from Sandy Needham

Monday, May 12, 2008

Brazil Dispatch 18

May 12, 2008

The rainy season has brought some of the brightest, clearest days of the year, now that alternating deluges have subsided in favor of the occasional cloudy day and shower. The humid heat and lack of breeze do sometimes make us gasp for breath much more than we did in January at the height of summer.

The ever-changing colors and cloud configurations of the ocean view still offer surprises. Walking back late afternoon from the falesias – cliffs of sand – at the end of our beach with my friend Ann Scott from Florida, I witnessed the most dramatic, surreal color and lighting to date: behind us was a patch of bright, clear sky, overhead a hovering, darkening blue-grey cover, and ahead of us a backdrop of solid, deep indigo blue. This was still during daylight. The red-orange falesias and off-white dunes were illuminated by the clear light behind us, so they stood out against this indigo backdrop like a stagecraft trick. The waves were breaking into a coke bottle green I had never seen, and the tide was high, so the mounting force driving towards our dwindling path of sand only added to the urgency of the exaggerated, touched-up post card visuals. I looked back as we climbed to the road and saw an ocean that was a black and white photograph – just as surreal as the super-colors ahead of us. Amazingly, we only caught the odd drop of rain upon entering our gate, and the expected indigo downpour never happened.

Newton finally got his custom surf board, then finally was able to try it out when a pain in his shoulder improved. He likes to take it out, sometimes even briefly before weekday lunches, and ride the Cotovelo Beach waves. These are ideal for practice, and he is doing well. I like to call him “Surfer Boy.”

Newton is reading Robert Graves’ I, Claudius. He devised a family tree for the Roman ruling family online so he could keep track of how Livia’s poisoned victims were related to her. I left the haunting, heightened world of Van Gogh’s letters to his brother reluctantly. I could follow the written accounts of his paintings with visuals at the excellent website,, where I could also read some of Theo’s letters back. I read Henry James’ Portrait of a Lady in a large print edition I acquired inadvertently, which kept me in a startled state with those big letters. I have borrowed a short stack of questionable back-up books from a British neighbor named Stewart. He is a kindly old goat with a pretty, young Brazilian girlfriend who, he explained endearingly in a voice that could belong to an old woman in a BBC sitcom, is the same age as his daughter. He mostly reads British romance novels set in the north country, but I just finished a passable mystery paperback from the ‘90’s. I will soon have a new reading supply from Amazon to pick up at my Mother’s on our upcoming US trip.

We took the leap of faith and cut back our profusely flowering bushes, which were getting too stringy. After the disconcerting phase where the stumps mocked our recklessness, our bushes burst forth and reveled in the plant paradise of the rainy season. Not only do they get plenty of water and sun, but the rain washes away the sand/salt maresia that can damage the leaves. Faith is good.

The hummingbirds rarely rest around here, but I did spy on one who came to rest his wings while on a branch below the upstairs window. How tiny, pointy and sleek he was! A little blackbird couple, totally out of early Disney, flew around me in a heart-shaped double flight pattern while I was sitting under a coconut tree! Favorite recent sighting: an upward pointing crescent moon visible out the bedroom window from my bed. I realized, as clouds of varying densities drifted by and finally parted, that I was looking at the smile on the Cheshire Cat! This 'crescent moon as smile' or eventual 'half moon as boat' phenomenon happens near the equator only. (I always think of the Eugene Field poem and song, "Wynken, Blynken and Nod" in their sky boat!)

This local restaurant sign is an example of the marketing idiosyncrasies of the Northeast. The translation is, “You ate, you died.”

We went to the theater to see the “Clowns of Shakespeare” troupe perform Much Ado About Nothing (Muito Barulho sobre Quase Nada).The formidable keyboardist from our favorite band here, Mad Dogs, has a day job as an actor! He was hilarious along with the whole cast, all of whom could play several instruments, sing, dance, AND act!

We will take off for the US this weekend. Elise is graduating from the Fashion Institute of Technology in graphic design on May 20th. The ceremony will take place at Radio City Music Hall. She is currently employed by the rock-n-roll promotion company where she interned this semester. Jake will join us from Boston and we will drive his car up to Maine for a short vacation together. After the chance to see family and friends around NY and NJ, Newton and I will visit my mother in Tulsa. Then Newton will fly to a trade show in California before we rendezvous back in Natal. I imagine I will not spare you from hearing all about it!

It looks like it’s time to remind all of you again that I need to hear about any tiny vignette or story from YOUR lives. Nothing is too mundane or trivial in my eyes. And, you’ll remember, you could end up quoted in a dispatch! No need to hesitate because of our traveling…I am ready to add to my collection immediately!


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