Mango (25)

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.

green mango with tiny vase of mixed blooms beside it

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.

Exorcising Demons (7)

It’s my seventh week, and still I’m afraid each time I won’t have anything “good” to write. I worry I won’t be able to enter in, that “having” to tie my post to Mexico will make it boring or contrived. I worry because I think I have already told you all my good stories about Mexico, my first whale, my magic walking loop in Guanajuato. What else? I have brainstormed lists of things I can write about, and still every week I’m afraid. And I don’t want to spend all year afraid. I want to break through this. Surely I can find things I want to say about a place that goes so deep in me, whose images swim through my days, wade through my sleeping dreams, whose people live inside me–vivid, dark skinned, brown eyes alert and present. I want to find my way in and stay there, watch my blog grow, be happy with what I touch, excited about what’s to come, each new waiting post a pleasure, another chance to write about what I love, what moves me, makes me feel, come alive. I want to banish the damn fear once and for all. (Does it ever work that way?)

Brian laughed at me when I told him. “I’m sorry, ” he said, still laughing his wonderful laugh. “I’m afraid you simply can’t feel that way.” He was teasing but not teasing. I know it defies logic, is ludicrous in light of my scribbled lists of topics. But each week I become tight, braced, hands out in front of me, warding off monsters. Nothing to say? Nothing worth reading? Nothing I can remember well enough? So make it up, I think. You told your readers you might write fiction. So, write fiction, then. Easier said. Maybe I’m really afraid I can’t do Mexico justice. How can I bring Ana to life, laughing in the living room on Aldama? Rodolfo, offering me a taste of his exquisite pipián, eager, watching my reaction? Iris, a wonderful sly smile on her face, bringing me my birthday dinner at Il Giardino? How can I let you know what they meant to me, alone in a strange country, my lifelines there? How can I explain why I almost never call them, how even now my heart breaks a little and my eyes fill? How they weren’t only my anchors, my buoys in a foreign land, but they seemed to love me so completely, took me just as I was, found joy in me?

patio at Las Flores Posada in Todos Santos, my writing notebook on the table

I wipe tears away with the back of my hand from where they pool above my upper lip. One stray one slides down my left cheek. The misters cool the pre-dusk air, and a hummingbird alights on one pointy tip of the big cactus, taking in their moist cloud. For now, my fears abate, chased off by this release, I think, and because I’ve touched these memories for myself, even if I am no more confident of presenting them to you. I breathe, and sigh, sip my water, listen to the evening chatter of the house sparrows in the hedge behind me, the pwitter of the mourning dove’s wings as he flutters to the ground from his perch atop the wooden fence in search of fallen thistle seeds. Maybe, I think, I only need to become present to do this without fear. And maybe that’s where I’m afraid of failing.

[Editor’s note: This photo shows my writing notebook and binoculars on the patio at Las Flores in Todos Santos, Baja California Sur.]