Tag Archives: Guatemala

Home Cooking

Place Pigalle

Place Pigalle



Home Cooking

I was always afraid of something
And even after my youth’s epiphany
I’d look at my new reality
And sure it called like something pure
And it did smell of home it’s true

But I was afraid of it too
It was still as if I was told to die
And trust to some resurrection
But lately it’s just choices
Cut and dried choices

Choices between something obviously
Fraught with pain and angst
And something so good I can’t accept it
I guess

Because I don’t feel I deserve it
But I am trying to be able to
Say okay I do love home cooking
I do and yes
Yes thank You I will have a care

And just a little slice of that
Wonderful smelling pie
And I’ll just sit over there
With my pie
And cry


Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:

“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”


Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”


Gentle Readers–

First, to set the tone for today’s overarching metaphor, I suggest this from the wonderful singer, Judy Collins:


At last a new post!

Here’s how it came about:

But I must first ask you this, were you ever trying to take a nap but your foot was starting to cramp? And coincidentally just before that, you had a blog idea which had kept at your psyche?

Well, sometimes in my cosmology someone or something is trying to tell me something. Maybe in the Robert Frostian sense about walls (“Something there is that doesn’t like a wall”)

Or God knows why but just now I was wondering about my stalled blog post output. (Though not stalled poetry-writing wise, as my Facebook friends will attest)

And as I lay there, words just kept coming like a recurrent surf and somehow were aligned in a sort of why not try something off the top of your head configuration? Why not indeed since some possible opening words kept coming at me.

Let me give you an example. Which also segues into the theme of this post, another biographical musing.

I have been cooking all my life* but about twentyish years ago I decided to throw away the cook book. Sure, I would consult to make sure I had the right amount of baking powder to flour ratio, and such.

And maybe a bit about oven temperature. But maybe also because it freed up my creative juices, my improvisational acting skills**or such, but I suddenly really enjoyed cooking. For a while I could do no wrong. My specialty became breads and vegetarian soups. (The secret turned out to be to add high quality veggie bouillon cubes until it had a rich taste.)

My bread then I called “red bread” because I used so many steamed and squashed-flat (blender emulsified) beets, that it came out red. Or at least the dough did. Though it did tend to turn brown in the oven. But always with leftist twinges around the edges.

I even extrapolated this idea to an idea of a cookbook based on improvisational techniques whose specialty was using up whatever was handy in the refrigerator. I was either gong to title it “Fry by the Seat of Your Pants” or “Drive-By Cooking.”

People started saying I should open a restaurant. And I even got an idea of specializing in soups, salads, fresh bread and rolls, and desserts (I could make a mean apple pie, though most people raved more about my bread pudding.)

For instance when I lived in Antigua, the erst capital of Guatemala (before the terrible terremoto of 1789) about ten years ago, I had a friend, cierta Sharon, who would come over for lunch insisting on a bread pudding dessert. And in exchange, she would read and comment on about forty of my latest poems. (She had been a high school literature teacher).

Anyway the idea was I wouldn’t need waitresses because it was serve-yourself all you could eat (I was going to give it a fancy French pun for a name: “Place Pigout,” based of course on the famous Paris Street, Place Pigalle.)

See, I used to be a finish carpenter whose specialty was adding charm to a superficially funky situation. For instance reusing old used hard woods like the ripped-up dance floor in the being-remodeled old Claremont Hotel in Berkeley. I inherited it as a carpenter working on the remodeling, and used it to restore the let’s call it vintage old Bay Area house I later sold to enable me to move to Guatemala.

I figured I could do the same to an eyesore of a restaurant.

The idea was to rent a funky dump and transform it a la Cinderella, and have nice art prints on the walls, hanging plants, and soft romantic lighting. And keep costs down by only serving soup and a salad bar, and all the fresh bread you could eat. Dessert and wine of course was extra. But it was mostly serve yourself so I wouldn’t need any servers besides perhaps me and (If I got lucky) a girlfriend/wife kind of deal.

A chic but cheap romantic night out was what I figured.

But in the spirit of a favorite John Lennon quote, (“Life is what happens when you are making other plans”) I never got around to it, my theory as to the why of that being that’s because I would have been too successful and so would never have given it up to be a poet. That’s my story anyway and I’m sticking to it.

You could call that a failure I suppose, but life is funny that way. My old Sufi Murshida used to say, “Failure never let anybody down.”

In my case, for instance a succession of “failures” whether in romance or for instance having tried to become a nurse, had (like falling dominoes) the upshot of me escaping to Guatemala and devoting myself to my metaphysical poetry and blog posts. Indeed I wrote about this series of events in several of the missing blog posts. But as I keep saying, I have back-ups, at least as in word documents, and I am gradually reintroducing them.

So Gentlefolk, I have finally written a new original blog post (as opposed to reposting something from the past which was as I keep mentioning, unaccountably erased from my website).

After all, as faithful readers from the past almost three years know, I do often digress to situations from my life. Always of course with some set of Sufi themes involved.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*When I was a child of four, (speaking of flour) I had a natural curiosity about cooking and I asked how muffins were made. No doubt it was mentioned about flour but from that I’d got it into my head that you put a flower in each space in the muffin tin and mirabile dictu! next morning it had segued into muffins.

**When I was a Walnut Creek Sufi in the seventies, we had a Sufi club of improvisational acting aficianados. Every month we would meet under the aegis of one of our Sufi members, who was a professional all-around theater person. (These Sufis, as befits our Sufi-section derived from Moinuddin Chishti–that is to say, those whose route to God went through the arts–featured a large percentage of artists, e. g. poets, singers, musicians, composers, dancers, actors and allied performing artists, painters, and even a puppeteer.)

Your Inner Harpsichord

Abraham Maslow

Abraham Maslow


A Favorite Face of God

(To Daniel)

If you don’t know where to start
(What to give someone
Who has everything)

Just do sweet things for God

Whose heart’s conveniently at hand:
Just pick like a flower
A favorite face of God

Just do sweet things for a friend

Attempted Spanish translation:

Una Favorita Cara de Dios
(Para Daniel)

Si no sabes
Por donde comenzar

(Cual cosa que dar para una
Persona que ya tiene todo)

Solo haz dulces cosas
Para Dios cuya corazon esta

Convenientamente a tu lado:
Solo escoger

Como coger una flor
Una favorita cara de Dios

Solo haz dulces cosas
Para un amigo


Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:

“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”


Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”


Gentle Readers,

(This is another reinstallation of a lost post–for apparently an act of vandalism–from 2013, the current series of which is biographical, detailing how I ended up living in Guatemala, and devoting myself to metaphysical poetry)*

Let’s see how far I can push this fate metaphor.

So here I am, year 2002, newly installed in Guatemala, newly unencumbered by job or stateside girlfriend, with no reason to have to go back to California, and its constant concomitant economic struggle. For instance, maintain a car, insurance, gasoline, pay the rent, the utility bills, etc. Way too much to manage as a pensioner. So work in California would be necessary, and let’s face it, after you’ve spent the day harassing the wolf at your door, you’re pretty spent yourself. And good luck with that art project, that expressing your heart project.

Read about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs** and you‘ll notice the self-actualization part (the art part) is at the top of the pyramid. Which means everything below it has to be satisfied first. Only then can you begin to quench your thirst for self-expression.

Which means everything below (with its broader and broader base) comes first. For some reason, survival tops creativity. Go figure. And actually, a disturbing case could be made that love is a luxury–so I thank God for divine philanthropy!

Alternatively, here in Guatemala I was economically liberated, what with savings, two pensions, cheap rent, cheap food, etc. etc. I even have a combination maid, cook, and butler person who comes in three times a week—an utter and total sweetheart by the way—and guess what? I taught Alicia to cook! Or at least how to cook gringo cuisine, of which she’d been particularly ignorant. (as opposed to hotshot me)

For example for her first lesson, I gave her two separate recipes. One for coleslaw, and the other for bread pudding. She got the notion that it was all one recipe, and so mixed cabbage, mayonnaise red onions, and freshly ground black pepper into the custard. (Her chickens ate farty-hearty that night!) Yet now her piecrust is flakier than mine! (And I’m pretty flakey!)

But I digress.

So I decided to take advantage of my big chance at Mayan pyramid climbing. But as I said last week, there were issues, like which art do I choose? And once again, fate took the tiller in hand.

Now I’d been writing poems since I was fourteen. Even one in French! And the only art I’d dabbled in was around 1983, when I’d persevered with the wonderful book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. So I knew of the soul-satisfying repose that accompanies an artistic fugue state. (Especially on your inner harpsichord!) And I did well (As does EVERYONE who gives this wonderful book a chance). And so I was open to the visual arts when, again, fate intervened.

And as usual it was in the form of some illusory romance, which for me seems (so far) to have served the same purpose as the proverbial carrot on a stick dangled in front of a donkey (to keep him moving forward).

So one day I am in Deliciosa, the little specialty store in Antigua, mostly frequented by gringos (looking for those otherwise hard to find gringo-fancied things) but this day also by a statuesque Chilena, denombre Maria Eugenia. She was of Palestinian extraction, though her family lived in Chile, and so she was quite tall (5’ 10”) both for a woman anywhere but especially so in Guatemala where the indigenous women can range as short as four foot six. So she stood out. And we caught each others’ eyes, but what’s a guy supposed to do, amble over and say, “Didn’t we just have a moment there?”

So of course, I, this shy guy (with women) just smiled back as invitingly as I could, and left the store. I was headed to my then apartment just beyond Parque San Sebastian. And she must have left just after, but by a different two sides of the same giant rectangle we described, me going home and her going to visit her best friend, a gay artist, who lived hard by the park. So when she turned the corner, I turned the same corner from the other direction and suddenly there we were, eyes inches apart. And of course we had then the icebreaker of our “moment” in the store. I couldn’t foment the “moment” before but with this fated coincidence filling my sails it was full speed ahead and it turned out what with her studying to speak better English, and me Spanish, we soon hatched a plan to meet and help each other out. Mutuamente. And so we spent the next three days together, at least during most of the waking hours, having fascinating conversations. She was like Bette Davis off on a witty monologue which at the end each time was punctuated by some hilarious twist on the situation. So I was good and hooked. Would have been bad and hooked but she wasn’t interested in that. And through much pursuit never could I quite get her to pull that trigger. But she did say, you have to meet my best friend, the fateful Dani, short for Daniel. (The aforementioned artist).

It took a while for the friendship with Dani to take off. Because he didn’t know English and I didn’t know Spanish. I’d managed with Maria Eugenia because she knew a species of English. Her problem was mainly she didn’t know the past tense and so while there was for that some initial confusion as to if she was a practising present-day polyandrist. But by and large she had command of English sufficient to keep the communication amusing as hell.

I wrote her a romantic poem (My first in Spanish! I wish I had preserved it. I showed it to a new half gringo half Guatemalan friend who said if a guy were to have given her such a poem it would have made her weak in the knees) but Maria Eugenia (also known as Sheny as for some reason all the Maria Eugenias in these parts are also so nicknamed) got scared and by a fateful coincidence was offered lucrative employment far away, and though I did end up inheriting her apartment (with the patio view of nothing but the natural, the floral even, except in the distance the oxidized copper green dome of a two hundred year old cathedral, and a volcano not seven miles away, which at night featured a ribbon of red lava trickling down the left hand side, like the left hand of God.)

I think she threw me her apartment like one throws a roast to detain a dog to cover one’s retreat. She later allowed as how I’d been too tempting for comfort. That was flattering so I made do with that.

And so then there was just me and Dani, the fabulous Venezuelan artist, who became my art teacher.

So the fate theme is still hanging in there, tale-wise. Asi que more next week.
God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*Any who would like to see the earlier in this series of how_I-got-to-Guatemala reinstallments are referred to these urls:

**In case any want a Maslow refresher course, check this out: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs

Because the Mind Is Powerful

My drawing of the Virgin Mary

My drawing of the Virgin Mary


A Helpful Thing, Which Takes the Sting Out of Fear

Stuff is lurking and lying in wait there’s
No doubt about that
Or perhaps it’s just God’s end of a plan
And to execute a plan

I have often seen
(With the keen eyesight of the heart)
That one does need a kick in the butt
And so when stuff leaps out at you

(Even in the dark
Especially in the dark because there the contrast
With light is more stark and so God knows
That shadows have their place in your face)

It’s best to have a sense of humor–I hear
God likes it when you laugh for having seen through
His or Her ruses to the roses behind or
Is it angels God delegates the sense of humor to?

Even this speculation makes the whole thing more
Amusing which is a helpful thing
Which takes the sting out of fear
Takes the bite out of night


Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:

“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”


Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”


Gentle Readers,
This is another re-instated blog post from those which mysteriously and suddenly went missing. There were over a hundred posts in all dating from April Fool’s Day, 2013, and as I have occasionally mentioned, the vast bulk of them were wiped out by some apparently malicious entity who got access to the inner workings of my website. And as I have promised, I am gradually (and laboriously) reintroducing them, from back-up files. This is one in a series of those. Also, I should add, this whole debacle explains the gaps you will see in the Archives section. I generally choose which to put back, by those which a new blog post makes reference to. (Which I use as an excuse to reprise that post). And this (lately) series is mentioned in my upcoming (soon) new blog post (watch this space). I have kept with this particular series also because these latest from 2013 are a series of biographical stories about how I came to be a poet in Guatemala. Which I of course mention, not for some egofied notion that you all are interested necessarily in my life story, but (honest!) because I feel all this illustrates if not Sufi principles, at least it exemplifies my conception of them. And frankly that’s what this whole blog and website is for: to express how I feel about the broad category I call Sufism. Hence the title rumi-nations.com, which derives from Rumi, the best known Sufi in this part of the known universe.

Last week (from 2013) I left off with the decision to leave Oregon and go to Guatemala. (In 2001) And since Eve (Not her real name) soon had a new boyfriend, I thought about what to do next, since this clearly obviated the original plan which had been for me to return to her, after I had mastered Spanish enough to get a teaching job (e. g. first grade).

But the plan, as I mentioned last time, was a fairy tale. Then I soon discovered I was living in my own new fairy tale. And (knock on wood!) I will live happily ever after. And it’s been so for twelve years now and so why doubt it? Especially since according to Hazrat Inayat Khan, the Sufi murshid I have been following, (and who if you have been following this blog, you are vastly familiar with) such thoughts are poison.

Because the mind is powerful.

But as I think perhaps you (who have been following this saga of the last few posts) might have noticed, things have had a way of happening differently than what I had been wishing for, working for. I guess it’s like John Lennon’s point about life being what happens while you are making other plans, which sounds bad, as if things may be out of control. But as I have seen over and over again, things that looked grim turned out well. (e. g. my carpentry failure led to my nursing school failure which led to my teaching first grade which in itself was successful, with the interesting interference of romance. But romance–perhaps you’ve noticed–is a part of life. (And please, I can’t let this go by without quoting my Sufi murshida, Ivy Duce, when she said, “Failure never let anybody down.” ) And when the romance failed, I ended up in Guatemala. Me, the historically geographically unadventurous, who like a blind man who depends on his heightened sense of hearing etc, became adventurous, daring even, once romance got into the equation. Interestingly I just did the typo, “roamance.” Because that surely was what got me to roaming.

As I left off last week, the issue now was what was to be my occupation. Here I was, having (due to decisions made in a romantic context) sold my house, and so sitting on 50,000 dollars in profit, having quit carpentry to become a first grade teacher, hence drawing an early retirement pension of just over $500 a month, and having quit my teaching job to be with Eve in Oregon.

So I found myself without any need to return to the states, and enjoyed the prospect of living in Guatemala where stuff is cheap, for the rest of my life, unencumbered by work (at least once an early social security pension would kick in, after a mere eight years).

And Inayat Khan has stressed that poets at least, (and all art is suspect here), function best where there’s no stress; they need a tranquil life of contemplation.

Intuitively, I knew that some art form was my destiny. It’s true, left to my own devices I probably would have just gone straight for the poetry. I had been writing poems since I was 14. And one at age 17 was in French (to impress my girlfriend when I sent her flowers for her birthday):

Ce sont de moi quelques fleurs
Qui expriment pour toi mon amour
Les fleurs, elles sont mortes dans des heures
Mais ton memoir vit toujours
Dans mon Coeur

(In the perforce fractured English translation):

Here are some flowers from me
That express my love for you.
The flowers will die within hours
But your memory lives forever
In my heart

Of course it can’t hold a candle to E. E. Cummings’ first poem (and at age six!):

There was a little farder
Who pushed his mother harder

But fate intervened and stalled all that, for a time, so I could study drawing and painting. And for all I know this was essential training for the poetry I now am dedicated to. After all, the poet E. E. Cummings was also a painter.* And there are scuttlebutts to the effect that it informed his poetry in for instance the manner of his odd pictorial typography, reminiscent of Guillaume Apollinaire. There are also–incomprehensible to me–rumors that he employed jazz rhythms in his poetry as well.

The fate that intervened, led me to an art instructor, one Daniel Casimiro a Venezuelan living in Antigua, Guatemala. He was trying to make a living as an art teacher, as well as what he is doing now, in spades, art restoration. He is hired to renovate 500 year old paintings and sculptures. Though these days pretty much exclusively paintings. (He can adopt the style of the painter and repair a painting with giant holes and tears in it, to the point that it looks good as new.) But as I say he also made his living teaching. And so of course once we became friends, I hired him to teach me to draw and paint. (for an example, see above)

And it’s an interesting fate item how I met Dani, my art teacher and close friend. But thereby hangs next week’s tale.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

* If you’re curious, here are a few of Cummings’ paintings: