A close friend and I have this thing we say to each other often, as we both navigate the sweet madness of living here, full on open-hearted and open to the adventure of it. We say “This Life…” We say “This Life” when we find ourselves riding her scooter through the night, dodging dogs and speed bumps. We say it when we leave a sweet birthday party where we all laughed so hard even though neither one of us speaks perfect Spanish. We say it when s*** happens (and it does) and some bit of magic ends up making it ok in the end. We say it a lot. We say it because we both love living here, even though sometimes it is not easy.
Yesterday was rich from beginning to end and I want to recount the several vignettes that made it so, and the Essences that feed me so.
7:30 am. Walking towards the beach as the village wakes up, Lila trotting ahead of me. The air is a little crisp and on our right, across the street, is something that stops me in my tracks. Coconuts making their way down a very tall palm tree, through some sort of pulley system. A man is a the very top and a couple is at the bottom, laughing. It’s beautiful. Getting the coconuts down means nutrition and also safety. I love watching this ritual and as we continue towards the beach, I already feel richer than when I left my bed. Simplicity. Resourcefulness. Joy.
10:30 am. A coaching call with a dear client. Together, we are able to recognize some threads to her own tapestry, and create way to bring her peace. Purpose.
12:00 pm. I receive the sweet offer of helping me create an umbrella stand for my upcoming art show. “Just come on by and we’ll get it done.” Community. Support. Creativity.
2:00 pm. Art class. A group of us is sitting in an enormous retired commercial refrigerator. A long time ago, it was part of a dairy farm, I think. Today, this is where we share pastels, ideas and parts of our lives. A glass of Agua de Cacao by my side, I am gifted a big burst of inspiration by one of my classmates. It’s all I can do to stay in class and not go home and follow the Muse but I stay and love every minute of it. When the electricity goes away for a while, we are grateful that someone thought of setting up solar lights in this room and we keep sketching. Creativity, Community, Inspiration, Friendship.
4:30 pm. I drive to a nearby village to pick up more wood to paint on. I get to have a sweet chat with one of the men who works there and prepares my wood pieces. I tell him about the inspiration I received in art class and ask him if he thought he could help me with the kind of wood I would need to make the idea come to life. “For sure,” he says. “It is going to look great.” I tell him about the art show, my first one and he is so kind and friendly. An artist too, he spent the day making beautiful things out of local wood. I love all of it, including the wood dust that makes me cough every time. Creativity, Collaboration, Beauty.
5:00 pm. Before leaving the village, I stop by “the container store” to buy a bucket in with which to make the umbrella stand. I have been there before, a small store with all kinds of kitcheny things and also this month, an assortment of Christmas lights with an incessant electronic sound. The man who tends the store always sits by the door in a comfy chair - right by the crazy-making sound lights - usually watching a movie and barely talking to its customers. Not unfriendly, just not really interested, it seems. I pick up a bucket and he suggests another one. I go with his suggestion and as I get ready to hand him my 28 pesos, I ask him if the sound of the lights follow him in his dreams at night. I expect a two-word answer, if anything. Well. I am not sure what happened but for the next 15 minutes I got gifted the wisdom of best selling inspirational book. It started with “The music? Oh no. I leave it where it is. It’s here to attract customers and that’s all. I don’t let that stuff in. We only let extra stuff in when our minds are not healthy.” And if went on from there. I did not understand everything but I know it was all big. From infidelity to values, from family to work ethics, he covered so much ground. I barely talked. When I left, I knew I had connected with “Yoda of the Container Store.” His last words were “Come back and we’ll talk some more. Remind me that you bought the blue bucket.” Authenticity.
6:00 pm. I think about texting my friend who lives in this village and asking her if she wants to get a bite to eat. I also want to tell her about Yoda. But I get distracted by an inner conversation and am almost driving out of town when I get a message from her. “You just drove past me!” Minutes later we are sitting at a little wooden table in the street, sipping pineapple juice with fresh basil when she introduces me to one of the most surprising and delicious thing I have ever eaten: a burrito wrapped in … wait for it … fried cheese. OH MY GOD. Crossing the street for one perfect white chocolate truffle before walking to my car brings the whole evening to perfection. Adventure. Delight.
8:00 pm. We are walking towards my car, passing music, people eating. My friend runs into someone she knows and while they say hello, the man points to a 20 pesos bill on the sidewalk. I think he dropped it so I bend down to pick it up. That’s when the bill somehow flies up from the sidewalk and hits me in the forehead. I look up at both of them, shocked and asking “what just happened??” As they are bent over laughing. They are also pointing this time to the roof above us. I look up and there stand two young boys holding a fishing pole with a clear line attached to… the 20 pesos bill. Huge smiles on their faces and the bill goes back on the sidewalk. I am completely enchanted at the simplicity and joy-making power of their mischief. Joy
8:30 pm. I’m home and painting one coat of primer on my new pieces of wood. It is chilly again and I decide to walk a few blocks to get a cup of piping hot cocoa atole to bring home. I had sworn off sugar (and cheese) for a few days so I guess that will start tomorrow. Comfort.
This was a rich day. It was an easy day. They are not always easy and sometimes they include frustration at many things that I don't understand. But somehow, it is worth it and as we text each other goodnight, my friend and I sign off with "This Life..."
Go back to you
Away from the lives that bump around on your screen
Away from the soul-kidnapping noise of theories and statistics and probabilities and celebrities
Go back to your feet, your hands, then to your breath
Go back to the silence that is huddled inside of you, holding its knees to its chest and hiding from it all, hoping you’ll come visit and sit for a while
Go back to what you know, even if it is no bigger than a sea shell
Then trust that and allow it to be enough, allow yourself to exhale in its closeness
There you will find rest, healing, truth and deep connection
You will remember beauty and peace and the almost orgasmic pleasure of a deep intentional breath
You will be back to you.
Walking around town last Friday my mind wandered to the winter 2017-2018 and the time I spent in Greece.
My son, sister, nephew, and I experienced the sacred privilege of walking in the streets of Salonika (now Thessaloniki) where our family spent hundreds of years, having arrived as refugees from Spain in the 15th Century.
There they built lives, families, businesses until a new wave of antisemitism had them flee once more, several of them to France - and some of them towards a horrendous fate in concentration camps.
Some of that is beautiful and some of that has a brand of pain that still runs through our veins. All of it is rich and powerful.
After almost two weeks of soaking in the Essences of that place that felt intrinsically familiar yet the language of which we could not speak, on the morning of January 1, 2018, I headed towards the island of Lesvos to work with... refugees.
That chapter again was beautiful and painful and rich and powerful.
As I was thinking about it, on a cobblestoned street in Mexico, I focused on my time spent interpreting from French to English for the refugees center's asylum lawyer. Small windowless room, horrific stories, I felt a deep appreciation for being able to use two languages to bridge the paperwork needed and maybe (maybe) bring a little light to a very messy mess.
Yes, two languages are good, I thought to myself. I'm glad I could do that. I love the gymnastics of it. Then very quickly: but also, it kicked my a** in a big, big way. Interpreting is challenging, exhilarating and for sure, useful. But I don't think I would want to do it again in such intense situations. Maybe something else will come along.
Less than three blocks later, I run into a local woman who offers cooking classes and also created a community kitchen when the pandemic first started. We say hi, we smile and wait for it ... she asks me if I could please interpret for the next cooking class she is holding.
This morning, I stood in her beautiful orange open-aired and interpreted her steps, jokes, and traditional Mexican cooking tips from Spanish to English for a group of Canadian women who learned to make tamales and Sopa de Tortilla (the "put-masa-on-the-forearm-to-see-if-there-is-enough-lard" part was particularly fun. I had to ask her twice to be sure I had heard her correctly)
At no point did we mention anything about torture or worse. It was all poblanos, jitomates and crema. So good.
And the soup was delicious.
So yes, the Universe is listening, I am pretty sure. It listens to our angst, our vagueness, our hesitations. And it waits gently. But then, when it hears Clarity, it goes to work pretty darn quickly.
I think we will have Sopa de Tortilla for Christmas, this year.
SCARED OF THE SACRED