Reflections on a life that was as long as it was brief

Fragment from “The book that was never meant to see the light.”


 A view from the balcony El Salado, Envigado, Antioquia, Colombia
A view from the balcony
El Salado, Envigado, Antioquia, Colombia

   One day, just like this one, and perhaps, like any other, Dora asked:
“Tell me, Grandmother. Tell me, Ines. What do you see when you spend so much time, just sitting and gazing out from your balcony?
“Oh, my sweet child…. How explain all that you see after living for so many years? I see my life, as I have lived it. It passed too swiftly. I see myself approaching the finish line, where we all arrive sometime in our life. I see many of the blessed and cherished moments which I have received throughout my many years. I also see how lucky I have been as I ran this race we call life.” She answered sweetly, as she always did when talking to the little girl.
“What can you tell me that will help me? I am just starting out in this race that you call life.”
“Oh, my dear child! Live it! Enjoy every minute, every second, each instant and every breath of life that you pull from the world. Then, when, as I, you get close to the end of things… you can say, full of love and respect: Life, please don’t ever end! Allow me that last breath, let me smile and laugh one last time, with the joy of one who has lived contentedly. At that time, you can say:
It may have been brief, but at the same time, it was so good!”


Versión en español                        Lost fragments           

Ice creams at the café

The weekend niece. from the book, Searching for treasures


The plazoleta                Guatapé, Antioquia, Colombia

   The Fonce River was a few blocks away from the San Gil’s Plaza. A steel bridge, painted yellow, crossed it where the highway to Piedecuesta and Bucaramanga, the Capital of the Department, entered the city by crossing the river. There, a block from the bridge and the city market was, El Terminalito, the short-distance buses terminal. The small bus or busetica from Barichara arrived here, as did the busetas from the other villages and settlements near San Gil.


     On occasion, when Dora’s uncles weren’t at their plantation at Barichara, her paternal grandparents would call Ines to ask for a favor. Would it be possible for them to receive Dora at her place for the weekend? Her grandmother was happy to oblige! How was she not to welcome her home, when Dora already had a special place in her heart? Sometimes, there were these certain      gestures of Dora’s. They reminded her so much of Dora’s mother. Both of you, so alike at this age of yours… my child! How quickly you left us… May you rest in peace… Ines would think at those times.


     Hanging up the phone, an antique she kept in mint condition, she would always remain pensive for a short while. But, Ines, with her kind of a character, that was tempered by red-hot fires, by the flames of the bad times she had endured and suffered when a young girl… was not prone to let herself fall into sad fits of pity. At least, not for more than a few minutes at that!

 


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A house by the sea

Chapter 5… Of poor lovesick poets


The lone ranger Beaches at Ometepe Isle, Rivas, Nicaragua
The lone ranger
Beaches at Ometepe Isle, Rivas, Nicaragua

     When they moved to live in León, the natural curiosity he had within, drove him to wander around each of León’s municipalities. Most importantly, he met and he got to know many of the people that lived in those parts. He extensively enjoyed making new acquaintances and cultivating friendships in the different neighborhoods; he would stroll happily about the Department of León, as if he owned the place, together with its people. It was all but his playground to grow up in. Many years later, he would take me along on his walkabouts, and I would never cease to be amazed, at how immensely popular he was.
Grandfather’s parents owned a lovely weekend house. “We had lived in Chinandega, a small and quiet city. Naturally the beach house was a chance to escape from the hustle and bustle of León, for us a big city.” It was located on one of the most beautiful beaches of the Nicaraguan Pacific coast, quite nearby the port of Corinto.


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Back from the market

The weekend niece. from the book, Searching for treasures


City Hall Guatapé, Antioquia, Colombia
City Hall                Guatapé, Antioquia, Colombia

   The entrance to the house was here. It was sheltered, from the sun and rains, by an overhang painted in the same blue color as the facade. It provided a generous shade during the mornings and the sunny afternoons, so typical of San Gil. At the same time, it was a dry spot for the passers-by during the rainy moments that occurred during part of the afternoons.
Without question, it was a cheery street, decorated with facades painted in their different hues of yellow, blue, and green. Many years later, Dora tried to run up it, as if she were still that untiring girl. Laughing at herself, she had to admit: I can’t do it anymore! But, what would you say if I told you that grandmother used to go up and down that street until her death, and she carried heavy bags of groceries from the market while she was at it!


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Love at first sight

Chapter 5… Of poor lovesick poets


The beach cove Ometepe Isle, Rivas, Nicaragua
The beach cove                   Ometepe Isle, Rivas, Nicaragua

     For my grandfather, moving to León was love at first sight. On different times, he talked to me about how he loved to visit León, ever since he was a little boy. At the time, the city held a powerful spell on Grandfather and it fascinated him. He enjoyed walking the streets of Nicaragua’s first capital, admiring its old buildings and lovely colonial mansions, with their history-impregnated walls.
“I could imagine carriages driving down those beautiful streets, my dear child. They were drawn by tall, proud horses with long, silky manes, their heads held proudly high, with elegance, bearing, and style; their hooves pounding the cobbled streets and thundering in the air, as they briskly trotted past. The gentlemen wearing those elegant top hats, riding their stallions and entering the huge houses, through doors so wide and tall, they needn’t dismount to pass through,” he told me once, his voice slightly trembling with emotion. He was in a melancholic and pensive mood that afternoon, while we were up in the cathedral’s roof, lazily enjoying the panoramic view of the city, extending below, at our feet.

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A house with a blue facade

The weekend niece. from the book, Searching for treasures


The lake Guatapé, Antioquia, Colombia
The lake              Guatapé, Antioquia, Colombia

   As you walked from the plaza, you could enjoy observing the old buildings of this quarter of the city and how the gradually climbed until they reached the bottom of Ines’ street. That’s where the final climb to her house initiated, challenging and ruggedly inclined. It seemed to defy the pedestrian and the daring cars, who could barely reach the half-way point before finding that’s as far as they could go!

     From that point on, the street was exclusively for those walking, the cars having to park in front of a wide-stepped barricade. Fourteen steps above, the street kept climbing until it reached a blue facade.

     The entrance to the house was here. It was sheltered, from the sun and rains, by an overhang painted in the same blue color as the facade. It provided a generous shade during the mornings and the sunny afternoons, so typical of San Gil. At the same time, it was a dry spot for the passers-by during the rainy moments that occurred during part of the afternoons.


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A few digestives for the soul

Chapter 4… Baptizing the celebrities


The lake's beach Ometepe, Rivas, Nicaragua
The lake’s beach
Ometepe, Rivas, Nicaragua

     It was precisely Grandfather who explained why they had moved to León, “…as my daddy’s father-in-law was growing older (your great-grandfather, Ernesto García), it seemed that his interest gradually changed from taking care of the cotton crops, towards taking care of another bottle of rum, which he stored and hoarded with utmost care, in that wine cellar of his, below the manor, in a seemingly endless supply. Now, I love my rum as much as anyone else; I´ve found it’s good for the stomach, especially with your grandma’s spicy cooking, and it’s good for the soul; but I’m sorry to say, as your dear old Gramps grew older, sadly, the old man began to drink his days away.” Anyway, that’s how Grandfather arrived to stay in León, and there he lived, quite happily, until the end of his days. .

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A steep climb of a street

The weekend niece. from the book, Searching for treasures


View of the city park Guatapé, Antioquia, Colombia
View of the city park
Guatapé, Antioquia, Colombia

     Her grandmother’s house was placed just a few blocks from San Gils’s Central Park. The park was small, yet fresh and welcoming. Bordered by restaurants and cafes that offered tables on the sidewalks, it was a perfect gathering point for the city dwellers. As the sun began to set, it would fill with people enjoying the evening and the cool temperature.

     But, what a steep climb to reach her house. That street, in particular, had steps carved into its sidewalks to facilitate the pedestrians ascending the abrupt slope and was a typical example of the ups and downs so emblematic of the city’s streets.

     Dora’s favorite spot, to spend the mornings in, was precisely at the beginning of the steep slope. Merrily, the hours passed, while engrossed in her own, private world she played enthused or read one of the books she invariably carried with her. It was undoubtedly her favorite place, in front of the house with the stylish yellow facade, sitting placidly on those red-tiled steps, so comfortable and so wide. The neighbors passing by would smile and say greet her warmly, for they knew the young girl’s situation very well.


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