I’d pulled out the travel section of my L.A. Times a few weeks ago and set it aside unread. The cover story was about Mexico, about the northern village made famous for its pottery. Now the next generation are doing marvelous contemporary things with clay, and I’ve saved the photographs of big beautiful pots for my mother to see. There is one in particular I think she’ll enjoy that reminds me of some of her own large slab bowls. Nestled between the images of the pottery is a shot of one side of a village street, and I am transported. It could be any rural village in Mexico–the narrow, uneven sidewalk, the crumbling edges of things, the dirt road, the fading paint on the walls of the buildings. But what makes this so different from a dilapidated block in some U.S. town? Why does it awake a longing in me, a fondness, even, none of the aversion I might feel for the equivalent in this country? Is it the colors, the texture, the light? Is it the lack of despair in that Mexican air that weighs more lightly on the world? And why do I crave it?
When I moved back to the States, I remember my shock at the clean, wide streets, the lavish landscaping. Now I teeter between pleasure in the places where this wealth allows for a clean beauty, the brick and the desert plants and vivid blooms a masterpiece, often echoing our Spanish roots here in the Coachella Valley, and my dismay and disconnection from the places where the clean wealth falls short of this art and only looks garish and sterile, even obscene. But when I see this photograph of the village street in the newspaper, I ache to be there, walking along the banqueta, the sidewalk, my sandals dusty, my skin drinking in that other sunlight, the colors and the textures akin to the earth, to life, to participating in the world in a different way. I can’t quite grasp the words to explain it even to myself. It is a knowledge and a memory of the body, I think, and the spirit, not the mind.
I can feel myself nodding to two women I pass on the street. “Buenas tardes,” I say.
They take me in with their eyes, nod, smile. “Tardes,” they say.
I have always lived here. There is something magical about Mexico. There is a charge in the air. Both good and bad. You did a great job. :)
Oh, thank you, Becca! This means a lot to me. :)
So very nice to live in a place where the car is not king. I wrote a similar piece recently about a place such as that, but in a much more northerly clime. The parallels are striking: the pride of home, the groundedness and most of all, the sense of being at home.
I haven’t been to many small villages yet, but I have to say in the places where people are having a chance to prosper, buying a new and shiny truck is often the first thing. It is too bad, I think. I live where the car is king—nice turn of phrase! and southern California might even hold first place for that position—but I refuse to participate. ;-)
In fact, I dream of living in a small community where cars aren’t allowed!
Thanks very much for your comment, Maurice. (Sorry it took me a few days to let it post—I’m afraid I am quite behind on my follow-ups and the like.) I will have to look for the piece you are referring to here, and I like the “themes” you are drawing parallels to, as well. Thanks again!
I know. feel that way about my hometown. Always feel rejuvenated when I return.
I don’t know what it would have been like to grow up with that, with this ephemeral thing that feels the way it does to me, more real somehow. (Although when I think of where I grew up in the States, I think it was in an earlier, quieter time that maybe felt more like this, too—but it’s a world that doesn’t exist there anymore.)
It makes me happy to know you feel that way about where you grew up. And so good to be able to return, too, and feel restored.
Thanks, Madhu! :)
nostalgia is so powerful – i feel the same way about other places in my life
I worry sometimes I am being too nostalgic in this year’s blog. But I do think this is a case of it having been better to have loved, yes? Whatever comes after, we are lucky to have loved a place so much. :)
Thanks for visiting and for commenting, Thea!