by
the place where it happened.
There are too few of you, anyway,
and now there is one less. Who waited
for you to come home yesterday?
And you didn’t.

On a lighter note, we were hiking the other day, and this box of animals with some sort of electronic tracking devices was sitting by the side of the trail. There was a large group of middle schoolers in the parking lot hearing a talk by the park ranger, so I figured they were going to be something for them. It was a funny site.

The trail was tough, so I welcomed this break with my Thermos of hot tea…

and an oatmeal date bar.

I’m enjoying reading this beautiful book of poetry by Margaret Simon and artwork by her father, John Gibson. So lovely!

Poetry Friday – Sugar Skull Piñata by Robert Benavidez

Today is Poetry Friday, and Susan Thomsen is hosting today with a pinata poem and story from Passaic, New Jersey. 

Día de Los Muertos
sings of bright rainbow skulls–
heart-shaped nose, starry eyes,
strong zygomatic arch,
mighty smile fills nighttime
fears with a holy hope

I learned the syllable square poetry form last week from Carmela A. Martino, here at Tyger, Tyger Magazine. This one is a 6×6 poem.

The artwork that inspired my poem: Sugar Skull Piñata by Robert Benavidez

Slice of Life – Paying Attention this Year

23 January 2024

I’ve missed this community the last few weeks, and I am glad you are here faithfully each week. This year my special word of the year is cherish. (I wrote about it here and here.) I want to pay attention to the joys and sorrows and slices of life that I so often miss. Maybe that’s why it’s hard for me to write these Slice of Life posts on Tuesdays.

Anyway, I have joined The Stafford Challenge this year. Kim Stafford, poet and son of William Stafford, suggested a daily writing practice where you include the date, a diary (boring prose of the day), an aphorism, and a poem. Every single day. He said when people suggest his father was a genius and they couldn’t do what he did. (Write a poem every day for decades–he wrote over 20,000 poems from during WWII until his death.) Kim said he responds that maybe his father had a genius process that all of us can use. Look at all the healing with poetry that could happen if more people would take up this genius process. Anyway, that’s what I am trying in 2024.

Here’s today’s writing page. A mess, but that’s what they tend to look like for me.

Today’s poem…

The first thing I noticed about you is that
most of your words and actions show how
important and smart you seem to think you are…yet
part of me sees myself in you. I have a fear
of giving myself too. Being vulnerable in my/
(your need) is not easy for me (and you.) It’s been our
life. My fear
is masquerading as pride. You didn’t know just
ahead of you was something you needed help holding–a fear
of your son’s health–he was sick, living in his car, with guns–
you worried. Where is his dog? He’s
not well, you knew, but his next message was garbled. He’s
behind on his prescriptions. We let go.
You cried and we held each other and prayed.

A golden shovel from a David Brooks’ quote “The most important part of your life is ahead of you, not behind you.”

Poetry Friday – Cherish

Today is Poetry Friday. Robyn has a delightful post about my favorite beverage, TEA.

Cherish is my word of the year. I just spent a week with my daughter and grandson at our home, cherishing every moment because they seem all too few.

Milo and I were playing a game in the picture above. Every time he slapped my Cherish rock, I would say “Bwue.” When he tapped my husband’s Explore rock, I would say, “Gumbo.” He composed little rhythms, like “Bwue, bwue, bwue, gumbo, bwue, gumbo, bwue, gumbo, bwue, bwue, bwue…” It was a favorite game of the week.

We had fun climbing rocks in Joshua Tree National Park.

And wearing hats and a million other things, as he had fun with everything he came across. I was exhausted when they left, but I was satisfied that I truly cherished each moment I had with him.

Ethical ELA’s Open Write begins tomorrow. Check out the prompts Saturday through Wednesday this week!

Friday is the third day of The Stafford Challenge. It was founded by Brian Rohr, storyteller and poet. We will write a poem a day, inspired by William Stafford, who had a daily poem-writing practice for decades. (One of Stafford’s famous poems is “Traveling through the Dark.”) The Challenge started on Wednesday, January 17, the anniversary of Stafford’s birth. Last evening in a Zoom meeting, his son, Kim Stafford, inspired us to have a daily writing challenge that includes four things: the date, a diary (boring prose of the day), an aphorism, and a poem. I’m going to give it a try this year focusing on my local environment. Here’s Thursday’s poem.

Lovely desert holds life, like this
little hedgehog cactus that counts its
blessings, holding onto hope in the
whispering cleft of boulders. Ready
to grow, even when soil is sparse.
Life calls to life,
that it won’t be stopped. Like the cactus
You are beauty and promise, and you
won’t be sorry if you
give it your all in living fully. Drink
up your fill of grace this fine day.

A Golden Shovel poem from Jeannette Encinias’ “Begin Again” that was sent in her email today. “Lovely little blessings. Whispering to life that you won’t give up.” 

Writing this poem also reminded me of the poem Kat Apel wrote for me a couple summers ago. Read “How to Be a Cactus” here.