For the past five weeks I’ve been recovering from knee replacement surgery, first in North Carolina with dear friends who took great care of me, and then in Santa Cruz, California with my family. I returned to Casita Alegria on December 30, just in time to celebrate another New Year’s Eve birthday with intimate friends in Teotitlan del Valle, where I live.
On the eve of the new year, we each wrote our 2014 regrets and our 2015 hopes and wishes, folded the piece of paper and in a private moment of reflection tossed the paper into the fire blazing in the chiminea on the patio. For me, this was a time of letting go of past, concentrating on now and focusing on future.
An honored tradition here in Teotitlan del Valle is the January 1 pilgrimage to Las Cuevitas. This is a feast day, a day of gathering in the hills behind the village at an ancient pre-Hispanic Zapotec site and looking ahead to what the new year will bring. The caves, or rocky grottos, hold altars for prayer and making offerings. Poinsettias, lilies, fresh eggs, candles and money are symbols for the season and starting anew.
Families gather on the hillsides, start bonfires, bring picnic suppers, light sparklers to mesmerize both adults and children. The day is warm, the early evening balmy. The sun sets at Las Cuevitas and the entire village, or so it seems, has assembled, puts on an extra layer of clothing to protect themselves from the coming chill. The band plays. Vendors sell soft drinks, pastries. At a comal, a woman prepares quesadillas for sale. It is festive, intimate.
There is an almost full moon. The hillside glows in wonderment of prayer and promise as strewn rocks become constructions of possibility: a new home, a corral for livestock, a second story. Zapotec dreams are always tied to the land.
As for me, my knee is healing. I am ambulatory with the aid of a walking stick made from a piece of beautiful twisted North Carolina dogwood. I am able to drive my manual transmission car and continue to do my exercises. The pain and discomfort has subsided but it is still with me. I’m hoping to be able to walk more than 5,000 steps a day very soon.
Sending you wishes for a new year filled with good health, contentment, satisfaction and connection. One in which we live in peace, make peace with the past and look forward with hopefulness. Blessings to all.
People of Oaxaca: Portrait Photography Workshop starts January 30. There is room for you!