The silence of the eclipse

Itchy-ThroatI must admit the title of this chronicle is a shameless guess. I’ve never seen a total eclipse of the sun, even considering it is one of the desires that I cherish in this life, and lo and behold, I’m getting ready to experience my first on August 21th, 2017, right from the porch of my Paris Mountain house, you are all invited. Will I be alive and well? It won’t be that long, if I can say so, it will happen much sooner than expected when I started planning.

It will also be the first total eclipse of the sun visible in the United States in 26 years, and, amazingly enough, specifically in South Carolina, Greenville being among the privileged cities to witness totality. Speaking of perfect planning…

Now, the truth. The choice of Greenville as a place to live has nothing to do with the scarce minutes of a total eclipse, not at all; it was the result of a simple speculation via Google Maps, while we were still in Brazil preparing to emigrate. Alan was looking for a nice place in the United States that was close enough for us to visit and far enough for us not to disturb Erik, our youngest son, since at that time our oldest was kind of “lost” in a paradise island in Hawaii — it’s the American way, if you know what I mean.

Another truth is that everything changes all the time. David is currently living in California — I don’t know for how long because asking is prohibited. As for Erik, well, he is doing quite well, happily in love with his new Canadian sweetheart, having broken his previous engagement to another woman from Georgia next to whom, in theory, we would be living, to enjoy our grandchildren and everything else. As for Greenville, in addition to being a quite pleasant city, it is also configuring itself as an increasingly privileged location at such critical times — a permanent source of water in a country that’s drying up, as I wrote the other day. I even got used to that whole situation where local men don’t shake my hand, it would be worse in Japan, right? When in Rome, do as the Romans do, “all’s well that ends…”

Brush up your Shakespeare, that’s all you need to do.

We have to consider that everything here is new to me. I don’t know when the day will be hot, or if it’s going to rain after a rise in temperature, I can’t smell the rain. I don’t know when the roses will sprout, or when should I prune them — I discovered there are many rose gardens in Greenville as I was walking around the block last week, which means I can have one myself, great. But how am I supposed to adapt the Brazilian rule according to which one should not prune the roses in a month that has “R”? This would lead us to prune them just when they are starting to bloom. Worse still, in full bloom!

It’s all good, you would say, that’s the least of our problems, just get the “not” out of the sentence and we’re in business; but it’s not that simple, we could end up deciding to prune them shortly after the first snow, which would not only cause a cold, but would also make it difficult to grab the right branches. After all, where have all the flowers gone? Okay, I apologize; I was only trying to metaphorize.

Seven years ago, when we moved to Itaipava, a town in the mountains outside of Rio, the weather also caught me off guard, though obviously not in the same degree. In our first summer, for example, the rainy season truly surprised us: it rained for two weeks in a row, during which we couldn’t leave the house. But as in Brazil things are never that simple, including the climate — which, incidentally, if we choose to rely on apocalyptic media is changing all around the world —, the pattern was never repeated, it was just a coincidence, as it happens so often, although we hurry on to standardize everything.

This estrangement of rules and habits in a foreign country may sound like an adventure to some, but it can also lead to desperation. This week, for example, a glorious week when I resumed the habit of walking, and even ventured a brief jog without hurting myself, I suddenly came up with an agonizing itching on my face and neck. I freaked out, and went for another stressful search on Google. Would it be dry skin due to old age? A new attack of my thyroid against such a generous hostess, as it happened before? Or maybe a strong allergy? As everyone knows, I hate myself — I mean, I’m given to small autoimmune ailments, mainly in the skin, but between you and me, allergic to what?

Which brings me nonstop to the aforementioned “silence of the eclipse”, a total night silence in the middle of the day, an exotic exhibition of nature that I can only imagine, as in another example, the impressive receding of the sea that precedes a tsunami, another event I’ve only heard about, let me explain.

This week I nearly succumbed to the temptation not to write, but then I remembered, not only that I have a reputation to uphold, as I’ve also been acting as a kind of “beacon chronicler” for my Single K colleagues, a wonder woman for whom the subject matter is never missing, and whose weekly discipline never fails, guess what. Just a mask. Pure disguise.

After all, I’m human, like everybody else, and therefore I sat down to write. But the truth, my friends, is that I’m at a crucial moment in my immigrant “career”, something I do not wish to share at the moment, just when it’s all done and gone; thus everything else this weekend brings the impression of being shallow, including the habit of writing chronicles. Anyway, I’m in the middle of this “receding of the waters” and I have no idea if the tsunami is coming or not, or if it’s just the usual tide, especially considering that we live in the mountains, far from the ocean, in the midst of a temperate forest in which I constantly fail to recognize the birds.

As a matter of fact, you are on your own to deal with this matter that insinuates itself, unwilling to reveal itself, because if I tell you, it will possibly bring that dreadful bout of bad luck, a Brazilian superstition of sorts. But at least the mystery of the allergy I can unravel, otherwise, there I would be embarrassing myself at the fatal moment, itching and scratching like crazy, may god bless me and keep me. It was, quite simply, a strong allergy to pollen, imagine that, everything solved with an effective ointment, which would be impossible without the indispensable diagnosis made by Alan — more or less a “local character”, with touches of “national” estrangement, of course: after ten years away from his fatherland, he likes to say around here that “he’s from Brazil.” This morning, imagine again, Alan has just informed me that the pollen is so abundant and widespread, that one doesn’t have to leave the house to be affected, as it not only floats in the garden air, but it penetrates the air conditioning ducts as well.

The only way is to wait for the spring to pass, tout passe, tout lasse. Oh well.

Have a nice Sunday, and a happy mothers day! Speaking of which, this chronicle being written is no reason not to mention the thrill of receiving flowers from my children for the first time in my life, wow, love you, guys.

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