This doesn’t quite capture the beauty of the sunset tonight, but it comes close. Amazing. Click to enlarge the photo.
Busy day at the Ajijic pier.
For the Water Water Everywhere prompt.
Everyone keeps asking if the earthquake and hurricane had any effect on our weather here. I can’t notice that it has, other than a week of rain during earlier hurricanes and tropical storms last week, but this sunset two nights ago is perhaps the result, somehow, of bad weather farther away. I have not augmented the colors. They were really this brilliant!!! These photos were taken over a 15 to 20 minute time period from my deck.
(Click on photos to enlarge.)
Last week I showed you Little Duck’s Adventure. This week I want to show you Frida’s. I’ve decided try try to take one of the dogs for a walk every day. Frida got the first turn and did great. After a scare last week when we thought we were going to have to put her down, the miracles of modern medicine saved the day, and she’s like a young dog again. The day after the big rains, we went down to inspect the lake along the malecon. (Click on photos to enlarge and read captions.)
I was invited by Cee from ceenphotography.com to participate in a challenge called Seven Day Nature Photo Challenge. (Check out Cee’s nature photos as well as her thousands of other wonderful photographs by clicking on the link above.
As part of this challenge, I am to post one nature photograph a day for one week and to ask one other person to join the challenge each day. Today I ask you to check out the photography of Irene Waters and I’m nominating her to take part in the Seven Day Nature Challenge as well.
Good Still Exists Everywhere!!!
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Pay It Forward.”Tell us about a time when you responded to an act of kindness with one of your own.
Today, for some reason, I did something I have never done before. Instead of writing to this prompt, I decided to read what others had written first. Why this was so, I don’t know. Perhaps it was because I had the feeling many probably had that it is embarrassing to talk about this subject. How in the world do you write about it without sounding (and being) narcissistic or self-congratulatory? There is no way to talk about our own good acts without sounding either falsely humble or like a braggart.
I say perhaps this is the reason, because I was not even conscious of registering what the prompt was. I just went to the first page listed on the Daily Prompt page and clicked on the first square I saw. Unfortunately, it was at this exact moment that I got called away by Yolanda to talk about some household matter, and when I came back, I saw these words by Marilyn Armstrong:
“In Judaism, you lose points for telling anyone about your good deeds. The only ones that really count are the ones you do in secret. Pity that has never really caught on :-)”
Thinking it was her blog I was reading, I responded with this comment:
“I have never heard this before, Marilyn, but it sounds like it would make a great theme for a story or poem. I think we need to hear about the positive things that happen in the world. We are all so weighted down by the terrible ones. But perhaps the secret is to broadcast the good acts of others rather than your own. If you look at blogs like Mark’s or several others whose names have slipped my mind, they are often publicizing gross wrongs in the world and encouraging people to draft letters of protest or sign petitions or to give their support by other means. He is not blowing his own horn, but speaking out of a desire to effect change in the world. These are acts we can all see and in promoting them and him, we can spread the word of positive acts not our own. I am not disputing what you say, understand. I agree that people who constantly tell you of all their good works are irritating. On the other hand those who merely demonstrate their own good works by their actions are such wonderful role models that they have no need to blow their own horns.”
But now, the plot thickens. After hitting the “Send” button, I scrolled up to realize that the blog I was writing on was really The happy Quitter’s blog. The statement by Marilyn was just a comment! So, it became necessary to fire off this comment to its author, nonsmokingladybug!
There is Always Music
The music of Mexico is composed of a cacophony of sounds—all of them loud! Trumpets, drums, violins, guitars, tubas and trombones are backed up by fiesta revelers, insects, burros, cattle, roosters, fireworks, church bells, air brakes, stone drills and vendors driving the street with loudspeakers announcing gas, produce, knife-sharpening or bottled water for sale.
Living in Mexico is like living in a place where one or another of your neighbors celebrates a party every other day of the week. Patriotic holidays, weddings, saints days, baptisms, funerals, fifteenth birthdays—all are occasions for fiestas of often grand proportions; and although these parties do not always take place in your own neighborhood, the lake and mountains act as a sounding board which makes it sound as though they do.
Recently, it has become the style to set off fireworks from a boat positioned mid lake to celebrate nuptials. Then loud music and loudspeaker shouts proceed far into the night. Tonight as I got home a half hour before midnight, the music was so loud that it could have been coming from the house next door, but it was coming from a large hall on the carretera a half mile away. It was a wedding party I had seen the beginnings of earlier in the day, now grown into a full-scale bash.
The loudest celebrations are held on saints’ days or national holidays. These celebrations are frequent, as in addition to the usual holidays such as Dia de la Independencia and Aniversario del Revolución, each town has a ten-day celebration of the town’s patron saint. During one week-long celebration in the nearby town of Ajijic, it is rumored that 10,000 bottle rockets were set off, each of them launched into the air and exploding at the decibel level of a cherry bomb.
To demonstrate the frequency of such celebrations, take the six-day period of April 30 to May 5. The most famous Mexican holiday in the U.S. is Cinco del Mayo, but in Mexico, but in Mexico it is a celebration of minor importance. There are four other major holidays in the five days leading up to it, all of them more important. The week starts out on April 31 with El Dia del Nino, a celebration and parade for the day of the child, followed the next day by labor day—Dia del Trabajo—the day of the laborer. After a day’s vacation from holidays, there is Dia de Santa Cruz, followed two days later by Cinco de Mayo, the commemoration of the Battle of Pueblo. All of these celebrations bring with them the sounds of revelry: loud banda music, fireworks, guns fired into the air and the accompanying barks of protesting dogs and encouragement of human revelers.
In December, Christmas is preceded by the week-long commemoration of the Virgin of Guadalupe, which in my village is the occasion for hundreds of plant-decked altars to be set up along the streets in front of houses, garlands over the street and cobblestones strewn with fresh alfalfa. One day in early December, a neighbor came by to visit. Later, we went for a walk in the San Juan Cosala main plaza. The most beautiful feature of the square was a large faded portrait of the Virgin of Guadalupe that stood near the church. Flowers and lights surrounded it in preparation for her saint’s day. Unfortunately, one of the strings of colored lights that swathed the portrait was a musical strand. In the fifteen minutes we took to traverse the square, we heard nasal computer-like renditions of, “I Wish You a Merry Christmas,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” and “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.”
There is always music. Now the steady hum of the pump which recycles water from the jacuzzi to water the plants stops and I hear the steady whisk whisk whisk of the gardener’s broom on the stone patio. Outside hundreds of bees hum around the Virginia creeper that blankets the awning over the patio.
Birds furnish a counterpoint harmony to these domestic arias. In the few months that I have been living here, I believe I’ve heard whippoorwills, Baltimore orioles, grackles, and tanagers. I have heard the mysterious night call of a bird with a voice disguised as an interloper whispering, “Pssssst. Pssssst.” (I have since learned that this is probably an insect.) I have never seen either this bird or the bird whose call sounds like a squeegee being scraped against a chalkboard, but I did eventually see the ubiquitous insect called a rainbird (local name for a cicada) whose voices (by the thousands) proceed from a few seconds of castanet sounds to the buzz saw melody that fills the hills and trees around my house with their mating music in May and June .
In my first six months living lakeside, my solitude has been broken by few people other than my housekeeper, gardener, workers and repairmen who make daily pilgrimages to my house to correct problems at about the same rate as they create them. When now and then they switch off the loud competing blarings of their individual radios, I hear music in the noises of their industry as they administer to the house and grounds like neophytes to a high priestess. It is the house that is the god here, not me. I sit in another part of it making my own music on the keys of my laptop.
This morning, I awoke to the chink chink chink of the gardener’s shovel as he dug concrete chunks from the flowerbed beside my pool. He used neither of the new shovels I bought him, but instead the flat edged old shovel with the handle broken in half. I have stopped demanding or even suggesting that anyone do things the easy way. The squeegee sits dry in the storeroom along with the dried out sponge mop. Nearby are the damp rags and buckets are are actually used to wash the windows; and in the living room, I can hear the rhythmic slosh of Lourdes moving the string mop that is used so frequently that it rarely dries out.
On Monday, as Lourdes ironed in the spare room, I asked if she wished to listen to my Spanish/English tapes. If it is true that she will soon go to join relatives in the States, she should know some English. She nodded yes enthusiastically, but after one cycle, she removed the tape and switched to the radio. I could hear her singing along even two rooms away through two closed doors. She sang slightly off key, in a happy voice, unaware that anyone listened. In the afternoon, she ironed 30 garments, even though I had asked her to iron only three. As she ironed, she sang.
Every day I learn more about Mexico. On this day I have learned this. The pool man may be missing, there may be no water in the aljibe (cistern), and you can be sure that if you need hardware, the hardware store will be closed for comida (the afternoon meal). If you want to go to the restaurant you have passed twenty times, on the day you go it will be closed. There is a page-long list of things my house needs that I cannot find. But on this day, I learned of one thing that you can always find. In Mexico, there is always music.
–by Judy Dykstra-Brown
Twenty years ago when I moved to Mexico, I wrote the above piece for a local magazine and when the time came that I wanted a local artist, Isidro Xilonxochitl, to paint a mural on my outside wall, I asked him to use the themes from my essay.
He painted a wall covered by birds and insects, but also wrote a poem in Spanish that I translated into English. Wall damage made it necessary to paint over the mural years ago, but the poem is still painted on my wall. If you can’t make it out from the photo, I’ve rewritten it below. (Note: Nahuatl is a language of the Uto-Aztecan language family.)
We rested lulled by the sounds of the night
and awakened to the joy of the birds.
We erased our minds of the Nahuatl
and learned to be quiet.
Mexico is a music that emanates
from the birds and the insects
to remind us that one day
we all spoke the same language.
— Isidro C. Xilonsochitl
This post is for Sam, because he asked.
Our prompt today was to write a poem that features walls, bricks, stones, arches, or the like.
The new neighbors are not friendly.
From their side of my wall,
they have severed the vines
that have covered my tall palms
that abut the wall
that has separated our properties
for thirteen years—
those maroon bougainvillea vines,
stretched ten feet wide
by covering layers of blue thunbergia,
formed a community that housed families
of birds and possums and possibly
a very large but harmless snake.
I saw it cross my patio once,
the dog and I turning our heads toward each other,
exchanging looks of surprise
like characters from a stage play or a comic book,
her so startled and curious that she followed,
nose to the ground, to the brush beside the
wall the snake had vanished into,
but never issued a bark.
At night the palm trees
and their surrounding cloaks
would give mysterious rustlings that
aroused the barking of the dogs
and I’d let them in—the pup to sleep
in the cage that was his security
and my security as well—against chewed
Birkenstocks and ruined Oaxacan rugs
and treats purloined from the little silver
garbage can that held the kitchen scraps
saved for Yolanda’s pigs.
Along with the vines,
the new neighbors cut the bougainvillea
that grew to fifteen feet above my wall
and furnished privacy from the eyes
of those standing on their patio,
ten feet above mine,
so that now their patio looks directly down
on my pool and hot tub and into my bedroom,
their new bright patio light shining all night long
into my world formerly filled
with stars and moonlight and tree rustlings.
The old wall has revealed its cracks and colors
from several past paintings
that were later made unnecessary by its cloak of vines.
It is an ugly wall that separates neighbors,
echoing the now-dead vines that stretch 80 feet up
to the fronds of the palms.
It takes three men three days to cut the refuse of
the dry vines down from the trees,
two truckloads to bear the cuttings away.
The dogs still bark, but the possum and the birds
have gone to some other haven,
and the men come to erect the metal trellis,
12 feet high, above the top of my low wall.
I hope the bougainvillea will grow
to cover it this rainy season,
building a lovelier wall
between neighbors who still have not met
by their preference, not mine,
causing me to wonder
if I really am as welcome in this country
as I have felt for all these years.
“My neighbors are the same,” my friend tells me.
“They do not really want us here,
and if you think they do,
you are deluding yourself.”
Thirteen years in Mexico. I miss my old neighbors,
best friends who would come to play Mexican Train at 5 minutes notice.
I miss their little yipping dog and the splash of their fountain
that the new neighbors ripped out and threw away
and the bougainvillea that drooped over my wall into their world.
“Scorpions!” the new neighbors decreed, and lopped it off wall-high.
It was a wall more than doubled in its height
by a vine as old as my life in Mexico
that can now be peered over
even from their basement casita.
With old walls gone,
higher walls of misunderstanding
have been constructed.
Each weekend their family streams in from Guadalajara.
Children laugh, adults descend the stairs
to their hot tub down below.
When I greet them, they do not smile.
I have painted the old wall,
now so clearly presented to view,
and I have taken to wearing a swimsuit in my hot tub,
waiting for my new wall to grow higher.