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P1370056 july 22 melissa and flowers

One year ago – my closest neighbor Melissa

Poza Honda/Manabi Province/Ecuador – One year ago I first visited this little coffee farm, inhabited by one family of five, one young married couple, the owner, three dogs, two cats, an always-changing number of free-range chickens, several squirrels, a micro-community of Howler monkeys – and thousands of birds.  Rosa, a single ‘older lady,’ lives in her authentic campo house on several acres which this property surrounds. These lovely inhabitants of this ultra-petite community graciously allowed one artist to wean into their neighborhood.

P1370060 july 22 melissa and flowers

July 22, one year ago – I booked for one night and stayed ‘forever!’

P1370928 rosa july 2017 y brother


P1510126 mother daughter window

Birthdays are quiet events, shared with the immediate neighbors. Period. No aunts, uncles, grandparents or friends from nearby towns are present for these lovely and quiet gatherings.   Lovingly-prepared luncheons are served, and then the cake is presented to the person of honor. Conversations easily roll from random subject to random subject, and I always remark on how fast the pre-teens/teens are growing.  The first gathering was for Melissa’s birthday in October.

P1510064 shoes birthday shoes at melissas door october

Please leave your shoes at the bottom of the steps! Come inside!

P1510119 tres sonrisas melissas birthday october

The banana-leaf wrapped tongas provide a lovely presentation, a delicious chicken and rice meal, and an easy-cleanup!
P1510085 tonga almuerzo birthday melissa october

P1510107 happy birthday cake melissa

Lovely cake!

P1510130 tres sonrisas melissas cake pastel

Neighbors Valentina and Daniela enjoy celebrating Melissa’s birthday.

January brought us another lovely gathering for TWO birthdays: Joselo and Jurg – aka Jorge to the locals.

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In February, Valentina celebrated her 15th birthday, also shared with her younger (“baby’) sister Daniela whose birthday is a day later.   #15 is a special number in Ecuador, and Valentina received a special gift – a telephone!   She was delighted to be connected to her social circles!

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P1770557 feb 11 birthday gartered trogon 1 20 pm CROPPED

A Gartered Trogon dropped in for Happy Birthday wishes!

Alexander reached age 14 last month. It’s been a joy to watch them evolve and to be a part of the community birthday gatherings.

P1960075 alexanders birthday y cake y smilesP1960082 alexander birthday y cake smile

Last Friday Jorge stopped by and asked, ‘What are your plans for this weekend?

Having delivered 19 paintings to the museum the day before, I planned to rest and do little over the weekend.   I shrugged, “No plans at all; what can I do for you?”
He smiled and said they were going to cook chicken; then via the art of verbal fishing, he asked about the date of my birthday.
Clarity… – I smiled, “It’s tomorrow…”

Since attention on my birthdate often re-opens old wounds, I shared a bit of that history, and we reached a compromise. ‘Sunday! We’ll have an unbirthday gathering! – but please, no cake.’
He said that Soraida hoped to prepare the chocolate cake that I raved about at Alex’s birthday. “Ok,” I agreed, “It’s time for me to get past this…”

P1820584 chocolate cacoa

Cacao before it reaches the world in the form of chocolate.

P1890985 cacao red

The day went well – absolutely no hint of repressed grief – we enjoyed a relaxed outdoor luncheon with the finale of a cake made from just-harvested pods of cacao – a process I’ve yet to witness…. Perhaps she’ll allow me to watch the next time she makes this amazing dessert!

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P2040420 food and wine cake

This dose of sugar was worth every bite!