Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘New Mexico’

More Alive Than Ever

Love: The Beat Goes On by Lynda Filler.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51JCGXkVO9LHer life was flying, her heart was dying. Lynda Filler had a new job, loving family, and an almost too good to be true newly acquainted man she called “my cowboy”. There’d been for-warnings, “messages”, shortness of breath, but nothing really stopped her in her tracks (literally) until 2008 when she is told she has a form of congestive heart failure called dilated cardiomyopathy. Doctors told her it was a death sentence and she must “get your affairs in order”. Nine years later, after driving alone for many months between Canada and Mexico, visiting a shaman in Sedona, New Mexico, and realizing, “I was the change that needed to happen in my healing”, she wrote Love: The Beat Goes On. She’s more alive than ever.

I worked with hospice and bereavement programs for many years. Most people I met was dying, or had had someone die. Whenever I heard about someone having this or that “terminal” disease (or as the author calls it “dis-ease”), I accepted it as reality and tried to help them (and their loved ones) prepare as much as possible, and live whatever life was left to the fullest. Ms. Filler not only didn’t go along with the “program”, but somehow trusted something inside, and outside, herself. Against medical advice she took her own road. Her journey was not random. She learned to honor her intuition, take some risks, and, pardon the clique, follow her heart.

The chapters in this journal are most fitting and include – “The Widow Maker”, “Every Breath I Take”, “Swollen Heart”, “You Are Not Your Diagnosis”, “Red Rocks and Thunderstorms”, “Doctors and Doctorates”, “Is it a Miracle?”, and “It’s a Mind Game”. There is a perfect mixture of describing an event, what her personal reactions, thoughts, and feelings were about the experience, and her understanding and actions (if any) in response. Even though this pattern progresses throughout her writing, Lynda also becomes acutely aware that she is not what she writes about. “I have huge respect for all who survive anything, but I am not my story.”

Love: The Beat Goes On isn’t melancholy, or sanguine; it is as real as real can be. I know of few people who have learned to believe in something beyond themselves, willingly take steps into the unknown, and trust their own gut, as has Ms. Filler. Her life is example number uno of how to live a life of genuine belief and faith. Not in a religious sense, but with practical down-to-earth actions and spirit. This memoir is interesting for personal reflection, and provides a number of suggestions on how others can use what Ms. Filler learned for their own challenges. She doesn’t claim that her way is the only way, but her still being alive gives a lot of credence to what she has to say. “When I walked down from that vortex, my step was light. My heart beat normally again… and I knew it.”

 

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The Tex-Mex

The Tex-Mex
by Gabriel Constans

Jicama is a root vegetable similar to the turnip. It is popular in Mexican dishes throughout Mexico, Texas, California, and New Mexico. This smoothie is sweet, hot, nourishing, and filling.

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Yield: 5 cups

2 cups chopped fresh pineapple
1 small jicama, peeled and sliced
1 large mango, peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon chopped jalapeno pepper*
Juice of 1 lime
2 cups filtered water
1 banana

Place all the ingredients in a blender, and blend on high speed for 1 minute.

Pour into tall glasses and serve.

*Jalapeno and other hot peppers must be handled carefully. Don’t touch your face
and wash hands thoroughly.

Framed

Excerpt from short story collection Saint Catherine’s Baby.

We flew in from Montréal, with a stopover in Chicago. I combed my hair and smoothed out the incorrigible wrinkles in my pants, before stepping out from the hot taxi into the dry heat of New Mexico.

Bending over to pick up our bag, I noticed the large stain covering the underarm of my white shirt. “Just what I need,” I fretted. “Wrinkled pants, hair that won’t stay down and stinking to high heaven.”

My face felt naked. The sun was beating it into a hot iron. Something was missing. I felt in my shirt pocket and found only damp vacancy.

“Have you seen them?” I asked Rosalita, my lover and confidant.

“Maybe there, in the bag,” she nodded towards our luggage.

“Should I put them on?”

“Go ahead,” she replied. “Take a chance.”

“You sure? You know how some people are.”

“Don’t be so paranoid,” she smirked, laying her hand on the small of my back.

“I’m trusting you on this,” I said, bending down, carefully pulling them out of their hard, plastic case in the side of the bag and placing them firmly on my face.

“How’s that?”

“Fabulous! Come on, let’s go.”

She took the sacrificial lamb by the arm and led me to the slaughter.

Sweat dripped from my forehead like a steam bath. I thought about home. It was a refreshing 42 degrees Fahrenheit when we had left that morning. Calm, sunny, delightfully cold weather had embraced the landscape, requiring long-sleeve flannel shirts to keep out the chill.

“I’d rather freeze to death, then live in this baking hell,” I thought, as we approached the adobe style home in the suburbs of Albuquerque.

Rosalita’s parents met us at the front door. She introduced her mother and father, Carmen and Francisco Morales and announced lovingly, “And this, this is my sweet Jacque.” I felt her hand guiding me forward.

Her parents looked stoically at their future son-in-law, blinked several times to clear their vision and realized I wasn’t a mirage or distant heat wave. Her mother recovered first, stepping forward and extended her large, brown-skinned hand.

“Buenos tardes Jacque,” she smiled sweetly, as if she was about to give someone on death row their last wish. “Mi casa, su casa.”

“Our house is your house,” Rosalita translated, seemingly oblivious to her parents’ demeanor.

“Thank you,” I replied to Mrs. Morales. “It’s a pleasure.”

Rosalita locked eyes on her father, who appeared to have been jolted into a sudden catatonic state of unknown proportions.

“Papa?” she said. “Papa!” Her raised voice hit him like a whip. He turned, forced a strained smile and shook my hand as if it had a sign reading, “Wet paint.”

“Come in. Come in!” her mother insisted, putting her arm around Rosalita. Her father followed robotically, carrying our bags as balancing weights to keep him grounded. I could feel his eyes flinging poisonous darts at the back of my head like a blow-gun.

It was refreshingly cool inside. “Ah. This is nice,” I sighed. “How can you stand the heat?”

“We kind of like it,” her father said brusquely.

“I guess you get use to it.”

“I guess so,” he said, turning abruptly. With our luggage in tow he walked slowly down their clean, whitewashed hallway. He had large, rough hands and moved as if he was in a military parade.

Mrs. Morales followed her husband. “Let me show you your rooms. You might want to freshen up,” she added, glancing back at the clothes hanging on my body like wet laundry. “Here’s yours,” she motioned to Rosalita, then turned to me. “You can stay in her brothers’ old room. he bathroom’s down the hall. Come out to the back patio when you’re ready. Lunch is almost done.”

“Merci . . . thank you,” I replied.

She nodded, “De nada.” then spoke to Rosalita. “Rico and Junior will be here any minute.” She kissed Rosalita. “Oh no, the enchiladas!” she exclaimed, running to the kitchen in her light green fluorescent pants and pale yellow blouse with ironed on lace.

I looked to Rosalita for an explanation. “Rico and Junior?” I’d heard of Rico and her brother Francis, but no Junior.

“My brother. Francis was named after Papa, so we just call him Junior.”

Mr. Morales squeezed between us. “Excuse me,” he mumbled and disappeared out back.

“This is a disaster,” I said out loud.

“It will be fine. Just give them a little time, OK?”

“Time’s not going to help. Did you see those looks? They don’t even know me and they hate me.”

She gave me a hug. “They don’t hate you. They’re just scared. It’s not every day their only daughter says she’s getting married.”

I tried to ignore my gut. “I hope you’re right.”

“I’ll see you in a few minutes.” She swayed coyly towards the bathroom, her long braided hair rocking in unison with her heart-shaped hips.

After drying off and changing my stained garment to a casual short-sleeved blue dress shirt, I took my skinny self and ventured out to the back patio. A gorgeous garden of blooming cactus filled the yard, with a vine-covered trellis covering the patio from the blistering sun. Her father was hand-watering a small patch of grass between the cactus and patio. He had on a large brimmed, white cowboy hat. He didn’t notice I was there until his wife came out with a basket and offered some bread.

“Have some homemade bread.”

“Thank you,” I replied and proceeded to devour three pieces in a row. “This is delicious.” I licked my fingers, seeing that she was making a religious effort to be cordial. “What is it?”

“Cornbread . . . Jalapeño cornbread. You’ve never had cornbread?”

“Never,” I innocently replied.

“How could you live without cornbread?” Mr. Morales interjected loudly. “Rosalita has surely made you some of her mother’s famous cornbread?”

“No.”

Her father looked accusingly at Mrs. Morales, who frowned back, shaking her slightly rouged cheeks in utter dismay.

“We eat out mostly,” I explained, “or I cook up something at home. I’m pretty good with a little sauce and some wine.”

“You cook?” Mr. Morales exclaimed, as if I’d told him I was a serial killer. I nodded. “I need a drink,” he exclaimed and headed towards the house. Before disappearing he stopped and turned. “You want a margarita, beer or something?”

“A margarita?” He shook his head in disgust. “Water would be fine, thanks.” He nodded, visibly vexed and went inside.

“Please,” Mrs. Morales motioned towards the flower-decorated picnic table laid out methodically with shiny silverware and maroon and turquoise ceramic dishes. Before the bottom of my fifty/fifty percent nylon and cotton pants touched the wooden bench she asked, “Where are you from Jacque?”

She plunked down directly across the table, leaned forward and waited for me to continue. Her well-rounded, bronzed face had wrinkled crowfeet protecting her knowing eyes, bordered by thick black and gray hair. She sat like a voyeuristic priest, waiting for a secret revelation or confession.

“Montréal. Actually, a little town north of Montréal. I’m sure you haven’t heard of it. It’s called Saínte-Thérèse.”

“I’m sorry,” she smiled. “I don’t know Montréal.”

“It’s in Quebec province. Do you know where that is?”

“It’s in Canada, right?”

I nodded, bemused with Americans’ ignorance of geography.

“But where are you from originally?” she persisted. “Your family . . . your people.”

“We grew up in Saínte-Thérèse. Our parents moved to Toronto for awhile in the early sixties, but didn’t like the crowds, so we moved back to Saínte-Thérèse.”

“No, no. I don’t mean where you grew up.” She shook her head. “Your parents . . . your people?”

“My parents met in Quebec,” I offered. She shook her head and was about to give up when I smelled Rosalita’s sweet fragrance. She hugged me from behind, sat down, looked over at her mother and saw her frustration.

“What’s wrong Mama?”

“Nothing,” her mother said, looking away.

“Your Mom was wondering where I was from. You know; my family and stuff.”

“Mama, shame on you!”

Her mother got up and went towards the house.

“He’s from Iceland!” Rosalita shouted. “Or is it Sweden?” she said to her mother’s back. “One of those bleached white, Northern Anglo families!”

An involuntary sigh escaped from my throat. “I should have seen it coming.”

She gave me a squeeze. “It’s just ignorance.”

“Perhaps,” I replied sadly. “Whoever said ‘ignorance is bliss’ must have been pretty stupid.”

Angry sounds drifted from the kitchen with unintended clarity. We could hear bits and pieces of jumbled distress. “I am not!” her father exclaimed. “You don’t like it any better than I do!”

“Don’t say that!” her mother shouted. “It doesn’t mean a thing to me.”

“You’ve got to be kidding!”

“Shhhhh . . .” her mother countered.

“How long are we staying . . . a week?” I asked. “By then I’ll have been drawn and quartered or systematically tolerated to death!”

CONTINUED

The Infamous Boomerang.

She’s off fighting for the causes she believes in and putting her body and heart where her mouth is. She graduated from college, demonstrated in Seattle, worked for Americorps VISTA in Albuquerque New Mexico, completed medical school and is now a practicing physician.

No, I’m not speaking about an extremist expecting the world to follow their belief system, I’m speaking about my once cantankerous daughter Darcy. She’s mellowed during her years as an intern and having a baby last year has given her a new perspective on pretty much everything, but she still teaches me a lot about standing up for your self and others.

Before, during and after a Thanksgiving holiday several years ago, Darcy had several heated debates with various family members, including myself, about politics, business, world trade and health care.

Watching her adamantly and forcefully presenting her case; gave me pause and a fit of quiet bemusement. I thought about the infamous boomerang. Everything I’d thrown out in my younger days was being regurgitated back in my direction. It was like looking in a mirror at myself thirty years ago, when I too felt the world was falling apart and only radical and instant change could save it.

I agreed with a lot of Darcy’s ideas and beliefs, but not always with how to achieve them. She wanted to rid the world of fire breathing dragons and she wanted it yesterday! She believed so strongly in her views that there was little room for disagreement or looking at things from any other perspective.

At one point in the conversations held during that holiday, she said, “Maybe when I’m older and have kids I’ll feel differently.” She was right. I don’t think she feels differently, but how she presents what she feels is much easier to digest.

Is it simply age and responsibilities that change a person or could it also, hopefully, be a combination of increased understanding and deeper insight into life’s realities and accepting the limits of what we can and can not do to make the world a better place to live? Or, could it be that I’m not willing to risk as much as I did in the past and have become complacent? Have I become too conservative and set in my ways or did she need to grow up and look at things differently?

I’ve worked hard to be able to work at a job that matches my convictions and beliefs and am living a life that is congruent with my perception of what is needed environmentally and socially. My actions, for the most part, match my rhetoric. I pick my battles instead of trying to fight them all in one fell swoop. But, is that enough? I believe so, but maybe it took her young eyes of determination, questioning and insistence upon change to keep me looking in the mirror to see if mine were still open?

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