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