It is with sadness and fondness I remember Alvaro Cardona-Hine, our 2015 Gratitude Award winner. Only a year ago he came to our house so we could honor and celebrate. This year, Alvaro died at home with family nearby and Barbara McCauley at his side. I was one of many fans and friends deeply touched by this loss. I trust the intimacy in his communication style led many of us to believe we were close friends. Besides his prodigious gifts as a creative person, he was gifted in human contact. Here is an introduction I wrote about less than a year ago for the book launch of Phantom Buddha at Collected Works Bookstore. I hope this intro gives even a taste of this.
When I spent time with Alvaro, I take notes. I often write down something he says, my off the cuff Zen teacher and friend I first recall meeting Alvaro and Barbara at Natalie Goldberg's house in the 1980's. Over the years we read together at CCA in 1994 and at Collected Works Bookstore in 2010, my first with as Santa Fe's Poet Laureate.
Alvaro is a poet, painter, composer, and translator. He was born in 1926 in Costa Rica, came to the State in 1939. Since 1988 he and Barbara McCauley have owned Cardona-Hine Gallery. As part of their creative journey, they decided to abandon the conventional art gallery scene to share and sell their paintings directly to collectors. Doing so, they discovered that the creative process is not only about making a work of art, but also about its being received. There was barely a time I visited the gallery in Truchas when I didn't see some curious stranger welcomed to view the paintings with charm and dignity. He has close to twenty books and is widely anthologized and published. He has won a National Endowment, Bush Foundation Fellowship, and Minessota State Arts Board grant.
As a painter he has had a dozen one man shows and his music has been heard all over the globe. More important, he ahs a vast generosity to others, and to the art of others. Alvaro is the most gracious host. If you haven't visited the Cardona-Hine Gallery in Truchas, do so, and buy a painting, I might add.
A few years back, I discovered three things I didn’t know about Alvaro:
He read with and knew Charles Bukowski
He was an ordained Zen Sensei
He has been an editor for girlie magazines
Reading his newest book, Phantom Buddha, one learns the circumstances around these details. It's set in Los Angeles in the 50's, following on the tails of Thirteen Tangoes for Stravinsky. It connects memoir to fiction to poetry to dream. I am not a fan of reading the dreams of others, but Alvaro presents the dreams as koan, counterpoint to the character's Los Angeles life in plot. But more than that, they are told in this voice I have come to admire. "Nothing is invented, except my language."
Alvaro will begin with some haiku about the mountain town of Truchas.
I can't help thinking that if he and Barbara lived in Santa Fe, he would be even more well known, but also, there would be less paintings, writing, and music. Welcome to a life well lived, and written down.