I ride my orange bike on the creek path, the world quick glimpses. Five ravens in the middle of the street eating roadkill. A strip of water beside the curb on the other side, sprinkler runoff. They slow hop and waddle between the two, easy together. I grin at this offer of adjacent food and drink, this perfect impromptu dining. When I am past, I see one lone raven sitting in the shade beside the path watching them. And then they are all behind me, and I ride toward the San Jacintos. I think about going back to move the dead animal off the road and onto the sand beside the path to keep the scavengers safe from speeding cars. But I decide the car that hit the squirrel or rabbit has adhered it to the asphalt, so it’s perfect for pecking out morsels, and if I moved it, it would be loose and flap around when they tried to eat and be harder to share. That settles it for me. I don’t have to debate further, consider every angle, wonder if I might cause a fuss moving it, get a raven hit by a car, cause harm trying to help. But sometimes it feels impossible to know, and choosing is agony. Later, on my ride home, one raven stands in the center of the street. The water has dried up, as if it was never there. The other ravens sit quiet and still beside the path in that same spot of shade beneath the two short palms and the desert orchid tree, each strong, curved beak open wide in the late morning heat.
Two white-crowned sparrows peck at the seeds in the small tray feeder I have tucked inside the bougainvillea for them. I watch them from my spot on the couch, the sliding glass door open to the courtyard, mountains and wispy clouds in the background. I savor the quiet in my neighborhood. It seems extraordinary today, and then I understand. Mild desert winter day, no loud heater, no A/C running, rare, unexpected quiet. I woke to unusual bird calls, black birds gathered on the telephone pole outside my window. I craned to see them through the open louvers, then banged the pot I used to boil my water for tea against the sink, loud, inadvertent, and the birds scattered. Off and on all morning in between my work I relish the calls of the ravens in the distance. Once, I close my eyes to listen to one raven’s wingbeats, loud and slow and sure, as she flies past outside my window.
I am walking north along a busy street. A raven flies south, and I look up, see his dark silhouette. A small black bird is flapping hard to keep up, and I see something in the raven’s mouth. A newborn baby bird, translucent in the morning light. The small bird gives up, flies north, fast. She disappears two blocks ahead. I can feel her fresh horror, having chased the raven because she had to, now panicked the others in the nest might be harmed in her absence. I don’t want to believe any of it, but the knowledge sits in me. I return my books to the library. In the park, I walk beneath the jacaranda trees. They are just beginning to bloom. It lifts my spirits to look up and see their purple buds. But the other tragic sight settles back inside me while I walk, heavy in my chest.
I turn toward hope, and then
the half moon and I watch three silent ravens
wing across the daylight sky.
I am riding home from the farmer’s market when I see a raven flying toward me with a mouthful of white. I stop to watch. He lands in a fan palm beside the bike path. I wish I had my binoculars. I want to know what he’s holding in his beak. When I first saw him, I was afraid he had a bird, but now I don’t think so. It looks like a huge clump of cotton but less dense, a shock of fluffy white against the smooth shiny black of him. I wait. I think he will put this big prize in his nest, but he only sits there. He makes those smooth guttural sounds I love so much, and another raven answers. I look over and see her sitting two trees down, matching white stuff in her mouth. On the first palm, I see a spot that juts out, and I think it might be a nest. I keep waiting. Then I realize I’ve interrupted them. I apologize and ride away. For a moment, I cry—because I am the intruder, because they are afraid of my kind. Later, I hope I didn’t dim the glory of their bright snowy find.
They gave me a deck of playing cards at the casino the other day when I signed up for my rewards card so I could get $15 off day use at the spa. The cards had been used at one of the tables, had a small circle punched out of one side, scribbled information across the label. Walking home, I caught sight of the big red “Mexico” on the side of the box where it poked out of my canvas bag. They were made in Mexico, nothing out of the ordinary in that, but catching that one word in my unthinking downward glance surprised me, had me hesitating in the crosswalk, some secret message, a reminder of this new focus for my blog. It made me see how obsessive I may become about this. I notice all the things that remind me of Mexico, my neighbor’s white wall two doors down with the bougainvillea that could be the one in the photo of my first post here, “I Begin,” except for the lovely curve of that other wall and the sweet gated window. The white hotel downtown with the bougainvillea spilling over balconies on the second and third floor is much more tamed but still reminds me of my three-story bougainvillea beast behind La Casa Azul in Todos Santos.
But even if this chosen theme makes me obsess, so be it. I was already missing Mexico, have never stopped comparing my two worlds since I left California or returned to it. The fact I have now made this an official pastime, a required occupation, is not something I regret for a moment. (“Bring it on!” my corny self wants to say, something my stepfather would have appreciated, I think, had he lived long enough to hear the expression.) This choice is sharpening my writer self, helping me move into feeling like I really am a writer more than ever before. It’s teaching me to tune into the concrete world in a way I may have never done. Before, I’ve taken in the world around me, but I’ve been present with the whole, I think, more than with the details. For example, I remember stopping beside the fountain each time I entered the Villa Bordeaux, my favorite mineral springs hotel in San Juan Cosolá. I remember standing there, taking in the walkway, the fountain, the small pond, the charming little building behind it, the grassy area and the trees beckoning beyond toward the lake just out of sight. I remember the way the stone and brick and water and growing things made me feel when I stood there, relishing the quiet, luxurious, pretty peace of the place. But I couldn’t tell you if the walkway was old red brick or painted stone or how the water spilled into the pond or what it was I found so charming about that little building nearby. Did it have clerestory windows? A small cross on the rooftop? An open doorway, slanting sunlight inviting me inside? I can only tell you I knew I would be content to go live in that little room beside the lake.
I’ve always known as a writer I need to pay more attention to these details, and I’ve begun to do so more over the years. But now I see how this new endeavor might teach me to carve these details in my mind, so they can be there when I’m writing a story that needs that Aztec sculpture sitting beside the large mineral pool with the lake and the mountains behind it, or the silent, mottled turtles sunning themselves on the rocks below the fountain. And this excites me, to watch how choosing to write about what I love, choosing to make each of these 54 posts touch on Mexico in some way, is gifting me with this chance to become more fully a writer, to have it weave stronger threads throughout my days and nights. This morning on my walk, heading home down Palo Fierro, I heard a raven making those rounded softer calls I love so much. I looked up to see a mockingbird chasing him across the sky. I stopped to watch their airy waltz, and as they moved off toward the east I watched the waning half moon hanging in the air where they had been, poised above the mountains, thin white luminescence in a pale blue sky. I heard a breeze chasing dried bougainvillea blossoms across the driveway near where I’d stopped in the middle of the street, the papery blooms scratchy, skittering across the cement. It all happened at once, a sweeping arc of overlapping time, the raven’s call, the swooping sky dance, the moon, the mountains, the scrittering of sound. And at the center of it when I saw the moon behind the birds as they crossed the sky I thought, oh, this is one of those moments. And I came home to write about it, grateful for the fullness of things, glad and hoping to be able to gift that moment back into the world.
[This photograph is not mine. It is a promotional photo for the Hotel Spa Villa Bordeaux. I couldn’t find a website for them, but you can find more images and information here: http://www.hotels.com/ho367385/hotel-spa-villa-bordeaux-san-juan-cosala-mexico/.]