Thursday, October 14, 2010

White Butterflies and Beautiful Hands.

These past few days we have witnessed the saving of 33 men, who had at one time been presumed dead some 2,000 feet under solid rock. Many people were responsible for this miraculous rescue. From the rescue workers and technical people who opened the way, to the miners' families and the people of a country who, simply, refused to give up. All the way up to a recently elected President, who risked all his future and his political life when he made a decision that had to be made: everything we have, as a country, will be committed to get these men out. He had the wherewithal to do this; by doing so and seeing it through, he has won the respect of many other politicians, most of whom would not have had the guts to do this. I truly salute him for it.

Like most people who have access to a news canal, during the last couple of days I have been riveted by the in-your-living-room-story of the rescue of the 33 Chilean miners who had been trapped 2,000 feet underground for just over two months. The fact they were all found alive after 17 days of having had no news from them was a miracle. Adding to this some additional 45 days of being interred at 2000 feet, culminating with an unselfish multinational effort to rescue them, to then see each one come out from the entrails of mother earth is, to me at least, proof that there is a Holy Father watching over us. There has been a lot of faith and endurance and in this case, literally, faith has moved a mountain.

Each and every one of the individuals who came out had family waiting for them. Each and every one has a story and a history. The moment in which the first miner came out was a magical moment. To see that Jules Vernian capsule being first swallowed by a hole in the earth more than half of a kilometer down, to have it then come out of that deceptively small hole topside with its most precious cargo intact, gave proof that we can indeed achieve all we may set our hearts and minds to do.

Of all the stories and tales heard and sights seen, there are two which really have made an impact, at least on me. Franklin Lobo, a former great member of the Chilean National Fútbol team (circa 1980’s) gave us a story to ponder. After his glory days he suffered from a malaise which affects many sports figures: mismanagement of funds and subsequent bankruptcy. He went to work in the mines in order to feed his family and pay for his daughters’ university. On August 5th at 2000 feet underground, while driving a truck with supplies, he tells that he saw a white butterfly flittering around. He was so impacted by this totally improbable sight, that he stopped the truck and got out to see if he could get a little closer to this little white miracle. I do not know if you believe in Angels but as he got out of the truck, the shaft ceiling fell down unto the road not 10 meters ahead of where he had stopped. In other words, had he not seen the little butterfly, he would have been under the falling rock. A miracle?

Another picture that stays in mind was of a son, named Daniel, coming out of the capsule into the arms of his mother, Doña Alicia. There had been other reunions before and there would be others afterwards. But none like Doña Alicia. When the camera focused on her expectant and very anxious face, the age lines on that weathered visage became a beautiful, surreal map of a life full of hardship and sorrow, yet full of love and faith.

At this moment her shining, beautiful eyes, looking at the capsule as it was hoisted from the little hole, simply told of her granite strong faith, about to be rewarded. Her hands came to her face; hands which would never win a beauty contest, except with that son who was now rising from the supposed dead. Calloused, rough and lined with much hard work. They simply told a story of a dedicated, humble woman who had raised this and perhaps other sons and daughters to be decent, hard working individuals. Those calloused hands went to her eyes, wiping away a tear of relief and joy; what might have been an unthinkable tragedy, became a moment of immense rejoice; a new birth.

As her son came out and into her arms, those hands could not do enough to wipe his tears, to caress his face, to tell him that all was all right now; he was with her again.

I simply watched and a tear came to my eyes also. Gratitude to Our Father, who will watch over us and will often remind us that He is there, that He will extend a helping hand when there is faith and trust enough to believe. In this case, faith moved a mountain; most of us who watched and many who did not, have much smaller mountains to move but often lack the determination and the true faith to do so. We get stuck under the weight of our own despair, forgetting that if we really try, yes, we can!! What a lesson to have learned!

White Butterflies and Beautiful Hands… just two of the 33 stories we learned about during these last two, wonderful, telling days.

Be Well… Be Back… 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Elementary My Dear Watson.

Often I come up with a title which is conducive to thinking outside the usual channels of what has been done on these postings before. The above title is one of these. While pondering as to whether to erase it or not, this memory came to mind and it sort of fit the bill. This was a true gathering; in the end, all remained as friends as we were in the beginning. Perhaps it is just a microcosm of one of the issues that ails us in general: intolerance of that which disagrees with what we think is right.

Sometimes a title is written on a blank page and then, as one looks at it from every possible angle, the question begs: “What do I do with this heading now?” The easy way out is to erase the line and then write something which suggests its own title. On the other hand, one can stare at the page long enough and hope that a trail takes shape and tells one where to go (in a literary sense please!). That is exactly where I am right now. Unfortunately not much is coming along.

Let’s see… As those who do read these occasional outbursts know, politics is a topic which I usually leave to the pros who dedicate their heart and soul (and often conscience) to it. However, ideology is something else altogether. This is a topic which truly takes my attention and into which my mind, tongue and virtual pen can take a plunge.  Sometimes it is fun to throw a concept out into a group and watch as it is taken, bent, chewed and spit out. Usually, the processed results are very different than what the challenge might have been intended to develop.

Recently, a group of friends of different persuasions got together for an afternoon of conversation and peaceful repartee. We had music, some light drinks and some food to keep the souls in fighting shape. We talked about a host of issues. Actually many topics were non issues: books, some poetry and even T.V. shows went into the mix. When the conversation was at its most lively, the topic of immigration was thrown into the ring. WOW!! There was a loud silence as to what to say. Some of the people who made up the group (such as me) were immigrants and some others were US born and bred. Some were conservatives and some called themselves liberals. So, the hook was thrown and, after some hesitation, the fish took the bait.

What do I call myself? I am registered as an independent voter. Over the years, I have voted both democratic and republican. I can probably be best described as a “right of center”-but-willing-to-talk-and-listen person. I don’t condone fanatics of any kind, nor do I believe that one should let someone else dictate his or her thoughts and actions. IN this particular instance, those who were born here were somewhat hesitant to throw in their thoughts, in fear of antagonizing friends or of hurting their relationship. In other words, another despised concept: “Political Correctness” reared its ugly head. I threw my hat into the ring by expressing my belief that immigration laws are totally inadequate as they stand (I do think this) and that these laws have to be revamped and applied to all immigrants equally; and yes, I include in this the Cuban migrants who are coming now for purely economic reasons, as every one else is.

At this, everyone talked and several discussions were started. Some were a little ugly and some were more intelligent. The ones which were ugly stemmed from the fact that both sides of the “conversation” were unwilling to let the other side express their thoughts and the reason for these.

I then became an observer of sorts. Watched those from different ideological camps as they discussed, and something interesting began to develop: Not to say that the conservatives were totally open to the opposing ideas but the “liberals” became actually hostile when an individual with opposing ideas actually made sense with what was proposed and he or she had no rebuttal. At this point insinuations as to the other person being “biased”, against other races, against humanity, etc. were used as a barrier against further comments which they could not answer logically. A friend’s old saying came to my mind: “we are all democratic until the other person disagrees with us”. How true this is.

Intelligent discussion should be at the core of our intellectual society. This is the means through which we can achieve change, improvement and correction of errors made. Any level, from the basic family unit to the very complex national politics will benefit from open and honest discussion. And the phrase “open and honest” must be understood and applied evenly to all involved. We must start from the base that no one is absolutely right all the time; if we do not agree on a subject, the pros and cons have to be put on the table, analyzed and then proceed to restructure the original concept, incorporating different ideas, to where it can bring the most benefit to all concerned.

Simple societal logic? I think so; but then, all things logical are often ignored by individual interests.

As our friend Mr. Holmes would say:

“Elementary, my dear Watson.”

Be Well!! Be Back!!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Birthday To Remember.

Some days are very important in one's life; sometimes without even knowing so. This was one of those days. It marked the beginning of the end of a life and the eventual start of another one. I would never get all these people together again. In fact, after my departure, only one of them would come again into my life along the years.

It has been quite a while since this particular folder and pages were open for the last time. No particular reason, other than a slew of issues which have come up, all at the same time, it seems. Some were resolved, others were not. Some will have an additional impact over the next few months, while others will linger on for a much longer time.

Nonetheless, the idea with this particular piece was to create a time capsule and travel back to one very special day in my life: the last birthday I would spend in Cuba (albeit unknowingly so); my 15th birthday. My parents and grandparents knew this would be the last such opportunity and that most likely, once I left, our paths would not cross again in this life. I didn't know this.

There were several, parallel happenings at the time. Remember: I was turning 15 and this meant I knew all there was to be known; my girlfriend, who lived one block away, was forbidden by her parents to be with me… our friends would aid and abate our meetings at their homes, away from her mother’s prying eyes.

There was one especial item that was to happen that day: my older cousin, who had a red and steel gray 1956 Olds convertible, was to come by the house and, as a special birthday treat,  allow me to drive it (remember: this was Cuba) and our path would take me under my girlfriend’s balcony more than once. I couldn’t wait!!

He finally arrived around 2:30pm and I was ready and waiting. As I went to the door, my mother said: “No puedes salir ahora!” – “You can’t go out now!” WHAT!!!? Said I, in a very soft and tranquil voice. I continued: “I HAVE BEEN WAITING ALL DAY FOR THIS AND YOU KNOW IT AND I’M NOT STAYING I’M GOING” I continued in the same calm voice…

As I turned to go out the front door opened and my uncle and aunt, along with my other cousin, came in. They were followed by my grandfather and grandmother (my uncle’s sister), who had arrived at the same time. This stopped me. These two (grandfather and uncle) had not been seen together for a long time, ever since they had had a major fallout; something that had to do with the factory. I have come to find out what it was over the years, but this is not the place or time for airing the family dirty laundry.

After the welcome hugging and kissing as well as the birthday wishes were done, I once again turned to the front door. This bloody door seemed to get away from me every time I wanted to get to it. Again, as I headed there, the bell rang insistently. “Damn… What is it now?” I asked myself. I opened the door, not very kindly and with a belligerent stare on. I was ready to mow down anyone who would stand between me and the red convertible.

-      “SORPRESA…!” –"FELIZ CUMPLEAŇOS…!!!”                                     “SURPRISE…”  - “HAPPY BIRTHDAY…!!!!!”

This was shouted by a choir of about 20 of my best friends, including that young lady who supposedly would be waiting for me to go by her balcony… They were holding a huge piñata in the shape of a giant shoe. Yes, my feet are big. Now be quiet and read on!!  I just stood there, dumbfounded. Understand that in order to have a party in Cuba at that time, a lot of preparation had to have taken place: permits from the police for a gathering, special permits to have the ingredients for the cake as well as the sodas, and many other issues had to be dealt with. Someone had been preparing this for a while and yes, it had been my mother along with my grandfather. I understood then why she would not allow me to go out.

After this, we went into the inner patio of the house and had a birthday party to end birthday parties. Literally. I do not remember celebrating another birthday party since then. Photos were taken and I did have them in my possession until in one of the many moves that economic instability forced on me (us) over the last few years they were lost. It was an afternoon to remember and to be enjoyed. In the end, I got to drive my cousin’s car for a little while. We played music, we danced, we sang the happy birthday song several times, presents were given and opened and a great time was had by all. My girlfriend and I had some precious moments to ourselves. Ironically, out of all the people who were there, she is the one person who has been a non-constant constant in my life. We have come into contact a few times over the years; we are in contact again now and have remained good friends in all the ups and downs.

September 19, 1961 in Cruces, Cuba. A postcard date to be remembered.

Back Soon!!  Be Well!!.

Doña América and other memories.

I know she has already been mentioned somewhen along this line of sometimes unhinged memories as they relate to moments of my life , but y...