PERSPECTIVES OF A CHURCH


“Ranchos de Taos”
watercolor by kayti sweetland rasmussen

It’s entire name is “San Francisco de Asis Mission church and it has stood in the plaza in Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico since 1816. Possibly one of the most photographed churches in the Southwest, its rear view has attracted the attention of artists from all over the world because of its smooth sculptural adobe form.

Ansel Adams used the church as part of his Taos Pueblo art book Georgia O’Keeffe described it as one of the most beautiful buildings left in the United States by the early Spaniards. I have been fascinated by its colonial era beauty since I first came upon it in the 1960’s. I have painted it many times in watercolor, oils and acrylic and it changes each time, and each time I paint it, I love it more.

Front view of Ranchos de Taos Church

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LANGUAGE IS A WAY TO DESCRIBE THE WORLD


Fish Designs
“SOMETHING FISHY” original watercolor painting by kayti sweetland Rasmussen

It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.

Sheila is tall. Neil is tired. In English we use the same word “is” to describe the two conditions even though one is a permanent attribute while the other is temporary.

Or consider the statement: Joan is quiet. What does that mean? Is she quiet by nature, an introvert, or is she being quiet today?

In Spanish, there are two verbs to describe the idea of being. Ser and estar both mean “to be” but with a big difference. Ser describes something that’s inherent while estar is temporary.

If you want to say someone is tall, you’d go with ser, but if you want to say someone is tired, estar is the one to use.

Each language is a different way of describing the world.

With Cinco de Mayo” arriving next week, those of us who thrill at the thought of tortillas, beans and rice and a few hot peppers thrown in, are already planning our menu. I have been thinking of fish tacos for one thing, so the other day we stopped by a taco truck here in town to buy what I discovered last summer to be the best fish tacos around.

Since we had last stopped there, a “gentrification” of sorts had taken place, with the truck turned into a new position, and a pebbled area to wait in. The taker of orders stood in a small window about 50 feet above my head. I could barely see her head. I asked for a fish taco, and she said “no”. I began a friendly conversation with her and discovered that she did not speak English so I asked for a “pescado taco”. Still no.

A very nice Mexican boy standing behind me chatted with her a bit, and assured me that they no longer made fish tacos. I settled for pork.

This year’s Cinco de Mayo will be a mixed occasion for our family. Our son-in-law who passed away last year on the 5th of May, was especially fond the celebration, so we will lift a glass of Modelo beer to his memory.

EGGPLANT ENCHILADAS

I fling tradition to the wind by using eggplant leftover from grilling for enchilada filling. These enchiladas play the old Red Enchilada song with a few new instruments.

Eggplant filling:
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2″ slices crosswise
Brush with a mixture of garlicky pesto, olive oil and a little balsamic vinegar
Grill or broil till tender, about 10 min per side. Cool.
2 onions, chopped and sautéed in olive oil.
Cut cooled eggplant into 1/2″ cubes and mix with onions.
Add 3 tsp. oregano. 1/2 tsp. salt
Cook for 3 minutes more

Soften your tortillas by frying in 1 Tbs. oil. Stack on paper towel before filling.

Warm a can of Red chile sauce preferably Los Palmas. (Or you can make your own, but I won’t bother you with the recipe because the canned isn’t awful.)

Dip the softened tortilla in warmed chile sauce, Place about 3 Tbs. eggplant filling, and 3 Tbs. grated cheddar cheese down middle. Fold over sides of tortilla and place seam side down in a greased 9 x 13 baking pan. Drizzle on more chile sauce and more grated cheese. Put in 350 oven 12 to 15 min.

(If you have left over filling it’s also good made into turnovers using some pie crust, I do this if I get tired of filling tortillas and want to hurry up and eat!)

BUT I CAN’T SPEAK SPANISH GRANDMA


Mark Twain once said, “My philological studies have satisfied me that a gifted person ought to learn English (barring spelling and pronouncing) in thirty hours, French in thirty days, and German in thirty years.”

Well, how hard it is to learn a language depends on what language you speak to begin with. If you speak English you have a head start as it’s a Germanic language. But German doesn’t make it any easier with all of its genders, 12 ways of forming plurals, etc.—and that’s only scratching the surface.

Some years ago, when a grandson started high school, he needed to choose another language to study, so he chose Spanish. However all the classes were full, but as he was passing an open door to the German classroom he saw it was nearly empty, so he went in and took a seat. A clever way to choose a second language.

Another grandson took three years of Spanish in high school, 4 years at university, and went to Spain for a semester of study. He lived with a Spanish family, and took his classes in the language, but when we went to visit him in Granada, and I said how happy I was he could translate for me he blithly told me “But I can’t speak Spanish!” The pronunciation was different, and people spoke much faster than he could translate.

A granddaughter fell in love with French and made it her major at University. I’m sure she speaks it beautifully, as it is a beautiful language, and the best part is that she married a man who also speaks it, so they can chat away and people like me who doesn’t even speak Latin can’t understand a word. I’m beginning to watch a lot of French movies though.

We live in the age of possibility though. Living in a diverse community, our schools teach a variety of languages. At the voting polls this month alone the ballots were printed in five different languages. English, Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, and Russian!

When I was a student the choices were limited to Spanish, French or Latin. I chose Latin, probably because there was a very good looking boy signing up. But I took it for four years and I can’t speak a word of it, and had no desire to become part of the medical community. But yes, it is possible to become somewhat fluent in a number of languages today (maybe not Latin.)

TRAVELERS VS. TOURISTS


 There are two types of people in this world; travelers and tourists.  Tourists can’t wait to come back home.  Travelers never want to come back.

“But why do we travel, really?  If we are of a thoughtful nature, we may wish to improve our minds, to examine the manners and customs of others and compare them to our own.  For these reasons, we study guidebooks and make lists of the churches, palaces, galleries, and museums we’ll visit.  We take photographs and write our impressions in diaries.  We might even justify the expense of the trip by planning to share our knowledge with others upon our return.

But is it really an education that we yearn to acquire when we travel?  Or–be honest, now–do we more sincerely desire souvenirs?  What tourist returns with lighter bags than those he packed at home?  We want something to display, a memento, a “conversation piece” that will silently inform a guest that ‘I have traveled’.  We look for a painting, a sculpture, a vase that will whisper: I have shopped in foreign countries, and I have this to show for it.

Of course, one could buy such objects ay home.  After all, there are importers, antique shops and art galleries.  Why then do we undertake the expense and risk of travel?  Why leave the comforts of home for flies and disease, heat and dust, crowds and the risk of theft?  Because souvenirs remind the traveler of his journey.”

We do not take a trip.  Often a trip takes us.

John Steinbeck says there is a Spanish word for which there is no English counterpart; vacilando.  It means you are going somewhere but you don’t greatly care if you get there.  My aunt was very much like that.  She loved travel, and she was good at it.  I think she would have chosen to be perennially on the road.

There are map people who delight in being navigators, expecially on a road trip.  While the driver is enjoying the scenery, he/she is busy reading the maps.  There are also people who are terrified of being lost, whether on foot or in a car.  They never veer from the preordained plan, or take a sudden look at a point of interest off the beaten path.  Then there are people who set a daily goal for themselves and come hell or high water, they plunge on until they arrive at their goal, even if their passengers need food or bathroom facility.  The use of the GPS means less random–but not nearly as much fun travel, if you can stand the annoying female voice ordering you to “turn left in one mile”, or “you’ve gone too far”.

When you return, friends ask “Did you have a nice time on your trip?”  We want to answer in full.  We want to tell about all the interesting and educational things we have seen, but they need to hurry away.  We say we will invite them over to see our pictures, but somehow that never happens.  So we slip right back into our cosy and comfortable lives as if we had never left them, and file all those wonderful memories away in our mental banks to be drawn upon at random.  But travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.

“Rivers know this: there is no hurry.  We shall get there some day.”  A.A. Milne