Cultivo una rosa blanca - José Martí
Saturday, July 01, 2023
|Rosa 'Sombreul' 29 June 2023|
una rosa blanca – José Martí
una rosa blanca,
como en enero,
da su mano franca.
el cruel que me arranca
corazon con que vivo,
una rosa blanca.
I have a white rose to tend
In July as in January;
I give it to the true friend
Who offers his frank hand to me.
And to the cruel one whose blows
Break the heart by which I live,
Thistle nor thorn do I give:
For him, too, I have a white rose.
I am writing this blog 29 June 2023 and the May/June
first blooms rose season is over. Some of my roses will come back later and in
the fall. I spotted these two lone white roses, Rosa ‘Sombreul’. I knew I had
to scan them. But what could I possibly connect them with? I hit paydirt with
Cuban patriot José Martí’s poem Cultivo una rosa blanca. The lovely poem is
about love and forgivness.
I am sure that had Rosemary been alive and on our bed I
would have said to her, “Rosemary look what I found. Let me read this to you.”
Stephen Douglas Owen - September 8, 1948 – June 29, 2023
Friday, June 30, 2023
Stephen Douglas Owen - September 8, 1948 – June 29, 2023
When Nixon declared he was not a crook we Argentines laughed. For us and in many other countries of Latin America, dishonesty is one of
the requirements to become a politician.
Throughout my years as a newspaper and magazine photographer
I photographed many Canadian politicians, federal and provincial.
Because I have a subscription to the fading Vancouver Sun,
this morning I found out in a rare obituary that Stephen Owen had died. I
photographed him for the August 1991 Georgia Straight. We had a long chat, I
remember iit was about politicians in Latin America. I was charmed and particularly affected
by his easy going, but obvious intelligence. At the time he was the Ombudsman.
In my memory of other Vancouver politicians that impressed
me with their candid behaviour, Art Kube (the man who cried) was one of them.
I recall going to a neighbourhood meeting presided by John
Turner and I could not believe that there were no guards at the door with
assault rifles which would have been the case in Argentina.
Another politician who impressed me by his no nonsense demeanour was Jack Munro.
Stephen Owen's cousin Philip Owen, was another politician (Vancouver Mayor) who I instantly liked when he pulled out his scissors.
Today being the day before Canada Day we should all
reflect how lucky we are to live in this fine country where politicians cry.
Finally I would like to point out that the lighting on
Mr. Owen is called Rembrandt lighting. One side of the face is darker than the
other. Rembrandt and many other painters posed their subjects close to windows.
Now with the advent of cellular phone cameras the concept of this lighting is
all but forgotten and now faces are equally lit on both sides and the effect ,
in my opinion “falls flat on the face.”
Not From Nanaimo - Nostalgia
Thursday, June 29, 2023
|Rosa 'Princess Alexandra of Kent' & Rosa 'St. Swithun' 29 June 2023|
Until I left Buenos Aires for Mexico City in 1953 in our
Coghlan neighbourhood, I was called el inglesito (nationalities are never in upper
case in Spanish). I spoke English but was perfectly fluent in Argentine Spanish.
An English Boy from Coghlan
My father was born in Buenos Aires but his parents were from
Manchester. My mother was from Manila
but her maiden name was the Basque de Irureta Goyena.
In Mexico my grandmother was the de facto cultural attaché of
the Philippine Embassy. We went to many of their cultural gatherings. Paradoxically because of it my grandmother gave large parties in our house and her guests were the Mexican muralists and writers.
Until my mother sent me to a boarding school in Austin,
Texas in 1958 we lived the high point of
Mexican filmmaking, literature, etc.
Four years in Austin made me feel not only an American but
somehow also a Texan. I know how to hook’em horns.
The City of Austin
On Being a Texan
In 1966 I went to Buenos Aires to fulfill my obligation as a
conscript of the Argentine Navy. I swore allegiance to our flag in a tearful
ceremony made up of hundreds of sailors in their dress uniform.
I returned to Mexico in 1967 and in short order I married my
Canadian Rosemary and we had two daughters born in the Tacubaya neighbourhood of
We drove to our new home in Vancouver in 1975 and some many
years later I became a Canadian citizen.
In 2000 I became enthralled by the concept (I was slow!)
that in order to feel nostalgia for a place you have to be somewhere else. With
Argentine artists Nora Patrich and Juan Manuel Sánchez we had a show we named
Linda Lorenzo - Argentina
For years I photographed Ivette Hernández (from León Guanajuato) on the theme of my
Mexican nostalgia. I jokingly tell friends that If I were to live briefly in
Venice I would want to photograph a woman with an umbrella and pursue my
Ivette Hernández - The Human Factor
The Warmth of Mexico in Ten Parts
And so it goes the complex feeling in me of belonging to all
the above places and somehow not belonging to any of them.
My mother used to smell me behind the ear and would tell me
I had the scent of an Englishman. I am crazy over properly made loose tea (I
have ten tins of the best variety of tea) and only before Rosemary died did she
reveal to me that she hated my cucumber sandwiches with homemade mayonnaise.
I remember well June 2 1953 in Buenos Aires as my mother
called me to lunch and instructed me to wash my hands and knees. I told her. “Mother
I cannot as I am listening to the coronation of my queen.”
My Argentine Englishness
This confusion on my many national nostalgias I believe is a
pleasant one. When I run into people from the US, from Texas, Argentina, Mexico
and Canadians (when abroad) I can switch my accents to the proper lingo of the
place. It is fun.
At the same time I think of a Spanish word arraigado, which
means to be close to something or place, and wonder what it would be like to be
from Nanaimo and never having lived anywhere else. What would my nostalgia be?
I enjoy reading Jorge Luís Borges as he is part of
movement in Latin America called
costumbrismo. This is literature, art and music from one place. Argentine tango
is really the music of one city, Buenos Aires, and Borges often wrote of
corners in Buenos Aires that I have known exactly. Americans cannot trace jazz
to one city. I wonder what Canadian literature is of one place.
El Mate Curado
As an Argentine
Meanwhile I scanned two English roses, Rosa ‘St. Swithun’
and Rosa ‘Princess Alexandra of Kent’ and conjured this blog as an excuse to
illustrate it with the scan.
Beyond Accuracy - Artsy & Swatting Flies
Wednesday, June 28, 2023
|Rosa 'Buttercup' & Hosta 'Island Breeze' 28 June 2023|
In quite a few blogs I have explained that when I started
scanning the plants from my garden in 2001 my intention was to render them
accurately, note the date, scan them at 100% size and make the colour as exact as possible.
Through the years, especially with my roses I found myself
scanning them several times during the season, year after year.
Now with time in my hands, and living alone with my two
cats, I distract myself by going beyond accuracy so that some of my scans exceed
the idea of accuracy, and they are beautiful artsy fartsy examples of the
Spanish saying that, “When the devil has nothing to do with his tail he swats
Of late I have discovered the wonderful combination of
mating roses with hosta leaves. In today’s five scans I was playing with the
discovery that Hosta ‘Island Breeze’ had a yellow colour (bleached by sun or
just a hosta doing what it likes to do which is to sport) that matched the
yellow of Rosa ‘Buttercup’. This rose was introduced by a local man called
Robin Dening. Rosemary loved its colour. When the rose died I was able to get
another one from Dening’s hands.
El Curioso Color del Colorado - Jorge Luís Borges
Tuesday, June 27, 2023
|Rosa 'Darcey Bussell' 27 June 2023|
I was never
a friend of poetry. In the late 50s at my Austin, Texas boarding school, St.
Edward’s High School, I could never earn extra points in my English classes as
the idea was to memorize a poem. My memory was suspect for this sort of thing.
I hated poetry.
Then in my
11th grade we listened to James Mason, on a record, reading Edgar
Allan Poe’s Annabel Lee. That may have been the jolt I needed.
jolts came from the poems that my mother wrote. A few were dedicated to me.
Una mujer para amarte - Filomena de Irureta Goyena Hayward
ignorance of poetry persisted. In 1967,
when I was a conscript in the Argentine Navy, I disobeyed vocally to an
Argentine Lieutenant Commander. He told me he could have shot me in time of war
or could send me to the Argentine Antarctic where the only women would be
female penguins. He told me he was going to put me into the navy brig for a
week but would do me the favour of allowing me to go to a bookstore to buy some
books, “You are going to need them.” I went to the Librería Pigmalion which
sold books in English. While there I noticed a well-dressed older man who seemed
to be almost blind. In my complete ignorance it was only months later I figured
out that the man was Jorge Luís Borges.
I have made
progress for all that lost time as I read at least one poem or story by Borges
every night. There is something about this poet that causes in me a deep
feeling of nostalgia for the country where I was born.
started blogging in 2006 I found that mating my photographs with poems was a
good pastime. Now all these years later
I know most of the poems of Emily Dickinson, Jorge Luís Borges, Alfonsina
Storni, William Carlos Williams, the sonnets of Shakespeare, Julio Cortázar, W.H.
Auden, Robert Frost and (yes!) Ogden Nash.
that few in this century understand that the first photograph to appear in a
newspaper in the mid-1870s, using the brand new halftone process, was a
photograph of the Steinway Building in NY. From that point on photographs and
copy became dependent on each other. Photographs, more often than not need
For me it
is fun to look at one of my photographs and then to search for the proper poem
to illustrate it.
June 2023 I scanned four Rosa ‘Darcey
Bussell’ and I knew that there were few poems that to me adequately go well
with red roses. Inevitably it is one of my most favourite Borges poems, La Lluvia or The Rain. While I
will insert a translation into English, the expression, “el curioso color del colorado,”
somehow does not translate all that well to, “the curious colour of colorado”
as in English we only use the word red but in Spanish colorado and rojo are synonymous.
La Lluvia - Jorge Luís Borges
Bruscamente la tarde se ha
ya cae la lluvia minuciosa.
cayó. La lluvia es una cosa
duda sucede en el pasado.
oye caer ha recobrado
tiempo en que la suerte venturosa
reveló una flor llamada rosa
curioso color del colorado.
lluvia que ciega los cristales
en perdidos arrabales
negras uvas de una parra en cierto
que ya no existe. La mojada
trae la voz, la voz deseada,
de mi padre que vuelve y
que no ha muerto.
The Rain :: J. L. Borges
The afternoon grows light because at last
Abruptly a minutely shredded rain
Is falling, or it fell. For once again
Rain is something happening in the past.
Whoever hears it fall has brought to mind
Time when by a sudden lucky chance
A flower called “rose” was open to his glance
And the curious color of the colored kind.
This rain that blinds the windows with its mists
Will gladden in suburbs no more to be found
The black grapes on a vine there overhead
In a certain patio that no longer exists.
And the drenched afternoon brings back the sound
How longed for, of my father’s voice, not dead.
[From Dreamtigers, by Jorge Luis Borges, translated by