Grace Notes
A hopeful newspaper column ~ by Natalie Costanza-Chavez
Politics and God-Have-Nots

Back from the Brink
Rocco, my Italian grandfather rocked in the living room chair. My sister approached him, nervous but determined. He nursed a glass of red wine, Christmas music played on the stereo, and the fire made the room too hot.
Lead Ballons
I am not a psychologist or psychiatrist, and don’t need to be to say that people who take others hostage, bind them, and shoot them are not stable. I’m stating the obvious.
Voice, Memory, Heed
I was, without much actual attention, pondering that ancient question: “If a tree falls in the forest, but no one is there to hear it, does it make a noise?” But then it suddenly shifted gears on me: “If something happens, but no one remembers, is it still real?
Aztlan is Not a Holy Name
My grandmother’s name was changed. She was born in 1915, the first child of Annie Garcia Costa Dutra, 19, and Manuel Jasper Dutra, 26. They named her Dolores and she cried and cried and cried.
Iowa, Mexicans, and Doling out Light
My stepson speaks of a time when he and his 10 year old buddy played while the grown men, neighbors both, leaned against a car and chatted. They didn’t know he was listening as they spoke about Mexicans. “He’s one, you know,” and the man nodded down at him playing. “No. He’s not, is he?” said the other man. “Yeah. His last name’s Chavez. His Dad’s one.”
What They Knew Then
My relatives’ old books make their way to my house. Two of them: The Blue Ribbon Cookbook and Successful American Housewife’s Guide – 1902 and Our Babies: Their Feeding Care and Training – 1925. Here’s some, of what they knew then, a tidbit short list: • A brine of salt strong enough to hold up an egg will preserve butter.
Huffs, Puffs, and Proclamations
In my father’s backyard is a Kelly-green antique Sterling air compressor. I’ve watched it twirl and whiz and puff. It draws 5.6 amps, runs at 1750 rpm’s and holds a tank pressure of 120 psi. Oiled from decades and decades of use, originating from a Northern California fish reduction plant once owned by my grandfather and his brothers, it is a poem of humming efficiency and impeccable in its ability to do its job well.
The Harsh Light of Aftermath
When I think of the World Trade Center, after I see the tall rectangles whole and grey against a clear sky, after I see a fall day edged with dry leaves and the smell of deli’s and leather and exhaust, after I see the back of a man, in a rushed morning, his papers folded and tucked under his over-coated arm as he steps off the curb at a lope, after all this -- I picture Colorado and cars and mouths opened wide, wordless,
You've Got Mail!
Last week a plain white envelope came to my house. It was taped shut in back, hand addressed and routed with a Denver post mark. Inside were reproduced bible verses complete with highlighted sections - no note, signature, no return address.
The Belly-Brown Syndrome
During wet-and-skinny-girl-communal-shower-time, several flat-bellied dears pointed at my stomach and called me “sinner” over and over again. I looked down at my still-boy-blade-straight body and all I saw was tan. My tummy was dark brown. It was at that moment I noted the other bellies: white and shimmery as the baby-moon butt on the Coppertone commercial.
Cotton Balls and Hanukah
Summer is still hot-hitting us as we leave the house, but I keep thinking about Mark Cohen, and Santa Claus and menorahs.
The Good, The Bad, and the Very Bad
It was a messy disagreement about priests – the good the bad and the very bad. The other person said she felt sorry for the good priests. I said, “I don’t,” then added that every single good priest needs to apologize over and again for the sexual abuse perpetrated on children by the bad priests.
Boot-clad and Blasting with Bully Power
I was in my mid-twenties going on naive and idealistic. In front of me stood a young freshman student, as in fresh out of high school, fresh to college, fresh and sweet and sincere as the day is long. I was teaching introduction to creative writing for the first time.
Full of the Dickens
I hear notes skimming the wind: warbling robins, a rabbit’s patter-thump across the hard grass, the lilt of skateboards scraping and the lull of basketballs bouncing long after dinnertime in the still light, not yet dark, dusk of summer’s coming. But, alas, something else keeps dropping in…