Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Dylan Thomas.

He was the first “adult” poet* whose work I fell in love with — though the relationship started when I was a kid. We would go to Aunt Sal´s house and flop belly-down on the floor to scribble-illustrate “A Child´s Christmas in Wales” as Uncle Perry read it aloud in his sonorous voice, doing all the characters. Miss Prothero was my favorite. ¨Would you like anything to read?”

Later, in high school, I found my way to his other work. My junior year English lit teacher asked if anyone had read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and I replied that I hadn´t, but had read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog. She jumped down off her desk, crowing with delight, and came to plant a big kiss on my cheek. (This was in the Dark Ages, when teachers could do such things.)

*I had discovered e.e. cummings when I was quite young, but only the safe stuff. The really good, raunchy stuff didn´t come over my transom until I was at university.

And this is his poem that I loved most, and will love always.

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower

Dylan Thomas, 1914 - 1953
The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

The force that drives the water through the rocks
Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
Turns mine to wax.
And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins
How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.

The hand that whirls the water in the pool
Stirs the quicksand; that ropes the blowing wind
Hauls my shroud sail.
And I am dumb to tell the hanging man
How of my clay is made the hangman’s lime.

The lips of time leech to the fountain head;
Love drips and gathers, but the fallen blood
Shall calm her sores.
And I am dumb to tell a weather’s wind
How time has ticked a heaven round the stars.

And I am dumb to tell the lover’s tomb
How at my sheet goes the same crooked worm.

I enjoyed Roger Cohen’s opinion piece about life in France in the NYT today. Here’s my comment on it:

Mr. Cohen, I know exactly what you mean. I lived in Spain for six years when I was in my 20s, way back when. In 1991, I decided to return to the U.S., finally fed up with some of the less-delightful aspects of Spanish life — the noise, the disorder, the inefficiency.

Fast forward 20 years to 2011. After two decades of professional success, serious consumption, and something verging on workaholism, I decided to move back to Madrid. A number of visits over the years I was living in the States showed me that there was more to love about Spain than I had remembered — the focus on family and friends (and the fact that the line between them is often blurred), the ease of connection with the people around you (bus driver, pharmacist, fishmonger, whoever), and the fact that people work to live rather than the other way around are chief among them.

I gave up a lot as a result of my return. I don’t own a car anymore, and I earn about one-third of what I used to. I travel less and stay closer to home. But I am happier than I have been in years, and I finally have the perspective to revel in the little joys of my day-to-day life.

Efficiency and productivity are to be valued, up to a point. When they cause us to lose sight of our common humanity, however, it’s time to re-evaluate them, and perhaps to make a change.


In the time I’ve been away from the blog, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about writing a memoir of my two bouts of expat life, and using this forum as a proving ground. (I’ve also been working and sewing and entertaining and going to PT for my blasted shoulder that makes me feel 1,000 years old on a regular basis — but we’ll talk about those things another time.)

So the question is, should I write it? Would you read it?

Where does the time go?! I hadn’t intended to leave the blog unattended for so long, but, well, I blame this little beauty:


It’s an Alfa, a Spanish brand, though a “model twin” for the Janome 2160. And here’s the first FO I’ve made with the new machine, for a certain beloved 101 year-old. (Liberty fabric brought by Sister #2 when she popped down from London over Easter.) Always stylish, my Gram!

Gram Bday Blouse

I may manage another post next week, between work and vacation wardrobe sewing, and then I’m off to San Sebastian for a week. I need to unmelt and unwind! But I’ll fill you in on my adventures when I get back.

Hope you’re all having a good summer…

And I mean that wholeheartedly. As much as I’d have like Spain’s contestant, Ruth Lorenzo, to win Eurovision 2014, I am over the moon with delight at the triumph of Conchita Wurst (Austria). A great talent, and a voice for acceptance and love that I hope rings out for a long time.

The retreat with Thay and the monastics was a deeply moving, exhausting, rich, aggravating, transforming experience. You know, like life. We sat, walked, ate, sang, listened, slept, talked, and laughed — all as mindfully as possible.

This chant reached deep into my heart. I hope it brings you joy and inspiration.

Namo Avalokiteshvara

We invoke your name, Avalokiteshvara. We aspire to learn your way of listening in order to help relieve the suffering in the world. You know how to listen in order to understand. We invoke your name in order to practice listening with all our attention and open-heartedness… We know that just by listening deeply, we already alleviate a great deal of pain and suffering in the other person.

Hello! I hope you’re all well.

Just a quick note to let you know that I won’t be posting this week because I will be on retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh. I’ll be back to share next Tuesday.

Number One Sister came for a flying visit, leaving the male members of her family in London so we could have a “girls weekend.” We took lots of pictures as we wandered around Madrid — and when I was downloading them, I realized that we had almost perfectly reproduced a shot from nearly 50 years ago.


Nice 'stache, Sis!

Nice ‘stache, Sis!

And now…

Yep, I've still got the same smile...

Yep, I’ve still got the same smile…

See what I mean about somethings never changing? And thank goodness for that!

The photos here are of the Procesión de Nuestro Señor Jesús Nazareno de Medinaceli, one of the biggest of the Good Friday processions. It’s always a moving spectacle… with  moments of anachronism, like when the penitentes pop up their hoods and make a phone call during a rest break. (The one image with a red background is from another procession, that of the Santa Cruz, which cuts across the Plaza Mayor, once site of bullfights and autos de fe…)

IMG_0024 IMG_0053 IMG_0044 IMG_0045 IMG_0104 IMG_0120 IMG_0068 IMG_0112 IMG_0096

Apologies for the lack of a post last Thursday — it was a thoroughly unpleasant week and by the time I got to the end of it, there wasn’t much I wanted to say that bore sharing. The following may still be less than “uplifting,” and at the same time, I want to say it.

The week before last, Miss Zouzou-Cat was ill with what looked like a simple case of gastroenteritis. After trying a few things on my own, I popped her into her carrier (OK, that’s a euphemism; if you have cats, you know what I mean.) and took her to the vet. He did the standard thing you do when you have a constipated cat (again, not going into details), gave her a couple of injections, and recommended she eat a prescription diet for the next few days. I was to return the following day (Sunday) for another round of injections.

On Sunday, after more shots and some unabashed cat worship (she IS very cute) he asked that I bring her back on Monday for another round of injections, reasoning (correctly, I believe) that going to oral antibiotics wasn’t a good idea just yet.

Monday, another visit, with the added delight of drawing blood for a full work-up. Results to follow in a few hours. He called at the end of the day. Not so good — one of her liver enzymes was sky-high and he suspected FIP (feline infectious peritonitis, read all about it here). We decided to do an additional test.

Things were going pretty well until Wednesday, when we needed to go back because she was constipated again. A bit of belly massage, a few more cans of the Rx food, and back home.

Thursday he called with the results of the second test, which confirmed his suspicions. Could I please come in to talk through her treatment options? No need to bring her with me. (Thank deities for small mercies.) Because she has the “dry” form of FIP, it’s possible to treat it as a chronic illness with diet and monthly injections of an immune-booster. He asked me to “do [him] a favor and not obsess about the diagnosis.” He has cat patients who have FIP and who are doing very well on the treatment. A couple of them are two years past diagnosis and still going strong.

OK. I’m not obsessing. I am of a Buddhist mind-set. Everything that lives, dies. The cat is 15 and has a very good life. We will carry on until the time when her life is less than what she deserves, and make a decision.

Saturday, back to the vet’s (con kitty) for the first of her monthly injections. I don’t know what was in it, but it made her hiss and hiss. Ow!

She has taken up residence under the bed, sleeping on top of a clothes-storage bag and coming out only to eat and use her box. I’m ready to join her.

In other news, it’s been warm and sunny for over a week now.

Even though I’ve been broke, broke, broke for the last few months, I try to treat myself to little goodies. I’ve got a Mason jar that I dump change into for just that purpose. I’m hoping at some point to have enough for a spa day, but I’m also perfectly happy grabbing a handful of change for something little.

Last week, my friend Ester the florist had some little jasmine plants in her shop for 6.50€, so I counted out the change from my jar and brought one up to my balcony. She told me to be careful not to over-water it so that it lasts through the summer. Even though I sometimes “love things to death,” I’m going to do my best.

Today, it was warm enough (24º C) to have the balcony doors open all day, and it smelled just heavenly! One tiny plant producing all of that happiness… A handful of change very well spent indeed.

What have you treated yourself to lately?

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