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Spring is my favorite season. It is green and fresh and new. It is also, in my New England memory of crocus pushing up through frozen mud and bright daffodils bowed down by late, wet snow — neither of which happen here — resolute and brave. Just when winter has worn you down to a nubbin, you spy something that reminds you that life is returning to earth.

And this winter, though for me neither unduly cold nor in the least snowy, wore me down mightily. Yes, it was long and brutal and dark — but emotionally rather than otherwise. That’s the reason the blog has been on radio silence so long. I just haven’t wanted to talk about any of it. There is something in my blogging persona that wants only to share the good news. Not because the bad news isn’t as important as the good, but because somehow it feels like I’m asking for empathy or help or I don’t quite know what.That’s something I’ve always been reluctant to do, asking to be heard, asking to be seen and held. It’s also something I know I need to change.

So I’ve decided to take a page from spring’s book and be brave. I have a new intention for this blog — to share a lot more, and not to be afraid of whatever reaction it may generate in my readers. What they — you — think is beyond my control anyway. I also intend for my posts to be more organic and authentic. So I’m only going to write when I feel like it. No regular schedule, but posting at will. For now, at least, I have a lot to say, so there will be plenty of posts. And then we’ll see.

Because this is still my blog, there will also be glee, and silliness, and lots of the good stuff. But I want it to be a more holistic reflection of what is going on for me. And I hope that you will hang around and share it with me, all of it.

My friend Lisa and I got together today to go to a jumble sale in Malasaña, where I managed to refrain from buying anything more than 1,20 worth of antique buttons to play with. Then we took a turn around the neighborhood, enjoying the brisk, breezy, sunny day before getting a bite of lunch.

One of my favorite architectural artifacts in the neighborhood is an old pharmacy — still operating as such until it closed this summer — with tile advertisements covering the façade. There used to be shops like these all over Madrid, but there aren’t many left. Usually this one is covered in graffiti. I’ve never seen it clean before.

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They offered a complete range of products.

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Not to mention a range of their own patent medicines.

This one is good for pretty much anything that ails you...

This one is good for pretty much anything that ails you…

Though what these ailments have to do with trees, I don't know.

Though what these ailments have to do with trees, I don’t know.

Much mystery here -- what do these things seal up? And how do they make "that pain" disappear? (You know, "lady pain"...)

Much mystery here — what do these things seal up? And how do they make “that pain” disappear? (You know, “lady pain”…)

This image is the one that gets drawn on most often. I'm sure that doesn't surprise you.

This image is the one that gets drawn on most often. I’m sure that doesn’t surprise you.

The poultry shop next door is now a bar… I love looking at all the different kinds of chickens.

Want an egg with your mojito?

Want an egg with your mojito?

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?

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.

Then…

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…)

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The warm, sunny weather has combined with the dulcet (?) tones of the first manifestación of the season to underscore that today is the first day of Spring. Time for Rubi to come out of hibernation with a new posting schedule — look for updates on Tuesdays and Thursdays. And enjoy the first day of the new season, whatever the weather looks like where you are!

I’m getting everything ready for tonight’s festivities at Casa Rubi, and I didn’t want the year to go out without wishing you all the Happiest of New Years. I hope that 2014 brings you every joy.

My glass might just have a French 75 in it...

My glass might just have a French 75 in it…

See you next year!

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