A Return to Oaxaca

I’ve returned to Oaxaca after being gone for almost six weeks. It’s warm here — cotton and linen weather. Much warmer than Mexico City where layers of wool are needed for protection from the chill. They tell me today it will be eighty-eight degrees fahrenheit. The snowbirds are happy.

In Teotitlan del Valle, where the last dance of the three-year commitment for this Dance of the Feathers group was on December 12 for the Virgin of Guadalupe, I stayed home. I needed time to absorb what life will be after our mother’s death, what it means to live fully and in service to others, and to reflect on life and death.

My Zapotec friend Abraham tells me, “Todos vamos por el mismo camino.” We all go on the same road.

My Zapotec friend Lupita says, “Es la ley de la vida.”  It’s the law of life.

This is comforting as I look out onto the mountains and vast clear blue sky from the rooftop terrace. As I feel the sun on my back. As the sacred mountain Picacho reaches skyward just beyond my reach.

And, then, I walk the streets of the city where Christmas lights wink and twinkle, big tinsel stars suspended from buildings say to me what matters most is now.

I see things with particular focus: a broken windshield sending a million sparkles through the refraction like shooting stars.

Here hot pink juicy flowers bloom in December. I stop for a different view of Santo Domingo church. Take a coffee break at the Oaxaca Coffee Company on the side street nearby where it is quieter.


Next is a stop to the Museo Textil de Oaxaca where a small but exquisite rebozo exhibition shows us the talent of artisans around the world, with a focus on Mexico and the extraordinary ikat cloth woven here.

Finally, I meet the two young artists from India who I am mentoring through a joint program between the governments of Mexico and India, helping them win residency grants.


They arrived in early November, just as I was leaving for California. Nidhi works in interpretive textiles, and her husband Ruchin is a muralist, street and graphic artist. I took them to meet Fernando Sandoval in his studio and my day was complete. They will be here until early February. Still lots to see and do.

Fernando and his team were working on color registrations for a new series by Sergio Hernandez called Alice in Wonderland. Oaxaca has a rich graphic arts community and Sergio is at the leading edge.

Soon, my family will arrive and we will celebrate this season together. I just saw them during my mother’s passing. This visit will be different.

Memoir Writing Workshop in Oaxaca, March 2016

I’ve now moved over almost completely to using the smaller, lightweight Olympus OMD 5 Mark II mirrorless digital camera. I think the results are almost equal to my Nikon. While I’m using the Aperture Priority setting and not full manual, I feel that I have pretty good control over light and shutter speed so I can get the photo I want. But, the experiment continues!



8 responses to “A Return to Oaxaca

  1. Your need for solitude is one that we all need. Have you read Oliver Sacks’s “Oaxaca Journal” , a journal of his trip to Oaxaca with the New York fern society? He, too, sought solitude in the City one day as the others went to a rain forest. Enjoy the season and the little book if you have not read it. One day I hope my daughter and I can join you in Mexico City for the Freida and Diego journey.

    • Hi, Brenda. Thanks for your lovely comment and book recommendation. I know this book by Oliver Sacks but haven’t read it yet. I need to! Hope to see you and your daughter one day in Mexico City. Would love to have you both! -Norma

  2. Thinking of you, Norma — best wishes on this journey through the grief of your Mother’s passing

    • With big hugs and big thanks, Linda. Yes, it comes and goes! Life. Emotions. The in and out of grief. The Zapotecs here say, she is resting now. It’s all so calm and accepting. Something to learn. Sending love. -Norma

  3. Norma, I’m so happy to see you posting again. Your message reflects a journey you’ve begun, a journey to capture answers to the “big questions.” Death of a loved one can propel us on further searches for what is real and true.
    Regarding death, I rely on Dr. Seuss: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
    I especially love your cracked windshield photo. It probably conveys different messages to each person. To me, it says when our lives are smashed, the consequences and new paths go in all directions. It also makes me think of something Anais Nin wrote: “It is the function of art to renew perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer [photographer] shakes up the familiar scene and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it.” Your cracked windshield photo does this.

    • Jan, you know just how to put words to the page. Thank you for the gift of Dr. Seuss. Thank you for the interpretation of the cracked windshield photo. I hadn’t thought of it that way, in any deeper way, but yes, what you say is true. Thank you for so exquisitely articulating what I am feeling. Sending hugs. -Norma

  4. Great to read your update Norma!

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