Monday, December 12, 2011

From REVOLUTIONS to CROCODILES...


Yes! Every year, these well-armed revolutionaries parade down our little village road. In the photo above, they are just passing the corner fence-post and fencing of our property along the right. What especially interests me is seeing the dress-styles of yore. . . . and all those guns and bullet-holding vests -- men and women alike. That must have been some fierce revolution against tyranny.

The parade is reaching the end of town -- well, in the photo below, they ARE at the end of town. The house in view, below, is our next-door neighbors' home -- we're that close to the edge of town ourselves.. Then begins the jungly land and coco / papaya groves.

Once at the end, they break formation and the boys begin gymnastic displays -- towers of boys on shoulders some three levels high; big leaps into the air, to be caught by two lines of boys holding hands as a long cradle; and the girls do swirling dances; and everyone sings patriotic songs. Then they process back again, presumably for a feast at the schoolgrounds.


Mygosh! This is how I dressed daily in the hippiedaze of yore:


And now? These kids dress in modern and stylish clothes, and paint their nails (while I run around in shorts and tops, and swimsuits). But oh, their parents remember the past -- it all changed in one generation and that generation is barely middle-aged, and they are happy to tell tales of how it was before vehicles and electric lights, those days when they carried torches to light their way through the jungles between the sparse houses. But they live in the present.

And this brings me to crocodiles (see earlier posts). Here is a crocodile's child, who swam out to the mouth of the river, got caught in the seine there, where he drowned....


...and became dinner for us all. Who knew (certainly not I) that crocodiles are white, tender meat, not stringy at all. They have a pleasant but slight taste of fish (their primary food), but the meat is not of itself gamey. Then of course, cook the meat in barbecue sauce, and you get smiles like these. The cook, Sara, is busy preparing fresh-squoze fruit drink for us in the background. Her husband, Guillermo, and youngest daughter Ariana -- well, their smiles tell all:


And the neighbors start coming by for a bowl as well.... This is their niece who lives just across the road, and those eyes just peering up over the table on the right -- that's her little brother. He wants some, too. And he shall have some.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Man, Am I Lucky, or What?

Last post, I commented on how I have deduced, from observation, just how excruciatingly painful an attack from a stingray must be.

Today I was hit!

My friend and I were busy boogie-ing the big ones that crash close to shore, yeeee-haw and all that, bouncing and careening wildly amid the whitewater swirls. We were wearing sandals (yeah, as if that could help), and mindfully shuffling our feet every time we touched the sandy bottom... and we kept ourselves in one well-shuffled section of the ocean -- figuring we had thus cleared it of the stingrays.

Wrong.

I had just come off a big ride towards shore, and was turning back to go catch another one when I felt repeated and very hard jabs against the ball of my big toe joint. But no pain whatsoever!

Yeah! I am One Lucky Being.

Mind you, I was wearing only Chacos --- which are just a few straps wrapped around the foot, holding on the thick rubber sole. However, the ray happened to mount its attack and hit my foot EXACTLY on the strap that wraps itself just above my big toe joint!

I left that water grinning!

Now we are all plotting of a way to make over-the-ankle booties out of that thickness of strap material.....

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Of Crocodiles & Soccer Games & Other Sundry Things

CROCODILES

I have now EATEN crocodile. Pictures will be posted sometime in December. Crocodile is a white meat (who knew?). It is a light, pleasant meat. It does not taste like chicken. It tastes like a good fish (which means it is not rank, not chewy and stringy, but delicate and pleasant to eat). The Mexican barbacoa sauce was also excellent. I ate a section of the tail, which is considered a delicacy both here and in the southern US States (US$50/plate I hear). Robert is soaking the skull in some water in order to put it on display along with various other unusual skulls he is collecting. I will make more, oddly esoteric, comments when I post the photos of the crocodile shortly after it was taken from the sea. It was a young and beautiful creature.

SOCCER GAMES

I toyed with titling this one "traffic jams" because that is what was going on. Imagine if you will, us driving our rig from our humble abode in the village and then across the river at our customary low-water crossing (nothing resembling a bridge) -- and our rig being PASSED mid'stream by not one but two little golf-cart like things with a gringo couple in each---coming from OUR village-side of the river (say what?). Then, where the one-lane dusty track narrows with fences and thick jungly growth on one side and a cornfield (Guille's cornfield of slingshot-and-raccoon fame), we all were stopped in our tracks by several small trucks of villagers coming the other way.

A really-truly traffic jam!

That gave us time to chat with the gringos -- the who/what/why kind of thing. Turns out, they were returning from, ahem, a GIRL'S SOCCER MATCH in our village, out in the field on the far end of our village (far from us who live on the other far end). It was our village girls (we have a TEAM??!?) versus the girls from the village across the river.

I have never seen any of the girls in our village in soccer gear, nor kicking a ball around the dirt road that runs through this long village. Never heard of any practices, nor of any games.

That just MIGHT be a partial explanation why our girls lost 0 - 20.

OTHER SUNDRY THINGS:

THE HUNTER LAMENTS...for instance.

Here is this tidbit about the Great Slayer of Raccoons, Crocodiles and All. The other day, Guille (pronounced with a HARD "g" as in "good" -- GEE-yay) came to our porch from where he was slashing undergrowth. In his hand he held a very large pupa of a butterfly. He was gentle, and quietly lamented that he had not seen it in time. It cannot grow now, he said sadly, and then he lay it softly down among the flowers by our porch.

It was the pupa of one of those magnificent very large all-white butterflies that enchants us whenever one passes by. Alas, that us gringos refer to it as the Kleenex-butterfly but then it DOES look like a flying Kleenex.

But the point of this Sundry Thing, is how gentle, and sorry he was for destroying it.

Quietly, to myself, I also simply lament the systematic destruction of this overgrown weed-tree patch that is our backyard. It had been abandoned for 18 years when we bought it, and remained almost untouched since we moved here in 2004. But now, we are slowly cutting it back--almost by 1/3 at least by now -- and replanting it with very desirable trees. We thin out the weed trees, leaving just enough to shade the newly planted ones, so all is not clear-cut.

My quiet concern is that all this time, I have enjoyed the utter wildness of this untamed over/undergrowth.... so filled with chattering birds, home to so many fluttering butterflies, refuge of small animals cruising by.

What becomes of the wild flutterers, and the ground creepers? Said Omar to me, in response to this question, "Oh, they'll just go somewhere else." but extinct is where they go in the end.

Slowly but surely, as the village population grows and as tourism grows, all these patches are being cleared... Where will the Dios Mio bird flee to? That is my name for a very surprisingly large, remarkable woodpecker, that is also quite shy. Because of the now-extinct "Oh My God" woodpecker (Ivory-billed Woodpecker, destroyed by development in the southern US), I named this bird similarly. Where WILL it go?

ROOSTER TALK

I had this playful email conversation with a friend who lives in Panama (and previously Costa Rica) about what the roosters say! After all, we each live among them, and they are very present in our lives. So, among the many things I hear, one thing is an insistent "Happy BIRTHday!!" My friend mentioned that where he lives, among many things, is an insistent "Put the drink DOWN!!"

So I asked Guille if the locals heard words amid the rooster-squawks. Why yes, they do, he reported with a grin. "Levanta-te YA!!" (getyourselfUP!!) and "Estare-durMIda!" (I was SLEEPing!").

What do YOUR roosters say!

STINGRAYS

Oh never mind. Who wants to talk about four hours of really bad (excruciating?? I wouldn't know personally but it sure looks like it is excruciating) pain? Instead, let me end this whimsy with....

COUNTING FLOWERS

My delightful Victorian Era Grandfather Ransom (William R. Ransom, who was born in 1876, when Billy the Kid was still alive, and who remembers when Lizzie Borden took that axe and gave her mother 40 whacks, and 41 to her father ...ooh, but I digress) --anyway, THAT Grandfather delighted us all in many ways and among his numerous books, wrote his string and paper tricks into a book, but I digress again. He deserves his own full biography, such a wonderful character he, with his cape, and his cane, and his wonderful graying, pointy goatee.

In his 90s, when I last visited him, he would greet me at the breakfast table, gently make a few fist-poundings upon the table and exclaim a number -- such as "16" or "24" or the like.

He was reporting how many morning-glories were open upon his trellis that morning.

So now, here in our humble Mexico abode, we have large, beautiful jamaica plants just beside our porch stairs. Like morning glories, their newest flowers bloom with the morning sun and then fade away (later to become the fruit that we all make into delicious cool drinks).

In his honor, I go out and count how many blooms there are of a morning, and report.

27.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Past Has Passed

Somewhere in the vast pile of notebooks sitting somewhere in a room back in Durango, are the essays I wrote, whilst swinging in a hammock, describing our very first days of living in the Little Salty Place village here in Mexico...

One poignant entry, as I recall, simply listed all the services that literally come to you -- even as you swing tranquilly in your hammock. These are the traveling salesmen, walking the long dusty roads from the highway, each of which leads to little villages tucked away near some freshwater springs or rivers or beaches. Our little place, for example, is close to five miles in, with only one other village halfway between.

Without that list, what I can recall is that these wares include the likes of fresh baked bread, fresh-killed chickens and iguanas, eggs, home-made cheese rounds, woven mats for your floor, hammocks, silverware and dishware, clothes for all ages, furniture of all kinds and sizes, blankets, bolts of cloth....

One poignant story glows in my memory...

Here was a sweet little family of three -- young mom, young dad, and their son of about five. Together, they had been pushing their wheelbarrow of wares all this way from the highway. Piled precariously atop were handcarved and handwoven child-sized chairs -- little rocking chairs.... Something for which we had no use.

But ah, Robert had something for them!

With a flashing grin, he winked at the little boy and brought from our storeroom a child-sized bicycle! "Para ti," he said as he gently pushed the bike towards him.

As you can imagine, they could not believe what Robert was offering. They said they had no money to buy it. Robert replied that it is a gift, at no cost, to them. The wife looked at me, woman to woman, and whispered, "Is this a joke?"

But no, it was not a joke.

You can well imagine their beaming faces, and the bouncing gait of the little boy as he wheeled his bike around to a level place where he could mount it. Zooooom!!!!

For years, we had been bringing down bicycles of all sizes -- which Robert would spruce up and then give out to the various kids in the village and nearby. We no longer do that for a number of reasons, but the most telling reason is the border crossing. For reasons important to the border guards, we are now required to pay a rather hefty fee for bringing any such gifts into Mexico (clothes included.... we also used to bring several boxes of clothes for all ages).

Ah, but I digress.

The era of such traveling salesfolk trundling up the path to our porch.... has ended. Oh, occasionally a local villager will stop by with perhaps a round of cheese or a fresh-baked bread (from their home-made horno), but it is not the same.

An era has ended.

But you know what!!?? There's a new service I just noticed... as I lay in my hammock one morning, I saw it happen.

This is a big deal, folks. No more seeking out waste cans in town, wherein we surreptitiously cram small bags. We now have a weekly garbage pickup. Just set your trash bags out by the road, and this big old rumbling truck comes by and heaves it into the back. Every Tuesday, at about 9:30am. Gratis.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Living in the Stone Age...

Yeah, well... we have gone and joined the Stone Age.

Last night, we each picked up a baseball sized stone to carry around in case we need to throw it at something. Guillermo is our inspiration.

We had just enjoyed a lovely sunset over on the ocean side of the river, followed by a cool surf video with our gringo friends. Now it was full on night. With just our one headlamp between us, and each of us armed with our big stone, we wended our way through the darkness... down the narrow jungly mud'road to the river (along which lurk numerous kinds of poisonous snakes and , well, you know), then we waded across the river still nearly knee-deep with a recognizable current, and then we were stepping gingerly alongside the river, next to the lagoon where dwells (ta-da) the crocodile (cocodrillo).

All the while, Robert scanned the surrounds with the one beam of light, looking for any reflection of yellow eyes. We were ready to pelt with our stones whatever threatened us. For how many millenia have vulnerable humans made this kind of journey, armed with only sticks and stones?

Not yesterday, but the day before yesterday, our reliable friend Guillermo had been back in his field patrolling for 'coons (mapache). You may recall previous entries where I describe the way he dispatched most of the wild animals he encountered -- with a well aimed stone. (NOTE--I have gone back and corrected my essay on his recent foray with the crocodile, because his stone did NOT miss the croc, but instead, hit it directly on top of the head, and the croc turned tail back into the swamp. Guille had, however, been aiming at the side of the head, which is more vulnerable to cracking open... Guille had barbacoa in mind).

But I digress. There was Guille on patrol just the other night, when he encountered an armadillo (armadillo in Spanish, of course). It took just one well-aimed stone...

....and so the very next day, which was just yesterday, we were all gathered around their table and dining on the creature. Do armadillos taste like chicken? No. This one tasted like delicious home'made spicy salsa, with fresh corn tortillas. What I did notice, is that the meat was well-cooked and not stringy or difficult to chew. (All this from a woman who would far prefer to remain vegetarian, but who recognizes that as an anthropologist/villager, it behooves me to cheerfully share the food they offer.)

Surf, you ask? Oh, that!!

Nothing for this boogie-boarder who has been in the sea only ONCE this entire time... too much basura (huge logs, small sticks, dirty crud) along the shore and floating in the water. For the surfers, however -- Robert has that same shit'eating grin on his face each time he returns from a session.

What is also sweet, is the regathering of the local clan of surfers from wherever we scatter to. And the stories and the adventures to share... There is this GREAT tale about a surfing competition where the surfers are actually dogs, down at Huntington Beach, CA.

And, since I have a rather lot of time on my hands, I now have a really cool found-driftwood piece that I turned into a really cool sculpture, carefully painted and mounted. I will post a photo upon our return to the States.

All is well here, tranquillo y amable, despite, ahem, the Troubles.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

THE MACHETE OR THE HEAVY BAR?

Good question.

That was the dilemma that Guillermo (same guy--what exciting times he faces, huh) faced recently, on yet another night across the river, en route home from guarding his field from the raccoons.

There, blocking his way, and stretched all the way across the road in front of him was a ginormous rattlesnake -- over 6 feet long, its head was not quite yet into the weeds across the road, its tail still obscured by the weeds on the other side of the road.

Guillermo had a machete in his right hand, and a long, heavy metal bar in his left hand. Which to use, which to use.... Well, which one would YOU use, and why?

I will end your suspense. He used the bar to crush its head, bringing it down with all his force. His rapid decision was based on, first, the striking distance of so large and muscular a rattler who knew well he was there. The bar is longer than the machete, so he need not stand so close. Secondly, a powerful swing from the bar is certain to crush the rattler's skull, and a machete may fail to cut through the thick skin of such a huge reptile.

Thirteen rattles on the tail, by the way.

He showed us its decapitated corpse, lying in the weeds alongside the road. His wife Sara was with us. I asked her why she didn't cook it up for dinner.... I know folks in the States sometimes do, for instance.

Her response was one word accompanied by a facial expression: "Guacala!" (Yuck!)

SO....... while I am still on the subject of Guillermo's practiced survival skills, let me just mention that a few years back, he also wrestled a crocodile to death, slitting its throat with his machete... while the whole village watched. THEN his wife DID cook it up, and served it to everyone. Barbecued crocodile is a specialty in these here parts. I guess I should be sorry I missed it.

Almost didn't, though. Just the other night... after his encounter with the rattler... Guillermo was coming home from the field and there, coming toward him from the shallows of the nearby swamp was (you guessed it) a crocodile. Not a big one as crocs go, but hey, some three feet long is far longer than I ever want to encounter.

What did he do? He picked up a big rock that just happened to be lying nearby and threw it full force at the croc's head. He hit it directly on top of its head, which is very thick. The croc immediately turned tail and hied itself back into the swamp. Guillermo lamented that he had been aiming for the side of the head, which is thinner -- hoping to crush the skull and thus provide the village with yet another barbecued croc.

This nearby river is back to being shallow enough that little kids play in it -- heck, there was a big in-water picnic there today with scads of kids, and a pick-up truck parked mid-river, from the tail'gate of which there were smiling moms serving plates of hot delicious home'made food for everyone.

All of this excitement around late-night river crossings has put a kind of kibosh on OUR plans to watch videos with our friends across the river. At least at night.

By the way, we gave Guillermo one of our fancy-dancy headlamps so he can always see ahead and around him without losing grip on any of his weapons.

Friday, October 21, 2011

AFTER THE DELUGE

It began with a blinding flash of light directly overhead, followed immediately by a deafening crash of thunder... and then a few drops of rain which rapidly escalated into a blinding hard rainfall. I had been lazing in a hammock in the ramada, casually glancing at the porch to watch the kids deeply engaged in their many activities--from scrabble to jenga, to building blocks to drawing etc...

What happened next was a blur of kids, gathering up their playthings and returning them to their storage space.... and then racing as fast as possible back to their various homes. Since the water had begun to splash my hammock, I figured what the hey, I'll saunter up to the porch, then.

From there, I spied Guillermo (of the slingshot and raccoon tale) sauntering up through the downpour with not a care in the world, though he was indeed dripping wet. He said he had come to invite us to dinner. He casually sat down on the top stair of our porch and watched the deluge just beyond his feet.

We assumed he was waiting for the rain to subside, so we just hung out, too -- just watching the rain pour down. It turned out, he was waiting for us to come along with him. This rainstorm was just beginning.... So together, off we stepped from the porch and into the water that was racing down our dirt driveway to the road below....

....which had become a river, with tributaries pouring in between every building... and as we progressed, soaking wet, we came to the next descent in our little dirt river-road and saw that we were heading for the Colorado River. With braced legs we pushed our way through the wild rapids... about knee-deep.. and into Guillermo's fenced in yard.

We ate standing up as their wall-less dining area was soaking wet. Excellent food as usual, just as good as the raccoon the other night. Then, we went to the upper porch to sit and watch, as the river in the road was augmented with waterfalls from surrounding fenced-in yards.

I liked imagining myself in a miniature raft, Grand Canyon style, and thus scouted for a route through the huge rolling rapids... but as the rain continued to fall, and the river continued to rise, the rapids became impassable for my imaginary raft... There was no safe route through the huge rollers of my imagined Colorado run.

As the flow began to seep into Guille & Sara´s yard, a light went on in Guille's mind. With a big grin, he splashed over to his wheelbarrow which was piled with organic leaf and twig litter and rolled it over to the torrent in the street... and dumped it. He shrugged as it swirled away downstream...because it was headed to the very river and ocean that he would have hauled it to on another day.

Throughout all of this wonderful maelstrom, one neighbor, the flamboyantly gay man, did as he always does -- he turned up the volume of his music so that above the pounding of rain on metal rooves, we could hear pounding drum-beats and screaming guitars!! Such a circus.

When the rain subsided somewhat, Robert and I waded out to survey the changes.

What stunned us was to see that the river itself -- the one we had crossed at night after a smaller storm when we first arrived -- was now utterly impassable. It was HUGE. It was now so wide that it was four to five times its usual width. It buried the road that parallels the river, and lapped against the surrounding hillsides. It raced furiously toward the sea, brown and roaring. It had risen some four to five feet. My imaginary Colorado River that ran through the streets was child's play to this... the real thing.

We tried walking alongside it down to the where the river empties into the sea --to the place where we originally camped the very first time we ever came to this beach. We couldn't make it. Not that night.

And now? After the deluge? You would hardly know it happened. The river is a wide, clear creek again. Roads are passable. All is well.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A la cena / at dinner

Smiles all around as we pile well-cooked chunks of meat-with-bone, steeped in a perfectly seasoned just-right-hot red sauce, onto our plates. Then we reach for the fresh-steaming blue corn tortillas from the nearby bowl. Our dear friend--also named Sara--keeps them coming straight from the wood-fire. The kids --teenagers now!!-- are also seated around the long wooden table. This is a cozy, easy-going gathering that we have been enjoying for these many years.

Now, her husband Guillermo commences to describe the events of the previous evening. This man of all trades -- this ocean-fisherman, farmer, builder, tool-fixer, gardener, father, mayor of the pueblo, born and raised right here and married to a village girl -- is also a skilled... well, here is his story:

His corn crop is just coming on to fully ripe, so he heads out to the field across the river (never mind the crocodile threat) with his two dogs -- at just around 10pm every night, to begin his continual circling of the field until just around 4am. If he hears a snap, or suspicious rustle of a cornstalk, he sics the dogs to the spot...

Barking loudly, the dogs race around and end up chasing the raccoons (oh, there are so very many these days) up into a nearby tree and hold them there...

...which is when Guillermo hauls out his sling-shot (with an outsized band) from his pocket, picks up a few good-sized stones, and then makes use of a skill he perfected as a kid growing up right here, doing the same thing. No wasted shots. Each pebble brings down a raccoon, and in that instant, the dogs are on it.

Within moments, the raccoons are dead. Son muertos, las mapaches.

Wow, sez I... and in my fractured Spanish, I comment that the dogs must have devoured those mapaches on the spot....

"No....." he says slowly. And with a flashing grin, he glances down at the bowl of fresh-cooked meat, and over at my plate.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Tales of Two Tails...

....tails of hurricanes, that is.

We were just settling in to a cozy day on the porch with reading material and projects -- while outside it was raining hard and steady. We figured we had a day of this, so we would just relax. Along comes Guillermo, our dear friend and neighbor, drenched to the skin but grinning. His news however was that we were --in for it! On the tele --as they call TV-- he just learned that our village would be drenched for days from two separate hurricanes whose tails were due to lash our coast, one after the other.

We thanked him profusely, and leapt into action.

To do nothing would strand us in our casita with low supplies for long past the predicted extended drenching. The road from the highway to our village is a long, winding, hilly mud'bog in the rain. We would have to drive our car out immediately or be trapped. So we prepared to drive out.

First, we went to Zihua to store up supplies. Loaded up, we did not bother trying to get back to our little salty place. By now, that road could well be impassable for our humble vehicle.

Instead, we went along the highway to the NEXT village, because....

...the next village along the coast just so happens to have a paved road from the highway all the way down to our same beach... where we also just happen to have friends who will let us park there.

Our village and this other village are NOT connected by a paved road along the beach....In fact, there is a river between the two villages -- the very river that causes the point'break that makes the waves so fine -- and there is no bridge. Only in far lower water would our car be able to splash through the river.

So! by the time we got all that done, it was dark -- we had food supplies, and our car was on the paved-road side for the river. However, and more to the point, we were now on THAT side of the river ourselves, which we knew would now be a rushing torrent, swollen by rain coming down from the nearby mountains.

Hmmmm..... We would have to make our way through it, in the dark, balancing our supplies on our shoulders to get back to our humble casita.... It was, of course, still raining hard.

Mind you, we have waded rushing torrents before, so know some tricks to keep us ON our feet against the current, and we are familiar with this riverbed from years of crossing it... but this would be a higher flow than we have encountered, and.... it is dark....

...and this is a jungly area with crocodiles and poisonous snakes all of whom swim, as well as lurk.

Deep breath.

Shoreline... sure is higher than we had ever seen it. We both laughed, shook our heads, took a deep breath, banded ourselves together for extra strength against an unknown current, and headed in.

Obviously, we made it.

Furthermore, because of the storms and our slow-to-dry road, we are just keeping our car over there, and hauling stuff back and forth across the river on foot -- which thankfully is not so wild now.

We have yet to get in the sea.

The surf is wildly exciting and crashing everywhere, and the wind is powerful. So! We meet with friends for beer and guacamole at one brave restaurant that remains open -- and watch the sea foam skitter wildly across the flying sand.

It aint half bad.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

¿Where Are the Snake People?

For years, we would stop by their psuedo village along the highway -- ramshackle dwellings stretching into the distance, each cobbled together from found wood and whatever. We called them The Snake People, because one way they hoped to bring in tourists, and money, was to sell snakeskins. Each shack boasted a rack of dried skins waving in the wind. They also sold live birds and little mammals in home-made cages.

The people themselves were clad in outfits cobbled together from found cloth and whatever... if they had shoes, they were rarely the right size, and broken down, and covered in dust. The people would surround our car, pointing at a half'eaten sandwich by my feet, the waterbottle in my hand -- they wanted anything, everything. Each visit, we unloaded a box or two, or three, filled with yard'sale dresses, shirts, pants, baby clothes, kids clothes, shoes of all sizes... There was no fighting among them to get to the things in the boxes. Together, they would haul them off... to somewhere... presumably to divide up among the rest of their kin.

But now, there is no sign of them. The roadside is completely cleared of all trace. Where did they go?

Coincidentally --or not-- we had to quit bringing down these boxes of goods. The last time we did we were halted at the border, and told by the gentlemen wearing badges that we must pay an (exhorbitant) fee for these goods. Same goes for the bikes we used to haul down.

Meanwhile, there are "other" snake people blending in wherever.

And as for us? Life is so sweet in the village. Yesterday was stellar. The children who once were small brought their little siblings and relatives over, in order to introduce them to our storehouse of toys. They themselves have outgrown all but scrabble and large jigsaw puzzles...

Thus our toyroom, our porch, and our ramada were once again filled with laughter and hijinks as kids built, destroyed, and redesigned towering (to them) edifices of plastic blocks and wood blocks, and drove toy tractors, cars, and wild toy animals all in and about them.

The rain clattering on the roof and splashing all along the edges where they played -- they paid it no mind. And they did not leave til dark -- til their mamacitas called them in for cena.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Men at Work

How can you NOT love Robert! I mean, just LOOK at his "ladder"! He had planned to do all the structural work for the roof by himself but....

...he realized that if he hired a crew of experienced hands, THEY could do it and he could go surfing.... which is what he did. (You can scroll down to the entry "Starting Little Fires" to get a glimpse at the completed roof, though the roof was not the point of that photo.)

Oh, and then for the less challenging work, well, how about a cup of coffee? What you're seeing IS true in the moment -- our dear friend Guillermo sips hot coffee (made by me) while his wife Sara slaves away stripping bark for what will become really cool arched corner bracing on our new structure. You'll see.... just tune in here next fall. (these two are parents of Ariana, Sandra, Memo, and Flori, btw). Doesn't look like Robert's inclined to work either. In truth, the men HAVE been working, and hard. They deserve the shade, the seat, and the sipping.

NOTE: I just discovered that you can double-click on any of these teeny photos and get a good quality enlargement -- should you want to.

Mothers' Love...

Let's begin with little Dana (Dah'nah). Happy, confident, delightful child who waves at me even from a great distance, big grin on her face. Her initially tragic story is told in the entry "Honoring Edith" found in the Dec. 7, 2010 blog. She is the little sister of my beloved Luis, also found in even earlier blogs. Edith, Edith, your children are doing very well. You have graced our lives with them. Happy Mothers' Day.

Sweet friends of ours through all these years,
blossoming into young women...
dressed up to celebrate Mothers' Day

Mothers' Day at the elementary school in our little village,
and every kid had a song and dance routine to share...
It was of course, all too cute.


And here is just a sampling of the adoring mothers --
many more than appear here...

Childs' Play


I'm a perpetual child when it comes to artwork... and a friend whose mandala work is stunning suggested I try using black paper for the background. So, experimenting with cheap crayons, pencils, and then with more expensive "crayons" and pencils... I came up with these....



BUT! A mere child of --gosh I think he's still only 4 (FOUR) -- did this with what was sold to me as a magnetic tic-tac-toe set. Some imagination. Catches my eye, there on our door:

Garden of Eden

This is my favorite photo... mymymy, small miracles.


Can you see our guest among the ripening mangoes?
We're grateful for all comers.
We have four huge trees, all ripening and dropping mangoes at the same time...
hard to even give 'em away.


And this is my second most favorite photo.... The Enigma.
No-one planted it. No-one waters it. It just growed.
This is right next to our entry steps, up to the porch.


Ah! La Coneja / The Rabbit!
Ariana has come to LOVE our kitchen-sink fresh salads and races over to help prepare and share. Happy to oblige. It was SHE who first called US rabbits for eating fresh foods. Then -- at the tender age of 12, she tried something new -- and loved it.


Nice, huh?
Our ramada in repose. Come relax in a hammock with us. We have more. You can make out the mangoes in the distance --suspended green balls; but do you see the perfectly ripe papaya (bright orange) between the green posts, glowing between the two hammocks? Like all villagers, we have many little gardens, and keep all walking spaces cleared and swept. There be tiny venomous snakes and insects that can hide in weeds and grasses.

Starting Little Fires...

This ain't Colorado --
Well aware of the horrific conflagrations in the Four Corners area, I wanted to contrast that situation with the one we have in our little pueblo in Mexico.
You can't hardly START a fire here.

SO! With the pix below, you can put your cursor on them, and drag them over into the blue space to the right and see the whole photo clearly.


Note my lighter is held to a small pile of dry leaves, surrounded by a carpet of dry leaves...
By the way, you can just make out the roof of our little home in the background.
Every day I kneel down amid the carpet of dry leaves and set just such a small blaze.
I'm actually burning TP beneath those leaves, as we have no toilet yet --
important to keep the environment clean of such trash, y'know.


My mischievous grin is precisely with this blog in mind -- how you cannotcannot do this in the Four Corners. And I'm about to turn my back on this, and walk away, not a care in mind...


....because I know full well that the fire will self-extinguish within moments.
Here it is, completely out, all on its own -- bone-dry leaves all around and a wind, too!


BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE!!
Here's a HUGER conflagration, set deliberately, just behind our living area....

....and all present could care less.
You can just make out the blaze beyond the walking man in white --Robert, who set it.
(NOTE: drag this photo to the right to see the finished roofwork mentioned in another entry)
All in all, this is quite a blessing.
Everyone here cooks their meals over open fires.

Surfin' Safari

The surfer stands tall, checking the waves....
Yes, that would be Robert atop our ramada.


...and afoot through the jungly growth and across the river, he is greeted by whimsy.


Ah! He reaches the seashore -- that's Robert with the yellow/blue board.


He will join the parade of surfers heading toward the surf.


Ahhhh.....
(Alas, the pix I have of Robert surfing are in a format I cannot post here!)

Recycling Awareness

Your garbage kills the life of the sea.


The beach is for everyone. Take care of it. Recycle.


Save the sea. Use less plastic. Recycle for the sake of Life.


Love your planet. Keep Saladita clean.


Recycling is Life.

Monday, June 6, 2011

"Check Twice -- Cut Once"

Hmmmm...... "check twice/cut once." So if you check twice, you end up cutting ELEVEN times?

Maybe we´ve just been in our sweet pueblito too long. "Once" means "eleven" in Spanish, in case you don´t speak the language. But "eleven cuts" is rather annoyingly accurate...

What I refer to is this: we are feverishly trying to finish the roof over our new bathing/etc structure before we drive back north (pix of construction work are scattered in previous entries in this blog). However, it gets devilishly hot VERY early in the morning and only gets hotter with each day. I say "WE" but it is mostly "HE" -- namely Robert -- who is up there on a ladder, balancing on unsteady boards, measuring and handling a running saw, and wielding a hammer and nails. I remain below, in order to set out food (such as I have) and cold drinks..... and hover nearby to pick up anything important that might be dropped, or needed.

So yeah! In the heat, he has measured but not always managed an accurate second check -- and thus has made -- well, MAYBE as many as eleven wrong cuts if ALL were added up... but there have been far more accurate cuts, mind you. But with all that is left to do in order to get the roof finished so we can drive back north, it began to look like a late June takeoff for us.

So! MILAGRO (miracle) in the form of one very big oversight! making it all turn out all right.....

Momo sauntered up the driveway early this morning -- dear friend who always greets us with a big "Sayonara!" and the occasional "Konichiwa!" He sized up the situation quite accurately and said he had some friends nearby who are experts in putting up these kinds tile rooves (roofs?)... and went off to bring them by.

THEY sized up the situation VERY accurately.

The slope of our roof is not steep enough for water to pour down along the curved valleys of the tiles (teja) without leaking. They demonstrated with real tiles and real water. They were right.

On the ground below the structure, we have a beeeeg stack of clay tiles (red tejas) -- now useless to us. The young men gently recommended that we use galvanized roofing such as we have on all of our other structures.... (Incidentally, the slope on all of our other roofs is as gentle, so what did we know? We were just keeping a visual conformity, I guess.)

One kinda wishes they had come by before we had poured the tall cement posts at carefully measured heights... heights measured to create a gentle slope.

The Blessing is this: since we can´t use the tejas, and since Robert is thoroughly exhausted with the work he has already done from the ground up, and since this kind of work is what these guys DO, and since they are available and ask a reasonable fee -- we came to town today. We ordered a properly measured amount of galvanized roofing to be delivered to our place pronto.

Tomorrow, these guys will set to work, and Robert will unwind and go surfing in the continually great waves (what a season, I mean WHAT A SEASON! for boarders and boogiers alike).

All´s well that ends well.

Monday, May 23, 2011

SHOCK THE ANTHRO MAJOR (Part Two)

So... this morning I was sitting in a humble, traditional Mexican-style beach restaurant, sand floor and no frills. Run by a dear friend from our village, Olympita, we often park our shoes, sunglasses and whatnot here before hitting the surf with our boards. This particular morning, however, I felt like hanging out a bit before boogie'ing the biggies (yeah! they were big yet again).

Anthropology major that am, I ordered a coffee and invited Olympita to join me and thus began the conversation about her childhood.... I´ve been on a run with this topic, talking to various of the elders on this topic (NOTE: I am actually older than most of the people I talk to about their childhood, but their descriptions of their childhood is very similar to that of my mother, born in 1909 in rural Missouri).... What they tell me, and the tone of voice they use, and the facial expressions of nostalgia... Fascinating stuff and it is so very too bad that I am not completely fluent in Spanish in order to capture and record this fleeting, nay, altogether vanished(!) lifestyle.

Over fresh-off-the-grill salted tortillas and hot coffee (Nescafe...mmmgood), she began speaking of how she learned to make tortillas.

She was raised in a big family of kids up in the mountains (she pointed behind her to where the mountains rise into the mist of morning). Her mama would hand her a ball of dough and teach her how to expand and flatten it into a nice round shape for tossing on the hot-plate.

"But!" she added, if she did not do it right, her mama would grab her hand and place her HAND directly on the hot-plate to teach her to pay attention. (Must not display overt shock or they will stop talking -- lesson from Anthro 101)

Aw, the hell those rules -- I was shocked! Thinking back to my childhood and recalling the only incident of (attempted) corporeal punishment on my person, I commented that I would have run away! That is, after all, how I responded to the one time my parents concertedly ambushed me with malice aforethought -- dad attempting to hold me down while mom attempted to wash out my mouth with a soapy washcloth (ooooh, I had said a bad word indeed...) NOBODY was gonna do that to ME! I went into high-gear strength and was slippier than any soap, man. I was out the door and GONE!

However, I did not describe that incident to Olympita. That is one of the handy aspects to having a strong language barrier. Just as well.

All that I said was, "I would have run away."

So! Shock the Anthro Major once again. She began shaking her head sideways and saying that you wouldn´t dare run away! What her parents did if you tried, was take your feet and burn the bottoms of them, so that you could NOT run away again for some time.... so that you would think about it long and hard before attempting it....

More customers arrived, the waves rose high and beckoned.... and thus this conversation was put on pause.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

SHOCK the Anthro Major (Pt.1)

(Warning: here follows a silly post, inspired by how uproariously, laughingly, I was shocked at what I saw as a complete cultural mismatch/mishmash of behaviors, a la Anthro 101 in college. BTW, I was an Anthro Major. Mexicans, I had been taught, certainly love to laugh and are very easy-going, but there is a level of dignity -- particularly w/r sexual references, and most particularly in public -- that must be observed. Hmmm.....)

Return to this post in June for photographs of what is described below!!

So, as happens every spring, I was invited to attend the show put on by the primary school children in celebration of their Mothers. Each year, the mommies dress up beautifully, and all the little kids (kindergarten up to around 5th grade) put on a series of playful skits in costumes and song. Then they serve their mommies really good food (cooked by the mommies beforehand, but nevermind). Very silly, very sweet.

This year, there was a different teacher/organizer. Instead of the bouncy, boisterous woman who drove in from Zihuatanejo (when she felt like it, and if not, there was no school that day) -- now there was a very nice young man (married)... who has yet to develop the skill of presenting playful skits and songs. Still, the little darlings were cute despite mumbling their lines with their backs to the audience, and walking offstage to be with mommy.... We were all charmed anyway.

The stage is just a paved playground, by the way. Mommies are seated in schoolroom chairs under the big shade trees nearby.

None of this was shocking... just not as much fun as before.

What got me laughing uproariously, were the activities set up for the mommies to participate in after the kids were done and the food was eaten. These activities were apparently selected by this nice young married man who is the new teacher, since he directed them.

Mind you, everything I describe below was presented in the presence of the sweet little K-5 kids...

Dancing. Which couple dances the best? One mommy poses as the guy for each couple, of course. There were no husbands present. Applause is the indicator for "best," and done in elimination format. So! What we had were mommies shimmying, and doing hip'thrusts, and breast-shakes.... the wilder, the better, and that is who won.

Lap-dancing. Say what? So now... one woman, posing as the guy, sits in a chair, front and center. The partner slithers all around...but I won´t bother writing graphic descriptions beyond that. Applause for the raunchiest determines the winner once again. Not all the women were shy and demure....

Ca-ca aiming. Say WHAT? Yeah. You read right. So, they line up a bunch of mommies with their backs to those of us balancing on school'desks in the shade. Then, they tie a string around the mommy´s waist, with a dangly thing down their back to which is tied a cylindrical stubby stick. Below that, on the ground, is a cup. Each mommy then squats ever so carefully, down and down, trying to get that stubby brown thing into the cup without tipping it over. There WAS a winner.

Loudest laugher. Had there been a prize for this, I would have won hands-down, I think. We were all laughing and pointing and having a great time, but I was also mega-surprised at the breaking of what I had assumed were strong cultural taboos. I know well that the women can be delightfully raunchy at a gathering for "gallinas only" (Robert was shooed away -- no "gallos" allowed). But this was right out there among their kids. So what was I laughing at? Myself!

Friday, May 6, 2011

A BRILLIANT OPPONENT

While enjoying a cleansing hot/soapy shower on, hmmm -- was it September 11 maybe, and 2001 I believe was the year -- Robert handed the phone to me past the shower curtain. It was my sister. All she said was, "Turn on the television."

Keeping her on the line, I dripped my way down the hallway, into the living room, and turned on the TV. Standing there soaking-naked-wet, I watched in silence the repeating imagery of planes crashing into towers -- towers yet to crash to the ground.... I heard, as yet, no narrative.

"Oooooh," I said quietly. "we'd better start building more schools and hospitals around the world...." But I knew we wouldn't.

So did Osama binLaden. He knew we would explode into a fury of playground "hit back harder!" mentality. He knew we would fracture the fabric of our society, and stretch thin the financial and economic fabric of our nation. All he needed to do was make one stupendous, brilliantly engineered, visually stunning attack.... and then sit back and watch us fragment.

For that, I view him as a... what adjective can I use?.... worthy, true, formidable, challenging? ... nah. I'll stick with brilliant.... he was a brilliant opponent. And because of that, I am relieved to read that his body was treated respectfully, and given the proper religious rites of his faith, and that his body was relegated to the sea----that great equalizer that accepts all. And yes, I lit a stick of incense for his spirit... as I always light one for ourselves as well, we who are formidable opponents in our own way (I haven't seen much brilliance lately from our side).

And so NOW!!! Only today(!), in an English-language newspaper printed for us English-speakers in Mexico, do I read of the reaction that I asked for back then. Let me quote, with tears in my eyes:

"It's time to end the wars that have created more enemies than have been conquered. It's time to move forward... Bombs and guns aren't needed for that task. Teachers, doctors and engineers are the ones we need to enlist now. Democracy will come, sooner or later. One of the lessons I hope we have learned in recent months is that freedom can't be a genetically engineered crop.

"More than anything else, U.S foreigh policy must shift to reflect the best of what America has to offer. No longer can support for brutal dictators be justified in the name of so-called strategic interests at the expense of the democratic aspirations of people around the world. That murky euphemism for corporate profits and US goals must be redefined.

"Let the celebration that erupted on Sunday be a celebration for a new way of relating to each other...

"Let us celebrate our shared humanity, our shared global interest in the support of peace, justice, freedom, and the kind of prosperity that takes into account the consequences of nature itself, which is the foundation of all life on the planet we inhabit...."

(by Nafisa Haji of the Bloomsberg News; author of "The Sweetness of Tears" and "The Writing on My Forehead" -- article republished on Friday, May 6, 2011 in "The News" from Mexico: www.thenews.com.mx )

Monday, May 2, 2011

Bubbles Bursting in Air

For my momentous 65th (see the essay just below this one, "Rights of Passage," for commentary on THAT thought), Robert offered a Repeat of a Most Wonderful, Romantic Day.

Last CENTURY (in the 19´s, that is to say: 1997) we celebrated our 5th Anniversary Together --right here in Zihuatanejo.... That was actually years before we discovered our present surfing beach, and even more years before we bought our little casita en el pueblito --the sweet home I call Eden, in a little village filled with people who describe themselves (accurately) as "tranquilo y amable" -- tranquil and friendly.

On that day, we had wandered all the colorful tourist shops, treated ourselves to pure-fruit popsicles (paleta), and dined at a beach restaurant, toes in the sand... a margarita for me, excellent fish dinner, a rose in a vase --- and furthermore, Robert engaged the wandering troubadors to personally serenade us together on our anniversary. "Malaguena" brought tears to our eyes...

"Let´s just relive that entire day," was his invitation.

Improvement: instead of paletas (paletas have degenerated into frozen artifically-flavored sugar water), we had Italian Gelatto with local exquisite fruits mixed in. Yummmmissimo.

That´s it.

The rest was, shall I write, a DIS-improvement.

Putting a positive spin on it: EVERYTHING that we looked forward to (now gone to flinders in Zihua, to put it mildly) can be found in diamond-style perfection in our village!!

For example, our closest village friends (Sara y Guille and their kids) are delightful, funny, laid'back family to us. Guille is a skillful fisherman with his hand'thrown net, and Sara is a cook extraordinaire. Thus, we are frequently invited to superbly prepared FRESH fish dinners with fresh-made hot blue-corn tortillas, salad and various sides, fresh-squoze fruit drinks.... and so on and so on!!!

So...contrast THAT to what I was served in Zihua -- soggy fish with glutinous onions globbing atop, and soggy salad leaves with bits of tomato, and one tiny slop of pureed bean "dip."

I didn´t dare bother with a margarita... Dos Equis did me fine.

As for the endearing craftspersons wandering table-to-table with their (mass-generated in China?) cute bobble-head animals, and stone (real stone or disguised?) necklaces and ear-rings etc... Well, we have plenty from years here, but still we bought a few more....

......only to be REALLY surprised by a cute, crisply dressed, nicely coiffed little girl who raced to my side and attempted to steal my coins as I counted them out! When I intercepted her thievery she PINCHED me and tried again. When I pushed the coins further from her grasp she pinched me all the more, and tried again, shoving her body against mine to reach further! In Spanish I told her that these things were not hers. Don´t touch. And I added, (not knowing the word for "pinch"), "Don´t HIT me!" She paid me no mind. Charming, to say the least. Great way to encourage sales from the gringos....

But the penultimate disappointment on this Would-be Romantic Night with my Husband-Lover was this.....

No wandering troubadors!!! No traditional quartet of musicians going from table to table, offering the old corridas with their banged-up, well-played instruments, singing in heartbreakingly beautiful and tight harmonies... No "Malaguena" for me on my birthday...

Instead, there was a nice, young man with his guitar and squawking loudspeaker equipment, seated on a platform. He sang modern songs. It was hard to simply talk to my love, and harder yet to hear the gentle whisper of water retreating, and then the crash of gentle waves upon the sand.

It was good to be back home again. We brought home really good ice cream (wrapped in a fleece sleeping bag...and that WORKED) and took it over to Sara y Guille´s house. All their kids gathered 'round, and we just laughed it up around their table in the front yard, with all of the village life going on all around us. Kids learning to ride bikes, boys chasing each other for whyever, babies playing in the dirt with little horses or whatever, moms leaning against a wall gossiping. Our friends live right in the very center of the pueblito. Where it´s AT!!!

The Rights of Passage:

> 16
On my 16th birthday, I was right there at the front of the line to take my driver´s test. When the man handed me my license, my dad held my hand with the card in it, and said solemnly (to this effect): ¨Now, this license gives you all the rights and responsibilities of a full adult. Don´t go acting like a child with it. Do you understand?¨

So! That night, I filled the family car with as many friends as could fit, and I drove through the center of town!! I was showing off to them what were still 15, I s´pose.

But! What´s this? A cop car pulled up in the lane alongside me, and the cop was yelling something through his open window. I slowed down. He slowed down. I kept slowing down ever slower. He kept "pace." ("Man, am I ever in trouble," thinks I.) Finally, the cop took a flashlight and shone it directly into my eyes. Oh...yeah. Forgot to turn on my lights after dark.

> 21
On my 21st birthday -- this was that great, momentous day in which I became recognized as a really truly fully legal humdinger ADULT (meaning now I can legally drink and now I can legally vote!!!!) Proudly, I ordered a (just one, as I have never really cared for alcohol) "Sloe Gin Fizz." Sounded grown-up to me. When I bragged to a young man of greater age about that, he shook his head and muttered, ¨You might as well have ordered strawberry pop.¨ And thus did he pop my bubble. And as for voting... remember Gene? You know, McCarthy!


> 65
Yeah, well... um, this was that inevitable day -- the one whose rights include being relegated to the old fogie bin, BUT(!) also making me elegible for Medicare and "senior" privileges. So, uh, is this the end of being an "adult" ?? Now I am referred to as a "Senior"...

I do believe that I shall now revel in.... Senior Moments! Stay in the Present Moment, that is. Om Mani Padme Hum..... Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.... Jai HO!!!!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"Tortilla Western" -- THE SEQUEL!!

Just when you thought it was finished, and you imagined the sun setting on the ocean in a triumphant display of colors over a radiant sea..... For those hardwired/devoted fans of my blithering entries, you will recall a previous entry in which I challenged you to come up with a screenplay for "Tortilla Western" --giving you a plot outline (and for the rest of you, scroll down to find it)... The Loner is back! Whodathunkit?

So far, no flak on the beach or in the waves --but you should see the movie trailer for "Tortilla Western/Part 2" -- the glimpse of what is in store. The trailer should include a redux of one scene which I did not delineate previously. At the time, I thought it did not really matter. Turns out it is rather pivotal.

It involves a fight in amongst the big waves (which indeed happened before the Big Showdown, of course). Starts out with lotsa surfers jockeying for big perfect waves, and the Loner is determined to steal them all, and does so successfully...

Enter the Good Guy who challenges his treachery by being a damned good surfer himself and taking the waves away from time to time... Then! Picture a surfboard shoved by the loner directly into the chin of a good guy... missing his throat (where it was aimed) but ripping his chin. The Good Guy had just flown in from surfing the 100-foot waves of Hawaii so, as you can imagine, he is stoked -- and now he's mad. Really mad. There ensues a fistfight in the wave --a very one-sided fistfight, that is. I can offer choreographic descriptions for the screenplay if you need it. Rather ferocious, but dangitall, satisfying if you get my gist....

Then, imagine the script taking us to a courtroom scene! The Loner is claiming injustice and wants reparation. Then imagine this: the ONE influential surfer (famous, big name) who did NOT see the fight from start to finish is called to testify. Oh the injustice of it! All he saw were the punches after the surfboard attack, and therefore he testified against the Good Guy. Major injustice, major upset....

Result: the Good Guy is banned from the beach, with a strict injunction to stay away from the Loner. Bummer (and massive miscarriage of justice). But the Good Guy shrugs and heads stateside to surf. Then.....who shows up Stateside? Who is actually stalking him? And how? and how!

But he makes no confrontation in the waves. Instead, the Loner goes to the U.S. police and demands that the Good Guy be arrested for stalking him.... says he is an Arab terrorist to boot, and made more claims I have forgotten (use your imagination, all you script-writers). The cops actually track the GG to his personal home and arrest him and throw him in jail!! On the word of the Loner.

That's the trailer folks... come on back if you want to see more of the movie... which has yet to unfold.

BONUS SECTION:
For the faithful among you who have read so far, here's another chapter in another potential screenplay. Remember the Drug Wars that you've been reading about, the scary stuff going on in Mexico, which is why many of you don't feel like, um, visiting us here? Here's grist for your mill:

Twas the night before last, and all through the village, barely a creature was stirring as the cool of night settled gently on a sundrenched land. We rocked gently in our hammocks, under our ramada roof, intoxicated by our night-blooming jasmine filling the air. The waves had been grand both for Robert in the big stuff, and me in the boogie'waves....really grand and wild for me. Visions of sleep drifted through our reveries...

But all was interrupted by big motors and lights --stopping just at the foot of our hill, by our driveway.

What to our wondering eyes did appear but two truckloads of Federales in their black-hooded gear! With beeeg rifles in arm. They were piling out and walking into courtyards, and standing outside other homes, just looking in... As we peered around from the side of our hammocks, a small floodlight was waved onto our faces. Gringos. No problem.

And apparently there was no problem anywhere else either. After a short visit, they all piled back into their trucks, laboriously worked at turning around in our one-lane dirt road, and drove off, down into the river'way and over to the main beach.

We were mildly concerned... the younger brother of our next-door neighbor had been involved in the wars and turned up dead awhile back. But the Federales didn't go to that house...

The following morning, our favorite village friends came beaming over as they often do --bearing ripe fruit and big smiles. We served them our fresh-ground coffee and oatmeal with fixin's -- and as we all settled in to watch the hummingbirds on the new papaya sprouts (from the trunk of the veryvery tall papaya that was cut down last fall) --we casually inquired about the Visitation of the past night.

Absolutely NO concern on their part: Oh, they're just doing their rounds. It's normal... With a wave of a hand and a bright smile, they dismissed it all... and we settled back into enjoying the birdcalls all around, commenting now and again on various fruiting trees and their care... Kids started dropping by to take out our toys and absorb themselves in imaginative play...

Just another day in paradiso a la mexicana.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

¡¡YA BASTA!!

No, that heading does not mean what you might be thinking it means. It simply means "Enough already!"

But first:
Mind you, all is well in our little pueblo --so much we are loving our friends and "almost"family here. And the neighboring kids are dropping by to check out what new playthings I brought down this time--and bringing along their very shy, new, little brothers/sisters to meet the gringos -- and to learn that we are not ogres despite our pale appearance. All is so sweet...

Our four huge mango trees are sporting WALLS of mangos like ever growing, huge-already, beads, ripening in the sun, soon to be ready for the picking. Papayas, guavas, too. The grapes and various other fruits are slower. And ah, the flowers abound on the ground and all through the tree branches--think bougainevillea (bugambilia in Spanish) and see red, white, and mauve.

Waves WERE huge (as in 15'footers!!) and we WOULD have been here for them --which brings me to the title of this silly little essay: "¡YA BASTA!"

We had to leave one day late (thanks to pollen allergies which disabled me, til Louise of the Naturopathic Wisdom came to the rescue)....

Then half'way through our drive, in our most non-favorite town, we came to a stuttering halt.

Monclova! Pretty place, with sights and all to offer -- but seemingly crawling with corrupt cops. All of us gringos know this place. You commit NO infraction, but get pulled over anyway and charged with some bogus traffic violation, and a HUGE fine. No receipt, of course. Just "Hand over the money, Gringo!"

We fell for it once, knowing we were being royally fleeced. The guy told us we were technically a TRUCK because we had some bikes lashed to the back of our station wagon. And as a truck, we failed to STOP at a railroad crossing, and flash our lights. That will be $200 US, please. Robert argued, got it down to 100 outrageous dollars and off we went, enraged.

Discussing this with other equally robbed gringos, we learned the trick. Future stops through town (on inventive infractions indeed) were utterly defused by Robert. The ace-in-the-hole is to insist that we all go traipsing over to the central police station and deal with the infraction THERE. At this point, the cop always dematerializes into the traffic, without our cash, and we drive on.

THIS time ---hohoho!! Robert somehow reallytruly DID run right through a red light -- not once but two times!! The first time he did it, there was a cop car right beside us who.....was oblivious to our sin. We drove through and out of town, home-free...

...until Robert noticed that the car had heated up to almost evaporation in a puff of black smoke.
>>We hobbled back to town ever so carefully, and ended up spending the next two days working on finding and repairing the cause for over'heating.... Robert under the hood forever it seemed. When he would declare the car fixed, we´d head out of town and -- just at the top of the hill outside of town--the gauge would be back in the red--and back we´d go into town.

Don´t you know, we were BOUND to get stopped at SOME point by a robber-cop, yes? But of course. And on what (truly, in the moment) bogus charge? For running a red light! No kidding. We had NOT run a red light, not that time... and maybe we should have paid the fine simply for past unseen crimes...

...but not for the humongous sum he demanded, and especially, without giving us a piece of paper in exchange.

So...Robert pulled out the same ace-in-the-hole surefire ticket-expunger ("Take me to your leader.") -- and furthermore lectured the guy on how the cops are well known for this trick -- all highwaymen/robbers and etc etc etc... he told the cop they were all just seeking to fund their private fiestas with their friends, etcetcetc... That worked. ¡¡YA BASTA!!

After those two days stuck in Monclova, we drove up that long hill out of town successfully, and on to our digs by the sea...
...only to hear about the huge swell we had just missed. Had we left on Monday as planned, we would have arrived on Wednesday and been in the....thick?.... of it. As it is, the taper'down ain´t bad, though. We wear ourselves out every afternoon (after working on cleaning up and setting up house), have cervezas y algo a comer at the restaurant at the far end of the beach, and then stroll home in the dark (with little headlamps, mom) through the coco groves and across the little river -- the one where there are no more crocodiles (see previous posts for that story).

See you later, alligators.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Oops! Sculptures...


On the first warm day since onset of winter (March 1, 2011, it was), I got back into my habit of creating "Oops Sculptures" -- so-called because I buy whatever paint colors are available at paint stores (those cheap ones where the tint was misdone -- oops!), and then look around for something to paint. Of those I've created over the years, none but this most recent one remains… nor will this one last. Such is their fate.

NOTE: Gone. Only lasted a month. As soon as we left town, the same "over-zealous man with a wheelbarrow" who destroyed "Vishnu/Lakshmi" and "White Bird..." took exception to this Oops Sculpture, too -- had it hauled off as part of spring cleanup, I suppose. Just empty ground when we returned from our journey. Not a word spoken. Not to worry. I have plenty more paint and plenty of downed trees. Robert offered to find a really interesting piece and set it up vertically in the yard, for greater visibility. Offer accepted.

What I loved was seeing a troop of neighboring kids make a little expedition to this suddenly-appearing colorful whatsit. That's why I do this! Such playfulness with simple, accessible objects can open up creative energies in others....

Now... since they are all gone, here is the elegy to former Oops Sculptures:

Farewell to "White Bird in a Golden Cage" -- inspired by a vivid dream, I painted long, curved branches gold, and set them in a circle (anchored by a tire hub) to form a cage. Inside was a stick, painted white, which rose from the center and took an abrupt 90-degree bend as though forming a perch. Destroyed by over-zealous games of catch between humans and dogs.

Farewell to "Universe in a Rabbit Hutch" -- I painted the abandoned 3-cage rabbit hutch a deep red on the outside, and a deep purple inside. Within those three cages were (1) The Sun; (2) The Moon; and (3) The Stars. Each of these was represented by found objects from around the yard (a hubcap, and various other shiny objects). A friend asked for it, so she could raise rabbits. There it sits in her yard, with its fallen sun, moon and stars -- and nary a rabbit.

Farewell to "Vishnu/Lakshmi" -- Now this one! I have a photo of this one. Any modern person familiar with the Hindu pantheon and symbols would see what once was, with the staff of Vishnu, the crown and feminine bow of Lakshmi, the offering bowls at their feet… Destroyed for "being in the way" by an over-zealous man with a wheelbarrow. I really loved this one...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

On the Dirty Devil...


This is a crayon drawing based on a photo--

That's me, dragging my boat along the shallow water of the Dirty Devil River in Utah... I've just about reached a portion of the river that will float my boat, in all senses of that phrase. These sections of the river that had sufficient flow were, unfortunately, somewhat rare..

In fact, we took to saying that the water was "a foot deep" -- meaning that it was JUST enough water to reach up to your ankles--precisely one human's foot deep.

Today, on this cold snowy day in February, I got to remembering this cold snowy outing on the Dirty Devil... We were told that the temperature would hover the 80s at the coolest, so I brought shorts and t-shirts and sandals. To the surprise of us all, it snowed with a horrific headwind for almost ALL of our multi-day camping adventure..... I learned on that trip that I am a trooper! I would shake the snow off of my sandals in the morning, and get out there and brave it again.

Did we love the trip? Hell, yeah! Spectacular red-rock beauty abounding, including wild hikes through Robber's Roost (google that), wildlife, camaraderie.... all in exquisite wilderness.

(Note: JUST as I was tearing this drawing out of the book--the dang thing ripped in half.... you can see the tear. Part of the charm... I guess.)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

WINTER FOLLIES OF WINTER FOOLS


That's me on skis, Robert on snowboard.
Yeeeeee-ha!

Friday, January 7, 2011

From weird sounds in the night, dear Lord, deliver us...



Was it 3am? I woke suddenly to what sounded to me like death screams, or at least very badly wounded screams. "Robert! What's going on out there?"

Our house is at the bottom of a wild hill, the terminus of a long ridge that leads directly into the wilderness. We are in the curve of a mountain stream. Thus, our hill is the trail down to water: deer, elk, bears, coyotes, mountain lions, raccoons, all kinds of wildlife (birds fly in of course) traipse through.

And SOMETHING was having trouble in its traipse. I was up and out of bed and at the window in a flash -- seeing nothing of course. It was nighttime, after all.

"Probably a raccoon," he said sleepily, and rolled over.

He was right, but I had to see it for myself -- visions of a grievously injured creature needing help? What did I think I would be able to do for it, anyway? (Here I insert the welded-in memory of childhood, when I arose in my nightie and raced outside to comb our neighborhood, seeking my cat whose cries had awakened me... do we ever change?)


This time, it being full-on winter, I pulled on my long undies, sweater, fleece pants, right over my silk pajamas, then tugged on my snowboots, coat, hat, mittens -- grabbed a headlamp AND a large-beam flashlight and headed out.

The cries were so distressing, so regular, so high-pitched. I slipped and fell on all fours repeatedly as I clambered up the steep hillside in deep snow. The cries were very close by.

Just there, on the other side of a patch of weed trees! A humongously huge furry thing -- and yes! the tell-tale-banded-tail of a raccoon -- was hunched over something furry. The screams continued.

A short time later, the furry thing underneath was flipped over onto its back, revealing -- yes! the tell-tale-banded-tail of a raccoon! A much smaller one. And the screams continued... despite two bright beams of light focused directly on them. Their backs were facing me, if that made any difference.

I watched in fascination -- until the screaming stopped a moment and the humongous aggressor seemed as if it just might be turning to check me out. I did NOT scream, but I was slip-sliding back down the slope as fast as I could....what HAD I been thinking to venture out so vulnerably? My mind was racing with visions of razor-sharp teeth in my calf from one humongous furry thing....

But that did not happen.

Once I was safely back inside, the screams began anew -- but from farther away, up the hill somewhere.... Robert, who grew up right here, and has been attuned to the natural world all his life, mumbled something about it being a dominance fight. The big guy, all fluffed out for winter warmth (and not ALL as big as he looked), was just letting the intruder know who owns this turf. As an afterthought, he mumbled, "That coon wouldn't chase you. He wasn't cornered." Then he was snoring again.

Robert can do that. He can respond to any interruption in his sleep in perfectly coherent, and correct comments, and be back asleep in seconds. I lay awake for some long time... taking it all in.

The next morning (THIS morning), I showed Robert the site of the fight. No blood, just ruffled snow. He marveled at how close to the fight I had been standing. "Well," he said with a laugh, "you had a front-row seat -- to something that was hair-raising." And off he went to shave and begin the morning.