Thursday, August 28, 2008

What we brought from Mexico

For the first time in my life I missed my plane—my plane from SFO to Mexico City. Serenely I saw my flight leave without me. It was O.K. Everything has a reason, even if that reason if for me to learn to read the clock correctly.

Besides Mexico was still there when I arrived twelve hours latter, hot and humid like I remembered. The river was still there too, and so were the cobblestone streets, the stray dogs roaming and howling at night, and my mother with a hose in her hand watering her jungle of a garden.

At the Callejon del Diamante I bought a necklace of giant ojo de venado seeds, eyes of dear seeds traditionally tied on children with red ribbons to prevent the evil eye. I believe I am protected now for a hundred years.

Lalo the jewel maker lives in a three story house with a patio with a jinicuil tree. My friend Meche says the fruit might be delicious but those trees are full of hairy caterpillars, the kind that stings you and would give you a fever. Good thing Lalo spends most of his time inside his studio making silver and wooden jewelry, like the rings he made for my husband Tim and I; two rings made of one same silver band with prehispanic seashells design.

Luis Felipe has long hair down his waist (and so does his wife and their daughter) and he makes Jaranas out of one single piece of wood. As the vocalist and requinto player of the group Los Sonex, he is one of the best musicians in town. His group have just released their first album, there one can hear the song La Bamba being interpreted by the by the vocalist of the Café Tacuba . I wanted to buy the CD and so I looked for it all over town, but everywhere I went the album was sold out. Instead Kelly my son took requinto lessons from Luis Felipe and so, at the end we managed to bring his music home.

Did I bring anything else from Mexico? I made new pants sewing together patterned fabrics in many colors, and I have them here with me now. I brought coconut candy that I have been eating carefully and little by little after dinner. I carried a whole suit case full of jars of hot salsa with almonds. I had Señora Bordadora embroidering flowers on one a dress. Manuela gave me a reboso soft and multicolored like a fiesta. We also brought the strength of the river with its floating dragon flies and its singing rocks. We carried inside us the amazing heat of the ancient Temazcal bath that one takes inside a clay little room shaped like belly, where they bring red-hot burning rocks inside and then seal the doors so that one can feel like bring devoured by the earth.

Along we brought the love of our family with their laughs and their jokes, the food shared for hours and hours, the music at the neighbors house that the whole street can hear, the traffic stuck behind the garbage truck in a narrow street, the tortilla soup at the Green Leave restaurant where people can come in with their dogs, the handmade posters on the street encouraging people to walk more and drive less, the ice-cream cart outside the supermarket, which sells the most delicious helado de mamey ever, and the itching stings of a hundred mosquitoes.

And all of these should last us long enough.

Photograps by Kelly O’Meara

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Golden Kite Acceptance Speech

August 3, 2008
Yuyi Morales

At last the time had arrived; it was time to create my Golden Kite speech. The problem was I just kept thinking of two people—thinking about them over and over again. How was I ever going to be able to come up with a decent speech if all I did was think of Brian Selznick and Laura Amy Schlitz at the their Caldecott and Newberry speeches?

Fortunately for me thinking about them began to work—I started hearing advice. I remembered how Laura Amy Schlitz had said that in order to make her speech she had gone to the sea. Well, I would go to the hills! The hills are in my neighborhood, and my friend Chacho the Dog likes to run there, so, up we went. The hills are golden now, a color I have learned to appreciate while running up at the incredible speed of about 30 feet an hour.

Turns out the hills are a very good place to come up with inspiration. For example, there I came up with the insight I ought to run looking at the ground, should snakes slitter by if I am not paying attention. And I have also come up with the bright idea of peeking over my shoulder once in a while, should mountain lions be preparing for a chase. And there I have also come up with the revelation that if I look hard, really hard, I might someday, at last, see the magical creatures that inhabit the mountains.
Needles to say, some things keep proving ethereal.

Yet, it was there, while running under the shadows of trees that touch each other branches for miles and miles, that inspiration for my speech came, and I knew what I wanted to tell you about Little Night, the book that brings me here today.

And so I am going to tell you about Armadillo’s Night, a Peruvian legend that says that a long, log time ago, people were unhappy because they didn’t have a night. The hammocks hung unused, and the mothers had to cook all day for without night’s rest the children and men where constantly hungry. Until one day, when the men, women, and children took turns to look for a night. Not a tiny night, like the one they found inside the mouse’s hole. Neither a big night, like the one they borrowed from the Tapir’s den. But a night that was just the right size. And they found it; yes, they found it! It was enfolded inside the confines of armadillo’s armature—the most perfect night.

I also want to tell you that the Aztec goddess Citlalicue, mother of the Goods and the human race, wears a starry skirt, and that if we look up at night, we can see her in the sky.

Furthermore I want to tell you that my mother always wanted to be a hair stylist. She practiced on my sister’s and I, untangling our hair, putting it up in curls, braids, and buns, and adorning it with felt ornaments or bread-dough flowers that she made, and fragrant flowers from the trees, and that she would have put the planets and the stars in our hair if she could have only reach them.

And, yes, I tell you about all of these things because I took from all of them to create Little Night, a book that was born inside the creative and firm embrace of my writer’s group, the Revisionaries, the good love of Kelly my son and my husband Tim, and the care of Neal Porter and the Roaring Brook Press family.

I know that by telling you all of this, you are already realizing that my biggest talent is to love stories—especially other people’s stories. And that my second talent comes from something I practiced endlessly when I was a child. Again and again, when I found things that amazed me, that caused me wonder, that captivated me, I took my pencil, and with fervent devotion I copied the shapes and lines.

This brings me to Brian Selznick and his advice. His instructions came to me in my way down the hills as I had already quit looking at the ground for snakes, and having stopped looking over my shoulder for mountain lions, and as I had decided that only because I don't see the magical creatures it doesn't mean they are not seeing ME. Mr Selznick’s words were, “Create the speech you want to create.” Really, that is what he said. And I understand that any advice that Selznick offers actually comes all the way from Maurice Zendak, or so I am told.

And now, in honor of Mr. Selznick here I am, tracing with fervent devotion over his lines, to show my joy…