Category Archives: hands

hungry? eat.

No need to bother the weary flight attendant to heat up William’s on-board snack.  A warmish 98.6 degrees will be fine.

ImageAfter a couple hours in the armpit…

Image…warm and tasty.

The model is wearing a t-shirt by John Beam of Chincoteague.  The Japanese letters say, “Where the air begins.” You can buy one at Anopheles Blues on North Main St.


In honor of healthy winters

For winter

I made this bowl with my own hands. It bears a snowflake on the rim and is pictured on a bed of real snow. We need real winters.

Through other eyes

If you get the news in any format, you’ve heard the whining, cursing and lamenting about the weather in the east.  It is severe, for sure, but it is just weather, we can adapt; and as I heard from a guy at the Swedish embassy a while back, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.”  I personally like inclement weather in general, and snow especially, and even as an adult get up in the middle of the night to take a look.

But we have in the house now Cynthia, a Californian who doesn’t see much of it.  Yesterday when she came into the house, without taking off her wraps she went over to the sink, where I saw her bent over gazing down. At what, I wondered.


There was a small mittenful of show she wanted to savor up close, in this way.


She is not weary, jaded or inconvenienced by snow, but has a fresh childhood fascination. Neither that nor the snow will last forever.

ImageEnjoy them while they — and you — are here.

A family visit — Jolie

ImageAt the Lincoln Memorial (where she quickly found the typo in the Second Inaugural — love that!) 7 December 2013

My niece, Jolie Hicks, 25, has just visited Washington for a few days. She is delightful.  I feared (appropriately) not being an adequate role model, not doing enough interesting and meaningful activities, not listening enough, sharing thoughts and questions.  All of those fears I still bear, but she is completely charming, open, aware but not worried, physically beautiful without effort. It was heaven.

ImageAt the National Portrait Gallery, again with Abraham Lincoln (and James Madison, I think, looking on)

Helen Hine 1


Helen at our common table, telling about her life, septiembre 2013

This is not a cheery story even when it starts out, so maybe don’t read it. I just saw her about every day so want to note it.  (I moved out of the house described yesterday, as planned.)

Helen Hines was the first person to officially meet us here in Oaxaca.  Her house shares the courtyard with ours, the whole compound owed by her partner Agustino’s daughter, Cathy.  Agostino appeared earlier in these postings, sunning himself outside in a nice hat and a shawl.


Helen at Mercado Sánchez Pascuas, septiembre 2013

She met us when we arrived in early September, gave us keys and a tour of the whole two-room house.

We have gotten small bits out of her, mostly practical information.  She informs where to hide the small plastic-wrapped 5-peso coin for the collector when putting out trash, which restaurants she likes (very similar menus at each of  a consommé, spaghetti, and one kind of meat or another, with a special fondness for fish, conclude with “and for only 40 pesos!”), and where I might find some special thing I have asked about, though maddeningly she can’t recall street names, and “it’s right past that other place” that I have never heard of either.  You know the type.

Helen is apparently quite old, but won’t talk numbers. (She said she once fired a lawyer who disclosed her age to someone.)  Also, every conversation starts with a lot of “What? What?” and a moment or two of firing up the hearing aid before proceeding.

Once in September, I asked her over to the table in the shared patio space, and offered a bit of the wine I had opened.

“Why not?” she said.  And in that quiet one-on-one I heard a bit of her life.  She has been in Mexico, specifically Oaxaca, a long time, more than twenty years, but other versions have put it much longer than that.

She must have been a bit of a seeker — after growing up in New York, there was time in San Francisco, then Guatemala, where she was asked to use her background as a librarian to start a library.  There was a marriage, which ended badly, and Helen has a son in New York City.  “But that was with another guy,” she said, waving her hand loosely at some dismissed relationship.

At some point, she met? fell in love with? hung on to? Agostino, Mexican, once an accomplished archaeologist in Mexico City.  He went to study in the United States, and somehow his career went awry.

So there’s searching, finding, scholarship, romance in the past, now making way for aging, immobility, dementia, deafness and other troubles. Who knows what else.  And you can see from the picture that she was beautiful, with fine features and gestures.

They live in the house behind the gate we share and now owned by Agostino’s daughter in New York.  Helen tries admirably to be the on-site caretaker, but the daily skills don’t come so easily any more.  To use the washing machine, we follow fairly straight-forward instructions, read to us over and over, with the warnings of the bad things that will ensue if we do it wrong.  When the water pump to our house suddenly went out, she yelled increasingly loudly to turn off the pump, ignoring William’s yelling back that it was never on.  And more like that.  Frustration and fear.  Shouting at Agostino and his shouting back.

Her joy remains the Oaxaca Lending Library, a part of her life for all these years.  Through the original and long-time librarian there, Ruth Gonzalez, came her attachment to this house.  Everyone at the OLL has great esteem for Helen, invariably grateful for her volunteer time there and praising her intelligence.  Until recent weeks, she has performed her job there organizing all the periodicals.

Sadly, in the short time we have been here, we cannot help but notice a huge decline.  Daily trips to market, just around the corner, are harder and she needs help with the small package and with clearing the obstructing stairway that’s always been here.

More later.


Calle Pino Suarez, near El Llano You’ll notice right away that “signs” in Oaxaca — and not just here — are not free-standing factory creations attached to walls, but are individual bits of artwork painted right on the plaster surface.  … Continue reading


not trick photography

not trick photography

I riffle through photographs for this blog and for memory, and to find an old shot of HOW THE HANDLE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE SET TO GET WATER to the house. Water disaster yesterday; don’t ask.

This one of William on our Day One in Mexico is not otherwise significant, but struck me as funny because the beer bottle looks huge. It is huge. That’s how they are. We shared it.