Beheading Birds of Paradise

birds
Survivors. Birds of Paradise who made the cut … or didn’t.

THIS SUNDAY MORNING, I awoke and thought of Sundays of Long Ago, specifically when I was married to my second wife and living in Houston.

We had a routine. I’d retrieve the fat Houston Chronicle from the lawn, pour coffee for the two of us — maybe we ate something too, can’t recall — and back to bed we went for an hour or more, reading the newspaper. It was fun.

I wonder if the Houston Chronicle still publishes a print edition. The world has changed so much in the past two decades. Another former employer, The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, does not. It’s only online.

Just like me.

But this morning, here at the Hacienda, a far cry from Houston and New Orleans in all aspects, after coffee and bagels and cream cheese (lite), I went out the veranda door to do a bit of yardwork.

Madeleine Peyroux was still singing on the music machine.

I deadheaded a few Birds of Paradise. I whacked back one of the small bougainvilleas. I picked up rotting golden datura blooms from the ground in the Willy-Nilly Zone. And I cut stalks of defunct aloe vera flowers.

The weather was wonderful, and it appears the rainy season, which long overstayed its welcome this year, may have retired till June. I pray so.

We have plenty of work planned around here,* and it awaits the genuine end of the rainy season because it’s outdoor work. Not work I will do, of course. Work that people I employ will do, guys who do cement and stone.

And colonial tile.

terraza
Potted plants sitting on a scruffy surface. But you just wait!

There are three arches in the veranda, as you can see in the photo. There are potted plants resting on the three ledges below. They sit on a dingy brick surface. In about a week, a guy will come and lay beautiful colonial tile. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this 15 years ago or even last year.

It will be a huge — Yuge! — improvement. I’ll post photos.

In the meantime, I wonder if my second ex-wife still reads the Sunday newspaper in bed. I almost emailed her this morning to inquire. But I didn’t.

* * * *

* More work than has been done by far since the Hacienda’s construction. Roofs will be razed. Stairs will be moved. Floors will be ripped up. The Jesus Patio will be destroyed. Fruit trees will fall. More on all that when it happens.

Tip of April

scene

WE’RE APPROACHING the edge of April, which — along with its friend called May — are customarily the warmest and dustiest months of our year here on the mountaintop.

Today’s item is primarily the photo, a view I noticed while sitting in the rocking chair with fruit juice after returning this morning from our 20-minute exercise walk around the nearby plaza.

A sharp eye will notice the Birds of Paradise and behind that is a teenaged bottle-brush tree with its red brushes, and beyond that are banana trees abutting the rock wall. I tossed in the parked car for a touch of modernity and high-tech. And then there’s that pole cactus and something I believe is a begonia, potted, on the right side. My father used to plant lots of begonias, so I’m not a fan.

Family conflict.

But there’s no conflict here today. There is color, cool air, happy thoughts and a sense of gratitude.

The tilted birdbath

daturaWHAT SORT  of loopy person leaves a birdbath tilted for over a decade when it requires only a few seconds to set it straight? That person, of course, is me.

But today I spent the few seconds and made it level. The birds had never seemed to mind or even notice. I long noticed but did nothing. The birdbath is a clay bowl that sits atop a carved wooden pedestal, knee-high. The pedestal is rotting, but that’s not what made the whole shebang off-kilter. It’s sat crooked since it was new.

I took the bowl off this morning, and moved the pedestal from where it’s rested so long. There was grime below, some bugs and a worm that looked perfect for fishing. I swept it all away with a broom, into the grass.

A slight shift to the right and a bit of circular movement set it straight. I put the bowl back on top and it was level, the first time in a long time. The birds still will not care, so this is a strictly human issue.

It’s not like the birds need my water supply right now because it rains every day. Pools and puddles are all over the place. No matter. My birdbath is quite popular, but it will become more popular when the rainy season ends next month and a pool will be darned difficult to find.

Summer has ended, of course. Our high mountain world is wet, and the plants are happy. When we open the bedroom curtain in the morning, this is what we see, the photo above, golden datura in a frenzy of flowers.

The big aloe vera bushes are full of orange stalks. The birds of paradise have come out to play, the plants, not actual birds, which are not mountain fowl. We must make do with the flowers.

I was sitting on the front terraza a spell this morning, admiring it all and thinking what a lucky fellow I am.

But I should have straightened that birdbath a long time ago. A personality flaw.

Good and bad

Paradise birds

SPRING IS UPON us, and it’s the first time in all my time here, which is to say the entire century so far, plus one year, that we have passed through a winter without one overnight freeze.

Normally, overnight freezes are common hereabouts in winter, and I tend to favor them. It keeps more Gringos from moving to our Colonial town. We have enough Gringos already, somewhere in the neighborhood of 300, I hear tell. When I arrived, there were about 40. The trend is troubling.

Nobody in their right mind wants another San Miguel where waiters speak to you in English, price-gouging goes through the roof, and you can’t leave your house untended due to the line of burglars waiting around the corner. Nor do we want Gringos walking about dressed like artists, smiling insipidly all the time.

Just the thought of it makes me shiver.

On the other hand, a freeze-free winter encourages the plants. Birds of Paradise normally don’t bloom in March at the Hacienda, but we’ve got a bunch outside right now. The monster bougainvillea is berserk, and that aloe vera gets beefier every year.

Wall

Walking from the bedroom to the kitchen this morning, light from the big dining room window shone onto this living room wall, so I snapped a shot. It’s sorta dark, but I’m no pro and don’t pretend to be. The bamboo-framed oil painting on the right was purchased in Havana two years ago.

Cuba is a nasty place. Don’t go there. Mexico is a great place. Come visit. Then go home. If you do decide to settle here, which is not a bad idea, believe me, go to San Miguel, please. You won’t even have to learn Spanish. The waiters already speak your tongue. So do the burglars, one supposes.