Tuesday, January 22, 2008

At long last....news!

It's been a while, right? I'll admit it. I'm a fair weather blogger. It's hard to type when you're wearing mittens. OK, OK. I don't HAVE mittens down here. But I would be wearing them if I had them. I'm wearing everything else in the closet. Forty four degrees the other morning in Mazatlan! And it hasn't been much better around here. These big thick walls have grown colder and colder and colder, so when I do finally crawl out of bed (comforters, heating pad), I want that sun up and shining.

But mainly we've had cloud cover, and I've resorted to cooking breakfast in the morning, just to get heat from the stove. Yesterday at last we had sunshine, nice warm stuff, and we "natives" shed our sweatshirts, mufflers and socks, joining the hoards of toad-belly white Canadians in shorts and tank tops who are marching up and down our streets revelling in temperatures that don't have minus signs in front of the numbers. It's all a matter of perspective, I suppose.

So, this is a catch up, newsy kind of entry, just to let everyone know what we've been doing since I last "blogged."

We are still getting Christmas cards! The bulk of them arrived the second week in January. I love this mail system -- Christmas lasts so much longer! But yes, I took down the tree. My concentration has shifted to our roof garden.

Here are a few pictures of our new place to hang out. (That's a ha ha hamaca joke.) Note also the chiminea. It's been getting some use. Feels nice and warm to have your back -- or at least your knees -- up against a fire. Almost as heartwarming as a bunch of geraniums!

Another thing that feels nice and warm is getting involved with what's going on in the neighborhood. I've taken on the homeowners' association newsletter, which is actually another blog. Take a look at www.guayabitos.blogspot.com.

I've been painting with oils again, but it hasn't been on canvas. This is a project I've got going for the Friends of La Peñita fundraiser, which will be February 10, at the Hacienda La Peñita -- a block square residence and grounds across the estero from us. They asked for works from local artists in order to hold a silent auction. I bought this unfinished rocker at the market a while back, and decided to go wild. Not so intimidating as a big stretch of white.

But I'll get a crack at canvas soon enough. I've signed up for a ten day oil painting workshop in Antigua, Guatemala, March 15 - 25. If you've read this blog all along, you'll know that last spring I wanted desperately to go to a friend's wedding there, but just wasn't up to it physically. Well I saw the video of the wedding and the fun had by all before and after the event in and around Antigua. So when this opportunity presented itself, I grabbed it! I'll be staying at the Hotel Aurora with another painting friend from here in the Zona.

Another major charity and creative event is the annual Fashion Show -- El Desfile de Modas. It will be January 29, and there are about twenty or thirty models, including yours truly. We had a rehearsal last Tuesday, and there's another one today. As I absolutely tower over every other woman there, I think they recruited me for height -- and maybe size of head. Is this an amazing hat?

Lots of gringo women involved with this project, but lots of Mexican women and men, as well. Several objects: to raise money for projects benefitting women and children here in the area, and to showcase local designers, proving that Guayabitos offers more than fringy beachwraps and thong bikinis.

But the major news was, we had a teen-age college freshman boy in our midst for a week, our nephew Forrest from San Antonio. So our interests were sort of centered there for a while. We didn't travel far away, but hit a few out of the way attractions while he was here.
It had been a while since we'd been up to the
Alta Vista petroglyph site (you can see pictures of former trips if you go to the link Susan's Photo Albums on the sidebar). It was so dark back in the canyon when we reached the pools that my flash kept going off when I shot a few more photos.

We took an afternoon and went to Chacala. The guys went off-road to a hidden surf beach, while I hung around
Mar de Jade, a resort tucked up against the south cliff of Chacala Bay, which specializes in offering holistic vacation packages -- yoga, meditation, vegetarian meals, etc. My friend Victor (Linda's husband, Emily's dad -- see their blogs on my sidebar) goes there once a week to give chiropractic and acupuncture services to guests requesting it. See the pictures? Pretty place! This is my new friend, Anastasia, who is now headed back to California after taking care of Mar de Jade guest relations for the past several months.

I'm going to digress a little here. I am SO impressed by the twenty-somethings (and less than twenty-somethings) I've come in contact with recently. They give me big-time hope for the planet. They're truly wired differently than previous generations. Actually, I believe they're wireless, no strings attached. Multi-lingual, multi-cultural, non-denominational, racially mixed with no particular allegiance except to the planet and the universe. They're digital, requiring no rewind, or fast forward to be "in the moment." When they "want it all," they're talking about experience, not material goods. Tolerant, affirming, respectful, and observant -- most often at the speed of thought. It's like dealing with hummingbirds -- intense concentration and then phwt, gone. But when they do decide to linger -- like the hours Anastasia spent here one afternoon reading and swinging in a hammock, the time spent with Forrest under a clear, starry sky on the third floor deck, the stretch of afternoon spent here at Mar de Jade listening alternately to the waves of the Pacific and the life-thoughts of another young woman who wandered into my life (half Japanese, half English, raised in India, living in Mexico) -- what a gift!

And speaking of lingering, I may have stayed too long with this entry. Like we stay too long at the market Thursday mornings. Just hanging out with friends, having breakfast/lunch (tossed green salad with your omelette at Soley's, garlic toast on the side), trying to hold a conversation over the offerings of itinerant musicians. My friend Char and FOURTEEN friends from Puerto Vallarta came up a week ago last Thursday, and we descended on the Xaltemba Gallery and Restaurant (check it out, they now have a website!) The meal took about two and a half hours.

Nothing seems to go really fast right now, which is just about perfect.

Friday, January 11, 2008

How do you say "O Tannenbaum!" in Español?

I don’t want to take down the tree. It’s still cold at night, and although the newfangled pre-wired, pre-lighted artificial fir we bought three years ago at Costco (and transported here at great expense) doesn’t give off a lot of heat, I love the way the lights reflect on the tile floors and in the glass of the framed art on the walls. On one side are brass rubbings, souvenirs from the labors of my sister Emily and my father-in-law Hank when both were in England – separate times, separate trips, brought together on a wall in Mexico. And perpendicular to them, a large abstract computer graphic, handiwork of Larry’s brother Jim. All that glass and tile, reflecting the tree.

Many of our decorations didn’t survive. Whether it was the move, the water in the basement or the humidity of the summer – only the fittest came through. Gone the salt and flour ornaments made in the Jackson family kitchen, hmmm, maybe thirty or more years ago. Gone the cowboy boot with Santa popping out that was a staple of the Cobb family Christmas since Larry was a little boy. Intact are the glass globes used as place cards: Christmas dinner, Café Mozart, San Juan Capistrano, 1980 something. Tiena, I still have yours. Do you have mine? Not too many of those couples are still together, but the memories still last on the tree.

As do photographs. Several years ago I discovered the joy of preserving family and friends’ photo Christmas cards by cutting out the faces and putting them in ornament frames, some handmade, some store-bought and elaborate. Every brother and sister, every niece or nephew, each parent is present and accounted for. So there’s always family around us during the holidays, even though they’re hanging from the branches of the tree.

And friends. There’s the Christmas day photo of Zoe and Nash, four-year-old twins just arrived and adopted from Brazil, romping naked on the sand at Capistrano Beach, new daddy Alan picking up clothes scattered on their joyful run toward the sea. My niece of the same age from Alaska, left standing on the beach, scandalized and embarrassed. Zoe and Nash each have two girls of their own now. But there they are – forever four on the tree.

There are dogs and kittys, too. ID tags worn by Velcro the cat, a wooden carving of Britta the yellow Lab, photos of keeshond Rascal, and other pets with their people. Sweetheart Alsatian Lajos is there from Switzerland, Daniel and Carol on either side. We need to get a picture of Kody, even though physically he’s indistinguishable from Rascal. He definitely deserves a branch on the tree.

And there’s us – memorialized through the ages and stages of about forty years together. Bell-bottomed, straight-legged, mini-skirted, skinny, thickening, thinning, long-haired, short-haired, brunette, blonde, platinum. Admittedly, some of those photos get their holiday outing on the far side of the fir. But look hard enough and you’ll find us – hanging out there on the tree.

I don’t want to take it down. But to make the job sweeter I bought a big square basket hamper at the tianguis a few weeks ago – just for Christmas decorations. The storage boxes brought up from the basement disintegrated completely, so our old trimmings will have a new home. The basket is multi-colored and gorgeous. It will have a permanent place under the equipale table in the cupola library, safe from the elements below, and ready to emerge next winter on the day after Thanksgiving. I won’t even have to knock away spider webs and go searching when we’re ready once again for Christmas, and the tree.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


Ok, I'm blowing off yoga this morning and blogging instead. It's amazing how good health and sleeping all night has cut into my writing! Besides, it's COLD again. I have no desire to get up in the wee small hours and wander towards the computer. We're sleeping under comforters and when we do wake up, it's only physical desperation that gets us to venture out on those cold tile floors. Today I'm wearing fuzzy slippers instead of flips, and the idea of stretching out my yoga mat on a cold wet roof in the fog -- well, it's just not going to happen. Brrrrr!

A friend wrote me the other day, rebelling against the winter "blahs." I may have a case of them down here. Winter weather wouldn't be half so depressing if it didn't involve dealing with bureaucracy. Coming into a new year means taking care of business and facing up to issues left unresolved in the wind up and wind down of the holiday season. Sigh. Here are a few.....

  • Do we really want to make a "deal" out of that whopping big electric bill we received for November and December? Almost $10,000 pesos! DOUBLE what we were charged for those months during the summer when we had the air conditioner running full force. Is it a "blue eye tax?" No, because our Mexican neighbors got double-sized bills, too. Is the electric company just trying to cover their end of year aguinaldos -- those extremely generous Christmas bonuses that employers are required to pay those in their hire? Or did they finally read the meter and decide to "catch up" at year's end?
  • Do we pay our entire water bill for the year -- and get a 10% discount if it's done during January -- or join with other neighbors and pay just two months at a time, so at the end of this year when the water company stops delivering through the municipal pipes because they haven't paid the electric company and can't run their pumps, we can say -- no agua, no dinero!
  • Do we spend a day at the Bancomer branch here locally to pay our yearly fidecomiso -- the fee the bank collects for being a co-trustee on our property -- or drive into Puerto Vallarta and do the same thing in a fraction of the time at the "big" bank there? It's a question of spending time on the road or time in the bank. One way or another, we can plan on spending time. We just spent two and a half hours yesterday getting my signature on two documents notarized. Let me tell you, when something is made "official" down here, it is official with bells and whistles! You get silver decals, multi-colored seals, lots of ink impressions, pages of type-written statements establishing the veracity and credibility of the notario, and a signature with more flourishes and furbelows than a vaudeville stripper.
  • When we pay our yearly property taxes (about $200 dollars yearly, and we get a graduated discount the earlier we pay), do we try once again to make contact with the agency which governs the "federal zone" behind us? The former owner built a pool and patio out there, and technically we should be paying something yearly for the privilege of using property that belongs to the people of Mexico. We've been open about our willingness to do this. We've given our number to numerous uniformed officials with clipboards in their hands who promise to come make an inspection and tell us what we owe. Nada. Is this a boat we should be rocking?
Foggy bureacracies. Damp and soggy weather. They weigh heavy in January. Just a little sunshine, though, and the ocean becomes that deep cobalt blue laced with white ruffles that takes your breath away. Let a ray or two of light break through, and the egrets, huddling, shivering and complaining in the tree behind us, unfold, expand, and take to the skies. Hey, birds! Take me with you! I'm ready for lift off!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

I can see clearly now.....

The cold is gone. I woke to the palm fronds rustling on the east side of the house. The wind is off the mountains. It's warm! At last! It's like a promise of good things to come. Happy New Year, everyone!

The holidays have been dank and cold around here. Our house is designed to lose heat, and it's done an admirable job. I'd be happy if I were a penguin. Thank you Diane, for gifting me that little space heater from the Safe Harbor office! It's been a life saver and my constant companion.

I've just been up to the roof terrace. At last it's DRY up there, not slick and heavy with morning dew. Morning light: I've come down to paint you a picture --

There's a waning moon hung high over the mountains to the east, which, as I write are fading from deep purple, to maroon, to smoky green. The sky above is quickening into turqoise and streaks of pink which is echoed in the geraniums on the balustrade and the visiting roseate spoonbill down in the estero. I know it's a he because his color is deep. He's surrounded by white egrets and some little ducky kind of paddly birds. There's a cloud of white-breasted, scissor-tailed cormorants careening around overhead. They've got boomerang shaped wings and it looks like a kite tournament.

All this reflected in the estero, which, as it's high tide, is filled and glassy. The houses and fishing village are upside down in the water, double dinghies, double everything. And piled up on the hills behind are buildings and houses I now recognize as places where friends live -- Roberto and Eddy's verandah, Arla's roof, Victor and Linda's place just hidden by that group of palms. And across the estero on the other side, our friends Nina and Bob have painted their cupola royal blue with a celery green base and a deep red rim. Gringo gulch is getting more color!

We're home and happy and looking forward to the coming year. Our nephew Forrest is coming down in a week, my sister from Alaska and her crew will be here the first part of March, and the youngest sister with husband and son in tow will be here the first week in April. It will be good to share with family as much as with friends. Here's wishing you, your family and friends, the very best of New Year's hope, filled with warmth, color and promise -- and maybe a roseate spoonbill or two.