Tomorrow, Saturday, May 11, is my travel day back to Oaxaca where I’ll stay put for a while. Yet, I tell myself it’s good to be where you are now. No looking back, no regrets, no living out into the future but to appreciate each gift of the moment. Today, I will connect with friends. Sip a G&T.
Packing challenges the assumptions of being here now. It makes me concentrate on what I will need and how much to take. It’s like cleaning up and getting ready. There’s no avoiding the planning that is required. I have one day to do it.
Perhaps, I should retitle this post, “Taming the Wilderness.” There is metaphor in this.
Yesterday, I went to a funeral at the farm where I lived for ten years with the wasband. The matriarch founder, age 93, passed early this week and my going was a tribute to her life — and mine, then and now. As I walked along the gravel road to the on-site graveyard, I passed the familiar and the unknown. It was strangely similar yet dramatically different. The cottage in which I lived is now inhabited by the next wife (there have been a series of them) and the gardens I once tended were overgrown, unrecognizable.
I passed people I knew and didn’t. They were known and unknown. We have aged. Some of us more gracefully. The wasband’s hair was wilder and he had built some girth. I wish I could say we exchanged pleasantries. It reminded me of where I am now and my gratitude for being here at home in Durham, North Carolina, and Oaxaca, Mexico.
The dirt to cover the cardboard casket was red clay Carolina. Each shovel-full was heavy and thoughtful. Life is where it takes us and there is reverence in each single act we do.
Being there reminded me, too, about what I do to try to tame the wilderness. I attempted this, too, in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, by planting fruit trees — orange, lemon, avocado, guava. Ants consumed them. I gave up and planted cactus. These are sturdy and well-designed for the climate, to survive and repel the critters. There is a reason that the high desert is filled with native plants.
Here in North Carolina I have no living plants. My flowers are woven into the textiles around the apartment. When I leave early in the morning, I walk out and lock the door. It is easy. I am coming to learn my limitations.
Next Episode: On my return home. The other home.
Back to Oaxaca, Mexico: A Brief Personal Essay
Next Friday I will be returning to Mexico for an extended stay. At this moment it is difficult to know for how long. By the time I return to Oaxaca, I will have been gone for almost two months.
Sunset at Las Cuevitas, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico
You have not heard from me in a while for many reasons. I have been in North Carolina to pack and move, and in the process sort through the collections of life — art treasures from around the world, family photographs, paintings and pottery, chef’s accoutrements acquired when I owned a gourmet cookware shop, cooking school and cafe so many years ago in South Bend, Indiana.
The accumulation of thirty plus years is daunting. There were boxes in the attic I hadn’t opened since two moves ago. I found vintage La Grange County Amish dolls that I at once gifted to the Indiana State Museum and complete set of 1940’s Ohio-made Blair Gay Plaid pottery that I hauled to Replacements and sold.
I am the keeper of my son’s vintage Tonka trucks, infant clothes, and university diploma. I am the keeper of copper cookware bought in Paris in 1984, every tax return since 1990, and every university program and proposal I ever developed and wrote during my career. I made a pile in the yard and started a fire. Friends came to help me push through, sort and eliminate. I couldn’t have done it without them. Then I drove a fourteen-foot U-Haul truck to a 5′ x 15′ storage unit and with the help of two wonderful Latino men who I picked up at the day labor gathering spot, completed my move.
Goodbyes are not easy, even as I look forward to spending most of each year in my beloved Oaxaca with friends there. I know that change is constant, nothing is forever, experiences matter, and staying open to possibility is essential. I have closed the door to the home on the pond that I built and shared with another. I have said goodbye to dearest friends. North Carolina is still home, yet when I return, it will be to another place. Friends there and around the world are my constant source of caring and support.
As all this was going on, I organized more Oaxaca workshops, wrote and published a personal essay in Minerva Rising Literary Journal, sold one of my photographs to a consulting company, had a skin cancer surgically removed and a pre-cancer treatment on my face as a result of too much youthful sun-bathing on Southern California beaches where I grew up.
Here, now, in this northern California beach town, I am with my ninety-eight year old mother who sleeps in the next room, and my dearest sister who lives just a mile away. Each moment matters. It is a great lesson in how to live life.
See you in Oaxaca.
Posted in Cultural Commentary
Tagged creative writing, Mexico, Oaxaca, personal essay