Category Archives: San Miguel de Allende

IMG_20170528_183213

THE GATES OF HELL ARE ALWAYS OPEN, EVEN AT MIDNIGHT

 

“As my muscles weakened, my writing became stronger. As I slowly lost my speech, I gained my voice. As I diminished, I grew. As I lost so much, I finally started to find myself.”
          — Neil Selinger

On Sunday morning, the church bells in San Miguel de Allende are ringing wildly.

Carlito, my landlady’s skittish cat, is now happy to share the patio outside of the downstairs unit of the house where I’m living now in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.IMG_20170527_160828

In spite of the heat of our summer days, it stays cool here. Since I don’t have to work, I’ve been able to focus on a creative project for days.

I left the house only once this week — to pick up  a bag I’d ordered from a shop a friend recommended when I asked her where I could find a well-made, leather bag. I needed something big enough for a laptop, and with pockets on the outside for a cell phone, and a passport.

It was 9:30 in the morning when I got to the shop, and discovered that the store wouldn’t be open until 11. So I decided to walk down Pila Seca, away from the trendy shops on Zacateros, and find a place to have breakfast.

On Jesus Street, a few blocks away, I found a restaurant with a lush, indoor garden  where  hummingbirds come to drink the sweet nectar from the red hibiscus flowers, and the sugar water from the glass feeders that hang along the sides. IMG_20170612_153144

As I sat in the cool, green space of the garden, eating gingerbread pancakes with hot applesauce, and drinking fresh orange juice, and coffee — all for $5.00 —  I stopped to write in my journal:

Forget the afterlife. This is paradise enough for me.

The best thing I’ve found in San Miguel, though, is the vibrant artist and activist community that’s here.

I’ve met so many intelligent and creative women  — visual artists, photographers, political activists, and writers — who are passionate, growing, and curious.

They are proving to me that these years can be the happiest and most creative of our lives.

Jane Fonda is right, I think: the metaphor for ageing is no longer the arch: “you’re born, you peak at mid-life, and decline into decrepitude.”

The new metaphor for ageing, she says, “is a staircase that represents the human spirit as it continues to evolve upwards, bringing us into wholeness, authenticity, and wisdom.”

Even with physical challenges, we can still grow, and realise our potential. We can flourish.

Last week, I had coffee with my friend, Eli, the woman who introduced me to San Miguel Allende. She and her fiancé led the personal growth retreat I participated in last October, when I came to San Miguel de Allende for the first time.

When Eli and I were hiking along a trail in the amazing silence of El Charco, a botanical garden and ceremonial space about forty-five minutes away from San Miguel, Eli suggested that moving here might be the answer to my prayers.

As in the Paul Simon song, she “planted a seed in my brain that still remains, in the sound of silence.”

As we drank our cappuccinos last week, she told me I should be proud of myself for making this change.

I told her that moving here didn’t require too much courage, since I was so drawn to this city —  the music and art, and the friendliness and beauty of the Mexican people  — and I was ready for an adventure.

I  told her that I didn’t come here to escape Donald Trump, but neither was I sorry to be away from the noise in the United States.

We talked about the many opportunities that exist in San Miguel de Allende for political action.  And the alliances that have formed here as a result of shared concerns about what’s happening in the United States — the cuts to programs that benefit human beings, the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, and the 20 percent rise in hate crimes against already vulnerable populations, since the election.

“I’d never wish Trump and his gang on anyone,” said San Miguel activist, Cate Poe, “but I have to appreciate the new ways this travesty has brought us together. After five months of house meetings and political actions, now we have each other.”

So, yes:  I’m proud of myself for letting go.

Letting go of stuff.

Letting go of certainty.

Letting go of the familiar.

Lately I’ve been thinking about a Slovak proverb I heard quoted by a Jungian psychologist a few years ago. The saying is, “The gates of hell are always open, even at midnight.”

The Proverb was shocking, at first, but the more I think about it, the truer it is.

The saying speaks to what I learned at the personal growth retreat last October. In a moment of clarity, I saw that the quality of my life was totally up to me.

Eight months ago, I didn’t even know this joyful place existed.

As Eli likes to remind me, I didn’t even have a passport.

Now I have a passport, and an outside pocket on a new bag to keep it in.

And a not-so-skittish cat, who is scratching at the screen door, wanting to come in.

Even the cat knows, as Joni Mitchell sings in Down to You,

“It’s down to you….
You can crawl, you can fly, too.
It’s down to you.
It all comes down to you.”

IMG_20170528_183213

 

20170417_131820

KIDS, TRUCKS, AND THE LOVE OF LIFE

LIFE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WALL:
Kids, Trucks, and the Love of Life 

20170417_131820
I met Francisco, a mixed-race, bilingual, three-year-old, at the Geek and Coffee in Guadalupe two weeks after arriving in San Miguel de Allende.

Adjacent to the coffeehouse, there’s an enormous yard with picnic tables set in the shade of gigantic palm trees, brightly-coloured lawn chairs that are perfect for reading, and a children’s playground where parents bring their kids to play while they relax with an iced latte or cappuccino.

Francisco’s mom was untying a large, golden retriever from a metal stool the dog was about to pull over, when I noticed her children, and said, “hola!”

Her son came over, and immediately began talking to me in that spontaneous, open-hearted way that kids sometimes do — as if he’d known me all of his life.

When his mom saw how happy I was talking to him, she gave me a warning:

“He’s going to want to talk about trucks,” she said.   

Right away, he showed me his yellow dumpster truck with the big scoop attached, explained how it  worked, and said he wondered what would happen if a persona got picked up in the scoop.

I told him that would probably be dangerous for the human being.

Next, he showed me his other truck, which had a recycling logo on the side.

When he’d shown me all the doors that opened and closed, he moved closer to me, and began to tell me what seemed like a serious story in Spanish until he yelled out the last part of the story, and howled with laughter.

He looked at me, waiting for my response; but, unfortunately, my Spanish was too limited then to get the joke.

I told him I noticed that one of his trucks was a recycling truck.

He wanted to know what recycling was.

I explained that recycling is when you use something, like plastic, over and over again. For example, instead of throwing your plastic bags away, you can give them to the people at St. Paul’s Church, and they will make mattresses out of them for children who don’t have mattresses to sleep on.

If you use things over and over again, instead of throwing them away, then there’s not so much garbage in the ground, and it’s better for the environment— the earth, the trees, and the animals  — and it’s better for human beings, too.

It was hard to know if that explanation made sense, but he stood still for a while, contemplating it, and thinking about it, before he ran off to play with his friends in the playground.

His mother and I talked for a while about our recent moves to San Miguel de Allende, and how much we loved the city, before she ran off to prevent her two-year-old daughter from chasing the golden retriever she’d untied out of the gate leading to parking lot.

I wanted to say goodbye to him before I left, so I yelled across the yard, “Adios, Francisco!”

He looked puzzled. Who was shouting his name?

When he saw me waving, he yelled back in a loud voice, “Don’t forget what I told you about trucks!”

Everyone in the yard was grinning.

I assured him I would not forget what he told me, and, in fact, I thought about trucks all the way home. Now, I can’t help but notice each one:

The yellow dumpsters with forklifts; the fanciful trucks in the windows of the art galleries; the small pick-up trucks that carry vegetables down the narrow cobblestone streets to the local markets and grocery stores; and the flatbed truck my friend and I saw the other day that was stacked high with coffins, all wrapped in black cloth — a sight you’d only see in Mexico, where death is so much more in the open than it is in the United States.

But, so is the love of life more in the open in Mexico than it is in the United States. Every  week there’s another festival, a new reason to celebrate in the town square, and another reason for fireworks at 5 a.m.

As I walked home from the Geek and Coffee after meeting Francisco, I thought about trucks; but I also thought about the beauty of children, their innocence and trust, the passion and excitement for life that exists in the youngest of children.

I thought about how eager they are to connect with us through stories, especially the ones that make them howl with laughter, and the sweet, patient way they look at us, waiting to see if we will get the joke.

20170415_115534

Don’t forget what I told you about trucks!