Tag Archives: Lake Chapala

Virginia Balon, Lovely Lady, R.I.P.



Click on any photo to enlarge all. jdb photos

Always a fashion plate, always outspoken, million-dollar-smile. She added her beauty and brilliance to every occasion she graced. Another lakeside icon has passed away from us. R.I.P. Virginia.

For a more detailed view of Virginia’s life, here is her obituary in the Guadalajara Reporter:

This is Chapala

In case you are curious about why I would choose to live in Mexico, given its present bad press, here is a video about the place where I live that might explain why.

jdbphoto, 2015, Mount Garcia and lake from Chapala Yacht Club

The Willow Cutters

The Willow Cutters.

They gather in circles as the day ends.
Men sit in one circle, closer to the lake.
Women, still standing, cluster laughing around a ribald tale.
They’ve been cutting old willow, then burning it for weeks to clear the mud flats.
Now new willow, red-veined with opalescent skin, springs up from the graves of the old.
The teeth of slender leaves cup up to catch the far-off whirr of rain bugs in the hills.
Every night louder, their repetitious whirr is as annoying
s the temperature, which  grows hotter every day.

The birds all seek their evening perches—
night heron on the fence post in the water,
blackbirds in orderly evening strings,
swallows in frenzied swooping snarls.
A young girl lies on her back in the short cool grass
that in the past few weeks has sprung from the cracked mud.
With her baby in arms, she rolls over to face the red sun and in her journey,
sees the ones from her pueblo who burn off last year’s growth.

Sees also t
he gringa who cuts the tender willow.
She is an interloper who watches birds, and as she watches,
is watched—the bright colors of her clothes drawing eyes.
She is the one for whom being a foreigner isn’t enough—
an ibis among herons, a cuckoo among blackbirds,
Now and then, all flock here.

As mother with child  stands to go,
the willow cutter, too, straightens her back
and trudges heavy, arms filled with willow,
toward her car far up the beach.
As  sun like a cauldron  steams into the hill,
horses stream smoothly back to claim their turf,
and the other willow cutters circle longer, telling stories, moving slow.
Children run races with the night as sure as new willows
grow stubbornly from the ground of parents
uprooted, but victorious.



This is a poem written the year I moved to Lake Chapala, sixteen years ago.  Every day for two years, I walked on land that had formerly been lake. There were acres of willow that I later learned townspeople were hired to clear before Semana Santa, when hordes of tourists from Guadalajara always descended.  I was there to cut willow to make lamps. When the lake came up to its former banks a few years later, all of those willows, that grew back yearly, were destroyed.  Only their bones now stick up when the lake recedes a bit again every year.  They make perfect roosting places for birds. I rarely walk on the lakeside anymore. The lake has remained high enough so all of my former walking places are under water.  Instead, I stay home and write poems and post blogs. As usual, click on any photo to enlarge all.




If you live long enough, what others consider history will become your life. Twelve years ago, I walked for hours every day on dry lake bottom, in places the lake a mile further out from its usual banks. Then, five years from its supposed extinction, the rains came. The floodgates of the dams upstream opened as well and the lake swelled to its former girth. My old walking trails through the cattails and the willows became suffused in a watery world. Tree tops became the perches for egrets scant inches above the waterline, and the lake became once more the private property of homes and landowners who fronted on the water.

But now, again, the water has retreated, and for the first time in eleven years, I am again walking on what was once lake bottom. I see for myself how this venerable lady who spreads  her skirts under the mountain known as Señor Garcia, has done so in a curtsy, before beating a hasty retreat. Freshwater shells pave the dry silt. Discarded soda bottles , moss-covered and corroded, lie in a pile as though emptied like catch from a fisherman’s net. Coots and grackles replace the white pelicans who have circled over in their last goodbye like other snowbirds heading north. Sandpipers whistle their reedy pipes, as if to rein in the small boy who runs with a rag of kite streaming out behind him, creating his own wind.

A man in red shorts wades out to a bright yellow boat, lugging a five gallon gas container. The kite pilot and his two brothers, as tattered as their kite, walk past, then circle as though I’m prey, to sit behind me on an archipelago of large stones that form a Stonehenge around the sheared-off skeletons of willows. I wrote about these willows in their prime— when the villagers had come to clear and burn them eleven years ago, not knowing they would not grow back. What had been foremost in their prayers for years would soon happen. The lake would rise again to her former banks. But now she once again beats a hasty retreat, leaving the stubs and skeletons of trees revealed again. It is a wasteland stripped of the life of water or of leaves.

“Rapido!” the boy in the green shirt demands of his brother. Their sister pulls the bones of the kite from their plastic shroud. Rags turn back to rags, their flight over. The brother in the black Wesley Snipes T Shirt winds the coil of string as though it is valuable and can’t be tangled or lost. The sun is half an hour from setting. “Be off the beach by nightfall,” a man had warned me as I set off for my walk. He was a gringo, and perhaps unwarrantedly cautious, yet still I am ready to start back. I remember the banks of blackbirds that used to settle in clouds in the reeds—acres and acres of cattails—enough to get seriously lost in. At sunset, the birds would lift in funnels by the thousands– a moving tornado of winged black that moved as one. But they are history, now.

“La Sangerona”—that bright yellow boat whose name translates as “the annoying one” does not disappoint. Despite her fresh infusion of fuel, she has to be pulled manually ashore. She is like a princess being towed up the Nile. She expends no energy to further her own movement. A red dog, wet sand to his high tide mark, settles politely in the sand beside me. Like iron filings drawn to their pole, the children gather closer. They pull at the rocks as though mining for worms— prod at the packed sand, casting eyes up, then away. Curious but silent.

Now, all run away. I am left with one grackle, three sandpipers and fourteen coots, drawn out by the waves and pushed back in, over and over in a lullaby. As I climb to the malecon, the sun dissolves into the mountains to the west. Shadows of palms are blown in a singular direction, all pointing north. Below them, the skirts of lesser trees, as low as bushes but lush in their fullness, toss with abandon, as though this lower wind does not know its own direction. I have a hunch, go closer and examine. I am rewarded. They are willows, swaying to obscure a fresh stand of cattails, once again beginning their long march of dominance.The water that was interloper is history. And I am part of it.

Dry lakebed. Once again revealed

Dry lakebed, once again revealed.

closeup of freshwater shellsFreshwater shells, revealed by the retreat of the lake.

Freshwater shells revealed by retreat of lake

new serpentine shoreline

A new serpentine shoreline.

bones of the old willows again revealed

bones of the old willows again revealedFresh catch!Fresh catch!


The kite flyer and  the recalcitrant “La Sangerona.”


Palms point northwards in the sunset breeze.

The first surprise. New willows!


A lake sunset

A lake sunset


This is an extensive rewrite of a poem posted years ago. The prompt today is funnel.

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Isolated Subjects

This single post sticking up far from the shore of Lake Chapala is the epitomy of isolation, but as I zoomed in on it, I learned more of its story.



It is in fact a handy perch for this solitary night heron.

Cee’s prompt was “Isolated Subjects.”

Sunset in Lake Chapala––Seven Day Nature Photo Challenge, Day 4:


Sunset reflected in Lake Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico, last November.

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.



My Town

Two Poetry readings at La Rueda Coffee House in San juan Cosala and of the “Not Yet Dead Poets” at the Old Posada.


Shots from the Raquet Club in San Juan Cosala, where I live.


A small town on a large lake about an hour from a large city. A few hours from the ocean. Lots of flowering trees.  Horses grazing. Mountains in the background.  Birds overhead. Dogs underfoot. People who care planning and maintaining reasonable rules so I don’t have to. A community swimming pool heated by natural hot springs two blocks away.  Lots of music, poetry, art, theater.  Friendly people open to invitation. Nearby geological and archeological features ready to explore.  Lots of secondhand stores. Open plazas with restaurants to sit in and watch others walk by.  Outdoor markets.  Organic markets. Weekly street markets.

A place where people sit on chairs in front of their houses at night to watch their neighbors walk by. An affordable place to live where someone else happy for the job mows my yard and trims my vines and waters my plants. A place where I can afford to hire someone else to clean my house for me while I do art and write.  A community where people are invested in helping others and both give their money and time to support orphanages, schools for kids, old folks homes and to give medical help for those in need.

A place with temperate weather where people smile and say “hola” or “adios” as you pass them on the street.  A place 45 minutes from a major airport where airplanes hardly ever fly over. Cattle. Raspberry fields. Corn fields. Pelicans. Fiestas. Saints Day processions. Dia de los Muertos. Fish restaurants. Taco stands. The best ice cream in the world. Arrechera. Chicken mocojetes verde. Burritos. Flautas. Chiles en Nogada. Rainy season. Virgin of Guadalupe celebrations.

I’ve found my almost perfect society. So why am I traveling elsewhere?  Because there were other idyllic places in my past that are a pleasure to revisit. Because one of the less than idyllic things about the town I’ve lived in for the past 14 years is that so many of my favorite people and relatives do not live there.  So I travel to California and Wyoming and Minnesota and Alabama and Maryland and Missouri and other parts of Mexico, but so far I have always returned home.

for videos go HERE  or HERE or HERE

The Prompt: Describe what you consider to be an idyllic community.