I have always loved words. When I was little, about eleven or twelve, my grandmother asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I told her that I wanted a dictionary. I received my first Webster’s. It was a school edition, but I loved it. Sometimes I would sit with the dictionary open to a page and read all the words on that page with their definitions.

My grandmother knew I loved words, so she also gave me her very own Roget’s International Thesaurus – the 1941 edition (which makes it a year older than I am). My first dictionary went the way of all good books (which means I have no idea where it is after having given it to my son when he went away to school in the States) but I still have the Thesaurus and use it frequently, although I have acquired a new edition dated 1978 and today I generally prefer to google the word because internet offers all kinds of fascinating connections.

Yesterday, somewhere on Facebook -or maybe it was a TED talk- I heard and saw the word that forms the title of this page; kufungisisa. It is Zimbabwe for ‘depression’ and literally it means ‘thinking too much’ which –of course- hits the nail on the head. If I am constantly thinking gloomy thoughts (nobody loves me, the world is in a terrible state, everything is wrong, I’m all alone, I’ll never have enough money) and believing these thoughts, I create a state of kufungisisa, I get the ‘thinking disease’ which in the west we call ‘depression’.

To depress means to deject, to make despondent, to exhaust, afflict, beat down, bother, dampen, daunt, discourage, dishearten, dismay, dispirit, disturb, dull, lower, reduce, sadden, sap, trouble, upset, weaken, weigh down. Or, in a sense, to abase, cow, darken, debase, debilitate, degrade, desolate, devitalize, distress, drain, enervate, faze, mock, mortify, oppress, perturb, scorn, torment, try, weary, to reduce to tears… which is exactly what depression or kufungisisa does.

Well, today –despite the fact that the lights have gone off and on four times and made me rewrite entire paragraphs of this post- I am not in a state of kufungisisa, although I very well could be if I did not regularly question my thoughts.

For instance: the other day someone said to my face that they considered me despicable. Now that is a word I don’t remember ever using either in my conversation or my writing. Despicable is a word that apparently can and did make me rankle for a moment as I withdrew from the speaker and sat with. For a while, I was definitely nettled, peeved, piqued, ruffled and put out, but as soon as I was able to find how that person might have seen me as despicable, and realize that what I had done to provoke her wrath might have been done in a kinder way, I was free to apologize for my part and move on to simply finding exactly what the adjective meant and how it did for synonyms. It was a rich field of investigation and one that had a personal motive: I wanted to see if I really had been despicable, as the other person had suggested.

Despicable is an adjective meaning very unpleasant or bad, causing strong feelings of dislike. It is said of someone deserving to be despised or regarded with distaste, disgust or disdain; contemptible. This person might be so worthless or obnoxious as to rouse moral indignation (oh dear me, what I had done wasn’t really that bad!!!); a wretched or wicked person (not me at all, no, at least not in this case).

According to internet, if you say a person is despicable, you are emphasizing that they are extremely nasty, cruel or evil. I looked closely at myself and certainly did not find that I had acted in any way that made me abominable, abysmal, apocalyptic, appalling, awful, corrosive, grisly, grotesque, gruesome, maybe just a little bit hateful, but certainly not rotten, shitty, shockingly stinking, wretched, vile, perhaps a bit mean, but in no way detestable nor contemptible, low, base, cheap, worthless, disgraceful, shameful or abject, perhaps just a mite reprehensible, but in no way ignominious, disreputable, beyond contempt and deserving of hatred and contempt. To say the least, I found that the person who called me despicable had exaggerated (as in amplified, distorted, falsified, inflated, misrepresented and overdone it just a wee bit, and with this the rankling, bother, hurt, vexness desisted.

So, seeing that the sun has finally come out and the despicable weather (as in appalling) has passed, I think I will take this just slightly abominable self out for a walk with my lovable (as in adorable, captivating, cute, delightful, darling) dog, Salomé.


Coincidentally I was reading We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver when the Florida school shooting took place killing 17. It was a riveting read about a 17 year old boy who kills 9 people in his school and more so as I longed to understand what goes on in the mind of any young person capable of committing these atrocious acts. In the book, Kevin’s mother (the narrator) also struggles to understand why her son meticulously planned and carried out the murder of 8 school companions and one teacher. I will not spoil the book for anyone who wishes to read it and, in spite of what I considered an unnecessarily gruesome end, it was well worth the read.

As with everyone I know, I was horrified not only by the Florida killings, but with the printed fact that by the 15th of February there had been 18 school shootings in the United States[1]. That’s one shooting every two and a half days, every 36 hours. No, mistake: there are 13 days (weekends and the 1st of January) where there was no school, so it was 18 shootings in 34 days, or a shooting every 1.8 days. As The Guardian states in the note below, there were a couple of accidents, some incidents with no deaths, and two suicides but none the less, there were 18 gun related incidents in schools in the first 34 working days of 2018.

As if this were not bad enough, I then heard President Trump (or The Donald as Obama called him) say that the problem was that schools were gun-free zones (not that kids could buy or get a hold of automatic and semi-automatic weapons) and that the solution was to arm the teachers[2], a proposal that shouldn’t even merit comment, much less consideration, an opinion I voiced to a group of friends during market day in Salies. I was surprised to find that one of the ladies, though claiming that semi and automatic weapons should be banned, considered that having a gun was a necessary defense. This made me think of my father and remember an incident that taught me a lot about guns when I was young.

1920 Sep 25, Laguna de Medina 2First some background. My father was a hunter (the picture on the left depicts him at 18, in Spain, 1920) and, as such, owned a good amount of shotguns which he kept under lock and key in a gun cabinet. Everything I know about guns I learned from him. Even as a child I was taught that you never, EVER, point a gun –even a toy gun, even a water pistol- directly at another person. When I asked my father why he didn’t buy himself a pistol, he said that he had shotguns because they were for hunting; pistols, and most other weapons were for shooting people and he had long ago decided that he never wanted to kill any other human being (he had done his military service during the Rif war in Africa and, from what I have read about it, there were atrocities committed on both sides); that –according to him- was the reason he had not gone back to Spain when the Civil War broke out for he would have been expected –as a member of the Spanish nobility- to lead troops into battle.

When I was around the age of 13, my father began to show me how and how not to handle a shotgun. I was taught that the moment the gun was handed to you, you break it open and check the barrels to see if it is loaded; that you never walk with a loaded gun even if you have it open (his best friend had lost an arm by tripping while walking with an open, loaded gun); that the safety should be on at all times until the moment you plan to shoot your prey. He showed me how to clean a gun after using it, how to aim ahead of a flying prey so that the shot and the bird would cross paths. He took me to shoot skeet at the gun club and let me practice until I was pretty good at it. Then he took me duck 1922 1 (2)hunting, in Acapulco, out at the Lagoon of ‘Tres Palos’ (Three Sticks) where we stood, at the break of dawn, up to the knees in swamp water, hidden by the marsh grasses, waiting for the ducks to fly over. I remember feeling very important to have been included in the hunting expedition (my mother had preferred to stay home in bed and was happy to have me as a stand-in) although I don’t know if I shot any duck on that first time. Neither do I remember how often I went with my father. Actually I only have two clear memories of these experiences: the first, feeling things crawling up my legs from the swampy water (and discovering later that it was nothing more than the air bubbles from my sneakers) and the time I shot and wounded a duck. The poor animal dropped to the water well within my reach and I could see it fluttering helplessly. From watching my father, I knew that it was my obligation to wring the creature’s neck in order to end the suffering I myself had caused it. So I waded out to where the bird lay and took it gently by the head with my right hand. Then, trying not to look into its eyes which were still open and alive and attempting to kill it without causing it harm, I gave it a couple of soft swirls. I can still feel today the warmth of its body, the life still present there. I was heartbroken, I hated myself and I just wanted the damn bird to die so I could stop suffering myself. It did not oblige under the gentleness of my feeble attempts. So after three half-hearted swings and seeing that the duck was still flapping around suffering, I could stand it no longer. I plunged the feathery body into the water and put my heavy cartridge box on top of it so that it finally drowned to death. I realized in that moment that I was not capable of killing an animal and I have never been hunting since.

1951-3 Mexico (4)However, the incident that taught me the truth about guns took place a year of two later. Our house in Mexico City –as most of the houses there- had a flat roof where we hung the laundry and had a storeroom. Late one night, after we had all gone to bed, my father heard footsteps on the roof and realized that someone had managed to climb up there and was walking around. As my mother told the story later, my father grabbed a broomstick and went up to the roof to face the invader. She was laughing and my father was right there eating breakfast so it was obvious the story had a good ending, but I was shocked.

“Why didn’t you take one of your shotguns?” I queried, thinking how ridiculous and helpless a broomstick must have looked to the invader. “Supposing he had had a gun?”

“Well,” my father explained, “if he had had a gun, he obviously would have been more than prepared to use it, something that for me would have been difficult if not impossible; so if I had appeared with a gun he might have shot me right off while I considered the possibility of doing the same. A person who breaks into a house with a gun is prepared to use it; I was not. It was safer to go up without a gun if you know you are probably going to think twice before pulling the trigger.”

I understood perfectly: I couldn’t even wring the neck of a dying duck to stop its suffering! So, I ask myself or anyone else who will listen, how many teachers are prepared to pull out a gun and shoot a student before he sprays everyone in the classroom with automatic fire power? It’s ridiculous! Even if the teacher is trained and manages to extract his/her gun from its concealment, aim at the student and pull the trigger, the possibility of landing a deterring shot before the other responds in kind is minimal. And then we have to think how many teachers would be able to do this and how can we be sure that the classroom to be shot up is one with a gun-toting teacher? My history class was taught by a Miss Hunter who –if I remember correctly- was a small, aged lady with white hair and glasses. I just can’t imagine her pulling out a Smith and Wesson from her girdle and shooting our aspiring high school killer before saying calmly to the class: “Please open your History books to page 347 where we left off last Friday and commence reading, and, Ralph, would you mind removing that trash from the doorway and depositing it in the Principal’s office.”

The basic argument against gun control runs to some version of the following: “With gun control, the good people will be forced to give up their guns while the baddies will continue to have them; we will be defenseless”. Nothing is farther from the truth, as my father well understood and showed me with his brave example. If someone armed enters to rob my house, he/she probably does not mean to kill me, just to take what he/she wants and depart. He/she will only shoot me if I threaten to shoot him/her. If, on the other hand, someone wants to kill me, they will undoubtedly do it while I am walking down the street unarmed, or driving by in a car unarmed and not while I am in my own home where I might have a weapon. Therefore, gun control might actually save my life, not put it in danger.

The mostly ‘kids’ who shoot up schools are not hardened criminals; they are usually ordinary –sometimes mentally or emotionally disturbed (not ‘sicko’ as Trump said)- kids. Gun control would make it more difficult for these unfortunates (yes, they are as unfortunate or perhaps more so than the ones they kill) to obtain weapons, especially automatic weapons. It is much more difficult to kill 17 people shooting them one by one, than it is spraying them with a hail of bullets without even having to aim.

As I am not a hunter, personally I have no use for a gun in the house; I know I would be absolutely incapable of using it. I have proof, for when I was kidnapped, many years ago in Mexico City, I found myself trying to figure out a way to escape. One day, the kidnappers left an empty bottle of wine in my room and I thought to myself that I could use it to hit my guard over the head the next time he came in and make a break for it. Immediately I realized I would try to do it gently so as not to hurt him (just like the poor duck) and that would have me ending up as the object of his wrath. Fortunately, the police did the job for me and I was rescued.[3]

So if you ask me –and nobody has- I’d say “not more guns, not less guns, but NO GUNS is the only solution.”

[1] In all, guns have been fired on school property in the US at least 18 times so far this year, according to incidents tracked by Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control group. In eight of these cases, a gun was fired on school property, but no one was injured. Another two incidents were gun suicides, claiming the lives of one student and one adult on school property. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/feb/14/school-shootings-in-america-2018-how-many-so-far

[2] Some gun rights advocates have pushed to expand gun-carrying in schools further. Andrew McDaniel, a state legislator in Missouri who introduced legislation last year to make it easier to carry guns in schools, told the Guardian that, in rural schools where it might take 20 or 30 minutes for law enforcement to respond to a school shooting in progress, it made sense to have other armed citizens ready to step in. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/feb/14/school-shootings-in-america-2018-how-many-so-far

[3] The book I wrote about this incident is called Once días… y algo más and is available on Amazon; the translation into English, Eleven Days, is out of print and 2nd hand copies are quite expensive I believe.


Mom 80Funny how some moments stick in one’s mind forever. I was just making myself a salad for lunch and every time I make a salad I remember my mother. Not all of her, just one precise incident, one small moment in time. It must have been in the ‘60s, we were at my parent’s weekend house in Valle de Bravo –a small lakeside town in the wooded hills of the State of Mexico about three hours’ drive from Mexico City- and they had invited a Norwegian couple with whom they had been friends (and neighbors) for years: Ella and Ivar. My mother set about preparing dinner and Ella offered to help (I was in the living room talking to my father, I think). Suddenly my mother stomped out of the kitchen; she was livid, her thin face all screwed up into a grimace, her boney hands tightened into little fists.

“She sliced the lettuce! How can she be so dumb? Lettuce for salad should be torn not sliced!” She seemed beside herself with rage. I remember being shocked not that my mother was mad (a state she often found herself in), but that she could get so upset over such a small detail. What in earth did it matter if lettuce for salad was sliced with a knife into even pieces or torn by hand into uneven pieces? I don’t suppose anything came of my mother’s tantrum that night because I remember nothing more about the evening, but even today I can never prepare lettuce for salad (tearing it, of course) without thinking of my mother and her rather absurd anger that one evening, and when I slice the endive that I usually include in my salads, I wonder if she would have thought I should tear it also.

I must admit that my mother getting angry was something that happened more often than I like to remember. One of my early “traumas” stemmed from the yelling fights between my parents after they had had a couple of evening cocktails. I remember my mother saying once that she never slept so well as after a fight with my father (she would stomp off to the bedroom and lock the door leaving him to sleep in the living room or library).

Strangely enough, the fondest memory I have of my mother is precisely of her getting angry. It comes from when she was much older, in a nursing home in Madrid, Spain, and completely gaga. Senile dementia had stolen her capacity to speak and to understand all but the simplest of phrases, such as ‘Would you like some ice cream?’ The only thing she seemed to have not forgotten was how to get mad. Some days when I would go to visit her in the residence, she would see me come through the door and her face would screw up into a grimace of anger and her hands would tighten into those two little angular fists that seemed to say she was ready for a fight. She would glare down and off to the side as I stepped into the room.

“Are you angry, Mother?” I would query gently, smiling to myself and her whole body would tighten even more like a spring forced to twist against its natural coil. “Ok then, I’ll just sit here beside you for a moment and wait,” I’d say, taking the empty chair to her right. We’d sit there in silence for about three minutes and then she would stand up, take two steps, sit herself down on my waiting knees, lift her legs so I could pass my arm beneath them, and cuddle up to my neck like a child. She weighed no more than 47 kilos by then, so holding her thus was easy and delightful. All the love that many times I had failed to feel for my mother previously would flow through me at those moments and I would melt with tenderness for that head-strong, demanding, spoiled woman who had given me life. She… Life… gave me that most precious memory that even today –more than eleven years after her death- I cannot remember without feeling tears of joy filling my eyes and without my heart swelling with love. It is strange, perhaps, that this should have been her parting gift, seeing as she had seldom been physically demonstrative towards me before. As a matter of fact, I have very few –if any- memories of physical closeness with my mother except this incredible present of her final years.

When I was 50 (my mother would have been 77) and recently divorced from alcohol, cigarettes and my husband, I went into a prolonged period of psycho-therapy and discovered that I, much like my mother, was filled with rage and that 99% of this fury was directed against what I saw as the spoiled, selfish, egocentric adolescent of a mother I had. I remember entire sessions with the therapist, me insisting that I hated my mother and she gently suggesting that, actually, I loved her. Little by little, I worked through the anger, learning to place limits, to not allow her manipulation and to see her as the aging, frightened, lonely woman she was. Then something happened that changed our relationship forever.

She had dropped by my house and was about to leave when suddenly into my head and out of my mouth came the following words: “I want a Mommy-hug”. She looked at me obviously bewildered. I stood there in front of her waiting. By that time, she had shrunken quite a bit and I was around 6-8 cms taller than she was; I could have easily taken her in my arms forcibly and done the hugging, but that wasn’t what I wanted. “Give me a real Mommy-hug” I insisted opening my arms but not moving towards her. She cautiously and stiffly lifted her arms and placed her wrists at the height of my waist, giving a little squeeze.

“No,” I stated firmly, “I want a Mommy-hug, a really real Mommy-hug.” She moved a little bit closer so that her forearms could sort of bend behind my waist but she still was centimeters away from the bulk of my body. I felt a slight increase in the pressure, but whatever it was, it was so far from a hearty hug that I repeated with even more emphasis: “No! A Real Mommy-Hug!”

With that, she suddenly moved in close, entwined her whole arms around my waist as I put mine around her shoulders and we hugged a real hug. I have no explanation for what happened in that instant. I can only describe it like a lightning-bolt of energy passing between us through the whole length of our bodies. I don’t even know if she felt it too, but I was left speechless. She quickly let go and stepped back, mumbled something and headed for the door. I couldn’t even move, fixed in place by the memory running through my body of what had just happened. I heard her car drive away, but still I stood there, glowing with the absolute realization that I loved my mother, and that what had passed between us could only be the intense discharge of the energy of that love so strongly denied.

A few minutes later, I was still standing there or close by, when I heard her car pull up again. Then I heard the car door open, and her feet rapidly mounting the steps to my door. Suddenly a small morsel of paper was slipped under the door, and her steps descended again, the car door closed and she drove off. I moved to pick up the paper. Written on it, in pencil and in her neat, measured script I read:

        That hug was the most important that has ever happened to me in my life.

That was all, nothing more: no gushing, no overstatement, just sixteen simple words expressing –perhaps- her painful, lifelong incapacity of physical closeness with her daughter. From that day on, every time I saw my mother, I would adopt a mischievous expression on my face, tilt my head and laughingly say: “Oh boy, oh boy: time for a Mommy-hug”, and we would move easily into each other’s arms laughing.

A short time later, my mother began to lose her cognizance and over a period of eleven years she slowly left. In the beginning, it was not easy for either of us because she was terrified and I was intensely and selfishly working on rebuilding my life, but we did the best we could as we all always do. Those eleven years, during which I was responsible for making my mother’s life as easy as possible given the circumstances, were a gift. I never brought her to live with me (as my brother had suggested the moment he knew her mind was going, to which I countered that he might consider having her move in with him, thus ending the conversation) because I had decided that I had a right to love my mother and I knew that if I burdened my new life with her ever increasing care, I would end up closer to murder than affection. While in Mexico, I hired the best help I could so that she was always seen to, accompanied and cared for while living in her own abode. When I moved to Madrid and brought her with me, she was placed in the best nursing home available, only six blocks from my home so that I could visit as often as possible. I know I did the best I could and, therefore, I have no regrets. And I asked the Universe, God, the Cosmos or whatever you wish to call that which governs our existence on this plane, that if it was possible I wanted to be with her when she passed. That wish was miraculously granted as I have written about in another place and will not repeat here.

Now I am near the age my mother was when we had our first hug, progressing through my own 70’s and I begin to contemplate (still, I hope, at some distance) the wrapping up of my personal story. I cannot say that I have done a better job than my mother at mothering because I doubt very much that I have. But fortunately now I know –just as I hope that she did- that I have done the best I could, always and that I love my children just as much as my mother loved me which –in the end- turned out to be more than enough.





Now that I am almost totally recovered from my latest bout of Foot-in-Mouth disease thanks to eating a lot of Crow, I can turn my mind and my writing to other matters of more immediate importance.

But before I do, allow me to say that Foot-in-Mouth disease has been with me always, sort of like cold sores or pimples which are hard to avoid getting at some time in your life if you are human. For some strange reason, I never learned to keep my mouth shut, or that Silence was Golden, or that words once spoken (or written as is often my case) could not be taken back, or any of that adult wisdom which is so generously spooned out to young-uns. This doesn’t mean I can’t keep a secret; I am actually an excellent secret-keeper. If someone says to me: “Please don’t tell anyone what I am about to tell you,” I will put the forthcoming information in the forget-it box and never recall it again. My friends can attest to that. But if you do not give me those specific instructions when you share something with me, you run the risk of it appearing in a conversation later on or –more likely- in a blog-post, a letter, or even in a posthumous diary my children choose to publish. Everything is fodder for the beast of creativity and when it lets loose, there is little room for contemplation of dire consequences. My kids, now-a-days, come up with TMI (too much information) when my telling of a story exceeds the proper amount of editing, because they are used to my always adding more details than needed.cof

Now, on to other things such as the weather. The weather has been more than ghastly. It has been frightful, dreadful, horrendous, hideous, grisly, revolting, repulsive and downright gross! Having completely skipped over the need to produce a few frosts to kill vermin and mites (we had but three days below zero in November), winter has proceeded to weep its eyes out in drizzles, in torrents, in scattered drops, in mizzling mists (sort of like the kind of moisture spray you can buy to humidify your face)… nonstop! Apart from making Salome’s and my daily walks a kind of torture by water, the extreme humidity has cofprovoked a very early spring.

Yesterday it rained almost all day –give or take an hour or two around noon- and today we have even more. The Weather Man announced that our region was on Orange Alert (which is about stage three on a Def Com scale of 4) for flooding and the map of France was 98% grey with raindrops all through it. Thursday we had what had to be the most beautiful day in a cofmonth, during which the sun pushed its way through the clouds for at least two hours and no rain fell. But before and after that it has been one storm front after another, accompanied most times by strong winds that uproot trees from water-logged soil, topple lamp-posts, and strew the streets with dead leaves and branches. Even the roosters and hens are oznorwater-logged.

It’s not even the end of January and the daffodils are coming up, the camellias are blooming, lawns are filled with dandelions and the white and yellow polka dots of paquerettes (usually not seen until around Paques or Easter oznorweek) and I just sighted several printemps (the definite spring flower) peeping out under the bushes in a flower bed and even a lonely violet. And the temperature, apart from seldom going below 9ºC, pushes up to 13º, 14º and 15ºC during the day even without the help of sunlight. It seems that if we had sun, we would have summer already! And then there are some who deny the problem of climate change (won’t mention any names because of oznorthat F-in-M disease which could catch up with me next time I want to visit my son in Los Angeles).

Every once in a while I pause in my writing and turn to glance out the window only to certify that the rain keeps on falling. Oh well, it is Sunday, after all, and I have a couple of good movies to watch, so… until it is time for Salomé to go out again, let it rain, let it rain, let it rain (to the tune of ‘Let it snow…’)


In my last post I spoke of forgiving myself, but recent events have made me think about forgiveness in and of itself. I have come to believe, through personal experience, that the best definition of forgiveness is the one that Byron Katie gives: “Forgiveness is the realization that what you thought happened, didn’t.”

This is true: if I believe someone has done something wrong to me, I can question the belief that they did it to me which invariably leads me to see quite plainly that it had nothing to do with me and it was only I, myself, taking it personally that caused the pain. If someone hits, insults or in some way tries to harm me, I can understand that they are doing the best they can in that moment with what they are believing about me or about themselves (they are striking out against the person they believe me to be, not who I really am). This, of course, doesn’t mean that I will stick around and let them continue abusing me or themselves, but understanding that they are doing the best they can with what they believe in the moment, allows me to see that it has nothing to do with me and therefore there is nothing to forgive.

Voilà an example:

I had quit drinking –let´s say- three months earlier, in other words I still wasn’t emotionally very sober. My mother came over to our house (I was still married then) for supper and she came through the door gaily announcing to my husband: “Fernando, your drinking partner is here because Brianda no longer drinks.” I flew into a red rage MAMA–doubly so, because my husband couldn’t understand what I was so angry about- said a couple of nasty things in a loud voice and stomped off to the bedroom. The thought was: ‘How can she be so cruel’, obviously to me. That scene alone sufficed for years to prove to me how unloving my mother was which, of course, was one of the reasons I was so messed up.

It wasn’t till years later, many years later (after my mother had died, actually), that I questioned that belief, thinking it was time to forgive her. The thought was: she was being cruel. As I viewed the scene, in my mind’s eye, first holding the thought (still rage) and then without the thought (sudden realization and laughter), I saw clearly that her entering announcement had nothing to do with me. It was my mother being her usual flirtatious, playful, man-attracting self that always wanted attention (but only all of it). As I watched the scene play over again and again in my mind’s eye, I felt a wave of love for my mother, a smile spread across my face and a mad desire to run and embrace her took hold of me. I felt so sorry I had treated her badly at that moment. It was then I realized that there was nothing to forgive, there never had been. There was a sadness in my work that day for, when I turned the thought around (I was being cruel to her) I could definitely see that I had been, attacking her directly with every intention of hurting her. But The Work freed me. It freed me to love my mother with all my heart which is my birth right.

Even forgiving myself is understanding that there is nothing to forgive: I can’t know to do any better than I know to do in each moment; when I raged out at my mother, I was still believing all my thoughts. It would be many years before I was freed from this. So when I said in the previous post that I forgave myself, it actually was saying that I1944-1 Poughkeepsie25042014 (2) realized I had done the best I knew how to do with the information I had at the moment and that now, with new information, I would hopefully not repeat the mistake. Slate wiped clean.

So this is what Katie means when she says that forgiveness is understanding that there is nothing to forgive; that we are all, in every moment, doing the best we can with what we believe.

Unfortunately, the person who supposedly (the harm is done, she said, but never specified where or how) suffered the wrong I unwittingly committed, does not feel the same way. For her there is no forgiveness possible. I would not know this for sure (although I suspected it would be so, knowing this person) until yesterday morning when I worked up enough courage to walk into town and enter the café where we gather.

cofAs far as the group went, there was only one person (whom I will call our local Drama Queen because she is always in a state of righteous anger about something somewhere she has found wrong) in the Café and I walked over to say hello. Before I could reach her, she swung around on her barstool and told me she was furious with me because I had fought with the other member of the group and therefore she –the person I had fought with- wouldn’t be coming to the coffee group any more as long as I was there, and therefore the Drama Queen would never see her again. I politely, but firmly, set the story right (I did not fight with her, I made a mistake and she was apparently hurt by it) and told her not to worry, that it would be me quitting the group so the other friend could come. I realized, in that moment, that I had made a decision.

The ironic thing about this scene is that the person whom I hurt and was not going to come to the café any more, can’t stand the Drama Queen who was so bitterly lamenting that she would never see her again (something ridiculous as they live in the same town and if they were friends they could visit each other; but they are not even friends). Anyway, I sat alone and drank my coffee and then left.

WINDOWStrangely, as I walked home, the thought of not going to the café every morning for coffee didn’t weigh me down; on the contrary, I felt lighter. Inside, there was a conviction that the Universe never closes a door without opening a window, and all of a sudden I began looking forward to what might come next. Yes, during the afternoon, I had a couple of down-thoughts (I won’t have the group to buy presents for when I travel any more, and there will be no birthday celebration for me on the 1st of August this year) and a slight feeling of loss swept through my chest thinking of the friend who will not forgive, but on the whole I felt pretty good. During the afternoon, I wrote to the coffee group and explained the situation without going into details, and announced that I would be retiring from the group out of respect for the ‘injured’ party who had been there long before me.

One friend answered, it was the artist and sculptress. She jokingly suggested that instead of a café group we form a restaurant group and invited me to join her and some painter friends for lunch the following day (today). I gratefully accepted, and there it was: new beginnings. Added to that, a dear friend who reads my blog, alerted by the last post, emailed me to let me know she was there if I needed anything. That felt so sweet that grateful tears filled my eyes.

img_5192This morning I went to another café (where the coffee is slightly more expensive but much, much better) and had a jolly conversation with a woman who was visiting from a nearby village (in French!). Then at noon, I met the Artist lady and her friends, spent a delightful two hours and had a delicious lunch. C’est la vie, what to do, that’s life!


You will stumble.                                                                                                                              You will fall and bruise yourself. You will feel like giving up.

The path won’t always seem clear.

But remember, friend: You are forever on the path.                                                                         Losing the path is part of the path. Forgetting the path is part of the path.

Your true path cannot be lost.                                                                                                      Your true path is wherever you are.      (Jeff Foster)


So I made a mistake…  no doubt about it, a big mistake, something that apparently hurt another person, or at least they think so and have told me in so many words that they are very disappointed in me. I am not going to talk about the mistake as such, but rather about its effect on me. I know everyone has made mistakes and I am sure I am not the only one who has reacted in the manner I am about to describe.

I had no idea I had erred until this person called me on the phone, said that they were furious with me and told me why. At that moment, I saw the mistake, the big one. I felt as if the bottom of my life had just dropped out and everything I held dear was draining away. The sinking feeling was accompanied by the realization of my absolute powerlessness: the mistake had been made, there was nothing that could change it, it was already in the past, soldered there for all of eternity.

I immediately said I was sorry, that I had meant no harm, that they were absolutely right and I was responsible and how could I make it right. As the mistake was in writing, I offered to erase what had been written, although as that person so rightly pointed out, I could not erase what had already been read: the harm was done (according to them).

Anyway, I did what I could to correct the uncorrectable and then asked if there was anything else I could do. The answer was once more that this person was very disappointed in me and that the harm was already done. It sounded pretty final.

There was nothing left to do but to live with the MISTAKE, which is punishment enough as everyone must well know. So for two days now, I have been living with the mistake. Of course, living with it seemed –at first- like doom: there was nothing I could do, nothing that would change what had been done, nothing to avoid being rejected by everyone who had contact with this person if they decided to inform (warn) their friends. The feeling of doom –which was so disastrous that it made me contemplate the possibility of having to move away from my beloved little village-, was followed by a devastating feeling of shame. All I wanted was a hole to crawl into, and it didn’t have to be very big, given the diminished state in which I found myself.

But something was different from other times when making a mistake had seemed like the end of the world. There was a part of me that stepped outside of the bowed and shameful me, and looked on kindly, perhaps even embraced me at a given moment. So warm was this embrace that sweet tears would fill my eyes and help me get past the sinking feeling and back into the living world.

During these two days, days that felt like I was mourning the death of someone dear (myself, no doubt), that larger presence never left me and every time I took a dive into the depths of despair, there would be a hand there and a kind of soft knowledge that nothing happens but for the best. I can’t count the times I have felt tears coming and dribbling down my cheeks and in each instance that other presence would patiently wait, holding me until the feeling of unworthiness passed.

Then today she/it, asked the question: “You shouldn’t have made a mistake, is that true?” and I couldn’t find a ‘yes’, because it happened. I looked hard at my state of mind immediately before and right after “making the mistake” and saw clearly that –not only was there no intention (that was obvious and that is why it is called a mistake) – but neither was here any thought whatsoever that there might be a mistake contained in my action: in other words, it was as irreflexive as it was irresponsible: a ‘disaster’ produced in a child’s irreflexive action. It wasn’t only that I meant no harm, but rather that it never occurred to me to think harm or good might come of my action: it was just an action, an action without a future such as children perform. I can add all the “should-have’s” I want to it but they didn’t exist in the moment. There was only excitement, the excitement of a ‘child’ who discovers something and wishes to share it with others. As I realized this, she/it asked another question: Did you make amends? ‘Absolutely!’ I answered, ‘in the instant in which I realized the mistake, and I offered to make more if there were any more demanded.’ Did you understand clearly what the mistake was so that you won’t make it ever again if you can help it? ‘Oh yes!!!’ I cried, feeling completely certain that nothing like that would ever happen again from my conscious mind. Then your work is done – she/it said- and you don’t need that person’s forgiveness, you need your own, which is the only one that will set you free.

In that instant I knew she/it was right: I had to forgive myself for being human… No, much more: I had to love myself for being so human as to make blatant mistakes… and survive. Suddenly a weight was lifted from me and once more tears filled my eyes, but this time they were tears of understanding and love and tenderness. I realized finally that if the other person wanted to stay in a place of insisting that what had happened shouldn’t have happened (unforgiving), that was their problem. And what is more, I knew that I couldn’t be sure a greater good wouldn’t come from this ‘mistake’ both for the other person and for myself (mine has already come, I think I have learned an important lesson), so I am watching and waiting. At any rate, my experience is that this is always the case, but only always.



Dream. In last night’s dream, I was at some kind of gathering and this girl was attempting to work with her therapist who was trying all sorts of complicated stuff that I could see wasn’t doing the trick. In a given moment, I turned to the girl and asked: “What do you want?” She looked ghost-stricken: “What do I want?” “Yes,” I said, “what do you want?”

In the dream, I felt good about having fired such a pointed question. The girl then asked me if she could have a session with me and I said “Fine, this afternoon”. Then I went out into the street, passed a very elegant office building and went in thinking that if one of the elegant offices wasn’t in use I could give her the session there and impress her. While I was talking to the clerk to arrange it, I changed my mind and remembered that I worked really well out of my own apartment.

The scene changed and I was in –apparently- my apartment (didn’t look familiar) and the girl arrived; other people –perhaps her friends- were present to watch. She came with a dog, a puppy, and I had a dog; in the dream there seemed to be several dogs. There was a lot of confusion, bustle and noise that wasn’t allowing me to start the session, so I asked everyone to help get the dogs and ‘children’ (there were little children running around) out of the room.

Somehow, clearing the room wasn’t possible and a lot of time was lost trying to do so. Then when we were about to begin, the girl began talking to someone with long blond hair -apparently her travel agent- who was helping her fill in a Visa form. I insisted she pay attention, but she said she had to fill in the Visa form because she was planning a trip. Then she asked if she would have to pay for the session anyway and I said ‘Of course’, and immediately thought of the example of renting a hotel room and not using it, but having to pay for it anyway. Then I turned and said to her:

“You see: you don’t know what you want.” And with that avouchment, I awoke.

Of course, I am both the therapist and the girl in the dream. I am both asking ‘what I want’ and not knowing ‘what I want’, which in real life leads me to fill the time with ‘friends’ (FB, games, what I call ‘wasting time’), a dog and a trip (Visa) without answering the question. Now that I am reading again (I mean reading literature, real published books), persistently, I see writers who WRITE, and publish (internet is not publishing, its electronic grafitti according to someone I overheard once) and do it well. I see my impossibility and fruitlessness in the writing field. I read: “A writer sits down every day and does it; first drafts are always shitty”… I jot down ideas, begin useless pages that never continue, copy quotes that ‘inspire’ me… and still I do not write, not a book. Actually, I haven’t written anything bookable since I stopped drinking 26 years ago; whatever I have published after that has been just a ‘refrito’ as we say in Mexico: a refrying of things already written before. And my blog, everyday stuff, nothing serious. Therefore if I ask: Do I want to write? I would have to say that it seems not, at least not professionally.

So the question remains: ‘What do I want?’ From the above I can deduce that I want to DO something that gives my life meaning… and whatever that might be, to be valid it would have to be recognized by others… And there’s the “rub” as our old friend, Shakespeare, said.

So it would seem that what I want is to give my today life some meaning (in the eyes of others, of course, and therefore in mine) and playing solitaire in its diverse forms to whittle away the hours is not generally what one is remembered for all through Sin títuloposterity! Like: “Oh, you remember Brianda? She was an A-1 Solitaire player, beat the computer every time! Incredible” or even in the present: “Hi, how is that fantastic game of solitaire going? Still winning? You must come and give us a conference sometime on how you do it. Everyone will be so thrilled. Have you ever considered giving a TED talk?” No, not exactly what playing solitaire gets you, although I do win an uncountable amount of imaginary coins.

My blog sometimes gets me some nice, almost immediate recognition from the one or two people who read it and deign to comment, which is certainly a ‘timely’ improvement over books that take years to write, idem to publish and receive at least half as much negative feedback as positive.

oznorAnd it is obvious that the FB page I started (A GRAIN of SAND) was to be noticed and applauded as the initiator of a world-changing movement (¡Ha!) with millions of followers placing their grain of sand for the betterment of the planet. Sometimes I make myself sick of myself (yes, the repetition is on purpose)! Just yesterday, when I took my morning walk, the world was so absolutely perfect that I could find not one thing do-able to ‘improve’ it. However, I must admit that looking for something to do in that sense made me really appreciate the beauty of the morning washed clean by the night’s rain and sparkling as I had not seen for more than a week.

This morning I gave myself permission to pass over the possibility of picking up multiple pieces of trash in the gutters along my way and actually gifted me with a beautiful, freshcof head of lettuce from the Saturday market. Then, as if this were not enough to make my day, I stopped to chat with an acquaintance who was tending to her flowering red camellia. We exchanged a few platitudes about Nature’s confusion what with the weather seeming like spring when winter was still upon us, and she handed me –over the fence- two lovely camellia buds that she had obviously picked for her own living room. So, admittedly, the world had just made me a better place.

mdeSo the dream is speaking to me, it is telling me to stop and look and answer the question… or perhaps to ask other questions such as: ‘I need to know what I want… is that true?’ Or, as Byron Katie would say, ‘What I want is what is’… How do I know that? Because that is what is… Sometimes I feel like saying: ‘Shut-up, Katie!’

But no, her voice is loud and clear in my e-mail box: “The original stressful thought is the thought of an “I”. Before that thought, there was peace. A thought is born out of nothing and instantly goes back to where it came from. If you look before, between, and after your thoughts, you’ll see that there is only a vast openness. That’s the space of don’t-know. It’s who we really are. It’s the source of everything, it contains everything: life and death, beginning, middle and end.”

But coming back to ME… I am still quite entangled with my “I” that is constantly asking me what I want to do, in the waking and the dreaming worlds. So I say to myself: “Look around: what do other people do?” And I find that they do exactly as I do: carry on with life as best they can and be thankful for having so much that is undeserved.






It was definitely a stroke of arrogance that made me write out a sign that reads: “WHAT CAN I DO TODAY TO MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE”, like that, in redcof letters, and pin it on my door to remind me as I leave the apartment that I have a debt with existence and that I can actually do something about it. How do I know it was arrogance? Because immediately after placing said sign in the designated place, I went to Facebook and found a video progressively describing, first the planets, then the stars, then the galaxies, and finally the infinite universes in the MULTIVERSE, which brought tears to my eyes and led me to ‘share’ it under the heading: “…and then there is me…”  (https://www.facebook.com/100008390564556/videos/2053435061612826/).  Did I get the imagesW9SQ371Wmessage and leave well enough alone? You know damn well I didn’t! No! Actually, I completely ignored the message -which in no uncertain terms showed me my actual importance- and began to feel all puffed up and proud of my act of generosity in wanting to do my part in making the world a better place, Me… Yes, the same me.

As a matter of fact, I began feeling so good about it, that there was a moment of euphoria (always a bad sign) during which I convinced myself that my idea was so good it was actually worth sharing. Supposing –the argument in my head went-, just supposing that my little brainstorm was sooo inspiring as to get others to do the same, as to start a movement, as to actually influence the state of affairs of the world. I began to get excited, to feel importantme (yup, same one). So I went back to Facebook and clicked on the ‘create a Facebook page’, images 2or whatever it’s called, button; I thought up a name (A GRAIN of SAND) without imagining that there probably were umpteen pages with that same name and similar purposes already on Facebook; I looked for a photograph of a beach and cut it down to size for the page; and I wrote out what seemed to me to be a purpose (do small acts that better the world and record them on the page). Then I happily ticked off everyone on my “friends” list and asked them to like and join the page. There was a ‘rush’, a ripple of excitement and self-importance as I pushed the fleeting thought of a million followers to the back of my mind (it interfered with my assumed humility) and saw the world being transformed because of my one simple inspiration.

Then I realized that –as I was administering the page and inviting everyone to share- I should begin by writing what I had done that day ‘to make the world a better place’. And that was when reality stepped back in. What had I done, precisely, to make the world a better place? Blank… Lamely I wrote that ‘I had started the Facebook page as my oneedf grain of sand’. It sounded so presumptuous! Then I remembered I had picked up some empty beer cans that somebody –probably a group of young men out on the town which in Salies is not very exciting- had left on the lawn of a nearby nursing home, so I noted that down, but instead of the expected feel-good (me… look what I did!!!), I experienced the act as useless. After all, there was undoubtedly someone in charge of the green areas around the nursing home as the grass was cut and the bushes trimmed, so I was just doing what someone else would do when he or she came around. Lamely, I added that my grain of sand that day included smiling at everyone I passed on the street on my way to coffee in the morning. That cinched it. By that time, I was feeling miserable, lower than low. After all, I can smile at people because I have the advantage of living in a small town; if I did that in a big city, like Madrid or Paris, I would probably be considered looney rather than ‘kind’ or plain indecent. I know: I’ve tried it.imagesNQF3S8VV

I clicked ‘Publish’ and saw my lame ‘contribution’ go up on the page and suddenly everything that had inflated, deflated; my chest caved in, my stomach twisted up. Who… just who did I think I was. If I had known how to erase the whole thing I would have in that moment, but the invitation sent out was being responded to by loving people who perhaps didn’t see how ridiculous I was or did and just wanted to make me feel better, and I had no idea how to eliminate everything anyway (I hadn’t even known how to create it adequately and somehow had made a ‘commercial’ page which FB kept asking me to promote). I went to bed that evening feeling lonely and useless and ridiculous, in other words: totally depressed. Nightmares of frustration and despair populated my sleeping hours to the point where it was a relief to wake up.

026 (2)This morning I realized that the only way to make the world a better place today was to take care of myself, so I let myself have a little cry hugging me tightly all the while, finally smiled at my innocence, told myself that the silly FB page would do no one any harm, not even me and set off for my morning coffee with faithful Salomé who –in her dog world- does not suffer from these insane flights of ego (up and down, always up and then down). On the way, what did I see but a little grain of sand for me to add to the world’s beach: the wind –which has continued to blow all day- had swept the black garbage bagcof out of one of the town’s blue waste baskets (light blue is the Béarnaise color and shows up in most of the public fixtures) where I was about to place the poo-bag I had used to clean up after Salomé. I placed the poo-bag on the ground, picked up the black plastic garbage bag –which was empty- and replaced it in the light blue waste basket; cofthen I put the poo-bag inside to weigh it down.

My contribution to making the world a better place, I thought to myself, smiling as I continued my walk noticing at every step how absolutely perfect the world is without me tending to it.




It is January 1, 2018 and I am sitting in my small apartment in Salies de Béarn thinking about writing this piece to begin the year. I am happy. It is pouring rain, the wind is howling around with a tempest called “Carmen” which will continue all through the week; according to the weather man there is no chance we will see the sun until Sunday (how appropriate!) and today is only Monday. And I am happy and peaceful.

cofTwo days ago (that would be the 30th of December, 2017) I awoke at 9:30 in the morning in the small hotel where I always stay in Madrid. It was a beautiful, sunny day so I decided that, in spite of possible jet-lag, I would make the 6 hour drive home that very day. But there was nocof

jet-lag and the drive was easy, and I even went the extra 10 kilometers to pick up Salomé before heading home.

The no-jet-lag was definitely a surprise, but perhaps I should start at the beginning.

This year my son had invited the whole family to spend Christmas at his house in Lake Tahoe. After enjoying two days in Madrid, where I was treated to the most incredible oznorsunset over the city, I flew to Los Angeles on the 19th of December and spent the night in my son’s house in Malibu; the following day, we (my son, his wife, me, three grandchildren and their little dog) drove in two cars to Lake Tahoe (10 hours); it was snowing when we arrived (delightful). To make a long story short, a couple of days later my daughter and two more grandchildren arrived, one of them with his girlfriend. By that time we were 10; one other grandson –who had to work over Xmas- spent three days with us before returning to L.A. My son’s eldest male offspring arrived on the 25th with his girlfriend making us an even dozen.

IMG-20171224-WA0026Now consider that I spend 99 percent of my time living alone in a small apartment with a dog that doesn’t even bark; I hardly ever put on music and the only sound I hear is when I watch a movie or while talking with someone over Skype. I am my own boss: I eat, play and sleep when I want, what I want and with or without whomever I want. So the idea of spending 9 days with 12 other people –no matter how close to my heart they are- was daunting to say the least. Would I be able to stand it? Would I get irritated? Would I find myself running off to hide in my room most of the time? Were there going to be fights, unpleasantness, criticisms… I admit I was, at moments, a bit frazzled.

However, once there I began to have the time of my life. Yes, at moments the noise levelIMG-20171223-WA0010 was daunting with no one listening and everyone talking at once in voices that got louder and louder as everyone strove to dominate the general mayhem, and occasionally I found myself going hoarse in my effort to get a message across and finally giving up; I admit that –added to this- the constant musical background without which modern generations seem unable to live seemed absolutely unnecessary as it was never actually listened to. (I am tempted to remember that in my days and those of my parents, we put on music and then sat down and actually listened to it without talking. Music constituted an art form to be enjoyed of and by itself. Today, I’m afraid, people appreciate music the way my mother appreciated the Louvre, a museum she went through in less than 15 cofminutes.) The day everyone went skiing and I stayed home alone, my son asked if I wanted him to put on some music for me (he kindly thought that it might make me feel less lonely, as if being alone ever made me feel lonely) and I said “most certainly not!” and proceeded to enjoy the absolute silence.

Except for that one day, I spent every waking moment with the family: helping in the kitchen, making the gravy for the turkey, washing the dishes, playing table games with my grandchildren, shopping for food, petting or walking the dogs, fixing my own breakfast, mixing granola to share with the grandchildren or just sitting and watching and listening to my cofwonderful, beautiful family. I don’t remember a happier Christmas in my whole life, and it wasn’t at all about presents. Yes, presents were given, but somehow they weren’t the center of attention; they were almost like an afterthought. Much more important were the conversations, the hugs, the caresses, the games we played and all the times I got the giggles with one cofgrandchild or another. Everyone participated in the preparation of meals and I loved just being one more cog in the machinery of cooking and cleaning up.

When the moment my departure came, I realized that I would have loved to stay another four or five days until after New Year’s; I feared I would be terribly sad upon leaving. Apart from separating from the family, I had booked myself 26 hours of travel which made the prospect even less promising. But then I did something I had never done, and everything was perfect. I left without leaving. From the moment I stepped into the Uber car for my drive to the Reno airport, I began documenting my trip by taking photos and then sending them by Whatsapp to the family site so that every moment of the trip I was still with them and they were with me.cof

There was the picture of Lake Tahoe from the mountain top as we drove towards Reno; (below which I wrote “I still see you!!”); then cofan image of sprawling Los Angeles right before landing.

In the terminal, where I had a 7 hour layover, the “I Love L.A.” oznorsign over a store in the airport, the moving belt where I waited for my luggage, my suitcase coming down the chute and then the two matching bags standing side by side were all recorded and duly sent. I kept taking pictures and sending the info of my progress coftowards home, and this way, I realized that I hadn’t really left, I could still imagine each member of my family hearing the ‘ding’ of his or her phone, gazing at the screen and connecting with me upon receiving the photo.

My hours in L.A. airport became pictures of what I ate in the VIP lounge, of a hat on a stand outside a store which read: “I can’t Adult today” which was exactly how I was feeling in my playful mood; there were pictures of other coftravelers crossing my path; of a frozen yoghurt I treated myself to in memory of another time when I had shared one at the same stand with my daughter and granddaughter; of me reclining in a comfy chair; of the moving walkway where I cofstrolled back and forth to get my exercise of the day; of the luminous Iberia sign announcing that the flight would leave on time and that boarding was to begin at 8:50p.m. It became a game in which I was the only player and I was having a great time. I knew the other family members would be looking at different moments and soburst felt connected to them even if there made no comments: they were busy still having their own fun. But I was taking them with me at the same time: there was no way I was letting go.

sdrThere is a picture of the people ahead of me going down the jet way onto the plane; and of me in my seat with my feet up, followed by a shot of L.A. lights on takeoff. mde

Then I settled into my usual routine on long flights: supper and then a sleeping pill. I awoke 5 hours later perfectly rested, took a picture of the moon over the wing against a beautiful blue skycof and sent it to the family. Still in touch. I followed with a snapshot of the porthole, wing and a bed of clouds below; and finally of the London landing fieldcof at Heathrow the evening of the 29th as I sat in the plane for over 30 minutes waiting for a slot to disembark and fearing I would miss my connection to Madrid. Finally, after the usual race through Heathrow airport convinced that I would never make it, I sent a photo showing my boarding gate as closed (panic) and then one discovering that they had changed the



gate and my flight to Madrid was delayed. Plenty of time to board. Once more, a selfie of me sitting in my seat for the final leg of the


journey. By the time we took off, I had been travelling for 24 hours although, by clock time, I would lose a total of 9 hours in the transit. I landed in Madrid an hour and a half later (which by the clock was two hours and a half because of the time difference), picked up cofmy car and drove to the hotel, arriving exactly 27 hours after leaving Tahoe; I was –by then- quite tired. The last two pictures I sent were of a bowl of hot soup I had in the restaurant for supper with the caption: “warm soup for good little girls”, and my hotel room. Then I crashed.

And yet, I was not home. The following morning (after sleeping 9 whole hours) I hopped in my car and took off, continuing mysdr

pictorial journal with photos of the fog filled highway, and then the clear skies once leaving the central part of Spain, a photo ofsdr

my luncheon salad and detox juice in a place called Quintalapalla, and finally the picture of little Salomé on the car seat beside me which appears at the beginning of this post, and the sunset from my bedroom window. I was home.

I sent a message of thanks to my family for the wonderful, wonderful holiday and unpacked. Surprisingly enough I have neither suffered from jetlag nor from sadness or solitude. Everything about the trip was so perfect, even the way I ended it; where would sadness fit in? It turns out that nowhere! WHAT A WAY TO END 2017!!!


I find my spam mail getting more interesting every day. I am either offered sex in varying degrees of extreme -although they have my gender wrong-, bitcoins (a lot of bitcoins) as a fast track to getting stinking rich, or a sure-fire way to avoid funeral expenses by planning ahead (this is getting more and more frequent since I turned 75… maybe somebody is on to me).

I wouldn’t mind the sex spam except they obviously don’t know –or don’t care- that my name is Spanish and that Spanish names ending in “a” pertain to females. Instead of a great ‘suck’ or very liberal Russian ‘ladies’, or totally uninhibited anal sex, they could offer me a delightful dinner date in a nice restaurant with someone tall, dark and handsome; dancing later and then a good snuggle including sex if I was in the mood. That might get my interest, especially the ‘good dinner’ part. Another catcher would be afternoon coffee and ice-cream with a slim, tall, good-looking intellectual who has read my books and finds them incredible and wants nothing more than to talk to me about them before we have sex or instead of sex… depending. That would be a clincher: it is so hard to find a man interested in what a woman does.

As for bitcoins, I admit to liking money or rather, the kind of life-style that money can allow me, but bitcoins??? I had to look them up on Wikipedia for –although I had heard of them- I really had no idea how they worked. Even Wiki was not very helpful: a cryptocurrency? The first decentralized digital currency? “…the system works without a central repository or single administrator. The network is peer-to-peer and transactions take place between users directly through the use of cryptography, without an intermediary…” The transactions are verified by network nodes and recorded in a blockchain… Ok, you lost me. I still remember the marvel of sticking a plastic card in a box with a screen, punching in a bunch of numbers (including the amount of cash you wanted) and getting a nice wad of bills (euros, dollars, even Mexican pesos) in your greedy little paw: now that is magic! I love it when my purse is heavy with coins and my wallet fat with bills; and, yes, I have done bank transfers where the money never actually materializes but rather is just a series of numbers passing from one supposed ‘account’ to another; and, yes, I know that those numbers on my balance sheet are not actually kept in a box in the bank I use… but still, cryptocurrency? And yes, I am conscious that a 50€ bill is nothing but a worthless piece of paper to which we have attached a belief (that it is valuable), and that is supposedly (but not really) backed up by a metal (gold) to which we have also attached a belief (that it is valuable, more so –say- than tin) and that all these beliefs have no reality to them, but bitcoins… that is going to take some getting used to. So send me spam about how you are going to give me 100€ or 100,000€ because my e-mail was pulled out of a hat, but don’t offer me bitcoins if you want me to read your spam (I won’t read the other either, but you will tempt me).

And funeral expenses… well, let me see. The last time I talked about anything to do with funerals was with my son. He asked me what I wanted done with my ‘remains’ when I died. I didn’t even have to think: “Whatever you need to do with them” I replied. “If you need some kind of ceremony, then that’s fine with me; if not, that’s fine with me also. I… what I consider ‘I’ won’t be there, so whatever you decide to do with the ‘remains’ to make yourself and your sister more comfortable with my parting that is what you should do.” After all, I wasn’t about to ask for an elaborate funeral seeing as my father’s ashes –except a small amount my mother kept in a pouch to be mixed with hers when she died- went to fertilize a tree on a property that I later sold; they did a marvellous job until an extreme frost one spring killed the tree. My mother’s ashes –except for a soup spoonful that went into the pouch- were placed in a large flower pot holding a decorative ficus tree. (This was not a good idea and I do not suggest you do it with my ashes or anyone’s for that matter, because the water that gathers in the dish under the plant… smells awful.) When I moved to France, I gave the tree to a friend; it eventually died after a few years. The small pouch with the remaining parental ashes and a stone to make sure it sank ended up in Lake Tahoe where they had been as newlyweds; the gesture was for me: it gave me any closure I might have still needed.

So much for Spam. Spoof is another matter. I actually enjoy getting Spoof mail, especially from a make-believe Paypal or Amazon. I say I enjoy it because catching the pretenders makes me feel smart and then I get to revenge myself by forwarding the spoof mail to the real Paypal or the real Amazon (both of which have ‘Spoof Departments’ at spoof@paypal.com or spoof@amazon.com ) so they can take care of it. It’s sort of like catching the mouse trying to get into the cheese cabinet: Gotcha!