A couple of years ago I happened upon a woman doing readings at our local “new age” store. I looked around the room, and she was the one who drew me. She was an angel intuitive. I’m not sure I’d ever heard that expression before. But what she had to tell me was simple and direct. I don’t remember most of it now. I know she talked about my writing, my book. But there was no moment when I felt as though she was just telling me things she said to everyone. It all felt personal and accurate, a validation of things I felt or knew already, as the best readings tend to be for me. When the information resonates inside me, that’s when it carries weight. I was delighted to have “found” her, to know I now had someone I could go to like this. And she even taught a class about angels. I was all ready to attend. But I called the next week, and she was gone. Her husband had died, and she never came back. I still think about her, hope she was able to be as kind to herself during that hard time as she was to me the day we met. I hope her angels and her human companions saw her through it, and she has come out on the other side. And if I am honest, I have not given up hope that one day she’ll come back, and I can sit across from her again, feel her deep sweetness, hear the news she has to bring over for me from that other realm. But all selfishness aside, may she be well loved, happy, thriving. Vayas con diosa, Lisa. Que te vayas bien.
Sunday morning my fingers do their weird, anxious thing. I am lying in bed. I’ve been dozing off and on, aware once at dawn and then again at seven, but I don’t surface until late, maybe eight o’clock. I stretch, the epitome of luxurious awakening, and my arms are over my head when I hear this odd sound and stop to listen. It is my fingers moving, making little scratchy sounds, fingernails against the sheet. This is my fourth weekend off, I calculate, make a point of emphasizing to myself. And so my fourth cherished Sunday when I can sink into the quiet of my neighborhood later in the day. I sit on the patio and let myself write. But it is not yet enough, not yet perhaps a long enough string of days, not enough to stop the restless circling of my fingertips. I am too quick to run out of patience with the cats, too quick to snap or yell at them. I do it with humans, too, but I am more subtle. I am not wild and loud like when I was young–sometimes people don’t even know I’ve snapped at them by my reckoning. But I feel it inside, this stingy tightness, this prickly impatience that has no true base in the moment but screams instead to that other angry person years ago who stole things from me. I am a person wound too tight. It is not the first time. Some days I am afraid I won’t know how to fix it, won’t find a way to be less anxious again. It wasn’t that long ago, I think.
Even as I write a part of me knows I will figure it out. I will find a way back to who I want to be. I wrote about this before and laughed when I read it later. I guess it was a kind of Freudian slip. “I want to find my way back,” I wrote, “to the woman who would drink her first cup of teach in the courtyard garden,” and let herself lean back in the chair, warm ceramic cup cradled in both hands, solid heat nestled against her sternum. The first cup of “teach,” indeed. How funny. I want to find my way back to the woman who knew how to stop like that every morning, the woman that knew how to drop down into her peace. I don’t want to be the woman whose mind in wrestling with work, teaching or otherwise, thoughts that assault that first hour of the day. Worse yet, sometimes I am the person whose first cup of tea sits forgotten beside me on the table, cold because I am too focused on the computer in my lap. I want to find my way back to that other woman who knew how to stop or at least pause every morning. And then a kinder voice emerges–a small miracle–and I remind myself I have already come a long way. “Voy a llegar,” I say, and I laugh in the now dark. I am going to arrive.
I am standing beside the pine table in front of the kitchen window mixing the tuna and medicinal herbs for Sofia. My own watermelon juice was first, the jars full of pink clustered together now on the top shelf of the fridge. I move the blender through its speeds, my body on automatic with the familiar steps. I stand looking outside but not seeing. I am glad I’m finally taking care of this. I’d put it off for too many days, something always getting in the way, robbing the time or the inclination. I flip the lever to slow the speed, turn the other to shut the blender off. I am still staring out the window when I come to. I see Serena, adorned with her yellow palo verde blooms. I see the lime green umbrella, the mountains in the distance, doves in both the tray feeders, late morning snack. Pleasure washes through me. I take it in all at once like a song. I really, really love our new home. Gratitude pours out. This appreciation comes often now, slipping in at odd moments, seeming quieter and deeper than I’ve known before. Maybe that comes with age. Maybe it’s tied to the fact that this one belongs to us more fully than before. Or maybe it’s just her own magic working on me, her spot on the planet, her mountains nearby, her birds, her sky, now her palo verde, her bougainvillea, her human, her cats. I feel like we belong here. And so lucky. I hope she’s glad we came.
I dream I am ordering a burrito from Robert Redford. He is behind the cutout window of a little makeshift stand inside a large building, maybe a low-rent lobby but more the feeling of a second floor nonprofit, part workspace and part shelter. There is a handmade note attached to the side of the flimsy stand telling what they serve, and there are three different kinds of pork, so he needs to explain them to me. He is completely warm and kind and gives me his undivided attention. There are other people waiting, but he acts like we have all the time in the world. We talk about all kinds of things. The conversation feels flirty and fun. At one point I look at my feet and tell him I have forgotten what I wanted to say. A Mexican woman arrives to tell me the third pork option has something mixed in with the pork. I understand everything she is saying except the Spanish word for what is mixed in. She goes away and returns with this four foot long bundle of branches with dried leaves. I think it is the leaves she is talking about that must be added to the pork mixture, and then I follow the curve of the branches with my eyes and see they are covered with raisins! (After I wake I wonder if they ever do this, leave the grapes after the harvest, let them dry on the vine and then gather them together like this in the pruning process. I look up the word for raisins. Did she say pasas? Uvas secas? I don’t remember now.) At one point in my infatuation, of being so drawn to Redford, I am leaning in toward him while we talk. “Too close,” he says, and then he goes back to whatever he is telling me. There is no judgment of me in his warning, no recoil in him. I am just reminded in his warm, quiet voice to back off a bit. There is such sweetness in it all. I wake up filled with pleasure (and hungry for a pork burrito).
I remember walking from La Casa Azul to downtown Todos Santos. It was late afternoon. I don’t remember where I was going, maybe to meet my Spanish teacher Guillermo at the cafe. I was taking the side streets north of the highway. I passed a woman washing clothes in her yard, another taking stark white dress shirts down off a clothesline. A man in a hat was hosing down the dirt road in front of his house when I passed. He smiled and nodded. “Buenas tardes,” I said. I passed a house with a garden in the front, vines climbing the wire fence, purple blooms. A woman was scraping food from a pot into a white enamel bowl on the ground, her brown dog dancing at her feet. “Oh,” I said. I was grinning. “She’s so excited about it.” Ella está muy emocionada sobre su comida. I remember the woman’s laugh, how it opened up her face. I remember the sweetness inside that moment together, of being part of her love for her dog.
When I lived in Todos Santos, I would ride the bus to Cabo San Lucas to pick up the mail sent to me from my box in northern California. I would go to the Burger King there, indulge in a Whopper that tasted remarkably like the ones here in the States. (When I was an adolescent, I remember my disappointment when my girlfriend and I found a McDonald’s in Germany but the hamburger there still tasted like a foreign country.) In Cabo San Lucas, hamburger in hand, I’d walk along the harbor, or sit perched on the steps overlooking it, and savor the familiar taste as I chewed. After, I’d go to the Häagen-Dazs store and eat ice cream. Before Cabo San Lucas, I never even knew they had Häagen-Dazs stores. I haven’t seen once since. But the best fast food I had in Mexico was the morning after the cats and I had crossed over to the mainland on the ferry from La Paz. We were stopped in line before a toll booth, and a man came up to my window. He had a small blue and white cooler with him. I don’t remember what he called his wares, but I bought one. The plastic bag was warm, and that surprised me. He was using the cooler to hold in the heat. I paid him, then caught up with the toll booth line, and headed south along the toll road. I remember there were big black birds in the trees lining the highway, their calls an exotic din. I unwrapped the plastic bag, warm skinny rolled tortillas, like taquitos only not fried. They were filled with potatoes and a glimmer of meat, and I remember how tasty they were, how good the freshness and the warmth felt in my mouth. I remember marveling to think that kind of homemade breakfast would find me on the highway like that. I can still see the diffident way the man walked toward my car, the blue and white cooler in his hand. And I can still feel the soft warmth of the tortillas against my fingers while I ate and drove, the air alive in grackles.
Last Saturday I spent the day selling books and bowls and all sorts of other things at my sidewalk sale. I called it that in the craigslist post because I liked the sound of it. We don’t have a sidewalk along this property, but I spread blankets and sheets over the gravel where the sidewalk would be if we had one, and I lined up my boxes of books, my Tupperware, my clothes. I swept the street the night before, and after my 11-hour stint that Saturday, I swept it again, feeling small chills as I moved the broom across the asphalt, the precursors of heat stroke, I imagined. So yesterday when the neighbor’s gardener blew a bunch of debris into the gutter in front of my home, I was already in that mode. I headed out with my broom again. I swept the blacktop and remembered how in Todos Santos, people would rake the dirt road in front of their property. They carved neat tracks in the sandy dirt, and in the dry seasons they would hose it down, the water poking holes in the tidy grooves the rake had made. Downtown, where the roads are paved, shopkeepers would wash the sidewalks in front of their stores with soapy water. I remember being surprised, at first, and yet it seemed so natural, so right. Of course, I thought. Claro que sí. Of course we should each tend our own little section of the street.