Friday, March 16, 2007

Ana's Return to Chacala

Mahuajua Chacala, Nayarit

We walk down the early morning beach, footprints wiped clean by the tide, pristine.
A couple hundred pelicans float the shallow waters, rising and dive-bombing the unsuspecting sardines and other bait fish, packed tight near the shore.
A feeding frenzy for three days now.
The magnificent frigates shadow the pelicans, looking for a dropped fish, or snatching a piece from a pelican’s immense beak.
They can’t dive, so only hang around for the leftovers.

We climb the steep path to Mahuajua, snaking back and forth to the restaurant perched high on the cliff.
The owners, Jose and Carmen, have placed a vase of ferns at the first turn.
Then a silk-screened banner of birds, hung above the path.
Then a broken, decorative plate placed in a niche in the rock.
A black and red butterfly hovers by the side of the path, following us for a bit.
We emerge on a gravel patio and sit at a small wooden table by the edge of the cliff.
The waves crash below us onto the lava rocks strewn across the beach, with occasional heaps of rock interrupting the flatness of the pattern.
The giant hand of the volcano above sprinkled them artfully across the landscape.

We have come, my friend and I, to write our thoughts, enjoy a little solitude and share random conversation.
A white carafe of coffee sits on the table between us.
A lovely woven tray bears a small flowered pitcher of milk, a couple of spoons, tiny napkins, sugar.
I read from May Sarton’s House By the Sea: “Solitude like a long love, deepens with time, and, I trust, will not fail me if my own powers of creation diminish.
For growing into solitude is one way of growing to the end.”
Hmmm. I like that.
I realize it reflects my strategy.
Can we do solitude together?, my friend and I ask each other.

We sip the rich coffee, laced with cinnamon, and bend to write.
I have been taking in my familiar pueblo for a week without attempting to write about it.
My journal is blank.
I need time to figure out what I feel.

“I feel more at home here than anywhere,” Gordon told me.
I know exactly what he means.
Chacala has always been that for me.
A wave of peace washes over me as I look out to sea.
A large cruiser comes into my vision, motoring out of the bay.
In the foreground, just below us, a giant fig tree wraps around a palm, weaving a gnarly pattern upward until just the palm branches emerge at the top.
Writing is easy solitude.
Providing focus, guiding my thoughts, inviting me to look around and take in the setting.

I have been craving solitude here, sleeping, walking the cobblestone streets, avoiding too much time with my gringo friends.
I am healing more each day, getting strong from the walking and swimming, feeling nurtured by the juicy weather.
My heart raced with exhilaration the first day I waded into the water, timing the waves, shooing the pelicans, running to dive under at the exact moment a tremendous wave breaks.
Then surfacing on the other side of the crashing waves and swimming laps back and forth, floating easily with toes sticking out of the water, perusing the incredible sky.
I startle when a pelican dives from 30 feet above just to my side, or when one skims the surface of the water directly in my path.
I trust their accuracy.
Sometimes they float quietly near me, watching me carefully.
I wonder what they are thinking.

Concha, my best Mexican friend here, had a small benign tumor removed from her uterus three months ago and is still in chronic pain.
Gringa friends are taking her to the doctor again this week, pushing for a diagnosis.

Aurora, my Mexican daughter, from a nearby town, shows up with her new husband, Miguel, and three-month-old baby Miguelito.
She is very happy, despite her parents divorce, and the circumstance of this marriage.
They take me to Platanitos, another small bay up the coast.
I have never been there before and am happy to know about it.
We drive up the cliff to a miramar and look out over an estuary winding back towards the highway.
Afterwards, we sit at a restaurant on the bay and drink cokes.
Miguel orders civeche, then oysters on their shell, then raw camerones en aqua picante.
I eat the civeche on fresh, hot, greasy tostados, but pass on the rest.
My stomach is still making friends with the food.
Aurora and Migel are returning to Tepic tomorrow to start their classes.
Aurora to become a dentist, Miguel a biologist.
I was lucky to catch them before classes start.

Pepe and Maribel, friends from Guadalajara, stop to see me on Sunday.
They are returning from Puerto Vallarta, only passing through.
They look for me at my house, are told I am visiting someone and go there, and finally go to Gordon’s, where I am staying.
Gordon brings them to find me at the beach.
This is the way here.
You can find anyone, but must track them down.

So many families to visit.
Each walk takes me by homes of old friends and children I no longer recognize.
The little girls I danced and sang with 8 years ago are young women.
They greet and hug me openly.
The boys I played Ochos Locos with in the little library so many years ago, are swaggering, young men.
Some greet me with a shy smile or extended hand.
Some I grab for a hug and kiss, much to their embarrassment.
A few, now part of the “bad boy” gang, look the other way when I pass.
I teasingly call their names, making them glance at me, grinning.

Dona Lupe makes pozole Saturday night in her small puesto.
Several of us go down for an impossibly large bowl of the delicious soup, sprinkled liberally with shredded chicken and lettuce.
Don Elijio, her husband, is sober, for a change, and even helpful.
Blanca, their retarded teen-age daughter, now taller than I, lingers near our table, swaying and smiling toothlessly.
Lupe hugs me and demands to know about my health.
How do I explain?
“Muy bien,” I usually say.
With some I add “mas o menos.” and explain that tratimiento is ongoing.
Lupe reminds me of the dried snake meat that I am supposed to be chewing daily.

Lupita, another friend and motel owner, tells me that she knows by my espĂ­ritu that I will be fine.
She is proud to show me that she has completed the ESL workbook that I left for her two years ago.
Her English is a little better.

When I go to see Chapa, the familiar stick house behind the school is gone.
I find her in back in a new cement block house with cement floor.
I remember sitting on a wooden chair in the old house, watching her unfold spotlessly clean pajamas from huge baskets, and dress her children for bed.
They would hop from chair to cot to cot to keep clean, bare feet off the dirt floor, and climb under their mosquito netting on their cots in the corner.
Now she has separate rooms for kitchen and bedroom.

The gardens surrounding my little casa/terraza are more beautiful that I could have imagined. In two years, the bougainvillea and other flowering vines have covered the fence and boulders. An assortment of flowers, hibiscus, gerber daisies, and other things I can’t name, bloom in pots and in the garden.
Palms and banana trees I planted 2 years ago are 12 and 15 feet high.
The lemon tree is full of fruit, not quite ripe.
Juan, my caretaker, has a enormous new tent, erected smack in the middle of the terraza.
He is proud of the gardens.
He carefully shows me the signs of disrepair, the crumbling grout around the tile at the edge of the terrace floor, a few cracked tiles, the rust on the wrought iron circular staircase leading to the roof.
I unpack plastic storage containers in my kitchen and bathroom, giving things away, packing up others to send home, preparing my house to be sold.
feeling sad and nostalgic and mad that I can’t spend my winters here.
I talk with several Mexicans who might be interested in buying.

At the final hour, my sons, who have visited but shown little interest in my house or my pueblo, write and say, “Mom, don’t sell.
We will buy it and build some bedrooms so we can all stay there.”
La Casa de Ana will take on new life.
I will keep returning, if only a week at a time.


No comments: