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Archive for the ‘Science & Nature’ Category

It’s been two months since a lethal 8.2 earthquake devastated the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region of Oaxaca.  For a brief time, this oft-neglected state had captured the attention and relief efforts of Mexico and the world.  Aware that relief supplies were desperately needed, I was informed that my friend and manager of Casa Colonial B&B, Amado Bolaños, with the blessings of the Casa’s owner Jane Robison, was driving supplies to villages in the Isthmus.  Within 24 hours of returning to Oaxaca on September 16, I filled three large trash bags with clothing, sandals, sheets, and towels for him to take.

Unfortunately, the focus soon shifted.  On September 19, a deadly 7.1 earthquake hit central Mexico and caused severe damage to several neighborhoods in Mexico City.  And then there were the hurricanes….  As a result, the damnificados (victims) of this second poorest state in Mexico continue to suffer the effects of the strongest earthquake to hit Mexico in a century.  Thus, Amado continues to carry pickup truck loads of needed items to stricken communities.

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Amado Bolaños speaking at the Casa Colonial earthquake relief fundraiser

So, last week I wasn’t surprised to receive the following email from Amado addressed to Casa Colonial friends:

It’s been a while since our last email, many good and bad things [have] been happening all this time. One of the bad things are the earthquakes in different parts of Mexico and of course in our dear Oaxaca state. Although the situation in Oaxaca city in not bad at all, things at the Isthmus of Oaxaca are not so great, many many entire families lost their homes and they are living in a horrible situation.

Personally with the help of many of you,  I have  been taking trips to these places, carrying  food, medicines tarps and other things, that my paisanos are in need of.

This is why CHEAP SEATS AND CASA COLONIAL are putting together a Benefit Concert this coming Sunday the 5th at 4pm

All the money collected would be used to get more tarps and food that the Istmeños are in need. The donation entrance fee would be $200 pesos per person and of course you can also bring the following:

• rice • beans • painkillers • powdered milk • toys • clean clothes (in good condition), for adults and many more for kids and babies • tarps • water • canned food • diapers.

If you think in anything else, bring it over, I`m sure we can figure it out.  Muchas gracias por todo…see you guys this coming Sunday….we´ll have hamburgers, hot dogs and margaritas of course

blessings
Amado Bolaños
Casa Colonial Manager

Of course, I went.  The hamburgers and margaritas were yummy and, as you can see from this brief clip, the music by the Cheap Seats was rousing and had the crowd clapping and cheering.  However, the purpose of the event was not forgotten and during intermission, Amado painted a heartfelt and revealing picture of the conditions people in the Isthmus are still having to endure.  Formal relief efforts and agencies are scarce and aftershocks continue.  One of the medicines, which he didn’t have access to but was much requested was for anxiety.  And, he told the story of a 3-year old coming to get a relief package for his family and, when asked where his mother was, he was led by the boy to what remained of his home and discovered the mom sheltered under a tarp where, with the help of another woman from the village, she had given birth to twins the night before.

If you can made a donation, please contact Amado Bolaños at Casa Colonial B&B.  You can be assured your donation will go directly to the people who are in most need, not into the coffers of some politico and his cronies.

Amado Bolaños
Phone: +52 951 516 5280
Email: oaxaca@casa-colonial.com

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Sometimes you just have to stop and gaze…

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This morning outside Mercado Sánchez Pascuas.

Posted on Cee’s Flower of the Day.

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Lunch coming down out of the mountains in Colorado…

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Tacos at Carniceria Sonora in Clifton, CO

Back in Oaxaca in time for a comida of September’s traditional dish…

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Chiles en Nogada at Las Quince Letras Restaurante in Oaxaca de Juárez

And, not to be left out, Argiope showing off her freshly caught brunch…

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Flies or bees or one of each on the terrace at Casita Colibrí

Gals, be they human or arachnid, have got to eat!

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If you suffer from arachnophobia, you might want to click away from this post.

You were warned, so I will continue…  Two spiders, a Neoscona oaxacensis and an Argiope, have taken up residence on my terrace.  This isn’t the first time I have played hostess to these two kinds of orb weaver spiders.

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Neoscona oaxacensis (back)

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Neoscona oaxacensis (underside)

My latest guests arrived a week ago and have been settling in ever since.  Their webs are strung across neighboring plants, though the Argiope’s also extends across a walkway onto the deck.  Unfortunately, a few days ago, I inadvertently walked through it but, undeterred, she rewove it in the same place.  So I have blocked the route with an extremely spiky cactus, to prevent further human destruction.

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Argiope (top)

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Argiope (underside)

Aren’t my new visitors beautiful?  By the way, they eat insects and are harmless to humans, so nothing to be afraid of!

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In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.  — Anne Frank

Last night, I watched the pleading (and currently homeless!) mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Carmen Yulín Cruz, BEG the U.S. government for more help following Hurricane Maria, which has devastated this U.S. territory.  Power may not be restored to the island for months, hospitals are without medicines, and people are dying.  This morning I awoke to news that the U.S. president, up bright and early in the luxurious comfort of his New Jersey golf club, had taken to Twitter to personally attack San Juan’s mayor.  Why?  For doing her job!!!  I was both livid at the Twit-in-Chief and incredibly sad for Puerto Rico.  Where is the understanding?  Where is the empathy??  Where is the humanity???

And then I read my Mexico City based friend, Cristina Potters’ latest Mexico Cooks! blog post.  Cristina, thank you SO much for reaching out to and translating the words of “Al” — this is what humanity looks like.  With Cristina’s permission, here is her post:

Mexico City Earthquake :: We Interrupt Our Regular Programing…

At 11:00AM on September 19, 2017, the 32nd anniversary of the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, the nation as a whole took a few moments to sound its earthquake alarms as a test run for city residents to practice precautions, and as a memorial to the many, many thousands of people who lost their lives in Mexico City that day so long ago.  The earthquake alarm is arguably the most shocking sound in this city where I live.  There are 8000 alarm speakers set up, one in every neighborhood; one of them is just on the corner, only one door from my apartment building.  The horrible and unmistakeable sound–alerta sísmica alerta sísmica alerta sísmica, accompanied by unspeakable sirens–comes directly into my home office window.  As 11:00AM approached, I steeled myself and warned the cats; the alarm went off as scheduled, stopped within a minute or so, and we all breathed a sigh of relief.



Two hours and fourteen minutes later, all hell broke loose.  A massive earthquake, 7.1 on the Richter scale, shallow and with a nearby epicenter, crashed into Mexico City with no warning.  Due to its proximity, there was no time to sound the alarm until the quake had already started.  As is usually the case, the neighborhood where I live and the neighborhood nearest me were hardest hit.  There are geological reasons for that, but no need to elaborate on those now.  Parts of the whole city sustained serious damage; at last count, about 50 buildings collapsed, thousands more are in danger of collapsing, more than 400 people lost their lives, and thousands more are seriously injured.



On September 24, a young Mexico City woman whom I do not know used social media to express her thoughts, feelings, and experiences as she volunteered with an earthquake relief effort day.  I contacted her and asked her permission to translate her writing into English and publish it here.  She calls herself “Al” and she asked that I not publish a photograph of her.  She says she’s not a writer, although in my opinion she most definitely is.
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“Yesterday I spent six hours helping at Ground Zero on Calle Escocia, in the Del Valle neighborhood of Mexico City. I had stayed overnight at my parents’ home, and got up at 6:30AM. My mother made breakfast for me while I was getting ready, and then I lined up to go to the place where volunteers were to gather.



Those in charge explained to us that we women were to pass empty buckets to the Mexican army, who were going to fill them with rubble and then pass them to two lines of men who were behind us, pressed up against the walls. The army was to move any metal, glass, furniture, and other more dangerous objects. They knew how inexperienced most of us volunteers were and they didn’t want us to run any risks.



In order for us to go in, they gave us equipment—helmet, gloves, vest, and face masks. They used permanent markers to write our name, a contact number, and blood type on our arms. They vaccinated us against tetanus.

And then we went into Ground Zero in silence, our cellular phones turned off. Right after a 45 minute delay due to the scare of the second earthquake [Saturday 23 September, a 6.2 aftershock from the earthquake on September 7, 2017], the army immediately put us to work. We had to wait while Civil Defense made sure that it was safe to go into the building.



My eyes could not believe what they were seeing: I had never seen a collapsed building, never thought how a structure so strong and solid could become a mountain of rubble and memories. The “line of life”, as we called it, began its work, and we put thinking aside in order to be able do our job.



While we were actively working, other volunteers continuously offered us donated water, electrolytes, candies, tamales, and hard-boiled eggs. We volunteers preferred not to eat; we just took candies and left the food for the army and the engineers. Doctors came through continuously, asking if we were feeling all right, putting drops in our eyes, and helping people out of the building if they looked over-tired.



Passing buckets, even the big paint-bucket size ones we had, seems simple, but after an hour I felt blisters on my hands and cramps in my shoulders. I knew I was not the only one tired when buckets began to drop from the hands of other volunteers. Some shouted, “Be careful! Those could break!” The men tried to make us feel better, saying we were doing great work.



Meanwhile, we tried to concentrate so as not to delay the work as we watched pieces of other people’s lives go by: shoes, photographs, chairs, clothing, blankets, pictures from their walls. Objects that they surely obtained from their own efforts and dedication, and now they are nothing. A wheelbarrow, thrown aside by the masonry workers who were removing bigger pieces of the wreckage, grabbed my attention. In the wheelbarrow was a set of brand new drinking glasses, still in their wrapped box.



As the women at the head of the ‘line of life’ withdrew, those behind them advanced. I came closer to the head of the line, and suddenly I saw a car among the ruin of the building’s parking garage: a bright-red Nissan Sentra, undamaged. Nevertheless, the garage entrance is blocked, so the car will never get out unharmed.



Nobody is taking selfies, nobody is playing music, no one talks, no one makes jokes or acts lazy. Respect is tangible. The entire area is filled with mourning. Yesterday, workers here rescued a pug dog and a cat, which tells us that there is still the possibility of life among the rubble. If we do our work efficiently, it could make the difference between life and death….”  [Please read the full article HERE — I warn you, there may be tears, but you won’t be sorry!]

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In Oaxaca city, while nerves remain on edge, life is going on as usual with only a few signs of the recent earthquakes:  Buildings years ago labeled “inmueble en mal estado” (property in a bad state) now sport yellow caution tape, as does Templo De La Virgen De Las Nieves, which has a huge crack along one of the bell towers.  And, on my block, a plywood retaining wall has been erected to contain a wall that collapsed back in 2012.

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Those atrapada (trapped) by the September 7th and September 19th earthquakes have mostly been rescued, though réplicas (aftershocks) continue daily, especially in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region — still in the 4 to 4.5 on the Richter Scale (though not felt in Oaxaca city).   Damnificados (victims) and escombros (debris) are all that remain in the hardest hit areas but tens of thousands of people are being forced to live in the streets.  To add insult to injury, they must cope with torrential downpours and flooding from this very long and destructive rainy season.

Fundraising events are being held and centros de acopio (collection centers) have been set up to gather donations, with countless volunteers traversing damaged and dangerous mountain roads to deliver supplies.  The need is massive!

HOW YOU CAN HELP:

Como Ayudar – A large international list of information and links regarding assistance and distribution of goods to help those affected by the most recent earthquakes in Mexico.

How To Help The Earthquake Victims In Mexico City, Morelos, Puebla & Oaxaca – List of organizations collecting monetary donations, compiled by Mexico City based food writer, Nicholas Gilman

In addition, a couple of friends have asked me to publicize small organizations they are working with:

Help to San Mateo del Mar, Oaxaca, Earthquake Victims – Norma Schaefer, of Oaxaca Cultural Navigator, is getting the word out on the earthquake relief efforts of cultural anthropologist Denise Lechner and medical doctor Anja Widman.

SER Mixe – An indigenous organization serving the Mixe people in the Mixe region of Oaxaca; recommended by Margaret Macsems, general manager of Khadi Oaxaca.

*** Words in red type have become hardwired in my brain — new Spanish vocabulary I wish I didn’t have to learn under these circumstances.

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Here in Oaxaca we continue surfing the temblors and tormentas…

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Calle de Ignacio Allende at the corner of Tinoco y Palacios

Torrential downpours and flooding have returned.  Aftershocks from the September 7 earthquake continue.  But, aside from difficulty navigating the flooding and potholes, suffering from frayed nerves, and being worried sick about friends and family in the critically affected areas of central and southern Mexico, we are okay in the city and surrounding villages.

Re geography:  Oaxaca is the name of both a state and its capital city.  The epicenter of the September 7th earthquake in Oaxaca was in the southeast part of the state — as the crow flies, it is almost 150 miles and through the Sierra Madre del Sur mountain range from Oaxaca city.   To see where Oaxaca’s earthquakes are happening, check out Earthquake Track.

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I’m a California girl.  I grew up in earthquake country —  the San Francisco Bay Area to be exact.  I was raised on my grandparents’ stories of the day the Earth Shook, The Sky Burned in San Francisco on April 18, 1906.  A favorite was of my 8-year old grandmother bringing jugs of water to refugees, whose homes had either collapsed from the violent shaking or burned in the fires that broke out.  They were camped out under tents and tarps in the Masonic Cemetery, where her stepfather was the manager — and the thought of the living, living with the dead was captivating to my 8-year old self.  Perhaps another reason why Oaxaca feels like home.

The first earthquake I remember was in first grade.  I gripped my desk, as it rocked back and forth and watched, wide-eyed, as the massive row of windows that lined one wall of my classroom moved in and out, distorting the trees and pink house across the street.  I’m not sure if we were directed to get under our desks, but I do remember my first grade teacher, Mrs. Chase (one of the best teachers ever!), in her comforting, calm, and very competent way, conveying a sense of safety.  Our 1938 wood-frame house, on the side of Mt. Tamalpais was fine, save for several cracks in the lath and plaster walls.  Years later, I learned that it was built on bedrock — a good thing!

Several more earthquakes ensued as I grew up and raised my family in the Bay Area — and I learned to be prepared.  We kept earthquake supplies in the basement — enough water and food to last three days, flashlights, battery-powered radio, etc.  My car was always stocked with bottles of water and protein bars, a sleeping bag and flashlight, sweatshirt and old gym shoes, and a first aid kit.  Luckily, we didn’t have to use any of them following the 7.1 Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989.   However, our eyes were glued to the television.  Before the earthquake hit, we had been about to gather in the living room to watch the “Bay Bridge” World Series — the San Francisco Giants versus their across the San Francisco Bay rivals, the Oakland Athletics.  Instead, we watched part of the Bay Bridge collapse and houses built on landfill in the Marina of San Francisco collapse and then burn due to ruptured gas lines.  We were fine, but nerves were shattered and for days after, every aftershock had me ready to bolt.

During my first visit to Oaxaca in 2007, I awoke to an earthquake — that dreaded, but familiar, feeling flooded my body but it was small and all was okay.  Thankfully, I was in the USA for the 8.2 earthquake that devastated parts of the states of Oaxaca and Chiapas almost two weeks ago.  However, I have experienced several smaller ones since moving here, including the March 20, 2012, 7.4 earthquake.  Walking up Macedonio Alcalá, I didn’t feel that one, but heard windows rattle and people cry, “terremoto” as they streamed out into the street.  There have been many aftershocks from the Sept. 7th earthquake since I’ve been back, a couple at 5.6 on the Richter scale, but I haven’t felt them either.  Giving thanks to Roberta French and her degree in structural engineering from MIT for building such a sturdy, well designed apartment complex on bedrock!

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It was the same yesterday.  Blogger buddy Chris and I were walking up the Alcalá on our way to Las Quince Letras for the traditional Mes de la Patria (celebrating independence from Spain) dish, chiles en nogada.  We were talking — catching up after my six-week trip.  As we turned onto Abasolo, we noticed cars stopped at all intersections and people milling around on the streets.  A blockade was our first thought.  After all, this is Oaxaca!  We soon discovered, it was a 7.1 earthquake (epicenter near the Puebla/Morelos border) that brought traffic to a halt and people out of buildings.  This latest earthquake has taken lives (currently more than 200 people, in 6 states) and destroyed buildings, especially in Mexico City — but we didn’t feel a thing!  Apparently, the shaking was felt all over Oaxaca city, just not by us walking along the cantera (stone) roadbed of the Alcalá.  I spent the rest of yesterday afternoon and evening glued to the news out of Mexico City — and I continue watching and reading in horror as the destruction unfolds.

I’m fine, my friends in Oaxaca, Mexico City, and Chiapas are fine, my apartment is fine.  So, why am I writing this?  A catharsis, perhaps….  But also to say to those who are new to or have no experience with the earth violently shaking:  You never get used to it — you never take it in stride, as you never know when that stride will be broken as the ground begins shifting beneath your feet.  And, you always anticipate — it’s one of the reasons, I keep my cell phone and keys with an emergency buzzer in my pocket and a bottle of water and a protein bar in my purse.  In addition, like hurricanes, people and their governments must pay close attention to, and strictly regulate, where and how buildings are constructed — greed and corruption should not trump lives — and a priority should be placed on early warning systems in earthquake countries around the world.

To satisfy my inner-librarian, I recommend to you a few articles to begin to understand the whys and hows:

 

 

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Late on the night of September 7, 2017, in the mountains of Telluride, Colorado, my phone dinged — a message from a friend in Oaxaca concerned about my 91 year old neighbor.  That was my first news of the largest earthquake to hit Mexico in a century last week.  Needless to say, I spent half the night monitoring news sites, emailing, messaging, and checking status updates by friends and neighbors on Facebook.  Thankfully, all friends and neighbors came away relatively unscathed — save for severely frayed nerves.

The epicenter of the 8.1 (8.2 according to Mexican authorities) earthquake was off the coast of Chiapas.  Given its geography, the state of Oaxaca has been hard hit.  The red bullets on the map below show some of areas in the state most severely affected.

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As of yesterday, the death toll was up to 91.  According to reports from Oaxaca’s governor, more than 800,000 people in the state potentially lost everything and in Juchitán de Zaragoza, in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region, 5,000 homes were destroyed.  The earthquake also devastated the mountain communities of the Mixe.

Oaxaca and Chiapas are two of the poorest states in Mexico and help is urgently needed.  Maestro Francisco Toledo, who is from Juchitán, is collecting funds through his non-profit, Amigos del Instituto de Artes Gráficas de Oaxaca y del Centro Fotográfico.  For details see below:

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Oaxaca earthquake relief is also being solicited by the following organizations and individuals:

CADENA (Comite de Ayuda a Desastres y Emergencias Nacionales A.C.)
BANAMEX
Sucursal: 7009
CUENTA: 189458
CLABE: 002180700901894588
https://cadena.ngo/dona

The Harp Helu Foundation will match 1 X 1 for any contributions directly to:
Citibanamex
Cuenta 23, Sucursal 100
CLABE: 002 180 010 000 000 235
Formento Social Banamex, A.C.

The government agency, DIF Oaxaca is taking donations:
• Voluntariado DIF Oaxaca, Avenida Juarez 914, Col. Centro
• Hangar del Gobierno de Oaxaca, Aeropuerto Internacional, Santa Cruz Xoxocotlan
• Gimnasio Ricardo Flores Magon, Derechos Humanos s/n Col. America Sur
• Oficianas Centrales DIF Oaxaca, Vicente Guerrero 114, Col. Miguel Aleman

Casa de Esperanza House of Hope Anabaptist Community Church is receiving donations in any form (groceries, baby food, money, etc.) to be sent to the coast where many have lost their homes or family members. Please bring your donations to: Casa de Esperanza— Camino Nacional 929-3 Ixcotel Oaxaca Oax Te l 9 5 1 1 7 6 3 1 5 3

Omar Alonso of Oaxacking has set up a YouCaring crowd funding site to aid in relief efforts in Juchitan.

Flor Cervantes, who founded, Mujeres de 8 de Marzo in Juchitan, is collecting funds for the refuge.  For more information call her in Oaxaca at:  951 125 02 48

And, the Oaxaca Lending Library is working on collecting and sending supplies and money to the areas in Oaxaca most affected.

If you aren’t dealing with hurricanes Harvey and Irma destruction, PLEASE HELP Oaxaca!!!

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Late yesterday afternoon, it looked like a night blooming cereus blossom would burst open for it’s one night only orgy with the pollinators of darkness.  I’m guessing the hours-long torrential tormenta that thundered over Oaxaca put a damper on the action.  This morning found only an ever-so-slightly opened blossom.  So here, in black and white, I bring to you, up close and personal, cereus reproductive organs in waiting.

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If you slept through the birds and the bees unit of high school biology (or it was too long ago to remember) and now you can’t tell a pistil from a stamen or the stigma from the anther, check out this cool little graphic  (also in black and white) from the American Museum of Natural History.

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Rain has been falling in the city for over 24 hours, as Tropical Storm Beatriz slowly moves up Oaxaca’s coast and up and over Sierra Madre del Sur mountains.  According to the National Hurricane Center, “over a foot of rain is possible in Mexico’s Oaxaca state through Friday with isolated amounts up to 20 inches possible.”

At various times in her past, because of the native green stone used to construct her buildings and pave her sidewalks, Oaxaca has been known as la Verde Antequera — the Emerald City.Oaxaca letters in front of Santo Domingo

Walking through the streets on a rainy day, it’s easy to see where she got her nickname.

While Beatriz may be causing headaches on the coast, the campesinos (and all who depend on them) in the Valle de Oaxaca, are rejoicing.

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A word to the wise, be careful what you wish for…

After almost two weeks of 90º+(F) temperatures, late this afternoon lightening flashed, thunder rumbled, gusty winds replaced still humid air, and on Tlaloc’s command, torrential rain and hail pounded Oaxaca city.  Water began coming in closed doors and windows, plants and chairs overturned on the terrace, an empty concrete bag flew up and over a ten foot fence and across the forty-five feet of my terrace landing at my doorstep, and power went out for almost two hours. 

This evening, at Casita Colibrí, plants have been righted, chairs have been retrieved and stacked, and flooded floors have been mopped.  However, in other parts of the city, there are reports of trees and power lines down, massive flooding, and a roof collapsed at Central de Abastos.   Initial news reports (en español):

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Friday night, around 9:45, I went out onto the terrace to turn on the security lights.  But, who needs lights when my cereus was glowing in the dark, beckoning bats and other pollinators of the night?

By 9:30 on Saturday morning, the curtain and petals had begun to fall.

Saturday night, oblivious and readying for the dawn of daylight savings time, I turned the motion sensor lights on early and never gave the cereus a first, let alone second, glance.  However, at 7:45 AM on Sunday morning, with coffee in hand, I went out on the terrace and couldn’t miss the show my night blooming cereus had staged while I slept.

Three hours later, the latest extravaganza had drawn to a close — but I see tiny buds waiting in the wings.

[There are] many other small joys, perhaps the especially delightful one of smelling a flower or a piece of fruit, of listening to one’s own or others’ voices, of hearkening to the prattle of children. And a tune being hummed or whistled in the distance, and a thousand other tiny things from which one can weave a bright necklace of little pleasures for one’s life.

My advice to the person suffering from lack of time and from apathy is this: Seek out each day as many as possible of the small joys, and thriftily save up the larger, more demanding pleasures for holidays and appropriate hours. It is the small joys first of all that are granted us for recreation, for daily relief and disburdenment, not the great ones.
Hermann Hesse on Little Joys

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Last week, a friend of mine in California challenged me to post a nature photo every day for seven days on Facebook.  I had participated in one of these challenges nine months before, posting mostly photos from the countryside.  This time, I decided to acknowledge the gifts that Mother Nature keeps surprising me with in my rooftop terrace garden.

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African tulip tree seen from my terrace, July 6, 2016

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Neoscona Oaxacensis orb weaver spider, Sept. 9, 2016

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Night Blooming Cereus early morning, July 21, 2016

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Lesser Goldfinch (I think) on the terrace chain link fence, Nov. 12, 2016

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Io moth caterpillar munching on plumeria leaf, Oct. 31, 2016

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Hibiscus flower taken Oct. 19, 2016

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Agave and Stapelia gigantia early evening, Oct. 24, 2016

And, in the spirit of the season, they are my gifts to you.  Hope you like!

 

 

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This morning I was greeted by several flowers on my night blooming cereus, with one acting as a rich playground and dining room for a guest in the garden — a very welcome honey bee.

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I have no idea how long she had wiggled and wallowed before I saw her.  I stood mesmerized for a minute or two before running into my apartment to get a camera.

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I continued to be intrigued by her industry and pleasure for another five (plus) minutes before returning inside — letting her continue in privacy, while I turned to my morning cup of coffee and bowl of cereal.

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She may have been nourishing her body, but she was also nourishing my soul.

My entry in Cee’s photo challenge.

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