Hello Warm & Sunny Cañar

Dear Friends:  The last time we were in Cañar during this fall season was in 2001, near the end of a Fulbright year and our first long stay here. All I remember from these months was how cold I was. We lived in a flimsily-built house on the Paseo de los Cañaris, with almost no direct sunlight, and I sometimes slept in wool hat and gloves.p1150923Many things have changed since then, including global warming, Last week, we arrived in Cañar at mid-day to clear skies and temperatures in the 70’sF. Opening the door to our glass-covered patio it was over 80. Michael had bought lunch things, but for the first time in the eight years we’ve been in this house, it was too hot to have lunch at our usual spot in the patio. So I set up a table outside the kitchen for another first: lunch al fresco on a little back patio.  (sorry Michael for catching you mid-bite.)lunch-back-patioAfter, we slowly did our rounds of house and garden, Michael reporting he felt a bit dizzy while I had the usual altitude headache coming on and knew a couple of nights of insomnia awaited me. Within the last four hours, we had come from sea-level Guayaquil to over 10,000 ft. (3100 mts) with a hot-footed hired driver in her private car. It was thrilling to get here so fast, but the result was a mild version of soroche or altitude sickness (low partial pressure of oxygen). It does take us a few days to feel normal at this altitude, and I usually avoid making the climb into town because when greeting folks I’m too breathless to carry on much conversation.

Inside the house, we see calling cards of creatures small and smaller that take over the while we’re gone. White dropping all over the patio show that small birds  enjoyed swooping in through the space between the glass frame and tile roof, making themselves at home. In the utility room one enterprising ave has built its nest in the hot water heater. We see mouse droppings here and there, in likely and unlikely places – in my office/studio, for instance, on the bookshelves. I imagine the mice frolicking, looking for favorite titles. And among the beams the usual spider webs and lots of dust. (Below: Michael cleaning and repairing the hot water heater.) hot-water Outside, a neighbor’s cocky rooster with his three clucking hens has taken up residence in the kitchen garden. (That evening the rooster will startle us by jumping up and pecking at his reflection in our living room window, thinking an interloper has moved into his territory.)p1150974I see that our other next door neighbor, Magdalena, has tethered four cows in her tiny backyard, and constructed a new twig roof on her shed worthy of a Whitney Biennial artist. cow-chozaIn our side yard I see broken limbs from a small tree where Jose Maria’s twin bulls must have passed through on their way to the back field.  I’ve often watched our compadre bring these huge creatures through the gate and around the house, prodding them along as they try to chomp on anything in their way. This poor tree will never be the same with all its lower branches gone. After we left in July, Jose Maria tilled that field with the yoked bulls and wooden plow to plant potatoes, now beautifully in bloom. p1000679Below us looking north, I see a new wall built at the end of our property. Our spectacular view is slowly being encroached upon, and I mourn every inch that disappears. But Michael is more philosophic. We knew we were building in an area newly zoned as residential – in fact, we wanted to be close to town – so it’s inevitable that people build around us (if only it weren’t always with concrete blocks – least expensive and fastest construction). Still, I fondly remember our 180-degree view ten years ago of nothing but fields, mountains and a few adobe houses in the distance.p1000689Our favorite neighborhood dog, whom we call Gordo, squeezes under the gate and gives us a baleful look. You back already?     p1000702He loves our lawns for his daily “business” and also to store his collections of objects, such as two rubber shoes – not a pair – a tattered soccer ball, assorted bones and plastic bottled, a used diaper or two…

p1150976 p1150959That evening, with the magic of a small laptop and Bluetooth speaker we listen to our favorite Portland radio station KMHD – and our friend Lynn Darroch’s Friday afternoon program, Bright Moments. (Lynn: Michael says how much he loved the Ray Charles-in-Seattle story.)  And in front of our first fire (the temp drops dramatically at night and in fact it froze two nights later), we enjoyed our first sunset…  (Read on below for news from the Cañar Book Club.)p1150928-1

The Cañar Book Club

I’ve been a big reader since childhood, but I’ve never been in a book club. I asked to join one once, but the group was already well established and the members felt they couldn’t integrate another person. I understood. So I’ve created my own book club, and I invite you to join. I’ll report on what I’m reading and you tell me what you are reading, what you think, what you recommend. I’ll put this at the end of every Chronicle.

I’m attaching a list of the books I brought this year – a miscellaneous collection from wish lists, friends’ recommendation – including from you, dear readers – and reviews that led to impulse buys. Thus, as I unpack, I look at some titles and wonder whatever led me to buy this? So far since I left Portland on our 24-hour travel day I read Patricia Hampl’s The Florist’s Daughter, picked up at the Multnomah County book table at Woodstock a couple of weeks ago. A beautiful memoir. Then for change of pace I picked up The Disappearance of Adele Bedeau – ordered after I read about the author shortlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize, Graeme Macrae Burnet, and his bestselling “cult classic” first book. I’m not a big mystery reader, but this was a delight and I consumed it in two days. OK – below are the books now sitting on my reading shelf next to my side of the bed, making me feel happy and secure:

  1. H is for Hawk, Helen Macdonald
  2. Sleepless Nights, Elizabeth Hardwick
  3. Toby’s Room, Pat Barker
  4. Italian Ways, Tim Parks
  5. Shame, Melanie Finn
  6. A Hologram for the King, Dave Eggers
  7. Family Album, Penelope Lively
  8. On the Move: A Life, Oliver Sacks
  9. An Unneccessary Woman: Rabih Alameddine
  10. The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert
  11. All the Light we Cannot See, Anthony Doerr
  12. What the Dead Know, Laura Lippman
  13. My Venice and other Essays, Donna Leon
  14. My Name is Lucy Barton, Elizabeth Strout
  15. The Faraway Nearby, Rebecca Solnit
  16. In the Wood, Tana French
  17. Faithful Place, Tana French
  18. A Man Called Ove, Fredrick Backman
  19. Madrid: The History, Jules Stewart
  20. The Disappearance of Adele Bedeau, Graeme Macrae Burnet





Print Friendly, PDF & Email

21 thoughts on “Hello Warm & Sunny Cañar

  1. So glad you arrived to good weather, Judy. We’ve had our first snowfall here and are looking at a snowy winter, which is fine, but the first snow was a bit of a shock. I looked over you reading list and the only one I’ve read is Anthony Doerr’s book, which I really liked. So good reading. Let us know what you liked. It will undoubtedly spur more book purchases and library borrowings in this part of the world. Our best to Michael. Jennifer

  2. Just finished The Signature of all Things and I mourned that there weren’t more than the 500+ pages. A sweeping novel of grand writing!
    We are snug in our VRBO in Sisters for the long weekend with friends and one son. We came over the pass from the South and gasped at how low Detroit Lake was with hundreds of tree stumps showing and boat docks hundreds of yards from the water’s edge. Snow was thick and lovely on trees but when we descended toward Black Butte the sun shone and there was no trace of winter! Sending love for turkey day! Did you end up connecting with that gal I introduced you to who is working in Oaxaca?

  3. Judy and Michael, Congratulations on one more successful journey to the Equator. Your photos confirm that you’re already tucked into your home and that Micahel is meditating on future menus. With all your bird friends, you’ll soon be singing “Ave Maria.”

    Nice reading list. I’ve read a few of the books. I especially enjoyed “The Signature of All Things.”

    It’s raining like crazy again in Portland, and so you escaped just in time. Hope everything continues to go well for you both. –Bruce

  4. Number 11, All the Light We Can Not See. LOVED it – and so did Andrew. Beautifully written and so evocative of era and place(s). It’s a good page-turner of a story too. Andrew’s just started a Tana French so I dare he’ll be able to share thoughts on that in a little while. Lovely to see you settled back in again.

  5. Always happy to see you there and settled in the southern hemisphere!
    Love all the vignettes – esp the dog finds –

    Here in Santa Fe winter is coming on slow but steady with snow in our
    near future – today a cold and windy Thanksgiving morning, great for
    staying in bed with a good book (Tana French’s new novel The Trespasser).

    I know how much you love holidays, so HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!! I’m
    sure you’ll have something very traditional, like a ‘seafood mista’ with a good wine (or beer, Michael) Sending mucho love, Sherry

  6. Hi Judy and Michael,

    Loved seeing you in Gales Creek this spring. Your place in Canar looks lovely.

    Re: books–nice list, some of which have been selections in my first book club ever this last year. (They finally let me in.) Because of current events, I segued to science fiction this fall and read TC Boyle’s 2016 book “Terranauts.” 3 stars. Pat

  7. Judy y Michell Que alegría volver a saber de vosotros, me alegra mucho las noticias de esta crónica, les recurerdo con mucho cariño y espero volver a verles pronto, un saludo


  8. Happy thanksgiving! So nice to see you settled so peaceful in your other life…

    Mary Ann

  9. I’m happy it was a happy homecoming. Among those lines, I am reading Homegoing, highly recommended. On your list, I enjoyed the Gilbert, and was lukewarm on the Eggers. Xo

  10. Loved the doer book. My two fav books lately are non fiction dealing with topics of dementia, Altzimers and impending death. Now it sounds dull but it was fascinating .
    Being Mortal
    Creating Moments of Joy

  11. Such a lovely read the day after Thanksgiving! Here’s to your coming adventures in Cañar! As always, I look forward to reading about them!

    I haven’t read anything on your reading list…I am currently reading “The Island at the Center of the World:The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan, and the Founding Colony that Shaped America” by Russell Shorto. It is especially wonderful now that I’ve been working in lower Manhattan and can walk in the footsteps of those early settlers.
    I also just read that one of my favorite writers, Michael Chabon just came out with a book of short stories. Can’t wait to read that. Bruce just started Booth Tarkington’s “Magnificent Ambersons”. He said it was the most absorbing first chapter he’s read in a long time! All the best to your new season in the clouds!

  12. Judy
    It sounds like a lovely homecoming, mice and all! The photos make this so tempting, but I’m off to India this January. How about January 2018 in Canar?

    I’ve read some of the books on your list, and will check out others. Dave Eggars is always a treat. I also highly recommend, as did a comment above, “Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande.

    See you at Lone Fir 11/4/17, if not before.

  13. Climate change brings the hottest fall on record to Boulder. It has been in the high 60’s low 70’s every day since last September–and before that, warmer still. This meant good weather going door to door in Denver suburbs for a progressive candidate in the most difficult state senate district in our state–and yes, she won, swimming against the Trumpist tide.

    Donna Leon’s book “My Venice” #13 jumped off the shelf and into my hands in a Dupont Circle bookstore two years ago. It has absolutely lovely short essays on Venice from the perspective of a 30 year ex-pat who teaches English at a nearby university and whose love of opera is a thread woven into a number of the stories. It’s poignant because the stronger your affection for Venice, the more you realize that the lives of people who live there is made difficult by the city’s prominent place on the tourist must see list. Having read “My Venice” then led me to read in quick succession 7 of the 23 mystery novels that Donna Leon has written, all set in and around Venice.

    On another note, the ascendancy of Trump means that in our family we must be active in resisting fascism, as there are disturbing similarities between the context for Trump’s rise and the rapid slide of Germany into a totalitarian state in 1933. I wanted to be reminded of the historical precedent, and to that end, I picked up Volcker Ullrich’s newly translated biography of Hitler up to 1939. It is a page turner, based on original research, while frequently touching the frame of reference created by other and earlier studies of the Hitler and the rise of the Nazi’s. There is a thorough review of this book in the NYT available here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/28/books/hitler-ascent-volker-ullrich.html. The review is appropriately titled, “In ‘Hitler,’ an Ascent From ‘Dunderhead’ to Demagogue.’

  14. Thanks Macon, for all. Your last year’s recommendation of Donna Leon led me to this year’s Leon book, right now propping open the bedroom window. I look forward to meeting her…

  15. thanks Laura – we’re hoping for some local adventures in next six months. Good time to be out of U.S.

  16. I don’t remember who first mentioned your name to me, but a few weeks ago I first started reading about your work and visited your blog. As I was going through a rough time adjusting to life here, it was refreshing to read someone else’s point of view and it helped me rediscover my curiosity about this place and to once again see the beauty but also the complexities of Cañar. Then, the other day I walked through the streets of Changlaban with an Ecuadorian friend (who I believe knows you), and she pointed out your house and started telling me about you. I hope our paths cross at some point in the next few months (they most likely will, it’s Cañar after all), and I’d be happy to discuss books, among other things!

  17. Thanks. I know my website needs some attention and I hope to get to that in the next couple of months.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *