May 29, 2009

Otoño is here

San Telmo Morning, originally uploaded by blmurch.

Crisp air and the changing colors of the leaves harbor the approach of winter. Fall / Autumn / Otoño is here and porteños are bundled up in jackets, scarves and sometimes gloves. We've added more blankets to our bed and our normally non lap-cats are all about the snuggles these days. The Plane trees and the Ash trees offer the starkest reminder of the seasons. The Plane trees leaves are slowly turning brown and are a mottled mix of faded green and light brown. The palmate leaves flutter down congesting the sidewalks and streets. The pinnately-compound leaves of the Ash trees along Rivadavia are mostly just turning yellow and dropping to the street below. Every once in a while a strong gust of wind will produce a shower of leaves that I have yet to capture on camera. I usually see these showers as I'm riding the bus which lend an eerie feel to the late night trips. The seed pods of the Ash trees remain behind creating a strange heaviness to the otherwise bare branches. These seed pods are like the helicopter seeds of Sycamore Maple trees, but are single "blades" and spiral down much faster as a result.

In Recoleta, I came across some trees I'd never seen before - American Sweetgum - or Liquidambar in Latin Castellano (and Liquidambar styraciflua in Latin), which has the most amazing seed pods. They are called "monkey balls" and are spiky and look very intimidating, however they weren't that hard. (click here to see the above photo in large where you can make out the brown seed pods.) The leaves of these trees were a brilliant red and orange and yellow and I was immediately drawn to them as I was lamenting the lack of fall brilliance in Buenos Aires. Yellow is nice, but the beautiful burst of red and orange make for a wonderful change and really make it feel like fall is here and winter is approaching.

Fall in Recoleta, originally uploaded by blmurch.

Leaves turning, originally uploaded by blmurch.

May 5, 2009

Palo Borracho / El Toborochi

In my research about the trees of Argentina, I have come across some legends and I thought I would share one of them now. This is from Bolivia and is about the Palo Borracho or - El Toborochi - as it's known there. I've translated this as best I could from here. I'm pretty sure that the words in parentheses are Guarani. If anyone knows of more, please let me know! I love reading these stories.

A long time ago, when gods lived on earth as people, the dark spirits (Aña) abused the early Guarani people, killing the men and stealing their women.

In a small village lived a beautiful young woman named Araverá "Sparkle in the sky", the daughter of the grand chief Ururutï "White Condor". She recently married the hummingbird god, Colibrí, (Chinu tumpa), and hoped to soon have a son, who would grow up to be the best Shaman (Paye) of the area, capable of destroying all of the evil spirits.

The Añas got wind of her plans and schemed to kill her, without any consideration for Araverá. They mounted their fire-breathing winged horses and pointed them to her small town; but Araverá, saw what danger she was in and escaped, flying to the ultimate ends of the universe in her tiny flying chair that her husband Colibrí gave her.

The Añas pursued her everywhere, the the depths of the waters, under the earth, and higher than the stars. When her tiny flying chair finally couldn't support the weight of her and her growing baby anymore, they descended to earth and hid inside a Toborochi (Samou), and the Añas passed them by and never found them. There inside, Araverá bore her son. The boy grew and took revenge upon the evil of the Añas, but his mother remained in the trunk of the Samou, as she does to this day. Sometimes, when she does go outside, she becomes the tree's beautiful flower, so that the hummingbirds can come and enjoy her nectar.

Palo Borracho Flowers, originally uploaded by blmurch.