Natural Rhythms, May 6, 2023


Today, I have been working on Chapter 12 of a book about my first few years in Mexico. This one was written in my journal a little over a month after I moved here in 2001. As will be obvious by my packing crate desk, I still didn’t have furniture! Please let me know if this chapter holds your interest.

Natural Rhythms

            Yesterday during the sunny part of late afternoon, I noticed the dust and streaks on the kitchen and sala windows. I knew the windows hadn’t been washed since their initial washing when I moved in a few months before, but I hated telling either Jesus or Sofia what to do. I felt like they both had a pretty good handle on what needed to be done and I liked the idea of a natural rhythm being established that pulsed along on its own. So I didn’t say anything to Sofia about the windows.
            She had come late again, although I didn’t notice how late. Immediately, she came into the guest room, where I had moved my computer in anticipation of the visit of the electrician. In removing breakable objects from his path, I was doing my part. “Senora,” she said excitedly in her normal fashion. She then proceeded to cough and sniff and show in sign language that she had contracted my flu symptoms.
            “Is possible trabajar?” I asked, meaning not that I was worried if she could work but that I was worried whether she should.
            “Si, si,” she insisted, but we moved to the kitchen to make tea together for both of us. There I dosed her with echinacea and goldenseal––the horrible liquid variety that I hated so much that I couldn’t make myself take it. But she is more stoic and swallowed the glass of water with drops in it with two horrible grimaces and a general trembling of the body. We chased it with a glass of peach juice. Next time, take it with less water, I instructed, a bit late for her present comfort.
            Later, I heard much talking and splashing out on the terraza. I had been hearing the loud voices for over a half hour but had screened them out. Now I realized that it was Sofia talking to Jesus in a voice made lower and almost unrecognizable from her cold. She had been outside for most of the morning, talking as he swept and watered. What was she doing?
            “Senora, Senora!” I heard.
            I ran out of the sliders that led from the guest room all the way around the house and finally found them in the back terraza. Jesus was happily giggling and sweeping water from the fieldstone patio floor. Sofia was squirting water on the windows. Sofia was washing windows! My house’s needs were being met according to that long seamless communication that required only my silence.
           “Did you call me?” I asked.
            “No, Senora,” said Sofia. It was the third time that day that I’d heard her calling me and had gone to find her only to have her say she hadn’t called. Perhaps some mental telepathy was in play. First the windows, now this. My life was being simplified. Like a mother whose children had sailed off seamlessly into their own lives, I felt content.
            Later, after the electrician had left, my plumber arrived and found the cause for our lack of water pressure for so long. It seemed to be a faulty water filter. More mysteries solved. I moved out onto the front patio to look at plants newly planted. The white of the repaired dome stood sorely against the sky like a bandaged elbow. One day I would have to figure out the color scheme for the repainting project. House projects stretched out in front of me like the line of leaf cutter ants that marched the edge of the terraza. Individual ants stood out clearly today, since each carried the pipestem of a vivid red lipstick blossom. At times they looked like the wings of vividly colored moths as they wove together and apart. Some carried their loads straight upright like periscopes or stovepipes. Others had cut off cross sections so their loads looked more like fat hula hoops.
            Ant generals three or four times larger than the rest patrolled the lines, getting smaller ants out of difficulties, lifting caught flower barrels over higher zigs of stone or helping to disentangle plant collisions. One small ant struggled to try to extricate its load from a depression. It was carrying a piece of succulent shaped like a small pompon on a green stem, the pompon consisting of a dozen tiny green balls. Top-heavy, it kept landing in bowled depressions in the fieldstone and getting stuck. Time after time, other ants would come to help. They tugged and pulled and pushed. Again and again the small ant would get it balanced and start off again to land in yet another depression. Finally, he was well on his way over a particularly flat few inches of stone when the wind came up and lifted the load from his jaws, blowing it a good six inches out of the way. The same was true of an entire leaf being carried by one of the general ants, but in this case, the ant did not let go of his load and instead was blown with the leaf across the patio. The ants both abandoned their Herculean tasks, scurrying back in the opposite direction, fate having relieved them of annoying tasks their ant natures would not allow them to abandon.
            A necklace of bright red lipstick blossoms bobbed before and after them. Who was the Mamacita being regaled with all of this floral bounty? Was it fiesta time in the ant world or was this just some particularly succulent provision that was worth the extra labor of traversing the entire terraza to obtain just it? Under the sink in the kitchen were six sticks of the insecticide chalk that had effectively stopped the onslaught of these leaf cutter ants against my hibiscus bush, but I couldn’t bring myself to end this gay procession, let alone to kill all of its participants. It was too wonderful, this colorful parade––its participants too determined and focused.
            It was part of the workings of my house this day: Sofia now sweeping the floor, bringing out fresh flan, Jesus finished with his sidewalk sweeping and off to pay his electric bill, I moving my stool away from where I had pulled it to watch the ants and back to its position by my packing crate desk. The world moved around us, catching us up in its pulse and pulling us along. No boss. No list too organized. Rather, dozens of small lists lost in coat pockets and blown into corners. Someday everything would be finished. In the meantime, everything was here jumbled together. Things uncomplicated in their messiness were doing themselves, being done to, doing back. Something was being taught to me as I sat very still, letting myself be taught.

10 thoughts on “Natural Rhythms, May 6, 2023

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