I blame it on Alexa. She must have set my alarm for the wrong time. I wake up knowing it’s too late to get to the footbridge in time to hear the bells chime the hour. I put my sandals on, muzzy from my nap, and head out into the warm wind of early evening. The water in the creek surprises me each time I see it, and I wonder why I am not walking beside it every day until it’s gone. I talk to a raven on the sand, watch the moving water, stop on the bridge and look down at the falls at the concrete drop, still loud from the snowmelt but no longer thunderous. On the way home I hear a frog begin to croak. “Oh,” I ask him in my head, “are you lonely, too?” The question surprises me like the water surprises me. I stop on the path. Am I lonely? I feel a subtle ache, a kind of longing. A little lonely, yes. This morning I woke up with thoughts about being left out. Maybe that has stayed with me. But I’m glad, too. Content, quieted, grateful. While I stand there sorting it out inside me, other frogs join in, six or seven voices, a companionable chorus. It makes me grin. I cross the street, and a raven wings toward me. Is he the same one I spoke to earlier? He lands beside me in a fan palm, and I stand still in the middle of the road. Between the frogs and this bird, I no longer feel alone. And because I’ve stopped before I turn the corner, I hear the bells, after all, tolling the half hour in the late dusk.
Last week I began to read Ray Bradbury’s Zen and the Art of Writing for the second time. I tried to resist, read pieces of the Bonnie Friedman, the Annie Dillard. But they didn’t move me. The first day I read the Bradbury it made me cry. Goldberg’s work makes me cry, too. Today I read Bradbury in the courtyard in the late afternoon with the sun in my eyes. He says in order to feed your muse, “you should always have been hungry about life since you were a child.” I wonder if this is true for me. I kind of think not. But maybe so—just a quieter version than I feel from him. And I have imagined for a good while I’d like to be more avid, more eager, more vibrantly alive. Might I be on the road to that even now as I move my pen across the page? I think, too, he grew up in a different world, one I was lucky enough to touch when I was a little girl, like the last sip on the tip of my tongue. The carnival came to his town, real people who talked to him. The magician sent him home with the rabbit from his show. The world was smaller then. It makes me wish I’d been the girl next door—oh, that’s Ray’s friend Riba. I wish I’d felt the silky fur of that magician’s rabbit underneath my hand, that I was sprawled on the ground with the other neighborhood kids listening to his father’s voice in the dark, telling stories of his own childhood when there were no roads heading west, only dirt tracks and the new railroad, or lying on our backs looking up at the sky filled with stars and tasting awe for the first time in our young lives.
I carry Mexico inside me in a way I’ve never known before. It’s half longing, half comfort, I think, as though the country is part of my bedrock now from my short stay–unexpected, surprising, constant. Other places reside in me, too. The open fields of Sonoma County, Sebastopol’s apple orchards alive in the white of full bloom. But they live quietly, rich moist earth breathing peace. I loved it there. For the first time I thought, I could spend the rest of my life here. But I don’t dream of going back, not like with Mexico, though I don’t rule it out. I dream again and again of going back to Mexico. I imagine really moving there this time, not just going like I did before, for a year or two, maybe forever, not returning in a rush to the United States. I can see myself there, sitting in my walled garden, sparrows and white-winged doves in the bougainvillea, daily walks along the malecón, the boardwalk, watching my volcano across the lake. I can picture myself older, taking extra care moving across the cobblestone streets.
Day to day, I hold the longing to return, to make Mexico my own. It lives in the crook of my elbows, hides behind my knees. And yet I wonder if I will ever make that choice. Questions rise in me, yeast in the dough. Can I live again with spiders the size of my hand? What about feeling like “the other” there? Would I grow used to it, morph into new skin, my roots sinking deep in foreign soil? Would my life in the United States fade like a dream? I think it might. I can imagine missing people here, urging them to visit me there. I can imagine missing the conveniences, Trader Joe’s, the rules of a bureaucracy where I can know what to expect. But I can’t picture me living in Mexico and carrying this same longing for life in the United States. When I think of living in Mexico again, I only picture being home.