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.”

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12 thoughts on “THE GATES OF HELL ARE ALWAYS OPEN, EVEN AT MIDNIGHT

  1. Crystal Thieringer

    Carolyn, how precious this time is for you. So much changed for you this year, missing your dad, leaving your students. Yet, look at you nourishing this new-found wisdom. I, for one, am grateful that you are sharing it. And that cat picture? It’s stunning. Live on, my friend. You are doing it so completely and so well.

    Reply
    1. cstuder0@gmail.com Post author

      Thank you, Crystal! As my former Sunday school teacher used to tell me, “God has surprises around every corner.” Thankfully, that turns out to be true.

      Reply
  2. Stella myers

    Carolyn, for a whole host of reasons, your life would not be my life, but a year ago it wasn’t yours either. I am so happy for you that you have found this place for your life to open up and new adventures to be. Thank you for sharing with us all. I feel the peace in your place.

    Reply
    1. cstuder0@gmail.com Post author

      Thank you, Stella! Having the space and time to write and travel has been such a gift.

      Reply
  3. Denise

    I am so glad you said “yes” to this adventure and opportunity! And I appreciate that you are sharing it with all of us. I admire your spirit and look forward to reading more about your new home.

    Reply
    1. cstuder0@gmail.com Post author

      Thanks, Denise! Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I’d end up in Mexico, but it’s a wonderful place to be, and live, and write.

      Reply
  4. Via

    Thank you for sharing your journey with us. It takes a great deal of courage to make such changes and look at you!! I am so glad that you have found a special place that you enjoy so much. Keep us posted!! Via

    Reply
    1. cstuder0@gmail.com Post author

      Thank you, Via! Every time I walk out the door, it’s an adventure. I’m loving it. Blessings to you!

      Reply
    1. cstuder0@gmail.com Post author

      Thank you so much, Tonia. I appreciate your response, and hope we can be together one day soon to talk writing and life and all that good stuff. I love Mexico, but miss our meet-ups.

      Reply
  5. Denise Bennorth

    I am living your adventure through your blog. I feel energized just reading your experiences. What a wonderful life you have made for yourself.

    Reply
    1. cstuder0@gmail.com Post author

      Thank you, Denise! I’ve not travelled much in my life, and am so enjoying the different perspective it brings. Now if I can just get better at Spanish!

      Reply

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