Small Drops of Words


Feeling,, after years of floating in nothingness,
befalls the body as a floating in everythingness.
It is an overwhelming sensation that the mind mistakes for confusion while the body sees as clear and defined in it’s asking for all sensations to be immediately addressed and resolved.

Feeling, after not feeling, causes one to laugh and cry all at once while roaming in a state of madness and clarity under torrential rains that carry with them the very bolts of lightning that could strike you down,
or revive you.


Reconfiguring North

As long as I know where North is, I can turn myself to explore between latitudes and just off longitudes.
Recalibrating mentally as I continue floating aimlessly in search of
new spaces that do not face up.
Although in liquid, North will always be.


The Beautiful Unknown

As we journey, we experience a continually changing and shifting series of images that give us our scenery, the players and the plots which are determined within a great improvisation.
At first we do not know this.
That it is improvised.

In fact, it is in the moment that we pre-write the script that we set ourselves up for chaos and disappointments. Pre-writing the script only ruins the wonder and beauty of a journey that is intended to be fueled by in-the-moment calls and responses, actions and reactions in real time.

It is a scary place to not know.
Because fear has been imposed somehow.

Too bad I am just now arriving at this understanding.
How we ruin our children when we don’t reveal this to them sooner.

That it is beautiful improvisation.


[Written excerpts and collage images from Loose and Connected Thoughts, my life in fragmented time by Damaris Iva Ferrer Santana]


I’m from paper and pencil time. This was when backpacks were overflowing with looseleaf papers that had torn away from three-ring binders because it was also the time before the invention of the reinforced looseleaf tabs. Dividers, made of thicker paper lasted a bit longer but would inevitably also tear away from the binder and contribute to a chaotic nest of papers full of penciled-on words corrected in red pen.

In paper-pencil time, we collected stationary with matching envelopes that we would bring in to school to show each other. Snoopy, Holly Hobby, unicorns, rainbows, Hello Kitty and so on. In paper-pencil time, we wrote each other letters during summer vacation and also made our own stationary by decorating the margins of white or loose leaf paper as well as the backs of envelopes to match. It was also a time when we designed our own bookmarks and used a hole-puncher to make a small hole at the top to string a decorative piece of yarn through. I remember making a book of bookmarks with my friend Kate that held different sized bookmarks to sell and which we priced anywhere from five cents to twenty-five cents.

In paper-pencil time, chewing pencils was a thing for some kids. I wasn’t sure why they did that and it grossed me out, although I did bite into a pencil once to see what all the fuss was about.

Erasing was rigorous during paper-pencil time and whiteout was not a thing, so we all, at one time or another, found ourselves biting the small metal top of our pencils to try to squeeze out more of the eraser when it wore down.

We wrote pages and pages of homework that always contained the ghost markings of erased words, thoughts, and misspellings. You see, one could never fully erase the blunder so we just did the best we could with our molar-marked pencil erasers. How teachers read our penmanship was beyond me although there was this girl, Erica who had neat and perfect penmanship that matched her perfect, neat, beautiful clothes and her perfect long nails. Her bedroom is probably really clean and organized, I thought to myself.   The rest of us belonged in third grade while Erica seemed like a small adult; a kid with an old soul who was kind to everyone but probably screaming inside, Lord get me away from these pencil biters who can’t even get through one sentence without erasing anything!!

Our teachers had this strange paper that allowed them to make copies. My mom and my older brother just recently jarred my memory when they helped me recall this memory of what was called Mimeograph stencil paper; used to write out our assignments which were then copied using the weird machine in the front office.  I thought it was some kind of carbon paper but when my mom wrote the word Mimeograph in an email to me, all I could hear was Mrs. Lowey’s voice and I freaked out and immediately called my brother who is two years older than me. My brother held this memory with all of his senses as he described the paper, its blue ink, the sound of the machine and the awful smell of rubbing alcohol on the assignment sheets that were handed out to us. As I listened, my eyes grew wider and all I could do was smile because he brought it all back to me over a phone call, taking place between New York and Florida.

There was no erasing on the mimeograph paper so the teachers could not make any mistakes otherwise they would have to just cross the word out and continue. I remember getting my legal size page of whatever the teacher had copied and handed out. I remember Mrs. Lowey filled her paper up with so much information that I could never read it all. It was just too much to read and the writing was messy and hard for me to decode quickly. Mrs. Lowey was not Erica. Mrs. Lowey was messy and loved giving us messy art projects. I loved Mrs. Lowey because I knew her house was messy.

Flour + Water + Newspapers = A Mess

Once a year on May 1st we decorated trees in Riverside Park. They called it May Day and it was a celebration of Spring that we commemorated by picking themes and making paper decorations to hang on trees. I remember one year our class theme was birds and another year it was fairies. I remember the whole school walking down the city streets to the park each of us holding our paper offering to Spring, and I remember dancing the May Pole dance which was organized by the dance teacher, Mrs. Gottfried. Yes, it was a time of paper, pencils and Pagan rituals at PS 75 — the good old days when teachers could swing open the school doors and walk hundreds of kids through city streets to a park.

Years later I thought about the May Day activities in the park and wondered how long it took for the winds and the rains to erase all of our paper creations. Like in some surreal film, I imagined the colors made with markers, crayons and Tempra paints, washing off and staining the grass below in rainbow colors. I imagined the glitter and feathers flying through the air and over the Hudson River while birds carried off long strands of yarn for their nests. I guessed that whatever faded papers were left became soggy with the summer rains then brittle with the summer heat until the fall winds came in to yank them off the naked limbs of the trees and send them off toward New Jersey.

When my papers came back to me with corrections in red pen, I was ashamed. I had gotten much wrong, written incorrectly and erased too much. Most days, I just shoved the looseleaf paper in my bag with the others and just continued without understanding. The red pen markings seemed as if they were done in anger and frustration and I did not want anyone to see my paper. The pencil eraser could not erase the angry red pen.

My own perceptions, at the time, were often driven by internal dialogs that scripted all the roles in order to justify feelings of failure, confusion or sadness. I suspect that most kids do this; setting up the foundation for the creation of the masks we put on and take off throughout our lives. These are the masks we wear to hide from what we are not sure of so as to make others perceive us differently.


D: [inner voice] Was I supposed to know that? I must have not been paying attention. Now the teacher is angry and she thinks I’m stupid.

D: [responds to friend after shoving the paper in her backpack] Oh, hi. Did I get my paper back? Yes, I did and the teacher liked my story. Yay, it’s almost lunchtime. You wanna play jump rope today?

 Thinking all the time about things, random things, made up things, while not paying attention to what the teacher was saying, or not listening because I was trying to read the entire handout with all the instructions for the whatever project. Too much information does not help me. Can you just tell me in two sentences what you need me to do?

In an effort to teach children how to be organized, grownups often forget that there will never be more than one Erica in their class. The other twenty-five children are not concerned with reading a fifteen-part instructional worksheet on how to do a book report. Out of the twenty-five, ten are thinking about where the last episode of the Land of the Lost left off, five are hungry and thinking about lunch, two got no sleep the night before and are dozing off, four look attentive but hear nothing the teacher is saying, three are biting their pencils and one is staring out the window. Keep it simple.

  1. Read the book
  2. Write about your book
  3. Draw a picture

Our school publication was called “The Spicy Meat Ball” and it was where Mrs. Lowey compiled and published our poems, our stories and our drawings. This meant that someone had to type everything out on a typewriter and not make any mistakes and that all the artwork had to be traced onto another paper with the carbon backing so copies could be made. I had no idea who made this happen until just recently when I found my copy of “The Spicy Meatball” and read the front page:

Spicy Meatball
The Literary Magazine of P.S. 75
Poetry and Prose Editors: Hannah Brown and Phillip Longate
Art Editor: Ruth Lacey
May 1979 Published by Teachers and Writers Collaborative

As a school-wide project, The Spicy Meatball gave us a place to put our unmasked selves. Silly stories, sad thoughts, things that seemed to make no sense, et cetera, were published along with pencil-drawings and doodles. Getting my copy of The Spicy Meatball was always exciting to me because I knew I could turn to the pages with my writings and I could see my name printed under them.

May 1979

Scattered bright lights in

a building window in a grayish night.

Roofs have snow and the city with happy bright lights.

Shades of night all around.

Dark alleys with dark blue colors. A very melancholy day

with a grayish sky and the

streets all wet.

– Damaris Ferrer

Of course, now as an adult, I can appreciate what the children of P.S. 75 wrote about during this time of paper, pencils and pay phones, and I was not surprised by my small contribution that spoke of the environment and my own changing moods. For the most part, the writings in The Spicy Meatball sampled the honesty in children via both loud and soft voices without the interruption of the angry red pen and thus allowing us to just BE.

Oh, world, world

Did you


How you

hate me

When I push


Did you remember

How you love me

When I read

to you

And you would be

saying please

oh please?

Oh world, world

I know you

love me!


My copies of The Spicy Meatball have always been spared the throwaway pile that has been created each time I have moved. How could I think of throwing away all those thoughts from all those souls? And besides, someone took the time to make sure that they typed out all of our writings without any mistakes!! This alone is a big deal and merits the preservation of such a publication along with the memory of said type writer which probably did not have that nifty back-erase button that was invented later as a major feature on those giant fancy IBM typewriters.

The moment of the typo/mistake/blunder is a moment when the brain is moving faster than the hand. It is when the dictating voices in our heads ramble on with no regard to the 27 bones holding the writing implement and while we are taking cues from the eyes. That’s the problem with those of us who take too much in: we think we are writing something when in fact we drift off in spurts which results in the omission of “and” – “it” – “the” or we end up writing a word twice.

The day was bright and sunny until clouds darkened th sky making it seem as if someone drew the shapes on the windows. We felt a rumbling under our feet although it came from up above so we ran and and ran until we laughed because the water fell in fuckets upon us

 I am sure that carbon paper and typewriters made people focus like never before.

Today we have auto correct and that wonderful delete button; neither of which prevents us from eventually drifting in and out of that world between sleep and reality during those late hours on the computer. Yes, we can get so much more done now so who needs sleep.

The day was bright and sunny until clouds darkened the sky making it seem as if someone drew the shades on the windows. We felt a rumbling underrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr our feet although it came frommmmm sandwiches up above so we ran and ran until we laughed because the water fell in bucxstes upon us. There was no reeeeeeeazoun tew rum anymore now tyuidjkashagsfscdbdbdndmcejemsssssssssssss
Defrost meat and buy milk hutyuweeemmmm weeeeeeeeeee

 What is that world we enter and why can we only get to it when we are beyond exhausted? In that world we float, see through walls, converse with the dead and run from stampedes of elephants while waking up to quickly check-in and tell ourselves that we are okay to finish our document. It is in that world of complete exhaustion that our minds can tap into those unused parts of our brains that open us up to everything invisible and not attainable in our “normal” state of existence. And it is in this state that we are finally open to receiving blissfully without the voices of opinion, judgment and doubt. In this other dimension, we feel the hundred foot free fall and live to tell others what that felt like.

How is it that such vivid experiences can be retold when one awakens, yet the details begin to fade away the longer we go without recounting it? How is it that you are unable to recall the very words you wrote down about a dream from long ago despite seeing it is your own penmanship on the page? Does it all get erased or is it simply pushed back by everything else that we collect in our thoughts?

We don’t really need three rolling pins, nine serving trays and five bottle openers. And why do I need forty-seven tee shirts? Sometimes it’s just nice to have semi empty drawers.

Small children have no need for bottle openers or rolling pins and therefore have space to drift off as light as feathers to wonderful places. In fact, if grownups would stop interrupting the daydreamers and simply learn to wait for their return, they would see that the daydreamers have much to tell about, write about, and draw about.

We lived between worlds,

when we were children

that is.

But alas, we grow up with the belief that these brief departures are bad and that we ourselves must interrupt even ourselves in order to “check-in” on our important documents because they must be perfect for their forever preservation on some other cloud.

My tangible copy of The Spicy Meatball smells like old paper, which is to say that I am holding the past — a past when ink on paper had a smell. Old things smell old because they are an accumulation of many years, and contain stories, secrets and energies that have sunken into their porous make-up.

“Where is the paper with the assignment?” I ask my son. Then he hands me his laptop that holds all of his “papers”. There is no mess in his backpack, no torn looseleaf pages, no torn subject dividers. I am happy that he does not carry this burden, yet I am sad that he won’t accumulate the feelings and smells of past-time and places through the tangible.

A different kind of erasing, I guess.


[Written excerpts and collage images from Loose and Connected Thoughts, my life in fragmented time by Damaris Iva Ferrer Santana]




During a major transition in my life, as I was working towards my Masters Degree, raising my kids, working, and about to collapse, I was sitting in my car waiting for my son to get out of school and listening to a radio program in which a composer by the name of Julia Wolfe was being interviewed. Ms. Wolfe was talking about her new choral work titled, “Anthracite Fields”; that was based on the lives of mining communities, and she explained that anthracite is the hardest type of coal. Upon further investigation of my own, I found out that anthracite contains relatively pure carbon and burns with very little flame or smoke; and I found it fascinating that someone could compose an entire choral work based on such a subject. At the time I came across this interview, I had been creating a movement work for my Masters thesis that was growing out of my research on language and fixity of meanings, both verbally and physically; and how does one circumvent fixity so that the ever-becoming body and mind evolve continuously. As my research developed, both in the studio and on paper, the most important question came to the surface: How do we exist in such a state of continual flow in spaces not made by us?

And it was there, within the Jello of questions and ideas that I had been floating in for over a year that I sat in my car listening to this interview and an excerpt from “Anthracite Fields”, titled Flowers. As she explained how this song was conceived, Ms. Wolfe began by describing the small mining villages; their dust and soot, and the old tiny wooden shacks lined up in rows on either side of a dirt road. That last part I think I made up as her words created clear images for me. The composer went on to talk about a kind of ritual in which the women in these mining villages would “spruce up their impoverished existences” by planting flowers. While listening, I continued to visualize the village and how those flowers must have seemed more vibrant than ever within the black and white backdrop of this world she spoke of. This detail connected immediately with my ideas and questions regarding how we exist within spaces not made by us. It was an incredible accounting of how this simple act of planting flowers inserted into this world a way to alter the very carbon-laced dust that had everything to do with fuel growth, light, darkness, life and death. In taking control over all that that was not organized by them, the women demonstrated a power like no other over this harsh environment that sat above a dark and dangerous underworld created to fuel a nation.
The composition in itself is a layering of vocal mantras that capture a sense of past, present, and future within a dizzying cycle of vocal exchanges and overlapping sound frequencies. Yes, I used this composition in my work, and now three years later I have returned to this music as I consider my next transition while sitting amongst my own flowers in a garden that has been in constant growth and transition since I moved into this home over eight years ago.

The rain season came early this year and my yard fills with water and looks like a small pond. It never did that before so I know something greater than my small garden has changed, bringing with it an awareness of something greater than me that shifts and organizes my journey. It is an awareness that brings both excitement and impatience as I try not to imagine or contrive what is not destined for me. Paying attention to changes in direction is the hard part. Waiting in quiet surrender is harder.

The choosing of time and place was not theirs to have.
Yet they possessed the power to set them deep in the dark Earth.
And once released, they grew within their own time and rules.

The “when” is usually clear to me as it presents itself as a shift in energies within my space, my mind and things that clearly become off kilter and show signs of falling apart. Erosion signals that it is time to move or at least to turn the soil over.

Sometimes the soil seems dry on the surface, yet when you turn it over and dig deep, the dark moist soil quickly devours that dry top layer while plump worms push down to get away from the light and the trowel. If you know about dirt and worms, you know that this is a good place to replant, start something new, drop some seeds or transplant something that is not thriving elsewhere. When there are no signs of moisture or life, the trowel moves quickly through dry pale dirt and stirs up a dust that makes you turn your head away or just drop the trowel and walk away all together. The worms left long ago.

What makes us stuck? When I use a physical language to answer this question I find that the mind perceives dead ends due to a tendency to believe that the (once) predefined must never be altered or that we are just not allowed to. I also find that our limitations are mostly ruled by an invisible, and sometimes visible, set of rules that set us into a state of judgment and worry that does not allow us to see farther than where we have gotten. So we often stop and stare at a wall and then go back the way we came.

My garden is messy because I sometimes fling seeds to the wind. I do not manicure the garden, but rather just yank and dig and cut. I hate the weeds but then I thank them because they force me to sit and focus on them and in turn they create a blank space in time for my thoughts. I inherited my ability to squat for hours just thinking and weeding from my Abuelo Ismael. When we were young, we would see him outside for hours just pulling out weeds till the land was clear, then he would cut any twigs he had collected into six inch pieces which he would then patiently tie into bundles with twine. I understand this now as his peaceful practice; a practice that was necessary not only for the land but also for the mind. When he was young, Abuelo was the Director of the church Christmas pageants. This wonderful information came to me through my Abuela who told me that he once had some kid suspended by ropes so they could swing him above the congregation as the Angel Gabriel. Abuelo was a choreographer!

People ask, what I do so my flowers grow. My answers often disappoint, as they contain no real secret or knowledge. I do nothing but yank, cut and dig.

Mary, Mary quite contrary
how does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle-shells and pretty Maids all in a row.

As much as I wanted to believe that Mary’s garden was full of bell and seashell-shaped colorful flowers, it turns out this rhyme refer to Queen Mary (also known as Bloody Mary!) and her torture devices such as the reference to cockle-shells that were used on men’s testicles. Ouch. So much for my favorite childhood book, The Real Mother Goose.

I’ve tried to read gardening books but they are loaded with perfect photographs and all the rules that ensure that you don’t kill your plants. After a few attempts at following such silly rules, I have learned that my garden doesn’t give a crap about my pretty books. It has taught me that the flowers and plants have been here long before we “garden experts” have been, and will be here long after we are gone. The flowers and plants know where they want to be and how long they want to stay. They know when a storm is coming, how to attract their preferred bugs and birds and which way they want to face. My job is to pay attention because I know nothing.

Funny how observing and listening to my plants taught me to do that for myself.
What do we actually kill by simply not paying attention? Hopes, dreams, ideas…
How is it that the harsh dessert does not kill the cactus that live there, yet I have heard many recount their inability to keep a small cactus alive in their livingroom? I believe it is not a question of the green thumb myth, but rather a question of engaging willingly in the act of keeping something alive. It has to be important to you; and the term “killed my plants” should not be taken so lightly. After all, they, too, breathe.
Plants get stuck in bad places simply because they do not have the capacity to uproot and walk themselves to a new location unless they have sprouted from rhizomes. Rhizomes probably evolved because the plant got tired of waiting on some clueless human to move it so it looked deep within, followed the earthworms, and broke through the Earth into a new location. The stupid human just figures they killed their plant.

My mom likes to send me boxes. Sometimes its clothes, other times its some nick knack from a yard sale or the church thrift store, or gifts for the kids. On this one occasion a white box arrived with its usual mom signature of way too much packing tape so I got the scissors and began to open it. Suddenly I realized that there was dirt coming out of the box so I took it outside. When I opened it, I looked in the paper bag that was inside the box and thought to myself “Did mom send me poop?” The dirt was everywhere and the odd lumps of brown poop things baffled me so I called her to find out what she had smuggled to me via the US Postal System.“Rhizomes!” she said. “Winter is coming so I’m digging them out so I can replant them in the spring. I have too many so I thought I would send you a few.”

Wow, I thought, these lumps are alive!
Me: “What plant are they?”
Mom: “I don’t actually know, but they have big leaves and a beautiful red flower. Maybe a Canna.”
Me: “Do you have them in the sun or in the shade?”
Mom: “They get a bit of both. “

So I dug some holes and dropped in the poop lumps. I live in zone 11 so I will never have to dig them out for the winter. It’s not often that my mom and I can share seeds because she lives up north in zone 5 or 6 so this would be a worthy experiment to see if the ugly lumps would emerge from the sandy tropical dirt in my garden. And they did.
Giant red Canna’s with giant leaves that get eaten at night by these alien slug things that live down here in tropical zone 11; then they roll themselves up in the leaf as if making a sleeping bag. The Canna doesn’t mind because if it did it would not keep blooming that beautiful red torch of a flower that works like a beacon to lure the moths that lay those eggs that then hatch into the giant slugs. And from it’s very tall stem the spiders anchor their webs and feed through the night, and when the petals of the red flower wilt, they make way for these very curious small bunches of red balls that look like berries which must serve as food for some kind of winged creature. The cycle of the giant Canna goes on still after five years; I chop their stems and clear the old dried out leaves and wait for the rhizomes to sprout again and again and again. They are just in front of my fence, which I share with my neighbor so I’m a bit nervous that the Cannas will pop up on her perfectly mowed side of the fence. On her side there are no weeds, no bushes, no flowers and certainly no giant alien slugs. It’s like a bright green fenced in carpet and when my neighbor sees what is on my side of the fence, I am sure it gives her a little anxiety just as her perfectly controlled outdoor environment gives me the same anxiety.

I read a description once of a shadowbox fence as a type of fence designed to let air flow through. “Well that’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard. The fence is outside!“  I thought to myself. I came to the conclusion that it was designed so that each neighbor could fulfill their inner need to be nosy while pretending to be out there getting some air. Either way, it doesn’t matter because that’s what we do in these small fenced in worlds. We create what gives us comfort just as the women in the dusty mining communities where reality becomes the fence to circumvent. Where flowers create a resistance like no other.
In my case, I do not live in a black and white world of coal and dust, however the reality of such a place gives gravity to the question pertaining to what we make of that which is outside of ourselves. How do we find happiness through designing and choreographing our side of the fence, our corner of the world, our side of the street? Are these places permanent? Usually not, but that is no reason to deny yourself from getting a really great set of string lights to wrap around the tree out back or your 14th floor rusty old fire escape.

I finish weeding and carry the wilted pile of invaders to the trash and then I start cutting back bushes and plants which leave me with much larger piles to pick up. I do not measure the twigs, nor cut them, nor tie them in twine, but rather just shove everything into the trash bin. It’s getting late, but I am never finished. In fact, if it weren’t getting dark, I would just go on and on. My time in this space is always to be continued as are the thoughts that circulate such as those that bring me back to the question of movement and fixity and not remaining stuck in a place where I begin to wilt. My mom thinks I stay too long in places and perhaps she is right, but I can’t help it, I’m a slow shifter. I love to root into my home and my garden, to let experiences settle in and to watch the world and ponder for a while. Shifting winds come often but I am not eager to step into them until that thing happens.

That knowing.



When I found our little house I knew it was the place where I could have a small garden and where the kids could play outside. It was the perfect size with a vaulted ceiling in the living room, plenty of natural light and I had wood floors put in to replace the pistachio green carpet it came with. The more I could see the outdoors the better so I put sheer white curtains across the sliding glass doors in the living room and often put a bed sheet outside on the grass with books for the kids to read. My son, who was three at the time, made a mud hole in the yard where he could float his boats and other toys, and where pirates attacked and dinosaurs sank beneath the murky water. With time the hole got bigger and so did his adventures.

Our little house sits with a group of houses in a cul-de-sac. In the center there is a circular island where once stood a big tree, two smaller trees and a few bushes. This became the play island for all of the neighborhood children and where we once put a big teepee. The island was where the neighborhood bunny rabbit hung out, where momma duck made her nest and where birds perched high in the trees to sing in the mornings and afternoons. This was wonderful to me and I often stood out on my driveway just listening to the conversations, arguments and romantic callings from such small creatures.

Once a year, the big tree would shed its leaves and blanket the entire street. To some this was a hassle because the leaves would have to be raked, but for the most part it was just a yearly marking of time. The leaves fell just at the start of summer as if she (the tree) was getting ready for the incoming hot months by shedding off all of her clothes. Soon enough her fresh set of summer leaves would grow in and the birds could once again camouflage in her branches to sing and argue.

This past year the leaves dropped again and I cursed the wind for blowing them almost entirely onto my lawn and driveway. As I raked and filled my trash can, I found myself listening to the crunching sound of dry leaves, both under my feet and as I lifted and dropped the rake. I remembered the fall days up north when the cool air would creep in and then intensify until it became winter air. As I remembered this I watched small groups of leaves gently travel down the street while others remain still.

Who knows why the groupings occur.
Groupings of leaves that suddenly organize all at once and tumble for a distance to then just stop. Did a gust of wind really come down from the great and vast sky to only blow just beneath those chosen few? Why did all else remain still?

Movement for this group and not that group, for this person but not that one; relocation in a time allocated to not all, but rather just one, or some. Perhaps those who remain unaffected serve as a grounding or a fixed point to focus on, like a lighthouse, so one sees how far they have been carried.

The leaves kept slowly drifting down from the big tree on the island and I was reminded that the wind would eventually clear them all away slowly and in natures’ time.

So I put my rake away and smelled the air.

Circling around trees is a thing.
It is a good luck thing in many cultures and I often thought about how lucky we were becoming as I watched my son circle the trees on our play island over and over again on his scooter. One New Years day, as the clock struck twelve, my friend ran around it while rolling a suitcase behind her. This was a Colombian thing. They run around the block with a suitcase to bring in luck and the blessings of travel and adventures. When she was done, I grabbed the suitcase and began my run around the island because this new years tradition was way more fun than trying to eat twelve grapes during the final countdown to midnight.

My daughter is not one for running around trees for luck or standing around just to listen to birds, so when she called me to tell me they were cutting the trees and that she felt sad, I was not sure how to react. When she told me this I was in the car just a few minutes from the house and all I could think of was nothing at all. I drove and focused on the road. As I pulled into the cul-de-sac, the street was brighter than usual and the workers were almost done. I stepped out of the car and my heart dropped when I heard the sound of the chainsaws. I stood there just staring at them and the large stump of one of the trees, and I was sorry I ever cursed the wind.

My children came out and hugged me because they knew how this was hurting me.

They wanted to know why they cut down everything on their island. I walked over and asked one of the workers. He said that he did not know and that they were just hired to do the job. I walked away and the tears just streamed down my face, my chest was hurting and my anger was in a tug of war with my sadness.

I shut the bathroom door and cried because the birds lost their singing place, because the mother duck would not be back, because the squirrels probably scurried away in fear.

I cried because those trees were alive.

In my house we boil water in a pot for tea. There is no microwave because then we would rush through life never taking in the sound of the water boiling and never calibrating our time to the time it takes for it to boil. The ceremony of it all has taught my children to wait and has taught my daughter to sit at the table and sip her tea.

I guess it just took too long for the leaves to blow away. Natures’ time was too slow, and a meeting about the leaves was held.

The new association had been hard at work all year leaving letters for residents about not bringing in the garbage cans on time, grass that was too high, cracks in the driveways and the list went on and on. To them the leaves made the street look dirty, and to wait for the wind to blow them away took way too long. These are the kind of people that can’t wait for water to boil and that don’t sit down to sip their tea.

I pondered all of this as I poured the hot water in my cup that held a tea bag and some honey. I imagine they would now place some simple tropical palms and a large rock in the center of the island. Simple and clean. No leaves.

The street is so bright now. There is no shade. And it is quiet. I also have not heard any squirrels run across my roof.

Perhaps it is time to find a new little house somewhere.
One with big trees. I will buy a big rake.
And never curse the wind again.



(Excerpt from Loose and Connected Thoughts and collages by Damaris I Ferrer.)

Houses in Boxes

I’m building a house.
It’s been stored under my daughter’s bed for about 9 years because I kept telling myself that I could not build it until I had the space and time to do so. It was a gift from my daughter and her dad for my birthday or mothers day one year; I forget which. Many years before that I had decided to throw away my old house that had traveled with me through five relocations and had begun to fall apart. It was a beautiful Victorian that my former husband and I built when we lived in New York, that had replaced a smaller house I had built who knows when and where…….maybe when I lived in Washington Heights. It was a smaller house with shingles that somehow disappeared when the beautiful Victorian was built. What did I do with it, and why, after all those years, did I not fix up that Victorian and save it for my future daughter?

The answer to those questions are buried under many layers of unorganized thoughts within an unclear timeline.

My collection of miniatures began with a gift from my mother who had been collecting miniature furniture and saving it for me until I was old enough to appreciate and take care of it. When she gave it to me I was about 8 years old and, upon receiving such a gift, I became instantly enamored with the idea of creating a small world to put it in. The wooden pieces seemed to be hand painted and had the smallest hinges I had ever seen. I wasn’t sure what could possibly go inside those tiny drawers that I so loved to open and close and I loved that the bathtub had legs just like our own bathtubs in the apartment on 98th Street and Broadway.

My first dollhouse was a three-story apartment building that my stepfather designed and built for me; a design that made perfect sense given our location. My doll-building was tall, had a spiral staircase, an elevator and a water tower. It was even painted red with a brick pattern on it and plastic tubing that came down from the water tower so I could fill the bathtub and sinks. I remember the wood glue and the clamps he used to hold certain pieces together while the glue dried, and when he finished building it, I was thrilled to finally have a place to display my collection of miniature furniture for all to see.

In elementary school, I found out that my friend Kate also loved miniatures and one day she took me to a store on Broadway that sold them. The store, ironically, was tiny and crammed with all kinds of wonderful little collectables, and it was there that I bought my first set of silverware in a tiny wooden box smaller than a matchbox. The purchase of the worlds smallest silverware set me on a lifelong path of collecting miniatures and carrying small worlds with me wherever I went.

The houses in the catalogues were nothing like my three story doll- building. They were elaborate replicas of the homes one only sees in old movies or driving through old towns and had names like The Glencroft, The Garfield, The Fairfield and Coventry Cottage. My doll-building did not have a name but I knew its address was my address: 240 West 98th Street New York, NY 10025.

From my bedroom window I looked down on Broadway and across rooftops all the way up to at least 115th Street. The movie theater below on 100th Street was rated X and I thought it was strange that I never saw anyone come in or out of there until the big blackout in the summer of 1979. I do not actually remember the exact year, however it was a big one and I remember running to my window and looking down at all the people running and screaming as they came out of the X rated theater. As I settled back into bed I could hear glass breaking and horns honking from behind my closed windows. I remember my mom walking passed my room in her long robe, her hair, dark and unruly, while holding a candelabra to light her way. That was kind of creepy.

As the years passed, the dust collected and stuck to the raw wood surface of my doll- building. Its water system no longer worked and life carried me along its chapters which included the divorce and the move to another building, another neighborhood and a new room that I initially thought I hated. My miniatures went into boxes with the ceramic bathroom pieces wrapped in newspaper and the boxes taped shut so no items could get lost in transit.

Rearranging my physical room had to happen at least once a year. I would draw out a floor plan that indicated the door, closet and windows, and where I drew squares and rectangles to represent my furniture. It was a skill I learned from my mom. I guess I never felt a sense of balance or permanence within any configuration I came up with because this continued throughout high school.

The bed next to the door
The bed under the window
The dresser on the other side of the door
The bookshelf needs to be by the outlet so I can plug in my stereo system
Don’t cover the phone jack
Maybe the dresser by that back wall
This is a good time to sweep
Oh good, I found that little yellow thingy for the 45’s

 I don’t remember the day I said goodbye to my three-story building which by then had walls and floors coming unglued. I do remember the shoe boxes and plastic boxes of miniatures stored on the long high shelf of my closet and having to take them down to place them in larger boxes when it was time to move again.

When I was dating my future husband I was already living with my friend Neli in the basement of a house on Leland Ave in the Bronx. It was small and cozy down there with mauve carpeting and small windows where we could see peoples feet when they walked by. It was there that I ordered my first Victorian and where my boyfriend and I took five months to build it with a hot glue gun. We sanded pieces, glued in every last shingle, carefully overlapped each piece of siding, and painted.

The task was done silently and with patience and care. Does anyone do anything under those terms anymore?

In hindsight, I understand the irony of accomplishing this build, one raw piece of wood at a time with the person who I would end up marrying and building a family with. Then, in time, I watched the house fill up and empty out, relocate, deteriorate and, despite the effort and time invested, get discarded in shambles.

When I received the large box with a new house to build, I was thrilled.
I thought it was the sweetest gift ever from my daughter and her father and I was looking forward to sharing the experience of building it with her. She was about seven at the time; about the same age I was when my mom gave me my first miniatures.  “Wow” I thought to myself, “this is going to be perfect” until I began to read the actual dimensions of the house and realized that to really enjoy this build (did you mean this building or did you mean building this?) , I would have to wait until I had the perfect work space and plenty of free time. From past experience, I guessed it would take us about five months to complete, so with that in mind, I stored the heavy box away in a closet so it would not be in the way and until I could carve out space and time.

So life and time took over as I was raising two children and teaching dance and performing and, and, and, and,…………until once again I found myself packing away the small boxes of miniatures that sat in a closet into bigger boxes; preparing for a new house with three rooms for myself, my two children and our cat.

These things happened in South Florida.
Where the skies are blue and sunny.
Where I lived in homes with triangle roofs.
Where I thought I could finally stop rearranging the furniture.

“Why does that box need to be under my bed?”
Under my daughters bed was the only place I could store the house. I also figured it was a good way to keep other things from accumulating under there, but she hated the fact that it was under there even though it was not disturbing anything. I now understand that her irritability with that unseen box was her way of expressing her disappointment in me. It was a special gift that she gave me and which I now ungratefully store in closets and now under her bed. She did not understand how important that house really was to me. She did not understand that conditions had to be just perfect for me to break open that box and that there had to be a place for its massive size. She did not know how I longed to build that house and finally furnish its small rooms with all the wonderful things in those boxes that now sat on a long shelf high up in my closet.

My daughter is nineteen now and living in a college dorm.

I, along with my son and his bird, occupy our small home where I have left the configuration of my bedroom the same as the day when I moved in nine years ago. I felt settled here in this little house where I watched my daughter rearrange her room a few times and where my son ran wooden train tracks from the living room, down the hall and into his room. “La Casita de la Bruja” (the witch’s little house) is what my friends call it. It is the house where many convene, take refuge, get fed, sleep, dig in my garden, and store boxes.  I’m the Bruja that gives everyone bundles of lemon grass from the yard, listens, advises and scolds. My little house is unruly to some.

Too many colors
Art on all walls
Scattered shoes at the door
Paper, markers, paint, crayons
I put a cinnamon broom on the door many Octobers ago
It remains there till this day

 “Excuse the mess. People live here.”

When is it the perfect time to do anything? Perhaps the slowing down of the journey is caused by asking and trying to answer such a question. Waiting, starting and stopping, planning and pausing, creating a series of holding patterns while you wait for that perfect moment which doesn’t exist.

“Ok Dee……………what the hell are you going to do next?”

That was the voice in my head as I scrolled through a list of bills that had to get paid with a trickle of funds allocated well before they reached my account. Not being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel I fell into a state of stillness and unfocused contemplation and it was in this state of mind that I surrendered to the possibility that I would not be able to fulfill my goals anytime soon because something else had to happen first. Not knowing what that could possibly be, thoughts of moving, quitting, re-starting, reorganizing and reconsidering my direction, began to appear before me in the form of a dismantled puzzle that was asking to be reconfigured. I made a list of all the wheels currently turning and not being attended to which then opened a long lost file in my head that made me remember the sensation of time slowing down as I glued in those tiny shingles one by one in that basement apartment in the house in the Bronx. And just like that, I marched into my daughter’s room, reached under her bed and dragged out the large, dusty and heavy house in a box.

I was not sure what I would find in that box after so many years. Had the bugs gotten to it? Was the wood frail and rotted? I dragged it outside of the house in case things scurried out of it and got myself mentally prepared in case it would have to be thrown away. How sad that would be to know its walls would never take form and it’s rooms would never fill up with tables and chairs and tiny silverware.

I stood behind the large cardboard lid and pulled it back to quickly realize that not only was it in tact, but there were no multi-legged tenants anywhere in the box. After dragging it back into the house I pulled out the instructions and began to go through the large sheets of wood with pre-cut shapes of all sorts. Some made perfect sense and others did not, but what was really firing up my senses was that smell of the fresh sheets of thin wood and the sound they made when I punched out the pieces I needed. I also quickly remembered the feeling of the first splinter that would remind me to slow down and to prepare for many more like it as well as the inevitable burns from the hot glue gun.

The pieces always splinter as they are separated.
I must sand all the sides.
I must constantly sweep up the sawdust and wood bits off the floor.
I separate the weird pieces I need from the weird pieces that are garbage.

The smell of the wood is now coupled with the smell of the burning hot glue gun.

My son, despite me inviting him to help out, stays far away from my project. He knows that he will just get frustrated with my weirdness and give up after fifteen minutes. I don’t insist since, after all, it is my project, my therapy, my portal into moving my thoughts and my actions forward with every piece that comes together. I also know that I must build it for my daughter.

The walls are never straight.
I once replaced the vanity in one of my bathrooms and found that although the bottom was flush with the wall, the top remained disconnected from the wall. I was glad that the walls were crooked because it justified all those drawings of buildings I did as a kid which had crooked lines and strange angles that represented my perspective from my thirteenth floor window overlooking Broadway. There are no straight lines as far as I was concerned, and this drove my older brother, who is very meticulous, insane. This new house I am building would drive him even more insane because nothing is labeled and the directions aren’t much help. I am also not using a level, or sanding down every single piece, which would absolutely send him over the edge.

So far the foundation is backwards.
This did not aggravate me because it is part of my everyday battle with the orientation of angles, letters and numbers, which I have learned to accept and adapt to. Rather than fret about it, I simply ask myself: “Can I just keep going? Can my house just face the other way?” If the answer is yes, I continue. If the answer is no, I dismantle and rebuild. Adaptation and having no interest in conforming to norms, has been a huge gift and has made me fully aware of what does NOT happen when we do not allow our thinking to flow outside of all the boxes that contain things, created by others, and placed before us to construct. How do we arrange our furniture and pick our colors without having to look at the picture on the front of the box?

Can I just keep going?

As I bring dimensionality to the flat sheets of wood in that large box, I begin to attend to the accumulation of ideas and possibilities that make up that dismantled puzzle in my head.  It is a puzzle made from loose bits that come together no matter how they are configured. To do so I must understand that perfect placement and positioning does not exist. I must believe that, when attended to, the pieces will provide clarity and flow within the understanding that everything is unfixed. Yes, the walls are never straight and the foundation sometimes faces the other way. Of course I can keep going.

Today I write
Tomorrow I dance
Yesterday I tore and glued paper ‘til it became something
I will read
I will choreograph
I will build a house.


[excerpts  and images from Loose and Connected Thoughts, my life in fragmented time
by Damaris Iva Ferrer Santana]

PS……from mom. “ The blackout was July 13, 1977”

Circus Memory

Once a year the Circus came to town.
Just like in a storybook or a movie, we looked forward to the arrival of the circus which took place at Madison Square Garden rather than in a red and white striped tent in the middle of an open field as I had always imagined. To get to our circus we took the train to 34th Street and walked quickly behind our mother who was always just as exited as we were. Once there, we could immediately smell hot pretzels, hotdogs, popcorn and elephant shit. The music, which was always live, could be heard getting louder as the escalator arrived to the second level where lines formed at the concession stands. We searched for our entrance and got to our seats and waited for the concession people, who walked up and down the steps selling soda, cotton candy and popcorn, to come to us. Mom let us get whatever we wanted as she scanned for empty seats below so that when the lights dimmed we could run down for better seats.

I liked that there was live music and how it coordinated with what was happening in all three rings. I was fascinated by the timing of the lights that would feature one ring while the others remained just dark enough for the circus stagehands to set up the next act. My eyes moved from one ring to the other constantly until it was time for the trapeze acts which fixed my eyes high above the rings until the end of the act when the trapeze artists would fall one by one to the safety net below, flip off the edge of the net, and end in their final “Taadahhh” pose. I remember the ball of death! Actually, I’m not really sure what it was called; I just know that a guy in a small motorcycle got into a large metal ball and rode all around in it, picking up enough speed to even ride upside down. As he got faster the sound got louder and he became blurrier to us. Then, just when we thought he was done with all of his tricks, they would open the ball to let a second guy in. Now they had to remain focused on their individual patterns in order to not crash into each other. It was all about the timing, which could be heard as the motorcycle tires dug into that metal ball. And then, just when we thought is was really over, and felt relief that they had both survived this incredible game of chicken, the ball would open one more time so that a girl in a sequins leotard could stand in the center of the ball while they repeated their routine around her. By the end, despite the fact that our eyes had remained glued to this spectacle, we were all glad it was over.
[excerpt from Loose and Connected Thoughts, my life in fragmented time. By Damaris Iva Ferrer Santana.]


Loose and Connected Thoughts: My life in fragmented time.

Welcome to this blog that will hold my thoughts, stories and ideas in no particular order. Here I will share and attempt to capture, through a somewhat scattered formatting, how my brain processes and preserves only what I need.  This curious function became evident to me as I gathered different pieces of writing I had done through out the years and realized that the gaps in my memory about life events were just part of an editing that occurs so that only the essence and resonance of events remain and therefore I no longer dwell on what I now understand as millions of bits of details that would just cause even more clutter in my already busy and crowded head.


My brain holds my infancy and early childhood in a box of scattered memories, smells, sounds and events whose missing links I have accepted as the things that served no purpose for me. All that has remained has become the foundation for the way I think, process, and ponder the world while also serving to establish the frequency in which I exist. That is, where exactly I find clarity amongst all the static.

Things I kind of remember

1970 something to 1980 something.
Who am I? Just a spec on a rock with scattered thoughts that suddenly, and after many years, have come together to form this representation of life-happenings; through an excavation of my mind and its peculiar way of collecting and preserving.

I guess if I start from the beginning I am supposed to say that I was born on a tiny island to my parents, Noemi Santana Gonzalez and Rene Ismael Ferrer Castro. I was born on April 21st and came home on April 23rd, which was my older brothers birthday. Honestly, I don’t think he appreciated that.

Speckled tile floors
Hot days
Lots of light and sun
The smell of coffee and sugar
The screen door slamming shut
English and Spanish gibberish
Frozen cans of pineapple juice
Exploding bottles of Malta
Large lizards
A dog named Piro that bit me
An outhouse that gave me terror

I was six years old when one day in school everyone was being rounded up and put in lines outside. I heard some kids say that they were giving everyone shots and that the lady doing it used a big gun. Naturally, I ran to hide. The school grounds were dusty and there were kids in long lines everywhere in the courtyard. The schools in Puerto Rico were mostly long buildings divided into small classrooms. The doors always remained open, as did the percianas. [What is that word in English? They are windows with metal flaps that open and close using a crank.]

To get from class to class one walked out through the courtyard or went up an outdoor staircase to a second level. Running thru the crowd I wasn’t sure where I could hide from the lady with the gun so I turned a corner and leaned up against a wall. I do not remember what I was thinking at that moment. I watched the crowd go past me until suddenly an older student grabbed me by the arm and asked me what grade I was in. I don’t remember if I answered him but I do remember that he not only escorted me to the correct line, he brought me right to the front.

So there she was, the lady with the big gun. She looked at me and I looked at her gun as I was pulled in closer to her. I guess I started crying. I really do not remember.

What I do remember was a sea of students and chaos and noise and that suddenly I was being grabbed and pulled away; this time by my mother. How did she know where to find me? How did she know which line I was in? How did she do that? At that moment I did not ask myself those questions. All I knew was that I had been rescued by a magical person and that I would not get a shot from the lady with the big gun. I think I was quiet on the ride home. I do not really remember any more than that.

Hot dogs on an airplane with my older brother
Fuzzy winter hood around my head
TV dinners and a sofa bed
A concrete balcony high up in a building
A billboard of an Indian with a tear running down his face
Waiting to be picked up from school
Tap shoes
My first bouquet of flowers

I was quiet at school and in public, but I remember singing the Eenie, Meenie, Minie, Mo song really loudly. I knew the steps and was wondering why some of the girls weren’t doing them. “am I the only one singing?”

My tutu was blue and itchy.

We moved alot [ Is that “a lot”…….as in moving an entire parking lot? Why is “alot” incorrect?]

The memory about the itchy tutu actually came before the scary vaccine gun memory. When I turn those around I can also remember another school. This one was also open and dusty and the main office was up on stilts like some kind of hut. I was taken in there once by an older student who was a dancer. She was told to teach me to belly dance because I was supposed to wear a belly dance costume for some school event about the different countries of the world. I remember her swaying her hips and asking me to do the same. I did nothing of the sort.

I believe she gave up on me and the day of the activity I marched down the isle with the other kids, who were dressed in a variety of costumes, and I was happy to do nothing more than that.

The school in New Jersey was where I went to Kindergarten. I cried when my mother left me there on the first day. My magic person left me. I don’t think that is what I thought at the time but I do remember fearing the loss of her on that and other occasions. Just a year before she had to leave my brother and I with my grandparents so she could come to the states to find work. I don’t remember crying, probably because no one made an issue of it to spare us that sadness. Years later my mother talked about this and told me that she cried on the airplane. I never saw my mother cry till much later in life.
When we were kids she was a power beyond what we understood. When she was angry, we were silent and when she was happy, salsa music blasted throughout the house.

My Grandparents house was also on stilts. I think.

I do not remember the furniture and I do not remember how long I was there. Did my brother and I share a room? I do not remember anyone talking to me about anything. Was this when that stupid dog bit me? He was lucky that my mom wasn’t there to rescue me. She would have kicked his ass.

I like the heat.
The sticky hot tropical air and the smell of rain is everything to me.
The morning sounds also give me a sense of weight and security.
Roosters, dogs, screen doors slamming, pots in the kitchen.

When we got to the airport in New Jersey, the air was cold and smelled of nothing. I think I was trying to smell but my nose felt funny. Someone put a winter coat on me. It was a brown plaid patterned coat with fur around the hood. This amused me.

The sky was gray and white.

My mom said she went to a different school for every grade. Perhaps this is why she took it all in stride, however now we were three kids and the world was so large and spread out. We weren’t particularly rowdy kids and in fact I don’t remember that we even talked to each other much. We followed behind our mom like three ducklings or maybe even three small sloths. Her pace was exhausting.
Where she went, we followed ten paces behind her walking as fast as we could. When we arrived anywhere, she slowed down and expected nothing but good behavior. Museums, galleries, political events, visits to peoples homes, stores, the bank, a religious ceremony that involved dead chickens.

We had to run for the train once while lugging a baby carriage. I do not remember what baby that was. We were with our aunt Elsie. I think.

My mom ordered us to run fast and hold the train doors so we did, but when we got in, I panicked because I could still see my mom and her sister lugging the stroller down the last few steps. The doors were still open but the feeling that those doors would close and that my brothers and I would be taken away by the train, without our mother, hit me like a punch in the gut and I began to cry. Two seconds later they were in the train with us and the doors shut. My mom asked me why I was crying and I said nothing. She did not know my fear.

Pay phones
Subway tokens
The smell of urine
White pigeon shit
The onion-bag man

[Excerpt from Loose and Connected Thoughts, my life in fragmented time. By Damaris Iva Ferrer Santana]