Shelter (14)

It’s early, just after six in the morning. I am sweeping the cement in the courtyard. I’m a little tired, the aftermath of a long academic year, I think. I am looking forward to the end of the online teacher training I’m co-leading, three more days. The student login help for all the summer terms is beginning to ease off, too, and that part of my job will go away soon. (It will be a relief.) I’ve been going to yoga a lot, still haven’t figured out how to make my mornings work with needing to leave for class each day, feel a little off kilter, almost grumpy about it even though I’m choosing this. I seem to be busy, doing, most of the day. But I’m not getting to things. I’m not writing the way I want to be, not washing the louvered windows, not trimming the yellow tecoma. I remind myself doing yoga is enough. It makes me smile. I hear an odd metallic thump and look over at my neighbor’s roof. I see the pale breast and belly of a very big bird through the branches between us, then they disappear into the tree. An American kestrel is calling nonstop from the electrical pole on the other side of my trailer. I put these two events together, make up a story (or maybe intuit what is true). I believe this bird is hiding from the kestrel. I think it may be a heron, as unlikely as that seems, something about the shape of that torso I glimpsed. I wonder if he tried to steal eggs or got too near a nest. I go back to my sweeping. I decide I feel pretty good, even with being tired from teaching and just this side of disgruntled about my new need to leave home early in the day. I feel content, like something is easy in me. I finish sweeping, fill the bird feeders. I carry water out to the honeysuckle. The waning moon is my companion while I work, big and bold in the western sky. I finish my chores, settle in my tall metal chair outside. The moon is suspended now above the mountains right in front of me. I watch it setting while I sip my lemon garlic drink. Sofia surfaces inside me, and I cry for a moment. I miss her. I am so sorry the end was hard. Sable’s ending, too. I remember the taxi ride, holding Sofia in my lap wrapped in a blanket. I wonder why there are no pet paramedics. I sip my drink, clear of grief again, and listen to the water in the garden, feel at peace. I study my neighbor’s tree and wonder if the big bird is still up there, sheltered in its leaves.

I Am the Invader (43)

Once I walked from Ajijic to Chapala and back. I don’t remember how many hours I spent doing it, but I remember being present for big chunks of time, taking it all in with new and thirsty eyes. I avoided the highway for all but a two or three block stretch in a couple of spots where it was the only choice. I walked through cobblestone streets in the villages, past horses and cows and goats on the dirt roads on the outskirts. More than once I sensed I was walking where gringos didn’t show up very often, and probably not on foot, a woman alone. I didn’t feel afraid, only conspicuous from time to time.

Shore of lake, old rowboat and wheelbarrow

I hugged the lakeside when I could. I passed old brick buildings, glassless windows, the courtyards swept clean, women doing laundry outside by hand, the cluck of chickens behind low brick walls with bougainvillea spilling over them. Once I stopped for a long time watching a heron standing still in the shallows near the shore, and I felt the richness of the life there, the birds, the water, the place where fertile earth and decay overlap, reminiscent of my visit to the deep south here, maybe Biloxi. I marveled at the idea of owning land beside this lake, how much that would mean to me, but wondering if it could feel like that same opulence to the locals in their poverty. East of San Antonio Tlayacapan there was a stretch where the road became more of a walking path than a road, dotted with shacks, more plywood lean-tos than dwellings. I passed a man and two children. They were sitting at the edge of the road, a piece of plywood for a table, a bag of bread between them, the makings of sandwiches. I remember the surprise on their faces when I appeared. I felt like I’d just walked uninvited through their living room. I can still see the man’s face. He is chewing, and he nods to me in response to my greeting. But his eyes are wary, resentful. I am the invader.