There must be a good metaphor for the closing up of a house, slowly divesting it of color in rugs, pillows, throws, weavings. Darkening the rooms with exterior shutters. Rolling up rugs and mats. Taking art and photos off the walls. Shutting down the patio fountain. Emptying shelves, packing away clothes. It’s all good for cleaning and ordering, but maybe brings on a touch of melancholy.“I’m getting all sentimental,” Michael said yesterday as he cleaned the pantry shelves and made a pile of opened packages to give away.
“Not me,” I said as I dusted off San Antonio, wrapped him in an old sweater, said goodnight, and put him to bed for six months. (He’s permanently attached to a niche in the patio, exposed to sun and humidity.)
And our frequent afternoon visitor Maria, daughter of our compadre and addicted to my old laptop, movies and the internet connection, didn’t mind the darkened guest room for chatting on “Face” – in fact she probably prefers it.After a miserable two weeks of unusually bad weather – in the 40’s-low 50’s, fierce winds and spitting rain – during which we basically huddled by the fire and burned a bunch of wood, or went out covered in layers of wool and rain gear – we are back to balmy days, which folks here call with understatement, regular – 50’s and low 60’s. For us, it’s beautiful weather that is making our last days delightful.
See the field of corn behind the house? Turns out it’s the source of new life taking over our place as we are leaving. We woke on Monday morning to find two huge bulls in our back yard. While we slept our comadre Narcisa had led these beasts through our gate, around the house and tethered them behind, where they were munching on alfalfa and our back hedge (which needs trimming anyway). (Narcisa and Jose María and their three girls are the family that takes care of our house and land while we’re gone.)
All day we saw Narcisa in the field, harvesting dried corn – called mazorcas – and beans and peas. As she cleared one section, she would stake the bulls so they could graze, ruminate and shit, then move them anew. Very efficient. “Nothing is ever wasted” Michael said, standing at the window watching. (By the way, these bulls are part of her business – she rents them out as a yunta – yoked bulls – to plow peoples’ fields.)
Then late afternoon she was up by the house, sorting the harvest into sacks. Of courseI I went crazy running out every few minutes to take photos or make drawings, while Michael took her juice and popcorn.As it grew dark, she knocked on the door and asked if she could lay out the corn and quinoa and amaranth (volunteer from last year’s crop) in our patio “to keep the ratones and birds from feasting on the harvest.”
As I write this the next day I hear clicks and clacks in the patio as the dried beans pop out of their shells in the strong sun. And this afternoon I saw a large sheep run around the house and followed it to find Narcisa had brought 11 sheep to help clean the field.
Even the birds seem to know we are leaving. The little rufus-collared sparrows often come into the patio in the space between the tiles and glass roof to feed on the flowers or frolic in the fountain. But this morning one flew right into the bedroom while I was in bed with coffee and laptop and sat on the windowsill. (In January we came back to find two nests hidden in the giant aloe, and evidence they had feasted at leisure on the bag of quinoa in my studio.) They can’t wait for us to leave!
A final note: This being Ecuador there’s threat of a national strike tomorrow that might “close the roads” and “block the airports.” Hard to know how serious it is – opposition groups (mostly indigenous) are being cagey about plans; while government is fomenting fear and loathing with worst-case-scenarios. The Pope is due in Guayaquil on Saturday, so this might be a factor. Given all this, we’ve decided to hire a taxi to take us directly to the airport, along with Mama Michi, our traveling companion this year. If it turns out to be an adventure, there might yet be another Cañar Chronicle for 2015.