Friday, April 25, 2008

"On the fringe," -- Full tilt and full throttle

An email I got from a friend the other day got me thinking about Larry and me and a lot of the people around us. My response was sort of like this....

"I've been thinking about how you and xxx have talked about calling it quits. I wonder how many times Larry and I have had that conversation over the years – and it will be thirty-nine of them this summer. We are the case of polar opposites attracting, and it's not always comfortable.

Being married is HARD. It is NOT a rose garden. Or if it is, it is still hard work, with lots of scratches, punctures and manure. But it is so worth it. It’s a wonder-filled experience that helps us evolve. What greater adventure could we have than to find new ways to love and be loved?"

One of the sweetest things about being down here is witnessing the strong marriages around us. I'm talking gringos here. These are people who have stepped out into a foreign land together and are depending primarily on each other for companionship -- understanding, sympathy and comfort. Someone referred to Larry and me the other day as "you people on the fringe." They were talking about those who take risks, step outside the norm. I guess moving to Mexico would qualify, though more and more people seem to be doing it. I'd say, more and more people are "getting it." And that's what long-term companionship is all about -- "getting" each other, even if you are two totally and completely different individuals.

Letting other people be themselves and loving them unconditionally through their process of becoming.....whatever.....that is a mind-blowing spiritual practice of putting off ego. The added side effect is that the less ego we carry around, the more inclined we are to let ourselves go. That's when the creative juices start flowing. You might call it "self-expression." I think it's more Self-expression -- giving outlet to Creator Spirit in infinite, quirky and wonderful ways. It makes for a very supportive community.

I saw this last Sunday afternoon at Mateja's on the beach. It's a bar and grill, a gringo hangout. My friend Amy and her husband John brought their karaoke machine down and a good time was had by all. Mexicans, like Japanese, absolutely adore karaoke. I've got a previous blog about how music just seems to spill out of every doorway down here. Whether it's a party boat raucus and rowdy offshore, or a birthday party in the poorest part of La Penita, there's music -- full tilt and full throttle.

So we "fringe people" were just joining the Mexican mainstream, singing. Loudly. After all, we were in competition with the other loud music next door to the north, and the other loud music a few beach restaurants south. Amy sang lots of the sixties stuff she loves and does so well, and I sang a few Patsy Cline classics. (Hey, I was born in Texas. It's in my blood.) Then Mateja got her courage up and sang "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden." I think it resonated with a lot of us who have many, many years invested in our marriages.

And then Kate got up and sang "The Master of the Stars," to her husband of just a few years. She sang it in that awful off key way that Cameron Diaz did when she was ambushed by Julia Roberts in "My Best Friend's Wedding" -- but there wasn't a dry eye at Mateja's because Kate meant every word of it. (You'll have to google the lyrics. It's a Clint Black country song. I hadn't heard it before, and I doubt if you have. And I SURE wouldn't recognize it from the way Kate sang it....but the lyrics were terrific.) And then I sang "Wind Beneath My Wings" to Larry. It was all SOOOO schmaltzy, and so much fun. We walked out holding hands.

It's invigorating to be around people who are loving each other extravagantly, "full tilt and full throttle," not stinting on affection and attention -- loving generously, tenderly, with an open spirit. Rejoicing. Singing. Dancing. That kind of love is like doing a cannonball jump into the deep end of life. Everyone around you gets splashed. Even people who haven't put a toe in the water get wet.

Don't hold back on one ounce of love. It's a blessing to your marriage, and a blessing to the world. With lots and lots of love to the both of you, always,


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Into the hills and history

Where did the week go? Well, for one thing we spent a big chunk of it up in the mountains. We went with our neighbors Danny and Nancy up to Mascota, Talpa, and San Sebastian del Oeste. It's ugly, awful. Stay away. Never go there.

Yeah, right. The only thing saving it right now from an influx of land-hungry gringos and rich Guadalajarans is that the people in the mountains are "real proud" of their property -- a euphemism for saying they're asking nose-bleed prices. The only thing we could figure out is that all the natives think that now there's a paved highway connecting Puerto Vallarta to Guadalajara through Mascota, and what used to be a day's drive can now be done in two hours, everyone in Mexico and the United States will be beating a pathway to their door. Well, maybe. But when someone is asking $8,000,000 pesos for a property similar to one that rents for $3,000 pesos a month....reality check, please! Renting is sure the better option for a while.

It's something to consider if we start spending more time down here through the summers. For now, and for short stays, I vote for Meson Santa Elena, where we spent two nights. The largest suite upstairs behind the patio was around $700 pesos a night. Breakfast was an extra $80 pesos, and it just kept coming and coming and coming. We sat in that chilly-in-the-shadows-heaven-in-the-sunshine patio from 9 to 11 in the morning, grazing through one dish after another, listening to great music and just enjoying each others' company. OK, here's what we got in the order received: Coffee spiced with cinnamon...fresh pineapple/papaya juice or the sweetest fresh orange juice I've ever had...a basket of crispy thin (anise-flavored?) cookies, cakes, and pan dulce...a fruit plate with fresh pineapple, yogurt, and granola....omelettes to order served with bacon, frijoles, and all the little side dishes of chopped onion, chicharrones, salsa fresca, crema (not quite sour cream)....then (for dessert??!!) sweet corn tamales that were light and fluffy melt-in-your-mouth. And that coffee and orange juice just kept pouring forth.

Like I say, about 11:00 we waddled forth ready to explore Mascota. We didn't even make it the three blocks to the plaza before we found ourselves in a real estate office, and Danny being Danny and Larry and me interested bystanders, we made plans to meet up later that day. But first, after Mascota's plaza, I insisted we go to Talpa.

I'd been wanting to go since Hilda, my housekeeper, had told me about her plans. Millions of people visit Talpa every year, and this year Hilda, her son and her mother, plus husband Chano are making the pilgrimage. Tuesday May 6, they'll go to San Juan de Abajo, a small town outside of Puerto Vallarta, and begin a three day trek up the mountains and then down the dizzying Espina del Diablo (Devil's Spine), through a large orange stucco archway that says "Bienvenidos Peregrinos" which spans the narrow highway, and make it to the basilica in time for a Mass to the Virgin of the Rosary Friday afternoon, May 9. Having just driven that road, it is NOT something I would ever consider in my wildest dreams.

Neither would the dentist's assistant who filled me in on the whole Talpa scene while I was lying in the chair last Friday mouth agape. (Oh yeah. That's the OTHER thing that went on last week). She said that she had made the pilgrimage to Talpa, but that she rode in a coach which went ahead and set up camp for the pilgrims and provided them food and water along the way. Much better choice in my book. She told me some do the trek barefoot with nopales (that's prickly pear cactus leaves) tied to their shoulders. Again, not her thing. The most she's done is on her knees from the entry door at the basilica in Zapopan up to the altar. Slacker.

Zapopan, Talpa, and Mexico City -- those are the three MAJOR miracle virgin shrines in Mexico. They have major fiestas when there are millions of people who invade them, but they're pretty busy any time of the year. I took pictures. I'll get them onto Shutterfly in an album and talk more about this later. This kind of religion makes Danny, Nancy and Larry hinky as all get out. They indulged me. I kept saying you had to look at it like a cultural anthropoligist -- or an artist. I want to know how people tick -- what's going on in the hearts and heads around me in this country. My travel companions gave me tight little understanding smiles, nodded and made polite comments. They couldn't get out of there fast enough.

So we looked at property until the sun went down. Literally. Sometime in the late afternoon we ate again -- and I think once more LONG after the sun had gone down. It's a blur. I remember lots of thick rock walls crossing fields, adobe houses with tile roofs, and clouds of purpe jacaranda trees in bloom everywhere. It felt like Provence, only there the purple is in the lavender fields. I wonder if anyone has ever thought of growing lavender near Mascota?

I just couldn't face another marathon breakfast the second day. That's when we went to San Sebastian, whose praises I have already sung in a previous post. Nancy and Danny had never been, so we had to show them around the little town we love. The main difference this time is that the Hotel Pabellon has changed hands and I didn't find the atmosphere as welcoming. The Italian restaurant Minas Real wasn't open yet. But we did meet Debra of La Galera Hacienda Esperanza -- the place which had intrigued me on my two previous visits but had seemed unoccupied. Turns out she just opened for business this past January. And her guests in February -- Pat Smith and her artists' workshop -- the same group I went to Antigua with! There was one of Pat's paintings hanging in the living room. Pat does pick pretty places and she travels with nice people.

Pretty places. Nice people. We have no shortage of those. Home looked pretty good even after a short trip like that. And right now BED looks like the prettiest place of all. Night, All!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Spring cleaning, getting organized, running with the night owls

For now the last of the houseguests have fled, leaving in their wake much cleaner storage spaces and much larger disk space. Or at least a group of computers who are more inclined to play nicely together. My sister Amy installed the scanner I bought when we moved down here a year or so ago. You know, the one with the special attachment for scanning slides which I was going to do in all my spare time. Her husband John, after installing the very nice printer that came for free with the Mac I bought last November and which I hadn't yet taken out of the box, sat in my office, going through boxes of electronic spaghetti, asking me hard questions like: Do I really want to keep a Sony Walkman that only plays cassette tapes? Do I really have need for a laptop which has no slot for CDs and takes only little hard disks? Am I aware that ZIP drives are now considered museum pieces? Do I ever consider throwing ANYTHING away?

Well, John, NO, I don't! I don't have the brave in-your-face self-confidence to jettison stuff that looks important and electronic and has mysterious end pieces that might fit something sometime. And failing that, might possibly be used to tie back tomato vines...if I ever felt inclined to plant any. Honest! That's the reason I used to keep old panty hose. But on second thought let's not even begin discussing my lingerie situation, which is probably as archaic as my collection of electronic equipment. Rusty and dusty. That's me in so many ways.

So, I think I need to start blogging again. It's sort of like limbering up for the day, getting the creative juices flowing and the fingers moving on the keyboard. Besides, I miss you guys -- whoever you are reading this. I don't want to lose touch! The weather is warming up and I can now crawl out of bed again in the middle of the night to attack my keyboard without freezing my petukis off....whatever that is. Use your imagination. I do. From talking to my neighbors, I think every pre and post menopausal woman is up during the wee small hours letting her imagination go wild -- reading, writing, painting pictures. Shoot, Nina across the estero paints her WALLS -- deep red, sap green, violeta and mustard. (Maybe that's why she can't sleep -- the colors keep her awake!)

But Nina's headed north like many of our neighbors. It's getting quiet once more in the zona. Most of us here on Golondrinas, however, will be holding out until the end of May, slowing things down, taking it easy, taking time to paint, read and write. Hmmmm. Now, pass me that 1040 and let's see how creative we can REALLY get.