Come, Holy Spirit

Today is Pentecost. Here is my favorite medieval illumination:

And a lovely bit from the readings in Matins today:

While they received the visible presence of God in the form of fire, the flames of His love enwrapped them. The Holy Ghost Himself is love whence it is that John saith “God is love.” Whosoever therefore loveth God with all his soul, already hath obtained Him Whom he loveth, for no man is able to love God, if He have not gained Him Whom he loveth.

(from a homily by Pope St. Gregory the Great, speaking of the scene in the image above)

And later:

“And My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him.” O my dearly beloved brethren, think what a dignity is that, to have God abiding as a guest in our heart…

Salve Maria.

Quirky birds

We’ve been feeding the birds here in Rio for a few years now. I do think the Saíras were the first and most entertaining visitors. They raise large broods, and each year the group has grown. The birds tend to eat occasionally when not nesting, more enthusiastically when sitting on eggs, and voraciously when feeding the nestlings. Then the nestlings begin joining their parents at the feeder, and eventually everyone wanders off on their seasonal migrations until the next season. It was in April this year that the Saíras appeared en masse. Some dozen of them landed on the railing all at once, after an absence of several months. They didn’t bother eating anything, but it was a joy that they remembered us.

Fledglings are really fun to watch. When they first leave the nest they aren’t very good at steering. They also don’t seem to recognize depth and texture. When they get in the house on occasion they tend to land on any horizontal line – the top of a door frame, the top of a picture frame. But they also try to fly through plain surfaces, such as white walls and doors. Within a day or two this problem passes and they gain agility and a better ability to recognize objects and surfaces. They also stop accidentally trying to fly through the glass around the veranda. When they are in the early stage of poor navigation they are also not very fearful, and can be caught by hand. By the time they are more agile they are also more timid. That said, comfort around people seems to vary by species. The Saíras have been less skittish than the parrots or toucans, which rarely come to the veranda and are hyper-vigilant while eating. The toucan, who landed only once, spent the entire time carefully looking in all directions for danger, and never got around to eating anything. The parrots have stopped to eat a few times, but always have one of the group on guard and will leave if there is any disturbance from us moving around in the apartment.

The newest guests are hummingbirds and bananaquits, which are fairly unafraid and having a great time with the new hummingbird feeder. The hummingbirds are a diverse bunch so far: there are a couple of large glossy black ones with forked tails; a couple of similar size with lavender heads, green bodies and blue tails (apparently called Swallow-tailed Hummingbirds); a smaller kind which is metallic blue; and the bananaquits, which look a bit like wrens with yellow bellies.

Back on the banana-papaya feeder the species list continues with green sanhaçus (tamer now after getting used to us, and winners of the best cheerful song competition), blue-gray sanhaçus, blue saíras (spectacular!), several kinds of large thrushes which specialize in making a big mess, now and then an annoyingly loud Bem-ti-vi (a kind of shrike, I think), and on rare occasion a pair of Violaceous Euphonias (the male has a breast of the most amazing golden sunflower yellow, and his back is so deeply purple it is nearly black). They started nesting in a flower-pot once, before realizing there was too much activity nearby for their comfort.

You really must browse the amazing palette of hummingbirds God made. They are incredible, like little flying jewels. Here is a list of species in South America.


After-dinner video rabbit hole of the week

I love watching these Criollo horses. I like the unexpected details, like the way the saddles are constructed, or the way the narrator says “this horse is accustomed to being kept in a box, and knows how to eat commercial feed. In Brazil, rural people sometimes say, with some disdain, that such and such horse is “a box horse” – meaning one who has little experience outside a show-ring or riding stable, and is fussy, hard to handle, easily startled, and not much use for real work. It’s an amazing thing to ride a horse that’s been raised on the open range. Their sure-footedness is amazing. They are extremely smart about footing, routes, and obstacles.

So excited!


When I checked on the melon sprouts today, and found them nearly twice the size as yesterday, I felt a surge of delight. I remembered then a similar delight as a kid when my very own watermelon seeds sprouted in a little spot by the fence, near the grown-up vegetable garden. I must have gone every day to check on them, just as I am now. I’m already planning how to hang string on the patio railing to give them something to climb.

My only clear memory of the watermelon plants from childhood is that each morning when a tiny watermelon was discovered I would pick it and run inside to show my mom. So there were never any edible melons produced. This time I’ll just take pictures and blog about it. Which is still a way of showing my mom!

The fascinating world of laundromats

I have an assortment of vivid memories from laundromats. The earliest is of the slatted frosted glass windows at the laundry my mom used when I was about five years old. The window slats tilted back and forth to open, like a Venetian blind. The half-obscured oblong glimpses of the parking lot and road in front of the building remains in my memory. I, like many kids that age, loved to kneel on a seat and look over the back of it, rather than sit in it and look frontwards. It was at that same laundry that I remember learning to fold sheets with my mom. This is a nice dance when done with another person, giggles when one of you turns your end upside down. In my adult life, though, I usually fold sheets alone, and use the “fold, fold, fold….arg…roll the darn thing up and stuff it in the closet” method.

The next memorable laundromat had that lovely hot-clothes smell and two intriguing ‘bullet holes’ in one of the large windows. I don’t know if they were actually made by a BB gun, or a pebble tossed up by a passing car, but our town was far too small to have a ‘rough side’ and people rarely if never rode around shooting out their car windows in any case, so it seems unlikely that the two dings in the big window were caused by any real drama.

I was older now, perhaps in junior high, and memories of the laundry are accompanied by a vague irritable stress. The Tastee Freez was right across the street, which provided excuses to go get nasty industrialized snack products. I also remember using the wringer once in a while, though probably just to entertain myself. And I remember one amazing day where I went to change dollars for dimes at the machine in the corner, and instead of regular dimes, the machine discharged antique real silver Liberty Head dimes. I knew my coins from my dad, who liked to stash bags of silver coins in the garden in case of Zombie Apocalypse. I begged my mom for more dollars, making change until no more silver dimes came out. I remember ending up with a good 50 or so of the precious coins, plus enough regular dimes to finish drying the clothes.

Quarantine these days features the washing of enormous amounts of laundry, mostly because we are washing things more frequently than usual, and because being at home all day I am washing things that normally don’t get washed often, like cotton blankets, throw rugs, and the covers from the sofa pillows. Here in Brazil there is no dryer, just racks suspended from the ceiling near a breezy window, and the warm dry sunny climate to turn out load after load of fresh clothes. We hang gym clothes and towels directly in the sun to dry, to get that extra sanitizing effect. The rest dry well enough in the laundry room.

My mom has always kept me up to date on her laundry – she gets to hang it on a real line in a sunny yard, which is cozy and nostalgic. I would do the same in a minute if I had a place. The laundry is like a living creature then, like fire in a fireplace. It becomes a member of the household.

Risotto cheat

I discovered one can make ‘fake risotto’ with leftover rice or other leftover grains. I used quinoa. Since it is already cooked, one doesn’t need to cook it in broth for a long time the way one would with proper risotto. Instead, one makes a mini-broth, then adds the already cooked grains at the end.

The sauce I made was: 2 tablespoons of butter (or a bit more, I don’t measure), 1/2 a cup of water with a small piece of bouillon cube stirred into it (broth substitute), and a minced shallot. I sauteed the shallot in the butter, then added the broth. When it was nice and boily I added two tablespoons of lemon juice. I then scooped out the pieces of shallot, just so as not to have the texture of the in the dish. Then I added a huge heaping tablespoon of chopped artichoke from a jar (finely chopped, supposed to be for spreading on toast, but you could also use those pickled artichokes that are for salads), and 1/2 a cup (or a bit more) of grated parmesan cheese. When it was nice and smoothly blended, and the cheese all melted evenly into the sauce, I dumped in four cups of cooked quinoa, turned off the heat, and stirred for a bit to mix well. It was amazingly delicious and took only a few minutes.

I think the same or a similar sauce could be used with peas, green beans, lima beans, or even as a kind of warm salad dressing on endive or arugula? Anyway, I’m thrilled to have discovered something besides stir-fry to do with leftover rice!

I used this Lemon-Artichoke Risotto recipe as an inspiration for the mixture of ingredients: