©carolfletcher

TravelPod ending!

TravelPod-world-map-travel-pins
A scorecard of our world travels through 2010, via TravelPod

This past week, I received an email that TravelPod would be closing and that we should download and archive our travel blog. I had been thinking about TravelPod only a few days before, trying to remember when was the last time I’d added an entry. Turns out, I got derailed in Havana, in 2010, but I did begin blogging on this WordPress site sometime in 2012-ish.

So, now…TravelPod ending. Wow. I was first introduced to TravelPod by my friends Amy and Mark. Their honeymoon was a six month trip around the world in 2004. They posted entries from all over the place. And from our hometown–to where we’d returned after 16 years away–we followed along, reading with both awe and envy. Our lives had gone a bit–let’s just say, “off road”. Or maybe it’s more descriptive to say that we drove our life down a very familiar street…hoping to see the old views, but now it was distorted, faded, colors running and surreal. We adjusted, adjusted again, and eventually returned to the highway that is Chicago. Yet, we have had so many knocks and bumps in the past 5 years that today, it feels as if we must be on a bombed out highway…a journey that has all of the rockiness, but none of the joyful thrill and exhilaration of a true off-the-roadmap travel experience. TravelPod reminds me of that.

It remembers me. It reminds me. It calls me. That world “scorecard” is still there. And I need to pull out the wish list roadmap and get to it! And I need to write! There are many journeys we take that aren’t on a map.

In the meantime, I’m happy to say that all of the old TravelPod entries are coming to live here. In fact, they are already here in pretty raw form with bricks of copy. They need editing, and they need their photos, so stay tuned. But a big THANK YOU to TravelPod for setting up an easy downloadable archive for moving to WordPress. Our first live blog was to Antarctica in 2007. I wrote from a ship tossing across the Drake Passage. Reading it reminds me of the night I sat in our little cabin writing and watching our things swing, sway and tumble as the waves rocked and rolled us. I get chill bumps–and a little seasick again–just remembering that sensation and the *THRILL* of being at the end of the world.  There were other “live” blogs too–though none quite like that. Later, I also went backwards into time and added some journal entries from previous trips. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to clean up all the imported entries. And I’ll be daydreaming about the next “TravelPod” entry!

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Details and patterns

Details make patterns.  Choices make habits.  Imagining makes art.  Believing makes seeing.

It’s been a while since I went out to wander and photograph just for the sake of wandering and photographing.  It felt good:  stretching my legs, stretching my imagination and shaking off this long strange summer.  This was the weekend at Open House Chicago 2016.

Sandstone held to a bell tower with metal band-aids and hair nets.  The bell tower survived the Great Fire in 1871, and still wears the blackened crown to prove it.  Saint James Episcopal Cathedral.

Six red galeros, hats of dead bishops, streaming from the ceiling of Holy Name Cathedral.  Hanging high behind the crucifix carved from one large piece of balsam wood, they wait for the day they collapse to dust and nothingness and return to the ground.

Ornate chandeliers are turned down low to let the stained glass windows tell their bible stories  in the 2nd floor chapel of Saint James Chapel at Archbishop Quigley Center.

Ivy climbs and clings to the detail on the Fourth Presbyterian Church on Michigan Avenue, in the morning shadow of the Hancock.  And in this church, at long last we get to go upstairs to the balcony…and there’s a pipe organ, gentle at first and then lighting up the guests with a loud pounce.

The 5th place was an art house in an old mansion.  Giant windows, rimmed in dark wood.  Pocket doors and white marble fireplaces in every room.  Studios for rent and live models seven days a week.  An open studio on the 3rd floor smelled of oil paint as I rounded the final set of stairs up.  The old floors were for dancing when this was a home and this level housed a ballroom. Now the wood floors showed wear from drops of paint as artists made their art.  At this moment, they were sans model, but they worked as if she were still there.  An imaginary model.  Cross breezes fluffed papers from the transom windows along the floor where the band used to sit.

The Monroe Building, with Rookwood tiles, and tiles, and tiles, and a working mail chute for the 14-story building.  This building and the one across the street, on the north side of Monroe at Michigan stand like sentinels, equal sized gate posts, greeting traffic entering Chicago on what used to be the main thoroughfare.

The chapel in the sky at the Chicago Temple.  The highest place of worship above street level.  Twenty two floors via elevator, then A through E floors via a cozy elevator, then 31 steps up to this tiny little Sky Chapel.  Stained glass windows line the room and limit views of the sky and the surrounding city.  The wood is ash, preserved forever from the Emerald Ash Borers that have killed so many trees in the Midwest.

Bell Tower details St. James Episcopal Cathedral
Sandstone held to a bell tower with metal band-aids and hair nets. The bell tower survived the Great Fire in 1871, and still wears the blackened crown to prove it. Saint James Episcopal Cathedral.
Holy Name Cathedral galeros
Six red galeros, hats of dead bishops, streaming from the ceiling of Holy Name Cathedral. Hanging high behind the crucifix carved from one large piece of balsam wood, they wait for the day they collapse to dust and nothingness and return to the ground.
Saint James Chapel at Archbishop Quigley Center stained glass windows
Ornate chandeliers are turned down low to let the stained glass windows tell their bible stories in the 2nd floor chapel of Saint James Chapel at Archbishop Quigley Center.

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Fourth Presbyterian Church ivy
Ivy climbs and clings to the detail on the Fourth Presbyterian Church on Michigan Avenue
Fourth Presbyterian Church Michigan Avenue
The pipe organ rings out at the Fourth Presbyterian Church on Michigan Avenue
Marble fireplace detail Palette & Chisel
Marble fireplace mantel detail from Palette & Chisel.

 

palette & chisel live model art studio
Palette & Chisel artists taking a break in the 3rd floor ballroom studio
palette and chisel chicago model art studio
Palette & Chisel: Imagination.
Monroe Building Chicago rook wood tiles
The Monroe Building, with Rookwood tiles, and tiles, and tiles. Muted earth tones in the foyer, just waiting to wow you when you go through those doors.
The Monroe Building Rookwood details make patterns
The Monroe Building, with Rookwood tiles, and tiles, and tiles.
The Chapel in the Sky Chicago Temple
The chapel in the sky at the Chicago Temple. The wood is ash, preserved forever from the Emerald Ash Borers that have killed so many trees in the Midwest.
Stenciling on ceiling of Chicago Temple
Chicago Temple ceiling stenciling.
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Now and Then – Ravenswood Gardens, Chicago

 

Fifteen brick structures mark the entrance to the streets of this 100+ year-old neighborhood near the river. These sentinels stand in pairs, trios or quartets along Rockwell between Montrose and the el tracks at Rockwell. Some have planters on top, others a concrete ball resembling a bed knob. They mark the streets of Ravenswood Gardens, a community planned in 1909 by William Harmon. Photographed on film with a Seagull and a Rolleicord.   Now and Then – Ravenswood Gardens, Chicago

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Dog Rescuer, Shannon Nachajko and Catahoula Rescue of New England

Dog rescuer, Shannon Nachajko from Catahoula Rescue of New England shows what it’s like to be mom and chief rescuer to these super smart breeds of dog who are often misunderstood. Spend three minutes with Shannon and her Catahoulas and Heelers.

 

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Cuba’s Entrepreneurs – Cuentapropistas

Cuba’s Entrepreneurs – Cuentapropistas

Between 2010 – 2013, in an effort to relieve some of the Cuban economy’s struggles, Raul Castro approved over 200 private sector jobs.  These self-employed entrepreneurs, or cuentapropistas, now number almost 500,000 and are learning to do business quickly despite many challenges like limited access to supplies, and lack of wholesale pricing.

Photographed over 7 visits from December 2010 – March 2015.

View this in slideshow to see captions for each photo.  Start slideshow by clicking on the first photo.

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The forest and the trees

You know the saying, “she can’t see the forest for the trees”?  It is a derogatory phrase…like when someone is said to “miss the big picture” or “bogs down in details”.

I’ve had forests and trees on my mind a lot in the past few months…feeling something like guilt or shame or frustration for the hours wasted on doing the “little” things.  I wonder some times if I’ve lost the trail.

But on this cool, rainy, September early morning, I woke up with some satisfying clarity on the positive side of that saying.

Life is a whole forest.  It is also just one tree.  Each tree.  Each day.  I don’t know how big the forest is, or when I will walk out of it.  So, I’m going to enjoy my walk through the trees, appreciating the sun and the shade, the rain and the wind, the sounds and the silence, and give my attention to one tree at a time.

A funny thing seems to happen when I consider that one tree long enough…I perceive the pattern around it.  And I find comfort in that.

Enjoy your walk.

X marks the spot, a vine crisscrosses a tree at Radnor Lake, Nashville
A vine crisscrosses a tree. April 2015 at Radnor Lake in Nashville, Tennessee.

 

Ridges of Bark on a Tree at Radnor Lake in Nashville
The trees and vines begin to bloom, Spring 2015 at Radnor Lake in Nashville, TN.

 

Vine entwines tree Radnor Lake Nashville
A vine entwines a tree at Radnor Lake, Nashville, TN. Spring 2015.

 

Quiet trees Radnor Lake Nashville
On this rainy Spring day in April 2015, we walked amid the trees. Absorbing. Radnor Lake, Nashville, TN.
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Animal Welfare in Cuba: Aniplant Cares for and Protects Dogs and Cats

Animal welfare in Cuba is a daunting challenge.  On my recent trip to Cuba, I had the honor of meeting Nora Garcia Pérez, the founder of Aniplant, an animal care and protection organization in Havana.  Nora has dedicated the past 28 years of her life to the animals of Cuba:  from big ventures like founding Aniplant and promoting animal welfare on Cuban radio and TV, to smaller efforts like traveling around Havana in a little yellow Fiat with the passenger seat removed to make room for two street dogs who sleep in the car every night.

Aniplant, or Asociación Cubana para la Protección de Animales y Plantas, is located in Centro Havana, not far from the University and only steps from the beautiful Malecón sea wall.   Aniplant seeks to eliminate the suffering of Cuban animals through sterilization campaigns to reduce the number of strays, public education to promote the need for good veterinary care and animal health, facilitation of dog/cat adoptions, and hands-on intervention in cases of animal abuse.  

If you’re a dog lover and have ever been to Cuba–or to any third world country for that matter–you know the helpless heartache of seeing painfully thin and sick animals on the streets.  And while Cuba is a highly educated, healthy and empathetic population, their lack of resources is a tremendous problem.  Often, people simply do not have the means to properly care for animals.  That means that many dogs/cats go without spaying/neutering, resulting in unwanted animals roaming the streets in search of food and shelter.  The Cuban government collects strays from city streets, and almost all of those dogs/cats are immediately euthanized by poisoning or electrocution.  Aniplant’s main mission is to reduce the number of strays by providing as many spay/neuters as possible.  They have performed nearly 5,000 sterilizations each year since 2012 and are currently trying to expand operations throughout Havana and all of Cuba.   Like everything related to Cuba, it is complicated.  While Aniplant is the only animal protection organization permitted to function in Cuba, there are ministries and permissions to deal with and there are the obstacles of getting medical supplies and donations around the U.S. embargo.

The Aniplant location at 128 Principe is home to 19 dogs:  16 adoptable ones and 3 waiting to be on their way to homes in the UK and the USA.  The dogs have the run of the back areas of Aniplant–the kitchen, a play area outside and a little room just off the courtyard.  There are employees at Aniplant who work to train and socialize the dogs, and to prepare their meals of rice and meat.  A veterinarian and vet tech are also on staff for routine procedures and emergency care.  And every Friday, hundreds of pounds of meat for dog food are delivered to Aniplant to be sold to the community for fundraising.  The place is immaculate, colorful, lively and upbeat–the receptionist sings on occasion and offers tiny cups of strong coffee to those waiting patiently for services.  Dog and cat owners chat with each other and hold their pets close in the tiled lobby.  Potential adopters check in at reception and discuss the adoption application process.  And every now and then, the dogs break into barks or whines as a visitor makes their way back through the courtyard.

I spent several days at Aniplant, photographing and videotaping and will have a short multimedia piece to share with you soon.   In the meantime, if you are moved by this story, please consider a small donation to the Aniplant Project.   Considering that veterinarians in Cuba make only about $250 a year, any amount of money donated will go a long way to helping the animals.   Donate to Aniplant.    Nora’s wish list also includes a truck or large van to take the Aniplant spay/neuter clinic on the road and a small animal ventilator.  If you, or anyone you know can help with those items, please contact me.

Aniplant lobby
The reception area of Aniplant, located at 128 Principe near Hospital in Centro Havana.
Veterinarian, Edgar Llorente Llano, cleans dog teeth
Aniplant veterinarian, Edgar Llorente Llano, cleans the teeth of a sedated Beagle in Havana, Cuba.
cat awaits surgery at Aniplant
A cat has been sedated and cleaned by the veterinary technician and awaits surgery at Aniplant.  Havana, Cuba.
Training a dog at Aniplant to walk on a leash
Aniplant houses 19 dogs currently up for adoption. These dogs get training–like leash walking and basic commands–from the trainers on staff at Aniplant, in Havana, Cuba.
Disposable surgical gloves washed and drying in a window
Disposable surgical gloves are washed and dried for re-use at Aniplant. Medical supplies are precious and nothing is wasted.  Havana, Cuba.
Potential adopters visit Aniplant dogs
The dogs at Aniplant are available for adoption. Guests are allowed to visit with the dogs and encouraged to apply for an adoption.  Havana, Cuba.
Dog rests in a built-in space in Aniplant kitchen
Aniplant moved into their space about 5 years ago. Renovations included building cave-like spaces for the dogs in the kitchen. Havana, Cuba.
Man carries a dog in for veterinary care
A man brings a Husky in to the Aniplant lobby for veterinary care. Aniplant is open 6 days a week for veterinary services, workshops and the sale of fresh meat for animal food.  Havana, Cuba.
Dog in a bathtub at Aniplant
This sweet face was always the first to greet me…and anyone else at Aniplant.  Havana, Cuba.
Dog in shopping cart awaits care at Aniplant
This dog had been hit by a car and was carried into Aniplant in a shopping cart for follow up care.  Havana, Cuba.
Cuba Aniplant Veterinarian, Edgar Llorente Llano, checks his messages
Aniplant Veterinarian, Edgar Llorente Llano, checks his messages while waiting for the clinic to open in Havana Cuba.
Nora Garcia Pérez with Carol Fletcher
Founder of Aniplant, Nora Garcia Pérez (left), and Carol Fletcher following our interview.  Havana, Cuba 3/13/15.
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Rescued Dogs of Havana Cuba: Sheltered by Museums

As many of you know, I’m a dog lover and have an on-going project documenting the work of people who rescue dogs.  And I love Cuba.   I love walking in Havana, photographing the elegant decay and witnessing the extraordinary changes happening there.  I love meeting the people, getting to know their hopes and worries, and always admiring their persistence, creativity and resourcefulness.   So this month, I decided to overlay these passions and dig a little deeper into the stories of the rescued dogs of Havana, Cuba and those sheltered by museums.

Street dogs are commonly seen in Havana, picking through the trash or teetering down the sidewalks.  It is heartbreaking and frustrating.  But in a country where food can be hard to come by for people, perhaps it is not unusual or unexpected.   One thing that has surprised me is that many museums in Old Havana have taken on the role of sheltering dogs.

On my first trip to Cuba I saw a fat little dog wearing a business card and sleeping near Fototeca in Plaza Vieja.  On subsequent trips, I saw more of these dogs with business cards…in front of other museums, in front of Havana’s University, and wandering around the old plazas…dogs who generally looked healthy and happy.  So, on this trip, I went looking for these card-carrying dogs to find out more about their lives and the people who care for them.

These are the five dogs of Museo de la Orfebrería (Museum of Metal/Silver Work), a quiet courtyard museum on Obispo near Plaza de Armas.  They are cared for by Margarita Garcia and Odalys Valdéz, who work at the museum as guides and security.  The dogs spend their days napping in the shade of the courtyard, or lazing on the sunny bricks in front of the museum.  During the day, they greet visitors politely–without fanfare or dogged attention.  And they keep Margarita and Odalys company during their 6 day shifts working 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.  In return, Margarita and Odalys feed them and keep fresh water on hand.  The dogs are sheltered in the museum– partially in the role of protecting the museum from thieves–but most definitely to save the dogs from a hard street life.

After noticing a few strays outside who seemed to pace by regularly–as if looking in…one more time…for an opening, for an invitation, I asked Margarita if there were ever more than five here.  “No.  Only five.  We cannot feed or have more.  But these five?  Good for them.”  And good for Margarita and Odalys and all the guides who care for these precious little souls.

Entrance to Havana's Museo de la Orfebrería
Margarita Garcia stands at the entrance to Havana’s Museo de la Orfebrería, where she works and cares for the museum’s five rescued dogs.
Aparicio wears an identification card
Dogs under the care of Cuba’s museums wear cards identifying them. The cards have the dog’s name, where he/she lives and that he/she has been sterilized. These cards are intended to protect the dogs from being picked up by Havana’s dog-catchers.
Odalys and Margarita
Odalys and Margarita stand in the doorway of the Museum while dogs sleep in the background.
Dogs in the Courtyard
The five dogs have full access to the museum’s courtyard.
Preparing the meal
In a back room of the museum, Margarita prepares a meal of rice and a few bites of chicken for the dogs.
Dinner for Five Dogs
Margarita sets out a meal of rice and a little chicken for the dogs in the courtyard of the museum.
Sleeping Dog
Canelito enjoys cat-napping in the courtyard.
Vladimir at the front door of the Museo de la Orfebrería
Vladimir’s favorite place is at the door, greeting the many tourists walking past on Obispo near Plaza de Armas.
Odalys and Dogs
Guide Odalys enjoys passing the hours with the dogs.
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Dormant and Waiting

Have you ever been to an amusement park in winter…when it’s closed, quiet and waiting, and kind of creepy (but in that exhilarating, surreal kind of way)?

Except for missing out on the rides and the neon lights, I think this may have been the best way for me to first see Coney Island back in 2012.  I liked the emptiness of it…like I had it all to myself.  My friend Jill and I took our time walking through the park that day.  Soaked up all the carnival colors.  Studied the signs.  Played with the angles.

I thought of Coney Island as hibernating…dreaming about the coming summer’s smiling crowds, but also regrouping, getting fresh paint, tightening the bolts.  As I stay close to my Chicago radiators this winter, I’m passing through old photos, old memories and looking to the future.  I want to see Coney Island again when it’s awake, when it’s spring.  I want to ride the rides, shoot the neon, bump elbows with the crowds, and to see how the park survived Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.

So, rest up Coney Island.  I’m putting you on the list, again.  Coney Island, and also the Redwoods, and Cuba, and Ireland, and the Badlands, and New Orleans, and Nova Scotia, and Australia, and, and, and…

Arcade, ferris wheel, coney island, new york
The Wonder Wheel waits for summer at the Coney Island arcade
Coney Island, arcade, game, NY
Lauren’s seat at the Kentucky Derby, Coney Island arcade, NY
dime, toss, sign, game, Coney Island, NY
Dime Toss game sign at Coney Island, New York
toss, dime, sign
Toss a Dime, game signage at Coney Island, NY
Coney Island, roller coaster, lights, Cyclone
Detail of the Cyclone Roller coaster sign and lights.
roller coaster, cyclone, Coney Island, Amusement park
The Cyclone roller coaster at Coney Island, New York.
Hamburger boy
Hey Get It Get It! I’m supposed to want it more, once I see the sign…
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Home

Home 

It’s been a hard year.  We’ve lost a number of family members and dear friends.  Had job changes.  Experienced new aches and pains.  Dealt with little annoyances like losing an iPad and a coat (how does that happen??  Are our minds slipping?!)  And we’ve suffered through continuing bouts of ennui and this great restlessness.  A combination of things that leaves our hearts hurting, our thoughts scattered and worried, our confidence tested, and our energy exhausted.

We wonder, how many more Christmases will we have?  How many more summers?  How many more times will I get to hug this person–or hear that story again–or ask those questions?  How many more times can I say “next time, we’ll do that” –before there is no “next time”?  So, this Christmas, when I went home to Nashville to see my Mom and Dad, I also made plans to see some extended family–people I love, and used to spend more time with, but who I don’t have a lot of chances to see on quick visits home from Chicago.  It was good.  We shared laughter, stories, meals.  I need more of this.  And I have made a promise to myself to do more of it in 2015, and make it count.

I also spent a little time driving around Nashville…visiting some places I love…places that are scratched into my memory.  Former homes, old neighborhoods, favorite streets and parks.  Maybe I only spent a little time there–or maybe a lot.  But these places remain in my heart.  And while I can see them –any day– when I close my eyes, I wanted to touch them again.  It was good.  This too, I need more of.

Things change.  Buildings get knocked down.  Trees get cut down.  We change.  People move in and out of our lives.  It hurts sometimes.  And while we can’t always see them anymore, they live on in our memories.  And there is this magical kind of peace and grace in remembering those memories, and visiting those old places.

So, here’s to peace, and to a new year spent making good memories.  Happy New Year!

sledding hill
This is my old street and the neighborhood’s best sledding hill. When Nashville got snow, this hill was covered with kids and sleds. If you had good slick snow and a strong push off at the top of the hill, you could make it all the way to Valleywood.
Home
This place will always keep a few pieces of my heart.  My precious grandmother passed away there.  Three dogs are buried in the backyard, along with two pet turtles, three goldfish, and a few wild birds.  Those two strong maples were plucked from the woods by my father and grandfather–planted in the little front yard of our other house and then moved to this yard as saplings.
Shelby Avenue old tree and old house
Roots and foundations on Shelby Avenue.
Pond by the Parthenon
Gone are the paddle boats and swans:  The Parthenon’s pond in Centennial Park
Centennial Park Swing
Centennial Park Swings:  These are the best swings in the world. It’s all in the footboard…
Elliston Place Restaurant Diner
Neon sign from the old fashioned soda shop on Elliston Place. Milkshakes and grilled cheese…yum.
Exit/In wild posting by Krispy Kreme
Exit/In brought the music to the locals. And in a town like Nashville–“special guests” could mean a Rolling Stone, a Beatle or Johnny Cash.
Train tracks over the Cumberland
My grandparents had tomato plants…lots of tomato plants in their tiny backyard. One summer, they came to this spot in Shelby Park every day to dig dirt–buckets of good dark river dirt.  We’d go home each day with 4-5 big buckets of Shelby Park dirt for those tomato plants in the trunk of their car.
Long Avenue dead ends into Shelby Park
I once flew in a red wagon down Long Avenue’s alley hill into Shelby Park–zooming with more speed than control–with my laughing and elderly Aunt Tiller.  “Don’t you take that baby down that hill Tiller!”, my grandmother yelled from the kitchen window.  “Wave at her,” my Aunt Tiller whispered in my ear as she kicked the wagon into motion.
Spring Hill Cemetery
One of the most peaceful places I know. The tree in Spring Hill beneath which my grandparents rest.
Fletcher's Shoes
Daddy’s shoe shop, closing early on a rainy Christmas Eve’s Eve:  No matter where I am, I think of him whenever I smell shoe leather—or wear my Converse with no arch support.
Sage dressing
“More sage!”:  says my step-dad Marvin every time we test Mama’s homemade dressing.
Christmas Eve
Bill Monroe sings, “Christmastime’s a comin’, and I know I’m going home”:  There is a special comfort in being at Mama’s house on Christmas Eve. The smell of dressing and vegetables cooking, the lights on the tree twinkling on the bows & ribbons below, and you know that after eating, you’ll sit in that room chattering for a few welcome hours.
Awaiting the holiday meal
Anticipation:  Setting the table with the holiday china and Mama’s place cards for the Christmas Eve feast.
kitchen bar with christmas tree and microwave
Later at Daddy’s house:  We sit at the kitchen bar and talk about old family photos, health, and those little Christmas trees Aunt Robbie made all those years ago.

 

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The dogs at The Heart and Soul Animal Sanctuary

This post is all about the dogs at The Heart and Soul Animal Sanctuary.   Yeah, yeah, I know that my project is about the dog rescue organizations and the people who run them…but I find all the dogs and puppies so distracting!   All those personalities, those smiling faces, and all the wagging tails and busy feet–it’s too much for me sometimes and I only want to sit among them and play.   So, today, it is all about the dogs…and maybe a horse too.   I hope you enjoy the characters.  Hug a dog today…and everyday!

And please — Volunteer.  Donate.  Foster.  Adopt a shelter dog.

smiling dog
She barked, growled and grunted and now sits basking in our attention.
puppy dog in hay
This little one came out of the Puppy House to greet me. The next day, he had to go back to the vet. Two of his litter-mates had tested positive for distemper.
puppies heart and soul animal sanctuary
These babies are part of a litter of six at the Heart and Soul Animal Sanctuary. Two of the six were already at the hospital and the four remaining in the Puppy House weren’t feeling so good. The next day, the two at the hospital were diagnosed with distemper and these four siblings had to join the other two at the vet for treatment.
Perry old dog dementia
Perry is about 16 years old and suffers from a little dementia. He wanders the Heart and Soul Animal Sanctuary.
White horse and chihuahua
Jasmine the white horse and a little friend at the Heart and Soul Animal Sanctuary
Dogs watch chickens
Dogs watching the chickens get a carrot treat.  Many animals find sanctuary at Heart and Soul. Every species has their space and everyone is safe.
three legged dog and puppies
Ivan may only have three legs, but he’s got a ton of patience for these rambunctious lab puppies. He spent most of the late afternoon watching the puppies rough house and occasionally got into the fray.
dog horse eating
While Jasmine worked on her alfalfa dinner, the dog kept her company.
Dog food dish
One lucky dog has the kibble bowl all to himself at the Heart and Soul Animal Sanctuary
Dog on porch
This dog was skeptical of people, and watched me cautiously from the safety of the porch
Emma Tibetan Spaniel
Emma greets visitors on the porch of the Heart & Soul Animal Sanctuary’s Giant Doghouse
dog trees valley rock ridge
At Heart and Soul Animal Sanctuary, there is a hike every day to the ridge.
three dogs in new mexico
Jasper, Ivan and Daisy enjoying the New Mexico afternoon at the Heart and Soul Animal Sanctuary.
smiling barking growling dog
This little personality talked and talked and talked. She gave you about 7 seconds…and if you did not acknowledge her presence…there were some sharp words :)
Smiling dog
This smiling lovely barked, growled and scooted under the porch rail to get our attention without leaving the porch.
dog in doghouse
Jasper hides out in the little dog house after a hike at Heart and Soul Animal Sanctuary.
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Cuba’s Charisma : Why I go

Why do you keep returning to Cuba?

During the last 3 years I’ve been asked that question thousands of times and in a hundred different ways:  What is the appeal of Cuba?  What do you see in it?  What do you do there?  Why this absorption, this obsession?  Truth is, I’m not sure I really know why I go.  I just know that I have to return.

Exhaust from an old car for sale in Havana Cuba
In a series of sweeping economic changes, cars can now be bought and sold in Cuba. Many of these relics run on handmade parts, rigged and cajoled and smoking through the streets of Havana.

Before I went the first time, I read Carlos Eire’s “Waiting for Snow in Havana” and was enthralled by his description of Havana’s radiance… the turquoise water, the light, the sunsets.  But one part of his childhood description stuck with me–and came rushing back almost word-for-word the first night I arrived in Cuba–the part where he describes the car nearly tipping over as his dad drives through the crashing waves along the Malecón:   “That was the beauty of it, and the horror.  So much freedom, so little freedom.  Freedom to be reckless, but no genuine freedom from woe.  Plenty of thrills, and an overabundance of risks, large and small.  But so little margin for error, and so few safety nets.”

So, what does that have to do with why do I go?  Why have I been six times in the last 3 years?  Why do I already want to return?

Cuba seems to call to me…beckoning things that I’ve forgotten, lost or restrained.  Adventure.  Audacity.  Creativity.  Purpose.  There, I feel an openness and confidence that seems compounded and exquisite.

I’ve tried to explain why I go to Cuba with photos, and with stories of what I’ve seen and done there.   It’s hard to define, to draw a picture that helps a curious person understand…How can I explain the light of the sun and the shade, or the smell of the humidity, or the raw elegance in the decay.  How do I explain hearing in my Cuban friends’ stories the vast hope and repeated frustrations as Cuba’s many reforms zig, zag and snowball?   How can I explain how my skin tingles from partaking in the random little bits of risk in Cuba, or from seeing the creative resourcefulness of their fixes for things broken or not available?

Maybe I can never really explain my enchantment with Cuba because I don’t yet understand it well enough myself.  Or maybe because I don’t understand myself…what draws me to these raw edges.  The pattern is not yet revealed.  I do know that I will keep on going back…witnessing the changes–both in Cuba and in me.

Obelisk overlooking Havana
An obelisk’s shadow marks time in Havana.

 

Elegance decays
Marble steps fall away, wood decays, keyholes give out…and Havana goes elegantly on.

 

Overgrown Anfiteatro in Parque Lenin
A Cuban friend reminds me often that, without people, Cuba would return to the jungle in only a few years. This amphitheater in Parque Lenin is proof. What was once a clear pond surrounding the stage is now covered with algae, and tall grass grows around the stone seating.

 

Stitches repair this concrete cover
Stitches keep this concrete cover together on a rooftop in Havana.

 

Beams prop up this old building behind el Capitolio in Havana
This 5 story building behind the Capitolio used to be a hotel. Now it’s home to 50-60 families. The door and elevator are boarded up, the bannisters are missing in places, the stairs are becoming detached. We went in and carefully made our way to the top floor, talking our way into an apartment crammed full of trinkets. Another place was burned and empty. These families await relocation to a safer living space. And likely this prime real estate will again become a posh hotel or apartment building once el Capitolio’s renovations are complete and the parliament moves in across the street.

 

Fumigation on Calle 23 Havana
Early one morning, I saw smoke traveling down Calle 23 in Vedado. Fumigation trucks (and airplanes) keep Havana mosquitos in check.  About a minute later, I could smell the pesticide in my room.

 

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