― Barbara Kingsolver,
Wednesday, May 9, 2018
Where I've Been and Where I'm Going
“Many of us who aren't farmers or gardeners still have some element of farm nostalgia in our family past, real or imagined: a secret longing for some connection to a life where a rooster crows in the yard.”
― Barbara Kingsolver,
― Barbara Kingsolver,
9 years ago, we bought our first house in Mexico. We came to take a break from living on a sailboat, we needed a short reprieve from the same old boat problems, the same old bars, the same old routine. That was what was intended. Then, somewhere between Valladolid and Progreso, Yucatan, we decided we wanted a new life, a simple Mexican life. Just a little beach shack with a hammock and some coconut trees swaying in the breeze. That was our intention. So we bought a beautiful monstrosity of concrete with sliding glass doors. Okay, it wasn't really a monstrosity, it was a beautiful home with thick concrete walls that were always cool enough to make you want to plaster your whole body against them when the sun outside was doing it's best to make you part of huge human frittata. We spent years and a few tens of thousands of dollars changing what we exclaimed to be the "perfect house" when we first laid eyes on it and, then, when we couldn't find another wall we wanted to tear down and rebuild, we bought another beautiful monstrosity with sliding glass doors on the other side of the Yucatan Peninsula.
And, somewhere, in the middle we bought a little casita with three rooms total-one of them the bathroom-with a huge yard, a lighthouse for a neighbor and the entire fleet of Dzilam de Bravo's fishing industry parked out our back gate.
Fast forward to today. One beautiful monstrosity is sold, the other beautiful monstrosity is in the fingers-crossed season of being sold, and we're living in three rooms-one of them the bathroom. Our wrought iron bed is in one room off to the side of a set of rattan furniture and an old roll top desk we picked up at a second-hand store a few years ago. The appliances in our kitchen, the remaining room in the house, consist of a refrigerator, a toaster oven and a gas two-burner. We often ask each other, "How come we don't have a microwave?" Then, we say, "Oh yeah, we don't have room." We don't have any sliding glass doors. Instead, we finally have the same traditional blue Mexican door that many of our neighbors have, the ones I'd driven by for years with always the same comment coming out of my month, "One of these days, I'm going to have one of those blue doors." Yep, that's mine above.
I didn't fall in love with our little house, not by a long shot, but I did fall in love with its windows. One contractor told us when we bought the house, "You need to get rid of those, the termites will eat them up." I didn't listen. Instead, I hung sheers over them because my mother always hung sheers on her windows. During the day they move in and out in long sighs and at night the signal light from our neighbor the lighthouse flashes through them in 4 minute intervals. And, yes, the termites and I are engaged in a constant battle of wills and appetites.
Almost every morning I walk down to the market, stepping around the dog shit and styrofoam trays that once held pescado frito or conchinita pibil (No, I do not live in paradise. I live in Mexico.). I might grab a liter of fresh squeezed orange juice that is squeezed while I wait before I get in line at the one vegetable and fruit vendor's table and see what the offerings of the day are. Vegetables are seasonal but not seasoned travelers here in Dzilam de Bravo, you get what's grown here or within a day's drive. If it's in season. Bananas, limes, comically-shaped squash, habaneros and tomatoes are always a given. Lettuce and avocado, somewhat reliable. Oranges that look like the rejects from the orange crate are amazing from November to March and pretty good the rest of the year if you can quit comparing them to their sweeter ancestors. Strawberries are overflowing from every curbside table top stand and fresa vendedor's headtop box for a few weeks in the early month's of every year but don't count on strawberry shortcake in July.
Broccoli and cauliflower? Grab 'em when you see 'em.
Today, as I was walking back from the market, I ran into Felipe, the man who cleaned the weeds from the sidewalk in front of my house a couple of weeks ago. This morning he was standing in front of his own house and he gestured me to look inside, obviously proud of his spare but neat as a pin dwelling. That never happened to me when I lived in my beautiful monstrosities. One hammock hung from the hammock hooks on the wall, a couple of shelves held clothes. I don't know, maybe Felipe was reminding me that his simple existence is what I once aspired to.
So, where am I going with all of this? I have no idea. But I feel the urge to write about it, to spend the next winter trying to live with what is in reach of this small Mexican puerta at the very end of the road that runs up the back of the Yucatan Penisula. To wait with breath held for November with its ugly sweet oranges to arrive again next year.
A new blog?
I don't know. We'll see when we get back in the fall.
I say that a lot these days. "We'll see."