Kathleen Alcalá

The Clueless Eater

An adult and immature towhee caught in an early storm.
An Early Storm

This is the time of year when our gardens are producing their last fruits and vegetables. I could tell you how clever I was today for combining a pear with the last of the rhubarb to make a tart and sweet compote.

It is a time that reminds us all of our mortality, as the leaves begin to turn and fall. The berry bushes that looked as though they would take over the neighborhood have begun to retreat, close to the ground for another season. We preserve, we line our nests and contemplate the seasons when we spend more time indoors.

But this has been a time of terrible loss. A freshman in high school shot four of his closest friends, then himself. They were all fourteen or fifteen years old. The two boys were his own cousins. All but one died. This boy was not a loser or a loner. He had just been in the homecoming court.

I was going to tell you about the wonderful trips I have taken, the wonderful food I have eaten. I was going to tell you about the conference, “Our Food Is Our Medicine” I attended, the conversations with others who realize that how we obtain our food will determine the future of the earth.

These topics will have to wait. This is the time of year when the veil between the living and the dead is very thin, and we can see each other through it. We remember those who have gone before us, and hold out hope for our own children.

Having your children go before you, and so young, and so tragically, makes it difficult to speak. We must hold peace in our hearts and hope that it becomes a reality for more people. We must hold it in our minds and let it be visible in our eyes. We must cultivate it like gardens in our children. We must speak out for it when given a chance.

They say that angels visit in disguise, so that we must be kind even to the least likely people we meet. Perhaps it is easier to think of these young people as angels, sent to visit their families for just a little while. But I’m afraid that is too sentimental for me. Instead, an early storm offered up another image. Pictured here are towhees, an immature and adult bird, as I found them.

I did not post this blog last month, because the pain was palpable, even for people like me outside of the immediate circle of family and acquaintances. Time will not heal these wounds. The North Puget Sound Tribes lost part of a generation of leaders, bright young stars. I hope they will hold the remaining children close. We cannot protect them from everything. But we can try.

Selected Works

Anthologies
From the early literature of the Americas to the late 20th Century
Creative Nonfiction
Essays on Family and Writing

The Desert Remembers My Name makes an important contribution to discussions of ethnicity, identity, and the literature of place.”
Bloomsbury Review
Fiction
"...a mesmerizing tale... the author explores the fascinating confusions and contradictions plaguing a culture precariously poised between tradition and modernization."
Booklist
"She never forgot the power of storytelling as testimony."
The Utne Reader
"Kathleen Alcalá's Spirits of the Ordinary is an enthralling book..."
–Paul Yamazaki, City Lights Books

"This book entered my dreams."
–Alberto Rios
Short Fiction
"Thoroughly satisfying."
The New York Times Book Review

"By turns touching, entertaining, and surprising, and uniquely her own."
Publishers Weekly

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