(She is, after all, our town’s home-run champ.) When she heard that a marauding opossum was stealing the mangoes from our trees before they could ripen, she offered to liberate the trees from the intruder. As a bonus, she could provide some much-needed protein for her family.
So she arrived last night - slingshot, son, and flashlight in hand. Within minutes of scampering up and down the trees, a dead opossum was dangling from her son’s hands.
Two years ago, none of my neighbors would think of feasting on opossum. This morning, any one of them would be glad to trade places with Jenny’s family.
Back then, my problem with mangoes was their abundance. Kids and birds had their fill, but I still couldn’t cart enough rotting ones to the compost pile before the flies descending upon them. Today I almost take inventory before they ripen, assigning them mentally to my priority mango recipients - always the youngest ones: Lucia, Chachi, Yeiverly, Neka… They are the ones whose weight loss worries the most.
Jenny lives on the other side of the pine trees I planted 20 years ago as a border between her family’s land and mine. At the time, my goal was to hide the pigsties that her dad Vicente kept in that corner of his land. But as the trees shot up – triple the size of others I have planted elsewhere - my affection for Vicente’s pigs grew in proportion to their daily contributions to my trees’ gigantic growth.
The pigs are now gone, the final one slaughtered a few months ago. Vicente used to collect the pigs’ food on his way home from work each day, leftovers from the vegetable markets and restaurants in town. Today there are no leftovers. And besides, Vicente’s car has joined the fleet of the towns’ aging relics, unable to move without functioning tires or battery.
When we first arrived Palo Verde, some 22 years ago, Jenny hopped over the young pine trees the minute we drove up our dirt road on Saturday mornings. While David and I cleared the massive weed sprawl of our newly acquired land and planted trees, Jenny led games of stick ball or tag with my three kids, always bounding with friendly energy.
Today those pine trees provide shade for daily conversations where Jenny and I hold court, each onone side of the rickety chicken wire fence. The sound of the wind stirring the pine needles, the cool air under their canopy, and the perfume of pine resin feels like a reprieve from the heat of this nation, ablaze in conflict, hunger, anger, frustration. Jenny and I never hurry in our conversations.
Inevitably, it is one of her three kids who call me to the fence each day. Elisa!!!!! Ven a la cerca!
From both sides so much love and nourishment of the body soul. The absolute affirmation that we are in this together and will not let each other fall.
This morning the international news is filled with scenes from yesterday’s national strike in Venezuela. Battles with Molotov cocktails and tear gas canisters.
The real Venezuela is the fence that connects, not divides, Jenny and me. For all my 34 years in Venezuela, I have survived and thrived because of the solidarity of those next door, across the street, down the road. It took a village to raise my children, and I see in them the community spirit that enveloped them with love and radiates forward with generosity. Venezuelans are, by their nature, a people of deep solidarity, affection, connection.