The weather, a wedding and books

Dear Friends:  It has been a long period of extremely cold, rainy and foggy weather in Cañar, with the temperature most days in the mid-50’s (F) and at night in the 40’s (F). Brrrr. Here Narcisa and José María plow our back field during the “dias feos” – ugly days. Michael has taken to building a morning fire and keeping it going all day until bedtime. We eat dinner in front of it, listening to KMHD jazz or Radiolab, and watching our films sitting there. Then, come @ 9:00, we rush towards the bedroom, sometimes one at a time, brush, jump into bed nearly fully clothed (that’s me), and read a book for 15-30 minutes. Then, before lights out, I peel off layers of (lately) an undershirt, two t-shirts, two sweaters, wool scarf, and I leave it all in a tangle, wrong-side-out, on the floor beside the bed.

We sink into good sound sleeps of around eight hours in the cold, dark and quiet. Next morning I only have to reach over and turn my clothes right-side-in and peel them back on, while still cozy in bed. Meanwhile, Michael is in the kitchen doing last night’s dishes and making coffee. In return for coffee in bed, I load Michael’s puzzles on my laptop: a NYTimes crossword and four KenKens (“puzzles that make you smarter), while simultaneously checking the headlines (oh no!). “COFFEE!” M. yells from the kitchen (unless we have guests, in which case the protocol is to come quietly to bedroom door). That is my signal to jump up, put on tights, and print his puzzles while I get my coffee. Then it’s back to bed for me while Michael has two double espressos with puzzles in his “chess corner” in the living room, still warmish after last night’s fire.And here I am at the moment. It is Sunday morning, March 5, and the brief sun has gone. Yesterday we were invited to a special wedding at Ingapirca, the Inca ruins about 30 minutes from Cañar that many of our visitors know. Although we have vowed, after all these years, to avoid baptisms, weddings, and graduation fiestas – all two-three day, late-night affairs – we went to this one for several reasons. Pacha, the bride, is one of our scholarship graduates and Juan Carlos, the groom, is someone we’ve known since he was 5 or so, back in 1992 when we attended his baptism fiesta. It was our first real invitation to a Cañari family event, and we were so thrilled we stayed late dancing and returned early the next morning to continue the celebration. We left Cañar soon after for a Christmas break in the U.S., and when we returned we learned that Juan Carlos’s father, a promising young agronomist, had died after a soccer-game kick that probably ruptured his spleen.

Meet the bride and groom, or “novios” as they say here. (That’s Mama Michi on left.)Pacha and Juan Carlos have an interesting story. They got together too young in high school, had a baby who died, went their separate ways, got back together, Pacha applied to the Cañar Women’s Scholarship Program in her second year of dental school at University of Cuenca, and we supported her through four more years and a specialist course – she now has a thriving practice in Cañar – during which time Juan earned a master’s degree in music and they had a beautiful daughter, Naomi, now nine. Naomi led the wedding procession as we wound our way through the archeological complex, stopping for ritual ceremonies at various points along the way. OK, so why get married…again? After 13 years, and a second child born a year or so ago. They surely had a civic marriage at some point, but in the eyes of Mama Mariana, Juan Carlos’s mother, a widow so proud of her three professional children, and the Catholic Church and maybe even the Cañari community, Pacha and Juan Carlos were not really married until…well, something like the ritual of yesterday. It was all very orchestrated, a mix of La La Land fantasy with music, flowers and flames and flags and dancing. But we all loved it, along with the lucky tourists in Ingapirca yesterday. Michael and I skipped the all-night fiesta at Pacha’s parents’ house, as we are skipping the mass today and will miss another late-night fiesta tonight at Mama Mariana’s house. Our stamina for such events – and mine as documenting photographer – is not what it used to be. But here we were: me with a brother of the bride; Michael with the groom.


Cañar Book Club

OK, we are WAY overdue for a meeting of the Cañar Book Club, and I apologize to my fellow members for being so long in calling a meeting.
However, I have been faithfully collecting the amazing list your good reads and suggestions. My own reading has been all over the place, from A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers (hated it! although I’ve liked most everything else of his, but can’t believe such a boring story has been made into a movie with Tom Hanks). Then, desperate for a change of pace, I read Tana French’s Faithful Place. For years I’ve heard about her writing and her Dublin-based mystery stories. Too long, but I was captivated as much by the vernacular voice of her protagonists (e.g. incredibly creative cursing) as by the story. She’s great. Now Michael’s reading it, and I have her In the Woods on my bedside pile. But my best read by far the past few months was The Secrets of Mary Bowser, by Portland author Lois Leveen. A historical novel based on a real person, I learned a lot about the Civil War south as seen through the eyes of an ex-slave turned spy for the Union.

Your reads: (I fear I’ve missed some of your book club messages. Please send  anew, with updates…)

From Andrew in London: July’s People by Nadine Gordimer – humanistic, incredible writing.

 From Lisa in LA: That Bright Land by Terry Roberts and quite enjoying it… about a small North Carolina town post-Civil War and a former Union soldier sent there to discover who is killing Union veterans.

From Maggi in Toronto: Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel and… just finishing The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead – most interesting.

From Susan in PortlandBarkskins by Annie Proulx. A huge tome, 700+ pages. Deals with the European attitude toward the natural world, focusing on the huge forests in the northern New World.

From Daphne in EdmontonAnn Patchett’s new novel Commonwealth. It’s very interesting, a good read.

From Shoshana in Portland: My Antonia (Willa Cather)…because I have always loved her simple and rich writing style, rich with similes, where the reader can feel, taste and sense the surroundings.

From Joan in Corvallis: Mary Weismantel’s book  Food, Gender and Poverty in the Ecuadorian Andes.

From Ed in Quito: Lost Crops of the Incas-Little known plants of the Andes with Promise of World Wide Cultivation y Huasipungo by Jorge Icaza which was influential in describing the abuses of the hacienda system.

From Sandy in Portland: Citizen, An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine. Brilliantly written, difficult to read, but her writing leaves you not just with greater intellectual understandings of racism, but feelings. I have read some other good ones lately, but this one is the one that had the biggest impact on me.

From Char in Santa Fe.: Mariette In Ecstasy by Ron Hanson, 1991.  I love it for thedaily routine of the nuns. The tag line is “Exquisite…a cliff-hanger of a story..the finale is a stunner.”

From Irene in Salem: Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear. They are best read in a series. Well written and I do like mysteries.

From Patty in Portland: An Atlas of Impossible Longing, by Anuradha Roy, another great read and terrific title and also The Folded Earth (2011) by Roy, which I haven’t yet read.

From Maya in Portland:  The Return: Fathers and Sons and the Land in Between, by Hisham Matar, a memoir by a Libyan who’s father was thrown into Kadaffi’s prison, which was one of New York Times’ best books of the year, and it is totally compelling.

From ??: The Dream of My Return by Horacio Castellanos Moya.  It’s got that signature modern Latin American technique of continuous first person narrative in an almost hallucinogenic pace. The protagonist is an exile in Mexico City considering returning to El Salvador.

And to end with Maya from Portland who writes, given these times:  Thank goodness for good books!


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14 thoughts on “The weather, a wedding and books

  1. Always a treat to hear about your adventures. Thank you for sharing the wonderful story of the people and the wedding.
    The weather here has been cold, damp, and snowy and I have been doing more reading than usual. Jon is painting for a show at the Salem Art Assoc. annex in August so he is in his studio everyday. Let us both hope for a warmer spring.
    Love, Irene

  2. Judy,

    We are back in Portland and the weather in Canar sounds so similar to what we have here. I barely left the house for the first week! It was a challenging transition and we were only gone two months. I would be interested in talking to you about how you and Michael handle it every year.

  3. 40’s sounds balmy! We are still in the 30’s. The long winter, indeed. Already looking forward to your return.

  4. Hi Judy,

    I’m Mandy from Bend as a member of the Giving Circle. Sorry if this is not the proper “venue” in which to communcate but It was there so I jumped at the chance.

    One of your book club members is “Shoshanna” from Portland. I wonder if it’s “my Shoshanna” a long time good friend also from Portland via Bulgaria and Israel. I’ll ask her.

    I enjoyed your last blog entry in which you spoke of your and Micheal’s evening ritual of listening to jazz. We too religiously listen to Eugene based KLCC as we are huddled close to the wood stove!

    This message is intentionally short as I have been wanting to touch base with you before we meet later this spring (?) Do the powers know about this season as I watch the snow falling making more of an accumulation on our existent 3-4 feet piles!!!!

    Looking forward to meeting you when we warm up!!!

    Mandy (and Robin) Fritchman

  5. Judy:
    Enjoy your Cañar chronicles, especially the stories about the Cañari women.
    I am curious about the voluminous book collection you often mention. You bring a suitcase full of books you buy to read here in the 6 -month period you both are here? Or are they e-books? I cannot use a Kindle and our one English used bookstore (Carolina Bookstore) has been sold to a new owner, a Brit with few social skills so I rarely go there anymore… I mainly am reading online on my laptop, rereading stuff I have here or watching Ecuador pirated films which can be fun to get through these tough days and cold nights.. Hope you will get back to me in April.

    Here in Cuenca also in the gloom, dias feos, dias nublados y muy frios…I am wondering if or when you are headed this way for a visit sometime in April. I am leaving for a month in Argentina next weekend but when you come to Cuenca, let’s get together for a coffee or something.

  6. Not to pile on, but Portland’s winter has been a real garden killer. Your Canar routines mirror the everyday travails of Portland life. Nancy’s brother, Jack, just drove back to Oregon and was shocked to see we’re still in the dead of winter.

    Don’t blame you for bagging out on all the ceremonies. Lots of fun but exhausting. Amazing that you have the stamina and will to do them at all. Much more fun to go climb a mountain outside town and then knock back a cold beer.

    I don’t have any literature to recommend. Just tried to slog through the NY Times’ much acclaimed “The Argonauts,” but tossed it aside after thirty pages. Looking at your readers’ list, my vote goes to Shoshana’s “My Antonia.” A real classic and well worth a reread.

    Hope you have enough wood to weather the cold. We’ve already burned through our year’s supply. Right now, two coyote pups are cavorting on the golf course so life’s good. Take care. –Bruce

  7. Judy, I am 2/3 the way through Sally Mann’s, the photographer, memoir/autobiography, Hold Still. I absolutely loved the first 1/2. She is a skilled writer as well as photographer.

  8. Yes, wasn’t A Hologram for the King the pits?! Read Homegoing instead if you can find it. It is distressing to admit that my reading regimen has been completely disrupted by our political situation…I need a way back in and somehow cannot find the right book.

  9. Hi Judy,
    Enjoyed the photos of the wedding! Cold and damp damp doesn’t look good though. We have had a mild winter for the most part on the east side of the divide – though Craig I had been very cold and lots of snow.
    Appreciate all of the book recommendations and will look for some. Just finished Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things. One of my favorites recently. Mostly about a woman growing up in 1800s Philadelphia, daughter of a botanist and became one herself. Long tale with many interesting turns. (fiction)

  10. Weather in Quito for the last two months has left us wondering why we left the Pacific Northwest this winter. Yes there have been breaks in the weather and yes it is also winter here but…often we climb into bed with clothes on as well.

  11. Sister Jude, as always such a treat to read your chronicle…but this time especially
    for the description of getting ready for bed and the photo of the wrong side out
    pile of clothes. I want a copy of the photo! I’ll do collage with it! I truly love the
    idea that you reverse it in the morning. I remember so well you and I walking around
    the little town at dusk, working up a nice body heat, then jumping into bed under
    a heavy pile of blankets and sleeping soundly through the “dark and quiet night”.
    And of course, the wedding. Beautiful photos, and a beautiful story. I like the
    couple, bound together in a cape, standing in a swirl of flower petals. Now that’s
    a wedding worth attending.
    Just in case the book club isn’t where I thought it would be…at the end of this…I’ll
    just say….I did not like In The Woods by Tana French. I just bought The Zookeepers
    Wife by Diane Ackerman, :”A War Story. drawing on the unpublished diary of
    Antonina žabińska. Poland, 1939. I have 9 days of leisure time in Nicaragua.
    Book report to follow. Love Char

  12. Always enjoy being transported to your home in Canar.
    We as you have heard are under a heavy siege of clouds, gray and rain. It is making it hard to muster a positive spirit not to mention the general burden of the Political world.
    I am almost finished with The Gene : An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee . He does a great job of making this topic readable . the history of Eugenics here in our country prior to the rise of Hitler is chilling. Also started White Trash . The 400 -year untold history of class in America – my personal attempt to understand the undercurrents to our current social/political situation.
    All is calm here in the ‘hood’. Our neighbor ‘Bobby’ passed away rather quickly to lung cancer – Anita his roommate moved back with her family . Will have to see who moves in next.

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