Friday, February 22, 2013

Not Much Gusto


I have been thinking about this word, this prompt of the week:  gusto.

It sounds as if it ought to be part of a magician's spell:

     Abracadabra, presto gusto
     Eye of newt and mote of dust(o),
     May you always pine and lust(o)
The Magician
     After one you cannot trust(o)

It could also be a spell to raise the wind:

     Presto gusto
     push and thrust(o)
     Scatter and shatter
     Rattle and clatter
     Ram the rooftops,
     Raise the dust(o).

Gusto could  also be the name of a friendly golden retriever.

Or the nickname of a boy named Gustav.

stock photo : GERMANY - CIRCA 1952: Postcard printed in GDR shows boy with gifts, circa 1952

Really, though, it is gusto that I lack during these long winter months.  I have of late but -  wherefore I know not -  lost all my mirth; forgone all custom of exercise...
Hamlet Royalty Free Stock Image - Image: 6777756

If a warm cave, lit by gentle firelight, were to present itself, I would gladly crawl into it and sleep until spring. Except that, out here in the Southwest mountains, spring generally means high winds smacking you in the face every time you go out and only a few imported flowers and fruit trees blooming courageously under the weight of a late snowfall. Summers, though, are pleasant especially after the monsoon season brings moisture, in the form of thunderstorms, to the brown and shriveled land. Then the native flowers burst into bloom. Subterranean streams rise out of the earth. The leaves of the cottonwood and the aspen shimmer greenly, gladly in the long light.

The word, gusto, derives from the Latin word meaning "a tasting." And from thence into Spanish -- e.g., con mucho gusto, or with great pleasure.

Par ejemplo:  Quieres dormir hasta el verano?  (Do you want to sleep until summer?)

Si, con mucho gusto.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Only Good Crowd

The word prompt this week is crowd.

For me this word has mostly negative associations. I am both anti-social and claustrophobic. Finding myself imprisoned in a mass of other human beings is bound to sabotage the restraining influence of my cerebral cortex.  Waiting in a long line of people in front of a counter staffed by a cognitively challenged octogenarian makes me grind my teeth and curse under my breath. If by dint of ill fortune I find myself  jammed into the back of a crowded elevator, I hold both my temper and my breath until the doors slide open and I can elbow my way to freedom.

Naturally I try to avoid these situations.

Take supermarkets for example. If I'm planning wisely, I'll always choose a weekday morning to shop. Sometimes, however, I forget an item and feel compelled to return at a less auspicious time.  Often, in these circumstances, I find myself blocked in the middle of a narrow aisle by shoppers who are taking forever to decide between competing brands. The result is instant outrage. I imagine my shopping cart as a modern-day battering ram. Only the tiniest whisper from my suppressed  superego prevents me from emitting a war whoop and launching my attack on the poor innocent shoppers blocking my egress.

Anticipating my loss of self-control, I have sometimes abandoned a cart full of purchases and left the store. It's a good way to save money, at least.

One of the positive aspects of living in remotest New Mexico is its (relative) lack of crowds and generous portions of open space.  Uninhabited canyons and plateaus, dominated by sage and juniper, comprise the scenery between urban areas which, relative to the East Coast, are sparsely populated.  My eyes feast on this expanse along with the dazzling enormity of blue sky.  Where I lived before, in the San Francisco Bay Area, there was always the endless expanse of the Pacific Ocean, along with the plentiful county, state and federal preserves, to balance the  burgeoning urban and suburban sprawl.

Sometimes I try to imagine how the North American continent looked before droves of Europeans arrived here to devour and breed.

No, I am not rejecting civilization or romanticizing the existence of hunter-gatherers. It's just the visual image of a swarm that seems aesthetically repelling. Bee swarms, ant swarms, swarms of locusts, mud swallow nests jammed together on the side of a building -- all of these make me shudder and look away. In my (albeit over sensitized) mind,  a dense concentration of almost anything is physically abhorrent.

I have, though, at least one positive association with the word "crowd."  I am thinking back to the year 1970 when the American people rose up and stopped the Vietnam War.  I no longer remember which month it was. All I remember is a freeway in Seattle occupied by so many thousands of people you couldn't see the end of the line or the beginning.  Opposition was no longer solely a radical stand. Liberals, quasi-liberals and even moderates had seen more than enough televised images of young girls catching fire and traumatized elderly villagers hobbling on the edges of rice paddies choked with corpses.

The occupants of the freeway sang, brandished signs, pontificated, speculated, and laughed because for this moment in time, our differences --  political, economic and social -- had been set aside in pursuit of a common goal. We were the force of reason, the implement of peace and we would prevail.

It was a crowded situation well worth tolerating.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Such Stuff as Dreams

Rodney walked without hesitation to the rim of the gorge. Ignoring the symptoms of fear -- the tingling in his fingers and toes, the dizziness -- he looked down, marveling that what looked like a thin, twisting crack at the bottom was, in fact, a sizable river.  Below him a red-tailed hawk glided, searching for prey.  Rodney inched closer to the rim so that approximately half of his sneakered feet were over the edge. He leaned forward, then lifted his arms. "Go," he whispered.

And he did. The air flowed beneath his arms, under his whole body, lifting him up and up. He was flying just as he'd always known he could. Now he moved his arms in the sweeping motion he'd practiced so often in his dreams. He flipped onto his back, executing a back stroke, and felt the morning sun on his face.The sky, as usual, was a deep electric blue, an enormous living canopy that hummed with power.  Flipping over again and facing down, he soared lower and lower until he could examine, at close range, the easy progress of the copper river wending its indolent way to the Gulf.

Rodney's eyes, alert and avian, took in the, darting movements of rock squirrels, the staccato dance of dragonflies, the black and white hairy woodpecker with a red dot on its head drilling into a snag for insects, the red-tailed hawk still on the lookout for prey, and the ubiquitous ravens croaking incantations in the cottonwood trees.

This was the one experience in all the nine years of his life that completely lived up to his expectations. Clumsy on land and even in water, he embraced the challenge of flight like a pro. This, without a doubt, was what he was born for . He was (he had known all along) a creature of the air, his body streamlined, his small bones hollow like a bird's. "Eat my dust, you suckers," he shouted, and, laughing, he aimed himself at the river, head down, arms tight against his body, imitating an osprey and, like the osprey, turning sharply parallel just seconds before he touched the water.

"Wheeee.." he exclaimed now aiming skyward. Despite his exertions, he wasn't the least bit winded the way he always was in PE class when they had to run in circles around the periphery of the gym. He became aware of a small bloating sensation in the lower part of his body. He farted and his body lunged forward making him giggle so hard he began doing involuntary lopsided somersaults right there in the air,

He tried farting again but apparently he was all out of gas.

Then, quite suddenly, the sun was captured  by an immense cumulus cloud big as a giant's fist with enormous dark knuckles.  An icy gust of wind slammed into Rodney's body knocking him backward onto something solid and hard.

"No offense, Cindy, but that kid of yours belongs in the loony bin," a gruff, masculine voice said.

Boy Jumping Royalty Free Stock Photo - Image: 4420845