Morning song

imageMorning song

Waking up in a village full of roosters. A shimmering sound wave, rippling from top to bottom, punctuated by a barking dog or two. This predawn symphony enters the lucid dream space, calling you into the new day.

Next is the sound of flowing water. Someone switches on the pump that fills the pila and the tinaco, siphoning water from the mainline that carries it from the mountains through the town. You can hear the clanging sound of last nights dishes being washed. Water being dipped and poured from the pila with small buckets.

Muted voices speaking indecipherable Spanish mingle with brightly colored birds announcing the morning light.

Open your eyes… The sky is pink now.

The gas truck and other venders begin driving around at this time, announcing their services with bells, megaphones and speakers bolted to the top of their vehicles. Their music pierces the air, jolting you out of bed if you weren’t already. Even the man yelling has a musical lilt as he describes the contents of his truck.

By now the women are sweeping. Houses and shop fronts get washed with buckets of water and brooms that have seen better days. And most days the agitator washing machine begins it’s rhythmic cycle, adding to the unique layers of sound.

If you’re still listening, the streets are filling with the sound of children walking to school with their parents. Everyone walks here. And the occasional clip clop of horses hooves can be heard now.

Cars lacking mufflers, delivery trucks and the combi are present now and the day is officially underway…

How many more mornings like this one? I will be at my rancho soon…
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I have been sitting up all night. Many rounds and many spoons. My back is breaking as the dawn breaks. Everything is connected. The water woman sits over her shining bucket, in silence, about to begin her prayer. We will all drink deeply and sing four last songs. Time stands still. Each and every one of us is about to greet our new beginning… In a good way. The door is about to open.

Getting there…

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Before leaving the USA, I deeply contemplated wether or not to bring the kids car seats. Hours upon hours weighing the risks vs the benefits. Now as I sit here in central Mexico, where transportation is everything except what would be considered acceptable in the states, I can’t help but laugh at all my careful consideration.

There are cars here and people really use them. V’s brother, for example, has a tiny car similar to a geo metro. When he drove us to see our house for the first time, we squeezed 10 people inside the bright red, 2 door, 4 seater. Who needs seat belts when you’re packed so tight you can’t even breathe? Perfectly safe.

A main method of getting from A to B here if it’s too far to walk (and too far to walk definitely depends on who you ask), is the Combi. It’s like the city bus, except there are no designated stops or schedules. This dilapidated fleet of 1970’s VW busses are cheap to ride, smell like exhaust, and will carry as much as they can possibly hold and then some… I have seen farm tools, rolls of fencing, caged chickens, groceries, school children… You name it. If it fits, it goes. We even hauled trees to our new house on the combi one day.

Our long, 8 hour drive from Mexico City, with a stop in Toluca, was in a combi. Wooden bench seating around the sides, we filled it way past maximum capacity. We had eleven people, fifteen suitcases and a jogging stroller inside. At one point while stuck in traffic in Mexico City, we stalled in a mostly dark tunnel with fish painted inside to look like an underwater ocean scene. The driver could not get it started again and traffic began going around us. It was hot and the air was thick with the smell of fuel. After several attempts, he began flicking a lighter somewhere under the dash. Then the engine started up and we sped off!

As soon as we entered Michoacan, we were stopped by the Policia. They approached us with their large assault rifles and the driver looked back at us and said “Tiene propina?” (do you have a tip/bribe?) Abuelo forked over 200 pesos, the officer let his gun fall to his side, smiled and waived us on.

Taxis are another option, though they are more expensive than the combi. One day we stuffed 4 adults and 3 kids in the back seat of a taxi to make the 40 minute drive to zitacuaro. There are “topes” (speed bumps) everywhere and we were bottoming out, scraping the under carriage, on each one. Despite the full load and the extreme difficulty the taxi had making it up the hills, our driver did not hesitate to make dangerously close passes, as often as possible, around slower moving vehicles. When we finally arrived at our destination near “el jardin” (the garden/ central plaza), Abuelo could barely stand up. We had been so squished for so long that his foot and leg was asleep. We had to sit on the corner and wait until he could walk again!

On any given day here, you see people riding horses, pushing wheel barrels full of anything you can imagine, driving motorcycles or scooters with no helmet- sometimes with half a dozen people on one. Pick up trucks with plenty of folks riding in the back, even cars with the trunk popped open and passengers sitting inside with their feet hanging out. I have yet to see someone put on a seat belt and have never seen a child in a car seat. Even the police ride in the back of their pick up trucks, standing up with their guns up and ready. It’s a different world.

The only bicycle. I have seen here had a home made knife sharpening contraption built onto it. The man rode around town whistling to announce his services. And one more bicycle just now with large boxes filled with several dozen small chickens.

Since I have been here, I have never been in a transportation situation that would have accommodated one car seat, let alone three. For what it’s worth, I’m happy to have my baby tied into my rebozo, eating or sleeping, instead of in the back seat strapped in crying. And I have walked more here in a month than I would in a year in el Norte.

Mexico

imageI have been in Mexico for a month now, though it feels like much longer. I wish I could say that it has been amazing, wonderful and everything I hoped it would be. The truth is it has been exhausting, overwhelming and extremely difficult. There have been days that I felt like this was the biggest mistake of my life. V has not joined us yet and there is still no clear time frame for the completion of the house. Progress is painfully slow and it is nowhere near livable, at least not with three little kids.

Of all the things I left behind, I miss having my own personal space and independence the most. It’s hard being a long term house guest with four kids. I have no privacy and no down time. Every conversation and interaction requires my full attention, and there are hazards everywhere. This place is not exactly set up for small children. Transportation to the house is complicated, and walking doesn’t appear to be an option with all these kids and the several hot miles of hills, unchained dogs and other mysterious things that make the walk “muy peligroso” or very dangerous. So here I am, losing the last bit of my sanity and grace, in a bright blue cracked stucco room, in the impossibly gorgeous tropical mountain paradise I now call home.

With only basic language skills, I never know exactly what (or when) I’m getting in to, so I’ve learned to keep a bag packed with baby essentials and a full water bottle… And that the phrase “muy temprano” means very early.

Our last trip to the house was to plant fruit trees. Manderin oranges, apples, guavas and nuts. We carried eight trees, a pick ax and a machete on the Combi, a 1970’s VW bus that appears to have no set schedule and serves as the public transportation system. We got off at a seemingly random, unmarked spot on the road that turned out to be a short cut (kind of) to our house. The ramshackle trail led down a deeply rutted dirt path, shifty rock stairways, through back yards with barking dogs and hissing geese, smokey kitchens and laundry drying in the hot morning sun, avocado and banana trees, tropical vines and flowers and finally, to our front gate.

Abuelo chiseled out the places for the first three trees, then said something I couldn’t comprehend and ran up the hill. I assumed he went to check the water line, as we would need to fill the tinaco to water the newly planted trees. When he didn’t return after thirty minutes I realized we were stuck there with 5 more trees, 3 babies, 2 oranges and my water bottle. We (mostly Sid) got the trees planted and watered despite the heat, crying babies and no breakfast. Then miraculously, a relative appeared, and it was time to go. We ducked into a smoke filled kitchen and drank tall glasses of water while our eyes adjusted to the darkness. We watched the chickens and bubbling pots for a moment, exchanged a few words and then we were off… Walking several miles, up hill in the sweltering afternoon sun, through dusty avocado orchards, carrying the two smallest, sleeping children.

Fresh tortillas, eggs and ham and a large pitcher of water were waiting for us when we arrived. After we ate, we rested in the shade, and for the first time since I’ve been here, I felt myself sink in a little bit. We decided to stay with her for a few days, let the kids climb the avocado trees and chase chickens. Turns out that it was exactly what I needed.

The next morning, with two bags and a large plastic pitcher with a string for the handle, we started walking up the dirt road behind the house. I didn’t know where we were going or what she had in the bags. We quickly reached a plateau with a view that went on forever. Steep cliff like hills dangerously dropping off into the rolling mountain valley below… All avocado trees. Miles and miles of avocados. As far as you could see.

We stood there taking in the view for a moment, then she motioned for us to follow her, and she began descending the cliff. I hesitated for a moment, baby in my rebozo, holding tight to my two year olds hand, then started down. One misplaced step could send you all the way to the bottom… I felt the dirt slide out from beneath my feet a few times. Luckily we were not going far. She stopped in the well of an avocado tree, a small, flat, shaded area terraced into the hill side, and set down her bags. Her husband appeared, he had been working nearby, we were bringing him lunch. She quickly unpacked everything…

It was there- sitting at the top of an avocado orchard, clinging to the cliff eating hot tortillas with chicken feet and boiled squash, drinking fresh guava juice, taking in the view and the sounds and the smells- that I had my first, amazing, “I have arrived!” moment. Finally. THIS! I felt the stress of the past several weeks drain out of me. An indescribable sense of lightness filled me and I fully realized exactly where I am… And that this was just a normal part of her day that we happened to tag along for.

Say yes. Even if you’re not sure what you’re saying yes to… Just go. You never know where the day will take you…

“Well the first days are the hardest days, don’t you worry anymore…” – Jerry Garcia

Time to fly away…

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The moment I have been waiting for is too close now. The last kiss…I love you… Then leap and hold my breath until my feet touch the ground again. This is not the time to think. Just move. And don’t stop until the dust settles and daddy’s home.

El Techo

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Demolition of my old life is in it’s final phase. With six days left here in the states, I woke up to a team of roofers tearing our roof off. The irony here is deep.

It would be easy to be grumpy about this loud and dirty interruption of our last few days here. But then I would miss the perfection, the reflection and endless strength and confirmation offered up in the pandemonium.

All of the roofers are Mexican. Along with the all consuming symphony of banging, tearing and stomping just above my head, is the cacophony of men yelling to each other in Spanish. This is important because it is the same stream of sound that woke me from my peaceful slumber the day I met V. I laid in bed listening for a while before opening the window shade, and there he was. Right outside my window, standing on a ladder. I knew the moment I saw him….

That was six years ago.

This morning our three small children are running around like wild beasts in our empty house while the roof is being ripped off. It’s loud. It’s echoing. They are violently tearing the lid off, the last of anything hanging on is being shredded right now.

I feel a rushing wind at my back. The strings tying my feet to the ground have been clipped and I am floating. It feels like that moment in labor when your water breaks. The ultimate sense of relief. You know you’re about to meet your baby and nothing can stop it now.

Astrologically speaking, this is a very important time of endings and beginnings. Things that began in 2008 are in the final stage of completion right now. 2008 is the year that I gave away all of my possessions, packed my Subaru and drove to Mexico. Back then, I had no idea what I was doing, no money and no plan. Now I have all of those things…

THIS is what I was hoping to find then. THIS is what I wrote in the sand. The guys on my roof are helping me see the circle.

They are blasting Mexican music as they take their sawzalls and pry bars to anything that’s stubborn or stuck. This is the soundtrack of my upheaval. The destruction has become hilarious.

The Final Seven

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The last days. I don’t know what I thought it would be like, but it is so much more.

Imagine yourself, in the routine of your daily life, then strip it all away. Take out most of your possessions and your excesses. Your comforts and distractions. Your furniture, your cookware, your dishes. Give away your TV, your sofa, your books. Stop any projects, drop your hobbies, create nothing. Take away your vehicle, someone else will run your errands now…

So here you are. Your walls are bare. Your cupboards are empty and you cannot go anywhere. Yet life continues. Make coffee in the morning. You feed your family and wash laundry… Only now you’re stacking it into a suitcase. Something monumental is about to happen, yet daily life ticks on as if nothing were coming at all.

Nervous excitement fills the air. Electric. Like wild animals before an earthquake, we pace and shift and lash out. There is no buffer. No padding. Nothing to distract from what’s been coming for years…

I am extremely uncomfortable.

Before this, I thought that the things were the problem. If only we could get rid of all of this excess. The meaningless piles consumerism that were cluttering up our lives. While letting go and clearing space is cathartic in itself, eventually you are left with something you cannot get rid of. Yourself. Suddenly the raw, inner core is revealed, and you realize that it was never really about the stuff…

What the fuck is it that I am looking for? What do I need to feel clear? How do I shed these layers of self? I don’t want to carry them into the next life…

It’s easy to find enlightenment in an ashram. Peaceful and austere. Or to hear the voice of God, alone on the hill, with nothing but a blanket. The Buddhist monk, the tai chi master, the zen gardener… They have removed themselves from the chaos of daily living in order to entrain the mind.

It’s all in the mind. Your space can be clear but if the mind is cluttered, you will never be content.

Now that my space is clear, the clutter in my mind is even louder. And I am not in a forest. I am not at a yoga retreat in Bali. I am smack dab in the middle of my real life. Screaming kids, maple syrup and chicken feathers. The constant need with no down time or space to follow my own breath. The mundane, the chaos, the postpartum hormone flux. This is real. If I can find my center here, even for a moment… Bless.

There is no life preserver. The waves are pulling the ship out fast and I am in the waters of my own creation. The Hopi elders warn against trying to hold on to the shore… It will rip you apart. They say let the water carry you. And look around… See who’s in there with you.

There is no room here for hesitation. The door I have been calling to is finally wide open. It’s time to cross the threshold.