Waking Early To Birdsong

Waking early to birdsong, doves and mot mots, a pair of love birds playing in a branch.  Coffee delivered to my bed.  A sultry air stirred by a kind breeze.  The jungle outside of Merida, Mexico.  Hacienda Petac, former sisal plantation established in the 1700s, celebrated for its rope production, converted now to a private home.  Palm and agave and creeping philodendron and mariposa and quanabana and neem and pich and pomegranate .  The canopy dripping with fruits and pods shaped like beans and boomerangs and ears, filled with a silk as light and fluffy as dandelion seed.  A splash of pink, of red against the riotous green, ixora and cattail and heliconia and birds of paradise, royal poinciana, the magnificent ceiba tree.  Water everywhere, running through and under it all.  Breakfast by the pool: Jugo, Fruita, Omelet de Queso con Salsa de chile poblano.

Hacienda Petac

On The Wing Of An Airplane

MOMENTS OF BEING

About once a week a stranger visits my site by googling “girls in patent leather boots.”  I don’t want to know what he is hoping to find, but on his quest he stumbles upon my sister and me.  As far as as I can remember I have never written a post about or used the term “patent leather boots.” So be it.  Now I am.  As a little girl I wanted white patent leather boots so badly I wrote it on my Christmas list for three years in a row.  (My parents searched and searched, but could not find them in a child’s size.)  Jenny had black patent leather boots, therefore I wanted white — the same but different, maybe even better.  In this picture, I’m wearing white knee socks.  From a distance, I hoped, they looked like leather.  We’re standing on the wing of my mother’s divorce lawyer’s airplane.  His name was Henry Hill and he used to fly over our house upside down just for fun.  “Oh there’s Henry,” Mom would say, rushing out to the deck, looking up at the sky.  And there he was, swooping all around, flirting with my mother even though both were involved with others.  The plane would disappear, but before long he’d show up with a girl on his arm for a dip in the steamy indoor swimming pool, the water so hot it wrinkled your skin, underwater speakers playing Neil Young and Bob Dylan — the little kids (there were ten of us in all) told to stay out because it was “adult time” in the pool.  In the summers, Henry would fly us up to Maine to dig clams for an afternoon. Here, in the picture, we’re near Prout’s Neck.  I have no idea what we’re staring at, but I love our contrasting expressions: Jenny is a little skeptical, mouth pinched closed, hoping, though, to be disproven; I’m a little in awe, a bit afraid.  I can feel the cool salt air, smell it mixed with pine.  We don’t have pierced ears yet and last year’s dresses are more fashionable now because we’ve grown taller.  Our mother has tied bows at the end of our braids.  I’m clutching Juicy Fruit.  Even so, with those boots and the desire for another pair, the adventures having already begun, jetting around with a divorce lawyer, we’re reaching forward toward the adult world.

And here we are.  Almost 40 years have passed.  The divorce lawyer has died.  Jenny has stopped getting older.  (Her birthdays ended when she turned 37.  It’s a neat trick.)  Skeptical, hopeful, in awe, a little bit afraid, many adventures, Jenny still by my side.

Jenny McPhee

Review: Jonathan Coe’s The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim

From The San Francisco Chronicle — Review by Martha McPhee

The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim

By Jonathan Coe

(Alfred A. Knopf; 314 pages; $26.95)

At the beginning of Jonathan Coe’s beguiling new novel, “The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim,” Max, in Australia visiting his estranged father, observes a Chinese woman and her young daughter at a restaurant. They are enjoying a game of cards, “bonded to each other, with a strength and an intensity” while the other diners distract themselves with cell phones and Nintendo DS devices – the protective wall of modern technology that keeps the other out.

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