Wednesday, March 11, 2009


I came home last night...and where, really, is home? The hydro-electric came on, went off, the water flow diminished during the day, Ismael and Nono had no water because of it, we've walked back and forth up and down the road from water source to hydro house, flipping lights, turning the water pressure valves off, on, half-way, three-quarters, watching battery lights, climbing up and down the freaking dirt cliff from the house to the hydro. Anticipating some music, or a brief movie, or a moment to write on the computer...only to watch the last fading light and resign ourselves to dripping candle wax again in tin cans to hold candles for reading light.

Several things have collided to change my asinine, whining attitude. The recent horrific attack on the Chileno students in Destin, Florida, the catastrophic collapse of the market in the US that has turned humble retirees into bag boys and restaurant greeters, and a poem.....

I'll back up, then fast forward. It was hot yesterday. So hot that I cooked a large pot roast outside in a clay pot for six hours to keep the inside cool, while Greg cut wood and cleared most of the construction materials from the east side of the house. Ismael had visited the night before and explained that right now the water table at the source is just too low to run the hydro all day and night, something he seemed extremely apologetic about. April through January the water source is "bastante" (or is it vastante...Spanish just keeps escaping me these days). We discuss the situation and arrive at a solution that we can all live with. We run the hydro in the evening, it charges the batteries and we have lights and music, etc...then in the morning, we turn off the valve and let the water source replenish. We will turn the hydro back on at 7, or 8 in the evening, and enjoy power.

But 8 p.m. comes, and after five trips up and down the dirt cliff, the test light comes on for three seconds, then goes off. Something just isn't working and we have NO FUCKING CLUE! After a year+ waiting, and umpteen lucas, it's just almost too much to swallow. At 10 p.m., Greg says he wants to come back to town, where we luckily still have the rental.

It is a stunning night drive. The moon is full, the mountains illuminated. We drive into Futa with Leo Kotke strumming away on the CD player in the truck despite the accumulation of ash. I felt tired. Sick and tired of dragging a few clothes and food from town to the house. Sick of dragging dirty clothes to town, haggling to get what we need to complete the house. Sick of hoping, and waiting and being disappointed. And so, we arrived late last night and I plugged in my computer and read about the Chilean students in Florida and thought about my time as an immigrant, or visiting tourist in Latin America. And then I slept fitfully.

This morning, I woke up, made breakfast, missed my hot-water kettle which I had taken to the house along with pots and most pans in anticipation of LIVING there, and had to wash out the skillet I had just made breakfast in so I could heat water for coffee. Then, I started on a marathon of Internet...YouTube, CNN, MSNBC, email, blogs, etc. During the day of slovenly behaviour on the couch, I read follow-ups on the Chileno students, and one report quoted one female student who said, "I was a happy person before, and I will be a happy person still," and she continued on to say despite the horrific incident, she intended to come back to the US next year again. It touched me deeply.

I've been ripped off, taken advantage of, and at times singled out for scrutiny because I was a "gringa", but I have never been a target of violence because of my nationality, or skin color...not once, in all the time we have been traveling. In fact, I'd have to say I have mostly been the victim of random acts of kindness, overall. So, here is this 23-year-old Chilena, on a three-month work visa in the US to polish her English, who has lost friends and just been through what would be a horrific event for anyone, let alone a foreigner in a foreign land, singled out because she and her friends are "latinos", or foreigners, and she wants to come back. It humbled me.

That was the first domino of reality check for me. The second was an email from someone very close to us, who after working all their life, doing all the right things, being conservative, and frugal and kind, and good, lost their life savings in the recent financial debacle, but instead of whining, wrote to ask very seriously, if we were ok, and how Greg's health was. I was humbled considerably more.

Then, I clicked on the John Stewart show, an episode where his guest was a soldier who wrote a book he was promoting. Now, I am against the war, I have issues with all of that, but this thoughtful young man quoted the famous Kipling poem, "If". And my mind raced back so many years when I was a 7th-grader and had a teacher we called "Mr. Mousey". I am ashamed that I cannot remember his name, because he made us memorize the poem "If". And even before the Stewart episode was over, I looked up that poem, and was overwhelmed as I re-read it. and realized I still remembered it.


IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

And so it goes...Again. I need to pick my seething, self-pitying attitude out of my adventuresome soul, re-adjust my thinking and get on with things. I've never been the victim of an horrific crime, we have not lost our lives savings (we live our life's savings), nor have I been a soldier in a horrific war, but, Mr. Mousey is owed some credit today, because I remembered, and looked up the poem "If." And means something to me. It's about perspective. Plain and simple. It's not about comparing adversity...gauging your adversity with that of others, it is about your personal best. And that is something I can only gauge with myself, and no one else. I am the measure of me.

And I suspect that Mr. Mousey probably forgave his hideously immature 7th-grade students for their cruel behaviors, and knew that someday, they would forgive him his ears, his stray whiskers, and brutal homework memorization assignment. Kudos to you Mr. Mousey!!!!

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