EXCUSE #1 FOR NOT POSTING: I am volunteering again for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program through United Way of the Coastal Bend. Volunteers are trained and certified through the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to prepare tax returns for lower levels of income for free. In past years I acted as a greeter/screener but did not do tax returns. This year we have fewer volunteers so I have been doing returns (simple!) as needed. I find that I enjoy it (not as hard as I thought it would be!) and feel that I am helping in the community. We get questions about Hurricane Harvey damage but that is out of our scope. The site opened January 17 and will close April 17. I am there Monday through Thursday, nine am to 1 pm.
SPRING EQUINOX: In January we reluctantly had our veterinarian put our cat, Wiccan, down. She was our last cat and would have been eighteen years old in May; we will not seek another cat. Our other cats have been buried in the back yard, but we chose to have her cremated and saved her ashes to be scattered on a warm sunny day. April 20 was the perfect day. Near the back fence there was a small patch of dirt where the grass has not grown back yet and near where other cats are buried. We toasted her with wine as she joined the other angel cats. We will miss her.
VISIT TO HOUSTON: On St. Patrick’s Day weekend Husband and I visited Son in Houston to celebrate their birthdays early. We chose to have dinner at a restaurant called Tango and Malbec where Argentinian style food is featured. We had been there before but this time we were delighted to find that we would be entertained by tango dancers during dinner. They were excellent and each wore a bit of green. I don’t know the style of tango but blogger A Frank Angle would surely have known; go to his blog but a video of a sultry Argentine tango. We also visited the Rothko Chapel and the Cy Twombly Gallery.
READING AND WRITING: There does not seem to be enough time to read blogs, books, news and write. Perhaps when tax season is over I will have time for all of them. Cheers!
ACRYLIC ON CANVAS BY CHERYL LYLES SMITH
Some of you may remember my writing about the loss of my sister’s and brother-in-law’s home by fire the morning before Hurricane Harvey hit. My brother-in-law had called me to invite us out to stay with them if we did not want to ride out the storm here on the coast. They lived eighty miles west of here on the family ranch and in the house that I grew up in.
The above portrait of my father was painted by their daughter (my niece) who died of cancer at age 57 in 2012. The painting was done from a small photo of him in exactly the same pose taken probably in the late 1950s. It hung in the entrance to her parents’ home. A few years ago when we were visiting I had Husband take a photo of it because it was very special to me. Now I am so grateful that he did as the painting was destroyed in the fire along with everything in the house. Perhaps I should explain the painting for those of you not familiar with the practice of burning prickly pear cactus.
In the painting my father is filling up his pear burner with butane from the tank in the pick-up. He would then strap it across his shoulder and go out into the pasture where there was plenty of prickly pear cactus. As he turned it on fire would come out of the end of it and he would burn or singe the thorns off the cactus. With the large thorns gone the cattle would eagerly eat the cactus as a good source of protein and contained water. During times of drought when there might be little for the cattle to eat and feeding hay might be too expensive for a rancher, this method would help to get through the lean times. Burning pear was most common in the fall and winter, but I have seen my father burn pear into the spring and fall if it was a really dry year.
Today times have changed and few people burn prickly pear. The pear burner was invented in 1914 by John Bunyan Blackwell. A photo of one can be seen at the Bullock Museum website.
As a footnote, my sister and brother-in-law built a new house on the same spot as the one that burned and were able to move in just before Christmas. Husband and I went out Christmas Eve to see it and to celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary. I had prints made from the photo Husband took as gifts for family members. Life goes on.
Here is a close-up of prickly pear cactus so you can see the sharp thorns.
Here is a cluster of them together with the red fruit or tuna.
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About three and a half months ago we had Hurricane Harvey. Today we had snow on the coast as did much of South Texas! The last time it snowed was on Christmas Eve of 2004. Early this morning neighbors were out again (as after Harvey but this time welcoming the change in weather) reveling in the magical wonderland that our neighborhood had become. We were bundled up in coats, hats and gloves that had been stored away and seldom used. The past couple of weeks have been very warm and air conditioners were still running and shorts were still being worn. Kids and adults were trying to make snowmen but with meager results as most had little snow-making experience.
For those for whom snow is a normal occurrence, feel free to skip this post: spoiler ahead, it is mostly of snow! But perhaps I can be forgiven as it may not snow for another thirteen years. Husband gets the credit for them.
EARLY MORNING BEFORE DAYLIGHT VIEW ACROSS THE STREET FROM OUR HOUSE
PARK NEXT DOOR TO US
HUSBAND ON OUR DRIVEWAY WITH NEIGHBOR’S BOAT IN THE BACKGROUND
CRONE WITH COFFEE
NEIGHBOR’S HOUSE WITH CHRISTMAS LIGHTS ON
OUR BACK YARD
TREE LIMB IN BACKYARD HEAVY WITH SNOW
SAME TREE IN THE BACKYARD THAT LOST SO MANY LIMBS DURING HURRICANE HARVEY
HUSBAND AND CRONE AT THE PARK
By noon the sun came out beautifully and the snow began to melt, but for a time our coast was a magical place and children created memories of the year it snowed. Cheers!
HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO THOSE WHO CELEBRATE THE HOLIDAY NOV. 23
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On a recent overnight trip Husband and I stopped in Crystal City, Texas to check out a historical site (future post) and found Popeye the Sailor Man. The city claims to be the “Spinach Capital of the World,” so it seems appropriate for statue of Popeye and a Spinach Festival that started the day after we were there. The festival featured music, a beauty pageant, carnival, a spinach cook-off and for the first time ever, a spinach-eating contest. Contestants had to eat cans of spinach; I assume they did not have to open them Popeye-style. It was 52 degrees that day so it was cold for us in November. The next day it was warmer.
Inspired by a El Dia de los Muertos Street Festival last year that I wrote about, I have created an altar(ofrenda) in my home. These altars are to remember and honor the dead. November 1 is All Saints Day and November 2 is All Souls Day. The Day of the Dead is celebrated November 2 although some seem to combine the two days.
Day of the Dead –
Paths of flower petals and
burning incense guide
spirits to the house of the living.
Tables with favorite food and drink.
orange and yellow flowers,
all offered to the spirits.
Then the living go to
graves of the dead.
Custom says ill fortune, illness
death or worse
those who make no offerings.
Who will decorate my grave?
Who will bring me food?
Who will talk to me?
Cremation may be best f or me.
Below is a closer look at my orfenda The pocket knife is for my father; the clip earrings for my mother; the wine bottle for another relative; the carnations for a friend; matches with Mexican Loteria characters for those that loved to gamble; sage for cleansing. I needed marigolds! Maybe next year.
MAY THEIR SOULS FIND THEIR WAY TO MY ORFENDA EVEN IF ONLY IN MY HEART.