me

My hands are cracked and stained from touching so much earth and fire. I smell like wood smoke, guavas and sweat. My skin is turning brown and my back hurts. Sometimes, at the end of the day, my legs will no longer carry me. I finally feel like my life is real.

I do not have a mirror in my house. I reflect when the night lights come out and illuminate all the things that really matter. The stars, lightning and fireflies make night magic. Most nights I fall asleep before it even begins.

I wait for the inner peace and calm that these people seem to have. I’m beginning to think that they are simply too tired to fight. The people in my house are not that tired yet. Maybe I have too many kids. Maybe we have not been here long enough yet. Maybe I will never learn how to just be…

The rain is falling fast now. Squeeky bike wheels are silenced by the sound of thunder splitting the sky. The baby is finally sleeping. I can rest for a moment. Drink water. Everything else is.

Life here is heavy and never stops.

7 me pic

trouble in paradise

Aire en la mangera, tainted salad and other dilemas…

The Hopi prophecy says “Know your water”. This is especially important in Mexico. We have had continuous water issues since we moved in to our house. Not the kind of water problems people talk about when traveling here… Instead of worrying about whether or not we can drink the water, we worry about whether or not we will have any. Most days, the water never comes.

The water system in our tiny town in Michoacan is a large scale version of what we set up at the rainbow gathering. There is a mainline that flows from the mountains, through a canal of sorts, that is channeled to several strategically placed large stone tanks. Many pvc hoses then draw from those tanks and carry water to the houses twice a day, filling tinacos and pilas. Unless for some reason, they don’t.

There are two reasons why the water wouldn’t come. You could have a broken hose, in which case you need to walk to the tank, following the line, looking for the hole. This is more complicated than it sounds, because there are several dozen identical hoses running together and sometimes they disappear underground to cross roads or driveways.

The second reason could be that you have “aire en la mangera” or air in the hose. I believe that this is our problem. To fix this, you need to know when the water is turned on, which can be challenging when the water is not visibly flowing from the hose. Then you need to open and close the end of the hose with your hand until you have a strong flow. If this doesn’t work, you have to follow the hose to the tank and try to fix the problem there. If we still have no water after checking the hose, V puts the tinaco in the back of the truck and drives to the river to fill it with the pump. The water has not been on for days now and the pila is less than half full of river water.It’s pretty disgusting and needs to be cleaned. Again.However, draining it before we get the water flowing means no water at all.

Dirty water leads me to our next problem. .. At some point it had to happen. Something more than we bargained for. We are in Mexico after all…

We are all sick. It could be that we ate some tainted salad, or infected fruit from Zitacuaro. Who knows really. We wash our produce with bottled water and never let our food sit out. It could be too much “mal aire” or bad air… This explaination still baffles me but seems to be a common scapegoat for any illness. In any case, we all feel terrible. The remedies don’t help much, so we are waiting it out. Trying to tend fires and children and sheep through it all. And still trying to fix the water.

More often than not, it rains at some point during the day now. Plenty of water faling from the sky means that all the poisionous insects and snakes are looking for dry places to hide. Our house seems like the perfect place. We find several alacranes inside each day. These are small scorpion like bugs that like to hide in wood and dark corners. They have a poisionous sting that sometimes causes an allergic reaction that can be fatal. Several varities of beetles, spiders and snakes, including rattlesnake, of which we have killed three and have them drying on the roof. Centipedes come in many colors, some more dangerous than others. And of course, there are mosquitoes, flies and other pinching bugs.

Overall, it’s not so bad here. Head south a bit and all of these bad animals are much bigger and much more deadly. We have to check out beds daily and shake out our shoes and clothes religiously. With all this and more, it’s best to pay attention or you pay the price here.

6 Trouble in paradise pic

The River

I will not wait for anyone. My words fall on deaf ears. This is mine and I will make it.

With my baby on my back I carry my machete to find firewood. I stay close and keep fires going inside a cave of clay and ashes. My comal always ready to fill an empty belly. And there are many.

I carry water in a sacred way. For the cooking and the washing. How many times I watched the water woman pray. I never understood the depth of her wisdom. Now I am her, with fewer words, but this is life.

For me, it is better to say nothing. I will find my own way. I am.

Total chaos. Children crying. Fires that need tending. Dogs under my feet. Buckets spilling. I need to pee but I better not stop… Pots bubbling over. Sweating. Dirty. Flies buzzing around my head. Everything is everywhere, half finished, “just for now”. Never enough but always too much…

When I stop long enough to take a breath, the pressure of the now fades into the background and I feel like I am ancient. The details dissappear and I remember everything. It’s not easy to find that first breath.

The river is always flowing.

Then sometimes I remember that I am the river. Flowing effortlessly around the rocks. Carving out new landscapes. And that there is only now. So walk in beauty. Make it that way.

Aho.

5 The river pic

June, 5 2015

A little bit more each day. We are sitting on a pile of supplies that should be enough to complete several projects around here. The bathroom floor and toilet, the roof for the pila, the stove, sheep fence and chicken house, finishing the doors and windows with putty and stain… we also have more fruit trees to plant somewhere in between the daily chores, which are so much more consuming here.

As usual, a lot has been happening. I made a small experimental garden area with a papaya tree in the center. It’s on the slope that leads into our house, terraced with stones. I planted some herb and vegetable seeds. The soil is pure black here and the weather is like a green house. I imagine they will do very well.

I bought a washing machine. Let me start by saying that I have been hand washing clothes and diapers for five (Sid does his own) and our living situation is similar to camping in a construction site with small children. I have not been able to get to the bottom of our laundry pile since we moved in. This machine, however, is not at all like the ones back home. It is a machine that washes clothes, but it still requires a lot of manual labor. I fill the machine with buckets of water from the pila. The machine agitates the clothes only. Then I ring the soap out by hand, rinse with a bucket and ring by hand again before hanging on the line to dry. When I first got here, I thought this machine hardly sounded worth it. But believe me, it’s worth every peso.

We also bought two dogs. I’m not sure what kind they are. We bought them from a man who was carrying them around in a shoe box on our last trip to the city. They are about a month old, a boy and a girl. The kids love them. And of course, they came with a bad case of fleas.

Speaking of bugs… we finally had our first emergency with the bad bugs here this morning. Being tropical, there are many strange poisonous things. Inti put his shoes on to go outside and immediately started screamimg that his foot hurt. I took off his shoe and dumped out a small scorpion called an alacran. These are very dangerous. V quickly tied a rope tight around his calf, put him in the truck and drove straight to the doctor. They gave him an anti-venom shot and he is fine, but we were all scared. I have found several of these in our house.We really need to get everything finished and sealed up.

In other strangeness here in Mexico… I’m having a hard time finding products for sale that are unscented. People here apparently love their toilet paper to smell like “manzanilla”. Diapers, vaseline and medicine are some other bizarre scented items I’ve found here. People love artificial fragrance and apply it liberally. Aerosol deoderant, body sprays and perfumes are extremely popular. No one has realized yet that these “beautifying” products may be harmful to their health. However, the puffy toilet seat that V bought, with the machine embroidered flower bouquet on the lid (yes, actually) came with a warning that says that “the state of California has found this product to cause cancer, birth defects and reproductive harm”. And people still smoke indoors in public places, like the icecream shop, for example. It’s a different world…

Other difficulties… The water has not come for four days now. We drained the tinaco and put it up on the roof above the bathroom. Now the pila is nearly empty and it’s pretty nasty at the bottom. We need to get the water going again, clean the pila and fill everything with fresh water. Water is a daily chore here. Walking up to check the hoses, and lately driving the truck to the river to fill the tinaco with the pump.

Here, time does not exist… yet there are never enough hours in the day.

4 June 5, 2015 update pic

remedios

Remedios (remedies)

Remedy for nausea and stomech pain. I have had “duele en la pansa” (stomach ache) on several ocassions.This remedy sounds awful, but it’s really not that bad and it does seem to help.

Mix and drink:

Juice of several limes

Carbonata (baking soda)

Olive oil

Coca-cola

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Remedy for fever or clearing depression/anxiety. I experienced this once and am still amazed that the woman was able to do this. First she put rubbing alcohol on her hands and wiped it over my face, head, neck and arms. Next, she took a big, deep breath, followed by a mouthfull of the alcohol (remember this is isopropyl alcohol, not meant for consumption). She opened my shirt and blew it out on my chest, forcefully blowing out all of her air. She repeated this again on my back. It produced an immediate cooling sensation. For what it’s worth, I did feel a bit better afterwards. The woman, however, had to sit down for quite while.

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Remedy for headache or colic. Using the fresh leaves of Mexican Altamisa (feverfew), rub vigorously between your palms, releasing the oils. Then, with a splash of rubbing alcohol and salt, rub all over the head, neck and belly.

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There is an herb here called Boleo. I’m not sure what the American counterpart would be, but it seems to be good for a variety of ailments. For sinus congestion, rub the fresh leaves to release oils and fragrance. Rub the mash under your nose, face and neck. Also used for headaches and nerves.

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Remedy for bruising. The obvious choice would be Arnica Montana, which I have seen used here in tincture form. The preferred remedy, however, is a topical application of Vicks Vaporub mixed with sugar, followed by the clear instructions to ingest no sugars for several hours.

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There is an herb here called Madrubia. It is gived to children to prevent crying. Used as a tea, eating the fresh leaves or as a limpieza. When this does not prevent further crying, the old ones tell the children that the far off dogs they hear barking are really a beast that eats children who cry too much. They also tell a story about a woman, La Llorna, who drowned her children in the river when they cried.

3 Remedios pic

Update May 2015

We have been living in our house for a few weeks now. It’s not at all what I thought it would be like. It’s a work in progress still in the beginning phase. A seed. Unfinished chaos. Absolutely loaded with potential.

We moved in the day we bought the mattress and fridge. It was a last minute decision that came after a long day in town shopping. The truck was loaded and we had nowhere else to store the large items. V didn’t want to leave them in the unsecured house overnight, so there it was.

We arrived t the house with the second load as it was getting dark. We switched on the lights, unloaded the truck and quickly realized that we had a problem. With no glass in the doors and windows, we were suddenly being swarmed by large flying beetles. Many blankets quickly went up to cover the open spaces and we thought it was over… until we turned off the lights. The beetles that were still inside the house began dive bombing our heads. Nobody could sleep tht night until every last beetle was squished. The beetles are attracted to the light. If you go to bed when it gets dark, no bugs. Lesson learned.

The first week I cooked on a three stone fire with a piece of rebar to balance the pot. Currently the stove is evolving… different versions of wood fired cooking. Avocado wood smells different than the wood in the northwest. There’s an abundance here. So far cooking is slow and smokey and requires a lot of attention. I’m working on a more effecient design that looks promising.

We finally have a bathroom… sort of. It’s better than a hole in the ground, but it’s not much more than that. V built a brick and concrete platform with a half wall on one side of the house. There is a toilet that sits over a pvc pipe. The “septic system” is a pipe that flows down into a metal 55 gallon barrel with holes in it. The barrel is burried at the bottom of the hill. This tiny 3 foot by 10 foot room may eventually have a flush system to replace the bucket method, a shower with a solar hot water heater and hopefully a little more privacy. A beautiful flowering tree planted nearby would suffice.

Like everything else, the water situation needs improvement. The pila and tinaco are filled by a hose that brings water from the mountains. The water flows randomly, at different times, and not everyday. The little creek is another option, but it would require a substantial investment to bring the water this far. For now we are buying drinking water in five gallon bottles. I will probably start boiling water for drinking and cooking as soon as I can find a good stainless steel pot. Aluminum is prevalent here… Another tinaco is on the shoppimg list as well. This would bring water to the bathroom. Without the tinaco, we use buckets. Lots and lots of buckets.

We bought a mom and baby sheep. They are eating the brush and weeds. We need to get a good dog soon. The stray population here is out of control.They rampage our outdoor kitchen and jump up on the pila looking for scraps of food. Chickens are coming soon also, eggs are expensive here.

The corn is nearly waist high now. They plowed the rows with two horses pulling a hand held metal plow. Several men followed behind the plow replacing the corn stalks that were knocked down. It took three days to finish our field. It’s hot and dusty back breaking manual labor. The men are paid 150 pesos per day, that’s about ten dollars US.

There is so much to do here everyday. Washing everything by hand and cooking for my family and all the workers on the fire. Gathering wood, clearing land, building things… There are workers here most days. I am thankful that things are getting done, but I am looking forward to the sweetness that is just around the corner. When “man camp” is gone and my house is a home instead of a construction site. I want to plant flowers and make pathways and find my groove here.

It’s getting there…

We are still very much in survival mode. We have a 2-3 day supply of food and water at any given time. We eat what’s available. Town is six miles away. It’s a lot of hard work. Everything is simple but nothing is easy. At the end of the day we are all dirty and tired. But it is real. And we are really doing it. Sometimes in the rare spaces between the chaos, I catch a fleeting glimpse of what is coming. And it’s well worth all this craziness.

Big love to all my dear ones from this lush, tropical mountain paradise… I miss you all.

2 Mexico update may 2015 pic

Homecoming

I will never forget the day V arrived.

It was hot outside. The kind of hot that sticks to the back of your neck and wrinkles your clothes. I heard a truck that sounded familiar and peeked out the window like I had so many times before. There in the late afternoon sun, the shining black dodge with the white lasso hanging from the rear view mirror, crawled slowly down the dusty road towards the blue house. The back was piled high with a towering load that was barely contained by the gray tarp covering it. The kids and I all ran out into the street. Neighbors and shop keepers stood on the sidewalk watching. People who leave rarely come home.

That night it rained for the first time in the two months since I had been here. The sunset brought the same dry lightning that had been hinting at the possibility of a storm for more than a week. Every night I would put the kids to bed then sit outside in the dark watching the sky light up behind the mountains.

The night V came home was different. As soon as it was dark, large rain drops began to fall. Slowly at first. You could hear them pinging off the tin roof that covered the pila. Soon they started falling faster. There was a brilliant flash and a powerful tearing sound, as if someone were violently ripping sheet metal. The noise shattered the sky for several seconds then rolled out deep and low and loud. Torrential downpour followed. Nearly continuous lightning and thunder so strong it shook the ground. I could feel it rattle my core.

The wind knocked the heavy pots off the ledge and the power came and went sporadically. This continued for most of the night. I couldn’t sleep at all, I felt electrified. Alive. The relief was incredible.

As I lay awake listening to the storm, the only thing I kept thinking, was that this was a very good omen. V brought the rains. It had been dry for so long. Everything living had been waiting moons for this. The corn, the avocados, all the plants and trees and flowers are drinking deeply now. Life giving water. Fortunate blessings. Thunder beings singing. Lightning discharging and clearing everything that had been building up… Opening the road.

This is going to be a good one.

1 Homecoming pic