Cuento 7: “Aves y Gracias” (888 words)
“Tierra Mia,” my city block of casitas in Teote, Nicaragua, at the end of a very long road north from Managua, is fenced from passers-by—as well, from passing pigs, cows, and occasional caballos on rider-less mission-- with festoons of plastico burlap on poles, leftover from last year’s acres-long, acres-wide nurseries for newly planted tabaco. The seedlings need protection more from migrating birds than from insects, well-decimated by the black-market DDT used extensively in the fields. No es posible, even one bug or bird hole in the precious leaves, when each, rolled expertly in Havana, makes one holy, lustrous draw, probably worth $75 before tax, in Nueve York. I should grow tabaco, but I have human and environmental ethics.
Unfortunately, that insectacida makes goldfinch and hummingbird and parrot migration genocide. After a short visit to Honduras or Northern Nicaragua, they stop laying viable eggs, from eating dying insects. Unfortunately, this end of the Jalapa Valley used to be known for its sky-darkened swoops of passenger pigeons, chartreuse parakeets, in swarms at every loud retort from an over-gassed tractor, so the elders say. White ibis, along with avocet and heron down from Colorado, used to fly, icicles against the hot celeste of the sky. No longer. I rarely see a bird on the ground. Thus, the aviary, for birdsong, to write by.
God knows what DDT has done to this old knight’s body, though I don’t think my fertility’s much an issue anymore. And, after all, I was raised in the 40’s and 50’s, with insecticide a staple food on every plate in America. What it’s done is done already. On the other hand, now that I’m a don, I should maybe think about founding a dynasty?
Ay, Chihuahua! Look at these hibiscos, roja y blanca y rosada y salmón, even amarilla, as yellow as limones, now all a-bloom. Bonitísima, esta flor, very centered. One flower of hibiscus in a vase looks great on mi escritorio, here at la casa de palomas, for a day.
In the rainy season, cuttings root without Rootone: all I need do is amend the soil with old chicken caca and stick a cutting in. Guaranteed. For rosas, as well. This place--I’ve known since my first visit in 1993--is gardener’s Paradisio, and I’m a major gardening fool. I have such gardener’s greed, whenever I visit another jardín full of exotic plantas: “Just a few cuttings, por favor?” Some things, even in the whirling flux of the world, don’t change.
Ah, “Tierra Mia” is endlessly interesting, do you see, mi amigos? Every inch tells a story to me. Have I shown you where the little shrine to San Miguel will be? Come with me, por favor, amigos. Es aquí. I’ve spot for a fountain, a tiny pool and a brightly-painted statue of mi amigo, the arcángel, umbrella’d in the rain by a techa of tile. Even angels need a cover from la lluvia, torrential here from June until December. There’ll be a seat here, from a nance log sawn in half, bright red as cherry, so I, a multi-tasker, can wash my feet by the pool and pray a while, at once.
“Tierra Mia” holds potential as a pretty retreat and workshop center, La Casa Descansa de los Ángeles (“Angels’ Rest”). But, that’s future. Right now, I’m contento, tranquilo, just being the Chéli don, grateful for my ultra-verdant greenery in the hot, dry Seco, while it’s yet so cold outside in Glenwood. But, now it’s March, there’ll soon be early daffodils even there.
I live with whispering ghosts, es verdad, in every corner of “Tierra Mia,” but bennies have accrued, as well, from creating, so far, an empowered life of giving, not the least, a valid karmic protection I feel shining around me, un cerco de luz that people notice, out beyond my paler skin. As a Brigadista de Nicaragua, especially as a friend to Teotecacinte, practically a national shrine, I’m honored by every Nicaraguan everywhere, even in the bureaucratic offices of Managua, once they know my story. One official introduced me to an ambassador as “un don de la Guerra, from the killing fields of pobrecita Teote.” Ay-yi-yi!
Diós mío, my heart is full. That exalted honorific, friends, makes my old-don eyes sting, brings me to attention as I remember and write it, like singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” My love for these people of gracias flows from very deep springs: I have much to be grateful for, as well. “A don of the War!” Ay, Diós! I hadn’t even arrived yet, back in the bloodshed, but, now, en Nicaragua, I’m an honored Veterano, though one with longer-lasting kickback than an AK-47, es verdad. Here, I couldn’t fly higher, though a jet-set peace guy, a quiet witness to global atrocity, and, probably, for some, from the Moon, or, possibly, so say los locos, one high-flying earthy ángel.
It’s all blessing and curse, really, mi amigos, don’t you think? It’s certainly been “create-destroy” in the bloody lists of my Middle-Ages-modern hacienda, especially within myself: Ay, the craziest gauntlet! There, a friendly ángel comes in handy, even for un viejito knight, retired to scarlet “Tierra Mia,” a twinkling star-don, gratefully at your service, in this Loco-Latin-Love-Boat-Field-of-Honor, building heart in wounded Nicaragua.