January 9, 2016 Nogales, Chile Chilefarms, home of Ricardo Ceriani and Susaan Straus
Remember those old European movies in which a family celebrates a momentous occasion? It's always a warm sunny day, generations gather – grandparents to toddlers – home-made food is heaped in bowls and spread onto plates, everyone eats dinner at one long table, glasses clink, toasts are shouted out, family tensions are neutralized by red wine and a general sense of goodwill. if it's a birthday, songs are sung and magnificent cakes are served.
Transfer this scene to Nogales, Chile, on January 9, 2016, one of the early days of summer in the southern hemisphere and you have the setting for Ricardo Ceriani’s entry into the sixth decade of his life.
Everyone is related by blood or marriage. Some have come from the next town, Quillota, and Ricardo's brother, his wife and daughter, from as far away as Montréal. Starting at 11:45 AM, the guest list gathers steam like a locomotive chugging downhill until by 3 PM 26 people gathered in pods around the farm house’s wraparound porch, the grassy front yard, and the inviting pool behind the house. About eight hours later, most will consider calling it a day.
When the teenagers in the group are having a great time, you know this is one hell of a party. They gleefully play with their toddler cousins, cavort in the pool, and hug their uncles and aunts. The smart phones are generally holstered. And calls go unanswered. That goes for the adults too.
No one is here on this Saturday who hasn't planned on making a day of it. Presents are not expected or required. The biggest gift they are giving Ricardo and each other is their presence. Complete and undivided.
The setting would make a cinematographer drool. The foothills of the Andes to the east, the coastal range that spills into the Pacific to the West, orange groves and cornfields, barns and stables visible from this farmhouse perched on a sturdy hill in the midst of its 50 acres of land.
The party begins to wind down at 8 PM. Each goodbye last about 45 minutes, perhaps a universal event on occasions like these. By dusk at 9 PM the dust from the last car rolling down the driveway has settled.
Chilefarms and environs January 13, 2016 Incredibly fresh fruit and veggies
Depending on the month, a five minute walk down to the small orchard behind the Chilefarms farm house will lead to food produced by lemon, apricot, pear, apple, walnut, fig, quince, and mandarin orange trees. To a city boy, this seems miraculous.
The fig tree isn’t ready to fruit yet; this fragrant flower will become a lemon soon.
The lemon trees and mandarin orange trees are dripping with fruit.
The mandarin oranges are a few days away from being perfectly ripe. The apricot tree is quite barren since it fruits generously every other year. Last year the boughs were so heavy with fruit that some touched the ground.
The pomegranate tree is two weeks away from bearing fruit; no matter where you are in this valley, steep hills are in the foreground, massive peaks in the background.
Today's pickings: lemons, mandarin oranges and one apricot. The field in the southeast corner of the farm is full of thousands of cantaloupe that will be ready for harvest in about a week. Somewhere in this long valley with the Mediterranean climate just about every fruit or vegetable you've ever known and some you've never seen thrive in abundance.
Hundreds of roadside stands, permanent or makeshift structures, or simply the trunk of someone's car, sell fresh fruits and vegetables.
One of the less common permanent roadside stands; Ricardo buys fruit and cheese. The abundance of fruits and veggies is astonishing.
America Celebrates Honorees' Lifetime Artistic Achievements Sunday, December 6, 2015
People at the Kennedy Center Honors programs are used to cheering wildly. When Aretha swept onto the stage wearing a floor length fur coat and strode to the piano, they held their collective breath. Aretha is royalty. The King being honored tonight was the one named Carole.
At 73 years of age Aretha Franklin is also a Natural Wonder: God Save the Queen...
In 2014, The Queen of Soul inspired nearly two thousand students and faculty at Harvard University's commencement exercises to jettison formality and to cheer as if they were at Fenway Park. Attendees memories may become hazy over the years but they'll never forget that Aretha Franklin's thank you speech for the honorary degree bestowed upon her was to sing "Amazing Grace." I doubt there's been such a spontaneous eruption of adulation in the 363 years before this.
Aretha's at Harvard rendition of "Amazing Grace" reposted here.
May 29, 2014
A friend of mine on the Harvard faculty was sitting on the the huge stage on which Aretha Franklin, The Queen of Soul, delivered this rendition of the Star Spangled Banner at the Commencement Exercises in the outdoor Tercentenary Theatre, Harvard University. She sent me this video (courtesy of Harvard University)...you've got to see it.
I've heard the National Anthem sung a thousand times but not a single one of them this indelibly wrought. Ten seconds after Aretha began, her piano riffs transformed the feel of the celebration from a huge outdoor event celebrating the 2014 Harvard University Commencement to that of a small white-framed Baptist church on a Sunday morning. She got it all... the cadences, intonations and rhythms of her singing, the chords hammered home by her piano stylings right out of music that's been heard in the gospel tradition for well over a century.
Aretha Franklin was awarded an honorary Doctor of Arts degree today. This was her dissertation. Accepted unanimously.
The conferring of honorary degrees at Harvard's 363rd Commencement on May 29, 2014 at Tercentenary Theatre.VIDEO
This year's recipients include: Michael Bloomberg, Isabel Allende, President George H.W. Bush, Aretha Franklin, Patricia King, Peter H. Raven, Seymour Slive, and Joseph E. Stiglitz.