(I think this may be the longest time I have stayed without writing in two decades)
Nine weeks ago, I was moving out of a sweet little casita I had been renting on and off for a year and a half and bringing everything I owned in Mexico to my house, the one that was getting built a few minutes away, in the countryside.
Casa Sama, which has in turns delighted me and brought me to my knees since we broke ground on Feb 25.
I had yet to spend a night within its stucco walls, and that would not happen until I returned from the US in the fall.
A few carloads through the village and across three river beds, handing the key to the crew who would finish it in my absence (ojala) and pretty soon it was time to get on the plane, Tiji and Lila in their respective carriers.
As always when leaving Mexico my heart was squeezed. I didn't really want to go. I would not be gone long. I would be right back. A few days before, I had been walking around an outdoor market with a friend and only stopped buying bags of lychees and mangoes when I ran out of hands to carry them.
Eventually, the three of us were on the plane on our way across the border and towards the task I had given myself for the summer: to sell my sweet little 1930s cottage. It was time. I had loved it for almost a decade and probably always would. But I no longer wanted the pressure of a mortgage. My life has shifted a lot in the last year and a half of living so simply. My relationship with time and money had morphed quietly but solidly. It was time.
The way I felt walking into my home that night surprised me.
THINGS. My things. Everywhere. On the walls, the floor, the bookshelves. They all welcomed me (and my furry girls) with colorful open arms and held me there, rocking me gently. Home.
Then there was the Comfort. Hot water on demand and for as long as I wanted to stand under the pressurized shower, smiling and moaning a little. The windows that closed properly, and the garbage tidy in its own container. My tiny car purring along on smooth, smooth roads. The dishwasher.
I was shocked by how good I felt. How easy it all felt. After months of living at the edge of the jungle - and loving it - wrestling potholes and contractors and the unavoidable cultural gaps and more (building a house as a single white woman who knows nothing about building houses was a little crazy, I realize now) I felt as though my nervous system was at a SPA. I rested. I deeply rested.
In fact, I barely left my house.
Lucky for me, my kids happened to be there with me, and together we created a joyful recipe of shared meals, laughter, conversations. We knew that this time was very special as we would soon all be heading in different directions and towards new adventures . This home held all of us so sweetly and the Universe was kind enough to allow me to find the house's new family shortly after arriving, thus removing the pressure of showing it, negotiating or worse: having to leave without soaking up all the Gifts the summer had for us. The transaction has been smooth, gentle and beautiful, and I get to stay here until the leaves start to change color. I may even be able to visit a pumpkin patch.
Gentle. That is the word. Which as a friend pointed out, I needed.
As some of us leave and a few boxes get packed, this home is slowing turning into a house. Very slowly. And on the other side of the world, what was a patch of dirt is slowly turning into a beautiful little house which I will be able to morph into a home when I return.
Some days, the parallel asks for some grounding on my part: I empty out a closet on the island, and I hear the ping of my phone signaling that I just received a photo of Casa Sama, in Mexico: the tiny basil plants are now full grown bushes!
It is such an odd and unique time.
And then, there is my mind. My human mind that likes to compare and make stories and make things mean way more than they need to.
One of my mind's favorites is: which one do you like best? Which one do you choose? Huh? Huh?
Because you see, until just a few days ago, I thought I had to choose.
I thought that surely if I loved the resftulness of this place, it meant I no longer loved the colorful chaos of Mexico. Or that if I wanted to live where chickens and dogs, and horses roam free, surely I would never want to live in the US again. Or Europe. How could I be so content in both places? I worried.
I worried because I was content. Read that again with me just for fun. I WORRIED because I was CONTENT. How freaking mad is this???
As I expressed my madness to a good friend, I was set straight: because you love, was the response.
That was a weird response, and as I opened my mouth to debate, I realized that well, that was true. And simple. I love, I do. Once I decide to love, I love big and full and so here I am, loving two (or more) places. And it turns out, there is nothing wrong with that at all. I am going to love it here until the girls and I get on the plane once again and then I am going to love it there. Because really, that's how I am wired.
So here's to Love and Freedom and to good friends who know us better than we do.
PS: In December of last year, I started a blog, a private blog about the building of Casa Sama. Now that we are almost done, I feel ready to share it more widely. HERE it is. I don't know whether it will inspire you or scare you but I can say this: It has been a wild ride.
Feeling good is often about whether we like the person we are being, isn't it?
It's often about the way, once in bed at the end of the day, we look back feel about what we did and said - and how.
For me, I like who I am being when I manage to get out of my house early and take my pup and I for a long walk on the beach or in the countryside.
Early being before it gets hot, which is getting earlier by the day.
Early also being before I clean my house which I tell you what, is a huge stretch for me.
I like to clean my whole kitchen before I make a meal. I have to brush my teeth before I write a blog post. I yearn to vacuum before heading out.
In the States, I had that luxury. Here, with the heat, not so much. If we miss the 8 am deadline, forget it.
So I really like those days when I manage to jump out of bed and walk out of the door early. I feel good about me and my pup's health, and heck, that's a great way to start the day. Grounding.
Today was one of these beautiful mornings and wow, do I cherish them. Like most things in Mexico, they have a rhythm, a sacredness.
First, we pick up our friend Athena-the-smiling-dog a block away. If Lila is on her leash, Athena will help me by holding on to it. If she is not, they will run together. The three of us make our way through town and I taste this pleasure I learned early on a as kid: a community getting ready for the day. There is sweeping, there is watering. In Paris, there was no yelling Hola! across the street to each other, no dogs joyfully bouncing around looking through the trash before it goes away. But there is a similar energy, an excitement for the hours to come. I love love this.
Once at the beach - and we may have been joined by another dog or two by then - we will all delight in whatever calls out to us. For me, watching the birds ride the crest of the waves, a special shell or the smell of the ocean - once we pass the water treatment plant, because yes, this is a land of contrasts. For the dogs, wading in the shallow part of water, sniffing new friends, racing each other. The sun is gentle, people are brand new. Some are meditating, stretching, sleepily crawling out of tents or just walking.
On the way home, we will sometimes stop at the fruteria and buy some plantains, mangoes, or a few carrots.
Often, I will order a fresh juice to sip or blend with a banana once I get home. Today, I bought a big glass of fresh pineapple juice with ginger. A whole pineapple went into it and man was it sweet and sunny. I even liked that it was pink because someone had ordered a beet juice before me.
Then, as always, I wave hello to the gentleman selling bolillos out of a big beautiful basket. Bolillos are oval-shaped freshly baked little loaves of bread. You can dunk them in your coffee or fill them with chicken or ham or tuna and make tortas. Truth is, until very recently, because I am not a huge fan of sandwiches, I had not had a torta. But wow... are they good! Warm from the bread being gently toasted, with a few jalepenos tucked in there, they are so so tasty. I can't believe it has taken me so long to try one.
But actually I do. Because here is a not-so-secret secret: I am a bread snob.
Growing up in France, I decided early on that only French bread qualified as bread. When my kids' dad and I opened a bakery in the early 90s, I was sure there was something in the US water (or was it the air?) that prevented good bread from happening this side of the Atlantic. I told him so and being who he is, he heard it as a challenge and it didn't take him long to re-create the crusty loaves of my childhood. Turns out I wasn't the only one craving the magical texture and flavor and for the next seven years we sold thousands and thousands of loaves. There are many stories there and I will tell them eventually. For now, let's go back to the bolillo man.
Several times a week he invites me to buy one of his little rolls. Several times a week I smilingly decline. Today was no exception. Other than for some reason, he asked me why. Why am I not buying his bread?
"I don't really eat bread" was the answer that came out of my mouth, already half-way across the street, smiling back at him. A lie, really. True, I should not eat bread because gluten and I don't get along well. But give me a good croissant, and there is no stopping me.
I knew I was lying and that always makes me feel worse than a bit of gluten ever could. Before I could fully digest the little lie (is there such a thing?) I heard him say back to me: "ay... eso no es manera de vivir!" - hey, that is no way to live!
No way to live?
Lila and I turned around and I walked back towards the big basket of bread. I handed him my juice to hold while I fished the nine pesos out of my purse. He said: I knew you would come back. He was right.
Back home with a half glass of pink pineapple juice and a lovely looking little roll for lunch, I think that tonight I may go to bed happy about my morning.
My heart gets daily workouts, living here.
The scab is doing its healing work.
Or rather, it is doing its protecting work while we heal.
Only it knows how long that will take.
When we pick at it, in impatience, boredom, or lack of faith, we run the risk of creating a scar.