Wednesday, December 28, 2022

The first pick of the new harvest

 It's the coffee season again, although a little later this year than normal. The coffee seemed ahead of schedule in October, but a spell of cold weather slowed the maturation down. So instead of having the first pick in mid December it was at the end. Hopefully, the next pick will be here in a fortnight or so.

To keep it simple, the words precede the photos.

So, things were looking bright and fresh when we arrived, last summer's paint holding up well.

We headed back behind the casita and open air kitchen to where the main area of coffee begins.

But only after doing a double take at how much the lychee tree has grown in the last year.

Meanwhile, the palms have pretty much reached the height they will grow to.

Meet the slowest picker in the team. He's a good boy for wearing his hat.

It's been a great year for bananas, one of coffee's favourite companion plants and good for shade. 

Everyone comes picking. 

And before you know it the picking is done -- just a couple of hours today, and a couple of sacks. The next pick will start to get serious as the bulk of the crop should come on quickly from here.

Maybe the best part of the picking is to get to eat afterwards. Cecilia cooks a fabulous pot of beans and chili seco, with a little carne to round it out.

While a tired picker kicks back in the hammock waiting for the food to be ready.

Open air kitchens are so good -- plenty of room for cooking, eating, and convivencia. 

It's pretty good, and tortilla make great cutlery.

Comida buena, tan saborosa.

Roll on the next pick. 

Now all that needs to be done is to process the beans -- the long slow part that will start on the morning with putting the beans through the despulpadora. Picking is the easy part, apart from putting the fermented beans out to dry. The rest is pretty serious work when done by hand.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Falling Water: The Last Trip

With Covid limiting so much, Michele only had one item on her "bucket list" -- a trip to see the Frank Lloyd Wright "Falling Water" home in Pennsylvania. We made the booking online because Covid meant there were fewer tours and smaller numbers. Mercifully, tours had opened up again.

And as things played out, it was this trip more than anything else that made me realise just how absolutely fundamental and central to Michele's life the dimension of aesthetics was. 

Because Michele was long past being able to drive, I drove the trip, and we made the 350 miles with 2 or 4 stops, arriving in the evening ahead of the tour the next morning. By the time we arrived at our accommodation Michele said it was hard to walk. She moved very slowly but thought it was just from having sat too long as a passenger.

The next morning we arrived at Falling Water in good time, but Michele said she was feeling sore and would have to move slowly. I informed the tour guide but Michele said she did not need a wheelchair.

She made it through the tour, albeit with difficulty. There was a second tour of four more FLW homes in a cluster nearby scheduled for the afternoon. Michele wondered if she should call it off. I asked if she might regret that, and later wondered if I should just have said nothing. Again, a talk with the tour guide meant that all accommodations would be made, and Michele completed the tour, happy to have seen more houses and got a wider sense of Wright's architecture.

The trip back to New Jersey became increasingly wretched. Michele could not bear to stop and get out of the car, even with the powerful prescribed pain relief medication. By the next day she was in a very bad way and with much difficulty we got her to the car and to an emergency appointment at the clinic. After scans I was told to get Michele home, pack a bag, and get immediately to the emergency section at the hospital in mid town Manhattan. 

We got there around 10pm and I was able to stay with her and she was eventually admitted to the hospital ward. After a while the specialist came and explained to us that a tumour had fractured Michele's hip, and that to keep her as comfortable as possible for whatever time she had left they were going to do a hip replacement. That duly happened and a week later Michele was back home, learning to function with a walker and with crutches. Although she was expected to live for maybe 4-5 months more, she died less than 6 weeks after the surgery.

While we were waiting for the surgery we were talking about the trip to Falling Water and whether it seemed like a mistake in retrospect to have pushed through the pain and kept on. Michele just looked me directly in the eye and said "I'd go through it again every time. It was ABSOLUTELY worth it."

It was then that I really began to understand just how much "the aesthetic" meant in Michele's life. There could have been no more graphic an explanation and, for me, no more grounded an understanding and appreciation.

The following are a fulsome selection of  the final photos Michele took. There are quite a lot of them for a blog post, but I have decided to include more rather than fewer, for pretty obvious reasons.  They are a testimony to Michele's openness to wonder and her sense of the wonderful, and a tribute to the depth and 'totality' of commitment to and appreciation of aesthetics.