There is a flavor to being here.
The Flavor of Being Here is multi-layered and contrasted and one cannot not feel it.
It comes at us from many angles at once and asks for us to show up in ways we may not have shown up before, demands that we hand out manners of being that we may not have yet unwrapped no matter how many decades we have been doing life.
As we return to living in Mexico after three sweet months in the US, The Flavor of Being Here grabs me quickly, in short bursts, like a series of mini-movies, often in themes.
Today I want to talk about the themes of animals, Los Animales.
Animals have a big place in this life, in this village. Whether we officially share our home with one or three of them, or whether they are a peripheral part of the fabric of our daily life, there is no way to not interact with animals as we go about our day.
The sound of roosters weaves into our dreams in the very early morning, and later scurry by us on the sidewalk. Dogs run past us on the streets, at the beach, sometimes coming home with us for a quick breakfast before going back to enjoying street life. An occasional horse or two graze in the lot next door, and birds populate our thoughts with their many semi-constant songs.
As a start.
Then there are sightings of crocodiles, geckos who make their kiss-kiss noise somewhere above our heads as we sleep, iguanas crossing the road, bright green chubby lizards sitting on a fence as we come home, shimmery dragonflies, flying cockroaches, the poisonous toads of the rainy season that will kill dogs if they lick it, jaguars in the jungle - and more.
In the first 24 hours since returning, I have had three specific and impactful encounters with Los Animales, each one a tribute to The Flavor of Being Here.
Let me tell you about them.
Los Animales - Flavor #1
I had asked my friend to please get me some litter for Tiji so that I may keep her indoors for our first few days back before we moved into our place in the rancho. The morning after we arrived I drove to her house where she had left me a full bucket of the stuff on the front steps before heading to work. As I park my car across the street from her periwinkle-colored home, I notice her pup, sitting on the stairs, adorably wagging his tail as he sees me, his eyes glued to mine.
I know he is pretty street-savvy and knows his way around the neighborhood. I also know that my friend would not have willingly left him outside while she went out. I have a bunch of things to do, Lila is super excited to see him and is yelping from the car: "Bring him over here!!!"
I am not sure what to do. Is this a planned thing? Is he waiting for another friend to take him to the beach? Should I leave him there or should I take him with me? I call his mom and she does not pick up. I hesitate. Will I mess up some pre-arranged plan if have him hop in my car? Will I be negligent if I leave him?
I decide to err on the side of messing up human plans to ensure doggy safety and off he goes in the back seat with an ecstatic Lila.
As we drive from place to place, errand to errand, eventually crossing three small rivers to get to my house, a warm smile fills up my insides as I re-connect with The Flavor of Being Here. Community, Aliveness, and mostly No-Big-Deal-Ness. A couple of hours later I take him back home, feeling as though I too, am now closer to home.
Los Animales #2
This one is not as fun.
Tiji is gone.
It is dark out. definitely time for bed, and she is not home.
A couple of hours earlier, I had let her out on the patio of our apartment while I took Lila on a quick walk down the block. Within seconds I had heard some chaos, hissing, possibly fighting, and had turned around immediately. I had been calling her ever since and now we were going to sleep without her.
Where was she? How was she? Even though we are only two blocks from where I found her almost a year ago, I knew she did not know her way around. She may still have a tiny bit of the sedative from the flight in her. Why did I let her out on the patio? I felt sick.
Earlier that day, as I could tell she wanted to go explore the many plants and hiding places in the courtyard by the apartment, I had asked a neighbor about dogs. Were there dogs around the multi-colored casitas that made up this place who may be dangerous to her? No, no problems with dogs. Ok, that meant to me that while I would not set her loose, she could still be right by the door for two minutes, enjoying some fresh air from her home country.
As I woke up from a fitful night the next morning I learned that there was a very territorial cat across the courtyard. White, one green eye, and one blue eye, he was king of the domain and made sure of it. I guess I had not asked about that.
I called her over and over again, I looked up and down this foliage-dense place and I asked each and every neighbor on their way to work. I visualized her home and asked friends to do the same. I posted her photo on Facebook.
And then, one of the men I had talked with earlier came by my door and said: "Hey, the big white cat is looking up the ficus tree at a smaller cat." I just about jumped over the wrought-iron fence and to the bottom of the ficus tree where indeed, the white cat was looking up at ... Tiji.
I won't go into details about the rest of the day, which included her deciding that she really liked the tree as well as other hiding places in this man-made jungle. Finally, before the sun went down last night, I pulled the mama card and brought her furry butt back inside where she will remain until we move this weekend.
She is asleep by my side as I write this.
Los Animales #3
While Tiji was intent on being Queen of the Jungle from her dark green perch, Lila and I went on a morning beach walk. There was energy to release and feelings to feel, and the sounds and smells of the ocean were going to help with that. Lila waded in the waves, I felt the sand under my feet and relished temporarily living two blocks from this morsel of paradise.
I had taken my phone with me and when it rang and lit up with the name of someone I love, I took the call and my friend and I chatted while I walked. He was in Seattle and we were once again connecting over the miles.
As we talked about what it was like to be back, I looked down and holy smokes ... crawling its way out of the sand was a tiny baby turtle! No egg, no siblings, turned away from the ocean. I told my friend, and out loud wondered what the right thing to do was.
I had seen baby turtles hatch from their egg and make their way to the ocean, launching themselves into the crashing waves, and against what seemed to make sense, making it past the break and starting their big journey into their world. I had seen it once when I had first arrived and it had made a big impression on me. A burst of inspiration which I have carried in my heart ever since - and possibly re-enacted in my own life a couple of times since.
But this? I wasn't sure.
I am no turtle expert - by a long shot - but I know enough to know that baby turtles need to be in the ocean. And this little guy was heading towards the other way, towards buildings and humans and god knows what. So, with my friend on the other end of the line ("please stay with me, I am not sure what I am doing... is he going to bite me? please just stay on the phone") I picked up the tiny, squirming turtle in the palm of my open hand, and with my friend with me, I walked to the edge of the water, Lila looking on. I bent down and whispered good wishes and placed him on the sand. The first wave gently got him closer to the big deep universe and the next one took him along to maybe a long life.
Talk about a morning phone call.
Talk about a morning.
Talk about immersion to The Flavor of Being Here.
Hours later I was receiving (and I am pretty sure, failed) a lesson in Machete-Wielding.
It felt darn good to close the apartment door, all three of us inside, and climb into bed, and I am going to look into planting a ficus tree in our yard.
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