Almost everyone meets Van Gogh’s sunflower paintings in a 101 appreciation class, but the first time the opposite colors on the color wheel really impacted me was while traveling in Switzerland in the early 60s. I had actually seen some of the originals, because I had lived a few years before within cycling distance from the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, and once had happened upon a ‘show’ in London.
But today – Walking through a sunlit dining room in a hotel overlooking Lago Maggiore, a combination of color, light and juxtaposition stopped me in my tracks.
The rustic stuccoed room was painted white, that shocking blue-tinged white that almost hurts your eyes, and there on a ledge was a blue and white hand-painted vase full of sunflowers. It took my breath away, and I hated for the moment to pass — but, in reality, it has not passed, for I remember it often and I fill my life with elements of that same scene.
These photos are from the breakfast service at Hotel Casa Mexilio, Merida, Yucatan, Mexico.
For more than a few years, here in the Barrio de Santiago, we lost attractions and interesting businesses. In the 80s there was a wonderful air-conditioned book store on the corner, only a half block from our hotel. What a sanctuary it was on a hot evening. And the first run movie theater, next door, also closed.
Recently, around the corner on 59th Street, and in an elegant, turn of the century residence with central patio and garden, the CAFE ORIOL has opened. And it’s also an art studio. After more than 3 months of ignoring their attractive sign on the sidewalk, I had lunch there. A unique experience on a bright and clean inner courtyard filled with plants and attractive young people . . .
And one and one half blocks north of CM, also on Calle 68, is the LA68 Casa de Cultura Elena Poniatowska, which shows movies al fresco, and serves as a cultural center, with snacks. The playlist can be found here: http://www.la68.com/casa-de-cultura-merida/LA68.html
And on the other side of our block next to the oldest cafeteria in Merida, La Flor de Santiago, a friend has opened his art gallery called La Escalera.
From drawings in geography texts to the dieffinbachia which died on the porch in the winter, things tropical have fascinated me. And it was the nearby reefs and shallow warm waters of South Florida which inched me further south each time I moved.
In South Georgia there are several imaginary lines which delineate the limits of things like comfort, available produce, and vacation opportunities. And as we now know these lines are not static and with the shifting climate, the fire ants from South America are now searching for new territory in Appalachia. There use to be a fire ant line, and as southern lowlanders know, being on the southern side of the gnat line can ruin a picnic or an entire vacation.
Growing up near the limits of sub-tropical America, it was thrilling to me, to one day have to swerve to miss the coconuts which had accumulated on the highway in Key Biscayne. And then when I finally moved there, the thrill accelerated as I filled my enormous salt water aquarium with specimens collected on the nearby fringe reefs.
The salt water aquarium hobby diminished in importance, as the orchid and parrot collections increased.
It was in September of 1988, a few days after the passing of Hurricane Gilbert, which came ashore with one of the lowest barometric pressures every measured, passing near our ranch along the shores of Q. Roo, Mexico. A few weeks after the passing of the storm I had spent the night in a tent within view and sound of the off shore reefs, arriving the night before in order to access the wind and wave damage to the ranch structures.
The next morning, after pulling out onto the white coral rock road, a little animal fluttered in my path, and it turned out to be a baby Amazon parrot with a few wing feathers but with his breast bare and being attacked by ants. It had obviously survived the hurricane only to fall from a next hole in a coconut tree. The name, Coco, stuck.
This little loro came to live with us in Merida as a member of the family, and until last night lived in the kitchen where he enjoyed constant company and favorite foods. The strawberry, red-colored soda water was a favorite.
Coco died last night at the age of twenty-five years. And today we are in mourning for the little friend who shared our kitchen counter and breakfast encounters.