sardine hypnosis

May 20th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Sardines are a perfect food. They are easy to catch, low in the food chain bioaccumulationaly speaking, and live everywhere. They *can* be caught easily and with minimal waste, or you can find them canned in nice oil or sauce in any tienda. I have a lot of stories that center around sardines.

My first positive sardine memory is during planning school. Our studio project, a greening plan for a section of the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, was doing our final presentation during a full on community board meeting. I was supposed to do the speaking part for my section, and I was nervous before the talk. My classmate Anthony Gelber, who was a little older than me and knew some stuff, pulled me aside to run through the talk one last time.

From a deli bag he retrieves a carton of OJ, a loaf of Italian bread, and a can of sardines in tomato sauce. I´m running through my note cards, and hes listening and pouring out cups of OJ, scooping out the center of the bread and layering in the sardines. He hands me a sardine sandwich with sauce all over, which forces me to put down my cards and run through the talk on memory, with sauce all over.

This story gives me so much nostalgia – for the camaraderie of school in the city, for the Bronx, for bodega meals. Also for the practice of balancing expertise with real communication (asking, listening, not just talking), being and sometimes staying nervous, and trying things for the first time. Over a decade later, living a very different life, I find daily use for all of this training.

A few nights back a friend broke out a cast net, and we applied it – with the help of a local who had the rather tricky deployment of a cast net on lock – to the roving schools of sardines that thread around the docks. In a few moments we had more than we could possibly eat, and we fried up batch after batch, stuffing our bellies and looking for more people to feed.

So maybe I am elevating the sardine a bit. Maybe this is a more general post about how sharing a meal builds community. Maybe its an even more general post about seeing abundance where it is. Pretty sure this one is not that deep. I just woke up thinking of my next meal, which F can attest is a pretty regular day.

night plankton

March 31st, 2018 § 2 comments § permalink

Some play video from a bucket of night plankton in the Golfo de San Blas:

up and over

March 29th, 2018 § 5 comments § permalink

There is traveling and then there is pilgrimage. I just wanted to write something down in this moment before the whole feeling escapes me. It is a combination of physical exertion, mental openness, and receiving coincidence after coincidence.

The night before last, my husband and I were sitting on the edge of a termite-infested bench in the tropical highlands at the frontier between the comarca Guna Yala and the valley of Mamoní. Surrounded by our wet socks, bandanas, and muddy boots, the sounds of howler monkeys and every type of frog, bird and insect singing, we spoke to each other quietly, and had the type of conversation that you have when the everyday scales of resentment, irritation, bookkeeping etc. have fallen away. To get into that mindset, we went on and up-and-over pilgrimage.


Our new machete.

Since we have been anchored near the mouth of Rio Mandinga, we have started making trips up on tierra firme, knowing the pueblos there and slowly building relationships as we went. It is an area that has a past of thwarted exploitation by extranjeros, first by the early banana industry, a company that preceded the now-global giant Dole. Then came the tourism-minded gringos of the mid 20th century: the good, the bad and the downright ugly. Today, in this region there are no more bananeros, and no more foreign-built hotels. The two local airstrips no longer have set service, a sharp contrast to past times when there were regular commercial flights to Porvenir and US Army use at Mandinga. Its an area subject to countless schemes and incursions, which have been held at bay by the iterative and adaptable Guna congreso.


Congreso house for the Mandi Yala pueblo.

Way back when, this route was considered the first choice for what would ultimately become the Panama Canal, but the Gunas, back when they were Cunas, had scuttled that plan post haste.So when we went out by foot, up the river and over the continental divide and down the “other side”, we did so step-by-step, requesting permiso for every leg of the journey. The trail became not just a series of steps, but a continuum of relationships.


Coconut water to-go.


Critters and communities along the path.

In my mind I was having a running conversation with my family and friends, which happens out on the boat as well. I even sent a mental thank you note to my high school cross country coach, for instilling in us the mantra of mental toughness. He smoked his pipe as we ran through the woods, shouting after us, “running is 99% mental toughness!”


Leaf litter.

Today I have work projects that need my full attention, I have laundry to fold, and all these workaday things – like applying aspercreme to my tender knees – have a a renewed purpose and shine. Maybe its just endorphins, but it feels like everything fits.

Tonight I meet up with my “first friend” in Panama, Mara – the one who taught me how to make ceviche on a sailboat. We are going to take her mom out for the start of Holy Week processions. This morning she told me she was surprised I was interested in going, because “gringas are usually Lutheran, no?”. Denominations aside, I am just glad to be in the fold, and to keep moving forward.


One of many rivers and creeks to cross.