Our Lady of Guadalupe inspires millions of believers, offering a mothering balm of love, peace, and forgiveness through her Blessed Son. Read the legend of the appearance of the Holy Mother on Tepeyac Hill near Mexico City. Her apparition was witnessed by Juan Diego who had gone to the hill at the request of his Bishop to gather roses for the church. The Bishop’s actions were inspired by a request for a sign from the Holy Mother after she asked the Bishop to build a church on the hill. When Juan Diego returned with the roses, an image of the Holy Mother was embedded in his tilga–a garment that has remained without any sign of wear or age for the last 485 years.
Miracles do happen but we never know how or sometimes why. The universe and the Earth herself are imbued with numinous qualities that we intuit but can never “prove”.
In my novel Threshold, Dolores Olivarez is a devout Catholic who recites the Rosary as she hikes the mountain to the top.
At the summit, she looks out over the vast metropolis, and then down at the Birthplace of Tucson at the base of the mountain.
From a place of reverence, Dolores seeks to understand the meaning of her time and place, much as Juan Diego climbed to gather his roses.
Several educators have encouraged me to use sections of Threshold to develop lesson plans for high school students. One elementary teacher will read to her students and plan an activity and discussion around the story. I am very encouraged about this way of extending the story.
Three adolescents from Threshold emerge as strong characters–youth you feel will become leaders. However, each is working out certain personal challenges and social realities. Below are excerpts to give you a window into the layered stories:
Enrique lifted his grandmother, thinking she felt even lighter than last time, like a ghost in his arms. But he felt blood coursing in her legs, and heard the rasping sound in her chest. She was barely able to sit herself on the commode.
In the kitchen he opened the cabinets and refrigerator, surveying what he could scrape together for a snack and what his mother had cooked for dinner. Refried beans and rice, a package of tortillas. He’d hoped for a fresh tomato or onions, but the vegetable bins were empty. It was close to payday for his mother.
“Enrique?” his neighbor’s voice called through the screen door.
Mrs. Carrillo held a hot dish in a towel. “I brought you all some burritos.”
His stomach growled as he opened the screen door to let her in. She heard it and laughed. “Boys are always hungry,” she said with the same grace with which she did most things. She knew what kind of hunger Enrique really experienced.
Enrique thanked her and followed Mrs. Carrillo into the kitchen, where she set the dish on the counter, looking around. She turned to Enrique and said, “Be sure to leave some for your mother, and refrigerate these after you and granny eat, okay?” she touched his arm with affection.
Enrique smiled shyly. Mrs. Carrillo noticed his long eyelashes. Then she eyed his tattoos. His gaze followed hers. He looked up and she said, “Why do you kids ruin your bodies with these marks?”
He shrugged and smiled, “I dunno.”
Luna loved both summer seasons—the hot, dry time from March through June, and the wet, humid season from July to September. Like clockwork, right after the Fourth of July, the rain clouds appeared over the Santa Rita Mountains. Luna anticipated the cold dollops of summer rain, the torrents of water running in the washes, and the scent of the creosote bushes after the storm. She loved to be inside when the giant cloud beings grumbled and heaved their lightning swords onto the earth.
But in this twelfth year of her life, the elders were perceiving a pattern change—a pattern that had governed life on desert lands for thousands of years. The monsoon was late. July stayed dry. Rains came, but they were often more like the other rainy season—the gentle, steady winter rains. The people who gardened in the old ways, letting basins fill with summer storm water, noticed first.
After they had finished the gray-water system, Daniel excused himself to shower. As the trickle of cool water spattered on his hot skin, he thought about the sudden turn of events in his life. A woman was now in the picture. It was like a bomb had dropped from the sky on the brokered peace he’d managed to create for himself since his mother died. He realized suddenly that his father, as clueless as he could be, might actually be moving on. It was shocking to Daniel. He felt a knot of resentment in his gut. But shouldn’t he be glad? Living with his father this year had been like living with a stone statue. Was it possible a woman had moved his father’s broken heart? He wondered what she was like. What if he didn’t like her?
The art of finding nuggets of wisdom and truth telling in a world of data, false fronts, and confusing messages, has never been more challenging–but worth it.
In the blog, Brain Pickings, Maria Popova, is one of the best. I can see her with her “miner’s cap” flooding unlikely places with new illumination. Piles of old books, letters, and memoirs are her digging ground.
Maria, a young social entrepreneur, who looks back to old but wise sources for directions. Then she presents them in exciting new media formats. She is a curator of moral, ethical, and social discourses from which we can continue to pull jewels.
OnBeing.org has rebroadcast an interview with Popova, which is refreshing and inspiring. Check it out when you feel the need for a mental floss!
The last two days in Tucson have me swooning. When rain comes in a typically dry region, it is truly a blessing. The scent of creosote floats low on the ground like a perfumed decongestant, it opens my lungs when I breathe deeply. The sound of winter rain is gentle because these are the slow soaking rains. I lay in bed listening to the drips and little drumming sounds as each precious drop falls to the ground.
Then I dream of the places — streets, homes, and businesses — where rain is being collected for later use. Shining swirled metal on cisterns by homes and shops, landscaping that directs rivulets of blue water into the roots of trees, along garden paths, and to fruiting citrus trees. Lemons, tangerines, kumquat, oranges and grapefruit trees are full now, gaily greeting passersby. On a morning’s walk around the neighborhood, I pick up a lemon that has dropped and rolled to the sidewalk. Fair game?
This is food security, at least part of it, besides enhancing the world in which we live. Collecting rain water is an old, maybe ancient, human art. My grandparents in Tennessee had a huge cistern on their farm. But, here in the desert lands of America that are heating and drying, it is an essential skill. Brad Lancaster, a local Tucson resident, has spent the last two decades of his life teaching himself and others how to harvest rainwater. This coming weekend he is a featured presenter at the Tucson TEDx conference. To learn more go to Brad’s website. I highly recommend his books. He is one of many many Tucson Treasures. Videos by Brad