Pirate in the Ether

Pirate Says Good Morning

I met Pirate when I pivoted from the front of the house to the back. Which is to say, from the fancy life, in heels and dresses, to worker, where my uniform was blood-soaked aprons and scalded hands — trophies of mozzarella making. 

Pirate took to me immediately. He was the mascot in the staff meal kitchen where my new meat and cheese program was located. My team and I fed the staff, butchered the farm’s pigs, cows, and chickens, and made upwards of 80 liters of milk a day into cheese. There were lots of scraps. What was there for a dog not to love? I resolved immediately not to adopt him. He was loud, demanding, needy and slimy. He was not underweight; everyone in the dorm fed him, and I did not need another dog. 

But Pirate was insistent; I would love him! I would feed him! And eventually, I would take him home. When my part in the program ended, I couldn’t leave him there, aging and half-blind. 

We came home together on the last day of October 2021, never to return to desarollo kitchens, his home of many years and where I had placed my heart for the last three. He was immediately at home in his new surroundings. I was desolate. My cheese cave was my happy place, but I was consoled to have Pirate with me. Also, just two months earlier, my partner of 24 years, Felipe, told me he no longer wanted to be with me. He wasn’t sure when he would leave, but he would indeed go. It wasn’t a surprise; we had been struggling to find a shared path for years. In February, we separated. And though by that time, it was mostly a mutual decision, I don’t have words for how painful it was. I will avoid revisiting that with an explanation. What I am here to share with you is what my relationship with Pirate became.

Twice a day, I walk my dogs on a beautiful forest path. Pirate, of course, went with my other two dogs and me, though he was slower because of his blindness. He also didn’t like to climb the stairs to my apartment. He lived on the first floor and spent a lot of time alone. I wanted to give him some special time every day, so at the end of each walk, I would sit with Pirate and sing him a song. For the first several weeks after Felipe left, I chose Goodbye, by LP, an empowering break-up anthem. Pirate would enter the gate and stand and howl, waiting for me to sit down with him, play his song, and sing. He pressed his body into me, and many, many days, I cried into him, unable to sing. He pressed harder. 

After several months I was able to sing, and I changed the repertoire to Everything Matters by Aurora. I love to sing and have a decent voice. When I started trying to sing this song, my voice cracked. Though it was well within my range, I couldn’t hit the high notes. It sounded awful.

 I realized, sitting there with Pirate, how profound this loss was. Not only was my range gone, I had silenced myself trying to please people, and hold onto things that no longer served me to maintain my sense of security. I loved these things, my marriage, my project, but with attachment, not freedom, the place that real love comes from. I sang on through tears, croaking and sometimes hitting the notes with deep satisfaction. Pirate appreciated it when I sounded great or ghastly. 

In July, Pirate died, and I was pissed! Seriously, universe! I’ve lost my partner, job, and dog in less than a year! No fair! I sat with Pirate through his last hours; I sang to him with all my gratitude and hit every note except the ones muffled by tears. I let him go, and I helped him leave because it was what was best for him. 

Dogs are magic. They come into your life and give you what others cannot, what you can not yet give yourself. They show you it’s possible. Thank you for giving my voice back, Pirate. You were a very good dog

In August, I bought my first car (yes, my first car at 56 years old). It’s a beast, kinda stinky (it’s diesel), and worn, but powerful and reliable. I named it Pirate. I feel so free behind the wheel, belting out Everything Matters to Pirate in the ether.

For my long-time readers– Felipe and I separated amicably. He is still the superman you have read about here over the years. The nature of this blog will change without him, but I will still be writing about living in Nicaragua, and the complexities of the simple life. Though I don’t feel this way at every moment, life is still very simple, very easy, and very good.

Lazy Day

Howdy, it’s Saturday, I’m going to tell you a story with photos.

Valeska peels the oranges so the oil won’t make the juice bitter


I am the squeezer

Felipe enjoys the fruits of our labor

The end! Hasta mañana!

Tomorrow I will review Barbarian Days, A Surfing Life by William Finnegan …

Love is a Weed

Our Garden, Chicago

Our Garden, Chicago

Twelve years ago Felipe and I were married in a garden we revived from a syringe strew lot, next to our Humboldt Park apartment in Chicago. I didn’t realize we were building a personal metaphor with that plot.
We have adapted weed nature to survive in México, and sometimes it certainly feels that we have been pulled and burned and carted away. Still we stay and flourish. Tenacious as weeds, our flowers. This week I recite the fitting poems read during our wedding service.

I read To Dorothy at our wedding.

I read To Dorothy at our wedding.

To Dorothy, By Marvin Bell.
Love is a Weed, by Paul Casella.
Happy Anniversary my love.

To Kill a Rattlesnake

Abby and Felipe 

I fell in love with Felipe for his stories. Years later I realized, as I listened to his mother, whose stories have not been filtered through the knowledge of letters, and are redolent with place, where he’d learned his craft.

We met in Chicago eighteen years ago. He was undocumented, working as a bus boy, I was a server in the same restaurant. As I got to know him, he told me stories of his home town, a tiny village in the Sierra Huautla mountains. To an untraveled Midwestern girl, stories tinged in accent, spilling from a beautiful man lips, made La Tigra sound like the most exotic place on earth.

As he drug the anaconda out from under the mulberry bush last week, I laughed as I thought of my past fascination and naiveté regarding La Tigra. I recalled this story he’d told me many years ago, and I asked him to speak it to me again. I didn’t realize until this telling that the events had taken place where we now live.

The remains of the huamuchil.

The remains of the huamuchil.


When I was a little boy, about six years old, my family was hired to clean peanuts here at the Piedra Rahada, it was owed by my brother -in -law at the time. We were all there, under the big huamuchil that died last year, it was a very old tree even then.

My brothers were bringing the plants from the field and my mother and sisters and I beat the roots with a mocho, the back of a broken off machete, to knock off the peanuts. At that time you could still drink the water from the creeks, when we ran out, it was my job to fetch more.

I went  to the place where there is water all year round, between the roots of the big amates and parota, you know the place, all the animals drink there still. As I walked up the creek bed I saw a big rattle snake on its way for water too. I backed away and when there was some room between us I called to my family, “There’s a really big snake down here!” It was about the size of the masaquata I killed today.

My mother came down into the creek bed and when she saw the snake, even though I was pretty spooked by it, she said “Oh that’s not so big! This is what you do. ” She began to look for a big branch.  “The stick has to be dry”, she said, “because the venom is like electricity and can travel up a green branch.”

She chopped off a dead branch with her machete. (She still always carries a machete.)She walked up along side the snake, who didn’t even turn to look at her, and smacked it on the head. Dead. She picked it up, went back to work, and I went for water.

Where the wild animals drink.

Where the wild animals drink.

Soco butchered the snake. The meat was sold as a cancer remedy, and the skin for decoration, unless it was damaged. Damaged skin was used as a preventive medicine for chicken plague. She kept a small piece in their water dish to help keep them from falling prey to illness.

I wondered how Felipe felt about his mother pish-shawing his fear of a large venomous snake.

“I felt good,” he told me,” my mother always made me feel safe, like I could take care of things myself, that there was nothing to fear.”

I can’t think of a better testament to good parenting.

He still talks good story.