Tuesday gray skies open, and we have long hours of that steady, quiet rain that tastes like peace. I take my lime green umbrella and walk in the late dusk, the soft pattering of raindrops balm, honey, music, salve. Wednesday is Mami’s birthday, and she and Auntie Gardi come to celebrate. The rain stops just before they get here. I bring dry cushions out to wet chairs, and we sit together in the courtyard. They drink coffee and smoke cigarettes, fascinated by the birds thronging the feeders after the rain. It makes me glad to watch them watching, feel their pleasure. I don’t often get to share my courtyard birds with anyone. Today the sun is poised to sink behind the mountains as I write. I have a small glass bowl of water beside my bed with one dark orange Mexican birds of paradise blossom, two yellow tecoma trumpet-like blooms and a sprig of scarlet bougainvillea. They broke off from the small bouquet I picked for Mami’s birthday. This little bowl of color and the candle I light are the only outer ways I mark the equinox, but I feel it with me all day long, the perfect balance between night and day, between darkness and light. Maybe that’s why the funny longing that springs up in me, my crazy dream about going to Arizona on Saturday for a daylong retreat Amma is offering there stays alive so long in me today. Maybe this gateway in the turning of our world makes everything feel possible. The birds are quiet now, yesterday’s celebration a memory. But on this magic day when light and dark lie balanced just before the tipping point, Tuesday’s rain and the sweetness of our time in the courtyard yesterday feel like they are all of a piece, rich threads woven into soft, supple cloth. I feel lucky and content, writing now in the last light of the sun. Happy autumnal equinox, everyone.
I pick the big green mango up from the counter, cradle it in my cupped hands. I probe the sides with gentle fingers. I am surprised by how quickly it has softened, even in our late summer heat, becoming almost ripe while I was away overnight celebrating Mami’s birthday. Yesterday in the late afternoon I placed it on the patio table beside a tiny vase of blossoms from my garden to honor the equinox.
Now without knowing, I have brought the mango to my face. The sweet, spicy, astringent smell drifts across me. Tears fill my eyes like a yawn, that quick stretching yearning. For one long moment, the scent takes me to Todos Santos. I am sitting at my tall round wrought iron table in the courtyard at Las Flores, marveling over the ripe red mango that has appeared there as if conjured. Later, Alfredo mimes peeling and eating one, not even trying to name it for me, not knowing the word is the same in English except for our terrible American “a” that butchers its beauty. There are three little trees behind the main house. I pass them when I go to use the washing machine. Alfredo brings me more as the weeks go by, sharing the largesse as the season swells and ends. Always they appear on my little courtyard table like sweet offerings to the gods. Sometimes, when he has borrowed my binoculars to look for whales from the steps at the other side of the inn, he will return them to my table with a mango beside them. Back in my desert kitchen, a world away, I roll the big green mango in my palms, my thumbs brushing across it. I press my nose to the firm skin, inhaling, my lips touching, too, my pose a prayer.