Sometimes everything has to be enscribed across the heavens so you can find the one line already written inside you. Sometimes it takes a great sky to find that small, bright, and indescribable wedge of freedom in your own heart. David Whyte

Cuba 2012 – Love Songs Written on My Heart: An Island Unlike Others

A mere hour’s flight spans miles between my land and a world apart.
Hour that does not compute distance in human hearts,
Both mine and a people I’d never met before.
Cuba, island home where bells of freedom do not peal.

My mind does not comprehend my tears that even now add to shining sea
That parts neighbors who are unacknowledged friends.
My heart knows it loves without an understanding.
My soul is happy to remember.


Cuba 2012 – Love Songs Written on My Heart: Introducing Jose and Finding Nemo

Jose was not quite our drum major but I think we would have followed him anywhere as he introduced us to his Cuba. He was a tour guide unlike any I have encountered on my travels. Jose incarnated the history of a people while introducing us to his everyday existence in Cuba. His mother’s family was from Spain and he was aware of his more affluent European roots. He now lived with his wife and two young sons in his mother-in-law’s home. That is how Cuban families manage on barely life-sustaining incomes. Jose, his wife and her father had jobs while his mother-in-law took care of the house and her grand children. Jose had worked hard to make it possible for his family to acquire the resources to add on a room of their own. I say resources because no one has money to buy lumber, tools and other things necessary for construction. Bartering skills and materials is a way of life. Cubans have devised a brilliant underground solution to get around the limitations of poverty. Jose explained to us that in Cuba there are un-legal things as opposed to illegal things. The people are masterful in defining and balancing on this thin margin. Jose’s work as a tour guide was not his first choice but it is one of the best paid means of employment in Cuba, always excepting the Government. His heart’s desire was to lead bicycling tours, which he did in the off-season for tourists. (Except for U.S. citizens people from around the globe visit Cuba.) When we asked Jose questions about Cuba that he was uncomfortable answering he would smile and say, “It’s complicated.” His grin and ability to laugh at the ironies of life in Cuba were endearing.

Though Jose spoke fluent English our tour bus driver spoke none. He helped those of our tour group, including me, who found getting off the bus problematic. It’s always that bit between the last step and the ground that is daunting. The bus driver gave us warm smiles. With my high school Spanish I could say “gracias” but wanted to say more. I had noticed the orange fish with bright white and black stripes hanging from the rear view mirror of the bus. As an educated grandmother I recognized the fish was Nemo. One day getting off the bus I said “Nemo” and the bus driver grinned. We were discovering a common language. Pointing to myself I said “abuela”, which I knew was the word for grandmother because I live near a restaurant by that name and learned the translation from its menu. He pointed at himself and said “papa”. Then we communicated with fingers about how many children and grandchildren we had between us. A couple of days after our conversation the bus driver appeared with a step stool to bridge the gap between the bus and the ground. We beamed at each other. Our message was sent and received.


Cuba 2012 – Love Songs Written on My Heart: Once Upon a Time

Before the current movement towards resuming normal relationships between Cuba and the U.S., when U.S. tourists were just beginning to trickle into the country, I went to Cuba. My husband had long wanted to go there, even if it meant flying to another country that had hospitable relations with Cuba and entering through the back door. I agreed it would be interesting to see this country so near and yet so far away. And then we got our “ticket” to visit Cuba! It arrived in the mail in the form of a small brochure from Road Scholar with whom we had experienced previous travel adventures. Road Scholar had become licensed by Cuba to conduct “Person to Person” tours, now offered by the Cuban government as one of the legal categories for US citizens to enter the country. We signed on immediately to join a group traveling in April 2012. And so the journey began.

“Person to Person” means just what it says. We would spend our days visiting significant places and in conversation with Cuban people – musicians, architects, students at a School for the Arts, followers of an Afro-Cuban Religion, a small Jewish cemetery, a Senior Center, the Bay of Pigs Museum, the Fine Arts Museum, women begging at a town square, a Gospel a cappella Choir, a ration store where Cuban people make selections from meager merchandize offerings, and Hemingway’s home.

Mine is not a conventional travel memoir. I didn’t take notes. I didn’t take pictures.The people of Cuba are with me even now in my heart. What I write does not spring from ordinary memories but from a living experience etched in my mind and gut. This is my love song to people of shining perseverance, who invent novel and even humorous ways to exist in the midst of terrible poverty, whose art and music flourishes, who embody the soul of Cuba. As I re-member my experience with these people I will tell you their stories.


Incandescense: A Haiku

Poetry sheds light.
Flame like votive candle glows
Flickers in the night.


Starbucks Sees Things Differently : A Haiku

Caffeinated minds
Backwards read the alphabet.
Out jumps MLK.


My Dawn Wall

Climbers standing on pedestals of microscopic toe-holds
Inched upward toward the summit.
Finger’s skin scraped and torn bloody,
Spirits strong they reached their goal.
Drank sparkling wine, hugged loved ones.

Still standing on the heights
Climbers spoke to us who watched.
Hoped their assent inspires, prompts us to recall their feat
So that when we meet our own Dawn Wall one day
We’ll draw on strengths unknown within and persevere.

I think I’ve been acquainted long with my Dawn Wall.
It seems to never end. I pull and tug with obstacles
Small and insignificant. A victory is nothing to proclaim.
And yet I climb again. I solve my task and add the gain to my accumulated wisdom and rejoice.
Dawn Walls can be measurements of how we manage day by day.


Writer’s Lament: A Haiku

Groans my cluttered brain
Ragbag of ideas half-baked.
Stopped my world, got off.

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Weekly Haiku Challenge Number Twenty-Six: Joy and Freedom – Small Winter Respite

New day sky pink tinged
Gives promise of thaw – Oh joy!
Sidewalks free of ice.


Daily Prompt: I Got Skills

Says little hammer
Give me nails and I’ll show you
All words can haiku.


Daily Prompt: Oasis

Shimmering in dreams.
Desired promise to quench thirst
Beckons one more step.