Tag Archives: Mexico

Innocents in Mexico, Chapter 1, Leaving the Familiar

Bob, 2001

At the moment, every surface in my office/living room/dining room is covered with stacks of papers.  I’ve been plowing through files and old folders looking for additional stories to include in a book about my first few years of living in Mexico, but in doing so, I unearthed an earlier book, also unpublished, about our initial trip down to San Miguel to investigate it as a possible place to live for a year. So, I spent most of the morning and afternoon reading the entire book with the result that I’ve decided that maybe it makes sense to publish that book first, since it will better introduce readers to Bob and to the background of my move to Mexico.  With that in mind, I’d like your help in reading two or three of the beginning chapters to see if they hold your interest. They are a bit longer than earlier “possibles” that I’ve shared with you over the past week or so, but I guess that will be a test of whether this book is going to hold your interest.  Remember, as this story begins, the year is 2001 and so the information about our Mexican experience is 22 years old.  Please let me know whether you feel it is still relevant and interesting. That said, here is the possible first chapter of:

Innocents in Mexico

Chapter 1,  Leaving the Familiar

(Jan1-May 3, 2001)

How we came to decide to move to Mexico is unclear.  Bob claims I tricked him into it by first suggesting a two-week trip.  By the time he had agreed, the trip had grown to two months.  Then, the next thing he knew, I was telling people that we were renting out our house and moving to Mexico for a year, where we would live off the rent we were collecting from our house. But it was Bob, in fact, who suggested that if we left for a year we’d be coming home during the worst weather of the year––which led to our decision to move to Mexico for a year and a half.

The transition from the redwoods of central California to the central mountains of Mexico was not as simple as the decision to move there.  We had intended to return from Christmas with my 91-year -old mother in Wyoming, to spend a month packing our personal stuff out of the house and getting it rented out, then to leave by February 1. But a week or so prior to leaving for Wyoming, I found that I needed major surgery.  Since the recovery period was six weeks, that would delay our leaving by a month if we scheduled the surgery as soon as we got home in January, so we put off our leaving day to March 1.  If I packed just one thing at a time and left Bob to lift the boxes once they were filled, I should be able to do the packing even with stitches in.

The day I got home from surgery, my mother went into the hospital in Wyoming.  I’d been told not to ride in cars, climb stairs or lift for a week, then to take it easy for another month at the least.  My mother and sister insisted I not come, my mother even saying that it was too hard to visit over the phone when I called, due to the oxygen.  She liked to be left alone when she was sick, even had them put a “no visiting” sign on her door.  She would be going home soon, they all said.  But within a week, my mother had passed away.  Since she had known no one in the Wyoming town where she had moved a few years before to be near my sister, we decided to hold her memorial service in July in South Dakota, where an all-town reunion would be going on in the town where we all grew up.  My brother-in-law accompanied my mother’s body to Tucson, where she would be buried with my dad.  Both of my folks were not big on funerals.  My mom would have approved.  I put all of my efforts into planning her memorial long-distance.  Bob and I would drive up from San Miguel the last weekend in June for the memorial.

Now, along with healing, I mourned the loss of my Mother. For days, I worked on art projects which reflected her life story, and after my second day home from the hospital, I worked for two hours at a time packing books, then rested two hours, watching every video movie my friends could dig up to encourage me to get the rest I needed.  I began to get a bit agoraphobic, which was helped along by the fact that I wasn’t supposed to ride in cars.  On the night that my Mom died, Bob and I went for our first walk since my surgery.  It was nine o’clock at night as we walked up the road near our house to the top of the mountain.  The stars were vivid in this sky away from city lights as we discussed the afterlife.  There was something about the irrevocable ending of a life which pushed us in our resolve to put off no longer the next stage of changes in our lives.

Even though we planned to rent the house fully furnished, the packing proved to be a much larger job than we’d expected.  My mother had left us her car and any furniture or art we wanted.  My sister insisted that to send it would incur no loss to her or my other sister, since it would come out of the part of the estate the majority of which would go for taxes, anyway, so we decided to store our own furniture and rent our house with my mother’s.  This meant also changing all the art and decorations in the house, since her color scheme was different.  For a month, I’d packed books, which Bob would then carry to one studio or another to store.  Then I tackled the kitchen, leaving what I considered to be bare bones.  We were beginning to feel like we’d make our new departure date of April 1, but the date should have been a tip-off.  When they heard we’d be leaving, we suddenly had friends and relatives popping in with great regularity.  With each group of friends, we took the time to talk and play, to go to the beach and out to dinner.

One of the reasons we were moving to Mexico was to get our life back and to reprioritize after 14 years of running our lives around the demands of a business. We had felt rushed, pressured, buried under the minutiae of the details of bookkeeping, scheduling, mailing, travelling to art shows, setting up our booth, tearing it down, keeping track of the thousands of details involved in not only making art but selling it through craft shows. Every vacation we’d taken to visit family had been scheduled to coincide with our show schedule.  Most of our friends were artists, which was great, but we spent more time discussing the business of art than art itself.  We wanted off the bandwagon.  We wanted the time to talk and experience life without pressure. But now the business of moving was taking over our lives.  How to get all the loose ends taken care of.  How would we pay our bills?  Collect outstanding debts?  We had lamps to mail off to customers and galleries, files to sort out.  What to take, what to store, what to throw away?  I had twenty-five years of writing files:  poetry, stories, unfinished novels, movie scripts.  Bob had the same.  We had business files, tax files, personal correspondence files.  All of this needed to be sorted and dealt with.  One studio rapidly filled up to the ceiling with boxes of books, extra kitchen supplies, clothes and art. Then another one filled up with furniture, extra studio supplies from my jewelry studio, which we’d reconverted into a bedroom, writing files, tools and more tchotchkes.

When a woman who came to see if she wanted to be our property manager saw what we considered to be our stripped-down house, she said, “I’d clear out all this clutter.  Get it down to the minimum.”  That was what we thought we’d done!

Into this chaos drove my friend Patty, who’d volunteered to drive my mom’s car from Wyoming to California for us.  She stayed a few days and we took time off from packing to see the sights and talk.  Then came other friends.  We did the same.  When people heard we were leaving, they called to schedule dinners.  We went.  We were now worried about the April 1 leaving date.  With our departure date just two weeks off, Bob received a call from his sister.  His mom had gone into the hospital and wasn’t expected to live.  He flew to Michigan. After ten days, less than two months after we’d lost my mom, his mom passed away.

The day he flew off to Michigan, the first of our ads to sell vehicles appeared. We were selling a Blazer, a Mazda MX3, an ancient motor home, a trailer and a fork lift.  For the entire time Bob was gone, every bit of my time was spent jump-starting them, cleaning them, having them smog-checked, answering phone calls, showing vehicles and placing new ads.  Finally, when Bob got home, we parked the cars one at a time on the street.  The first time we did this, we got a ticket for parking a for sale vehicle on a county road.  Then we found a wide place that was evidently private land, but visible from the highway.  Within the month, we’d sold all of the vehicles but the travel trailer we had converted into a trailer to move our our big lamps, jewelry, ikebana vases, tents, cases and other display items to shows in. This we kept to store our unsold display items in.

With May fast approaching, Bob finally said he was beginning to feel we’d never leave.  In addition, he was starting to have reservations about whether he wanted to leave all his tools and studios.  What if we got to Mexico and didn’t like it?  We’d have rented our house out and would have no place to go.  In the end, we sealed up the house, paid a friend to deal with our bills and mail, packed up our cat that we had been unable to find a new temporary home for, packed up a few clothes, a lot of books and art supplies, and headed out for Mexico on May 3, 2001—only 4 months later than we had initially planned on starting out, but we were finally on the road. On the way, we would visit Bob’s son, daughter and grandkids in Flagstaff Arizona, his friend Carey in Tucson and my friend Judy in Alamogordo.  Then we would be free, unscheduled, with no timeline.  On our way to Mexico.

Go HERE to read Chapter 2


Eclipses and Visions: Letters from Mexico (Possibles, May 8, 2023)

This is a short piece I found in a file marked “Possible Add-ons” for the Mexico book. What do you think? The essays and chapters I’m sharing with you here are all out of order but all take place within my first two years of being in Mexico. I’m still trying to find my original first chapter which I have a printed copy of but can’t locate so far in my computer files.  Since then I’ve written two others but find I prefer the first so I’ll keep looking. In the meantime, I’m going to publish assorted possible add-ons for your perusal and vote. If possible, I’m putting the date I originally wrote it after the name of the segment. Although “Letters from Mexico” is my working title, I’m still looking for a better one. 


Eclipses and Visions 5/16/03 (19th month in Mexico)

     Gussie’s mouth was frothy with the insides of cattails after our tug-of-war over the long stalk of the cat tail.  I cleared out her mouth and we started again, most of the lighter-than-air tendrils clotting in her mouth but others erupting to drift out into the air until we were both covered.  Ana laughed.  Diane laughed.  Gussie barked, but it was a bark muffled by cat tail fluff, so it came out “warf, warf.”  We were an unlikely threesome:  two Americanas in their fifties, a thirteen year old Mexican girl and a beach puppy, but we had found a tremendous lot in common during our past month of beach walks.
      We had not started out as a threesome. I had been walking on the beach of the lakefront by myself for over a year.  These walks had been spasmodic, and always in the late afternoon to sunset.  But when I met Diane, who had newly moved to a house near the back entrance of the Raquet Club, we decided to try walking every morning at sunrise.  After Daylight Savings intervened, out 6 a.m. walks shifted to 7 a.m. and within a few weeks, Ana had asked to join us.  It was a brassy move on her part, and I was much relieved to find her standing up and asking for what she wished.  I’d been tutoring her for over a year now and although her vocabulary seemed to be growing, I hadn’t been very successful in getting her to actually talk.  She would answer questions  with “Yes,” ”No,” or the the fewest words possible, but she would never start conversations or return questions.  Yet now, just one month later, she chatted casually in English, with frequent pauses and Spanish words filling in the gaps in her English vocabulary.  We’d arrived at a good compromise.  On our beach walks, I spoke Spanish and Ana spoke English.  Diane, who was behind me in her Spanish mastery,  listened and asked questions if she needed to.  Gussie ignored both languages with equal regularity as she drank from rancid pools, ingested cowpies, chased and was chased by colts and baby burros and reached up to snatch pelican feathers from my fist as she raced by.
     Today, Ana was going on at great length about the eclipse the night before.  I had missed it, going out to sit in the jacuzzi at 8 to find only mist and no moon.  There was intriguing music wafting up from the plaza of the pueblo far below.  The drum beats were of the native variety, and I was considering driving down to investigate when a phone call pulled me out of the jacuzzi and into the house.  Once dressed, however,  I found that the couch and a good book won out over a sleuthing trip to the village.   I’d check every 15 minutes or so to see if the moon was up yet and in eclipse, but in fact I awoke three and a half hours later to find the full moon glowing clearly above me.   I had missed the entire event.
     Now Ana filled me in on the details.  During an eclipse, it was customary that everyone dress in red.  Her father wore a red sombrero and her mother a red blouse.  Then it was necessary to tie a cord around the wrist of each family member.  Even your cats and your dog, she insisted.  You must tie a cord around their necks for good health.  Within minutes after saying this, we passed a pasture.  Inside was a cow with a red bandana tied around her neck. “It is for salud,”  said Ana, who did not remember the word for health.  “. . . and for good milk as well as many other things.”
    The drumbeats the night before had been for the eclipse ceremony in the church and plaza. There had been many people, she told me, and many races between chayote fields,  but at this point the description grew vague.  I decided these were details I needed to check out in the future, but I already regretted sleeping through the eclipse, which by her description sounded like a grand event.  Not to mention the costuming and the cryptic racing between fields of vegetables.  I had grown jaded about fiestas and loud music emanating from the town, but I could see that in this case I’d missed an authentic event.   Ana assured me, however, that this was a four times a year event, and that next year she’d keep me better informed.
     There is so much going on in Mexico that I’ve found that I have to ignore some of it to manage to have a life of my own.  I’d been putting off writing for what seemed like months, and sooner or later I’d have to seal myself into my house and get on with it or just give up to a life of sloth.  But in the meantime, I’ve found that all I want to do is sleep.  Maybe it’s my new schedule of arising at 6 to walk, but I find that by 3 p.m., I need a nap.
     The other morning, I fell into bed as soon as I got back from our walk at 9 and stayed there until midafternoon.  I suddenly remembered that I was the age Bob was when I first met him and I remembered also what he said right after we’d had the diagnosis of his pancreatic cancer.
      “I hope they find out I’ve had it for a long time so I’ll finally have an excuse for how tired I’ve been feeling,”  he said.
      “For the past five years?”  I asked.
     “No, for the past fifteen years.”  That was the entire time I’d known him, and I suddenly felt guilty for all the times I’d prodded him on to finish a task.
    Now today, I lie in the jacuzzi with no strength to even get out of the water.  I wonder if this was the type of exhaustion Bob felt for so long. The jacuzzi  is only 1/2 full so I can float and use the step in the jacuzzi as a pillow holding up my head as I stare straight up at the clouds.   It’s a mackerel sky, but as a wind rises, the scales begin to group together to  form a beautiful avant-garde sculpture of a bird.  Its wings are partially folded in,  and as the clouds change, they keep drawing closer together, like the bird is making a hugging motion.
     It reminds me of Bob’s self-sculpture of the angel with the broken wings,  and I suddenly think that the cloud image also looks like a sculpture Bob would make.  Immediately, the clouds below the bird form a perfect image of Bob’s face.   Am I imagining this?  Less than 30 seconds later, it starts to rain big drops, straight down, and the face vanishes.  Invigorated by the rain, I go into the house and begin to write.

The Haircut, May 3, 2023

I think I said recently that I have just published my 10,000th blog during which I have written 1 or 2 poems every day for thirteen years making use of up to 6 prompts per poem.

A week and a half ago,I read a number of those poems to a large writing group I belong to and one comment was that I should vary my line length and not have all the poems rhymed and metered. It then occurred to me that given one poem at a time, this wasn’t obvious, but listening to them 12 minutes at a time might not be as effective. Then I imagined an entire book of them… and started thinking about the four completed but unpublished books that have been sitting in their folders on a shelf all these years along with hundreds of essays and short stories and other poems written earlier and realized that it was the 11 to 13 hours I spent online everyday that were keeping me from seeing these projects through. 

So, I spent the rest of the day looking up and rewriting some of these chapters and essays and poems and I’ve decided that instead of doing the prompts for the next 13 years, I am going to publish on my blog some of the edited chapters and essays and stories and poems from the past. I will be interested in your thoughts about this. I imagine my readership might fall off since I won’t necessarily be linking them to the usual prompt sites, but I hope some of you will hang in there with me and let me know what you think. Yesterday, I had my hair cut for the first time in a year, so when I found this essay on my computer about a haircut 21 years ago, it just seemed to fit. So, here goes:

The Haircut  

He clicked the scissors twice. On the first click, my stomach clenched, but on the second, I felt something break––like a tight rubber band.  I didn’t look in the mirror to see the first lock fall to the floor, but by the second cut, I was ready to face facts.  I looked to the floor where two eight-inch-long tendrils curled cozily entwined, spooned like lovers on a bed.

What was he removing from me, this pert young man in tight pants?  What if my power was in my hair, or my sexuality?  When he went to answer the phone, I bent over and picked up one of the strands, trying to read it like the rings of a two-thousand-year-old tree. This inch nearest the cut was probably growing out of my head, just making its first appearance, during Bob’s final months.

How much pain had that hair been infused with? How much silence? How many words unwisely spoken? How many words held back? Why was that inch not curlier and thicker? Why didn’t it display the strength I’d found in myself during the period of his dying that I hadn’t even known I possessed?

As Alejandro returned from the phone and resumed his task, I let the lock fall to the scuffed floor. The raised grain of the wood and flecks of paint gave an aura of age to the pile of locks which rapidly grew to blanket it. This was the hair I’d pinned to the top of my head as we labored together to empty our old house, to close down our studios and to pack the van for our move to Mexico.

Bob had liked my hair long, uncurly, natural––matching his own wild mane. When I was young, my hair had been my glory, and by keeping it, I’d tried, perhaps, to keep my youth. But now it was as though each snip snipped off that many years. Snip went the exhausting months of selling off all of our household goods in preparation for our move to the house we’d bought in Mexico. Snip went the dismantling of Bob’s eighteen-foot steel sculpture as his oldest son carried it away. Snip snip snip. Onto the floorboards fell a houseful of memories sold off to become parts of other people’s lives. Snip. The long-maned hand-carved wooden Rangda mask we’d bought in Bali. Snip. The last of our handmade lamps. Snip snip, the mask from the Berkeley flea market. Snip. The studios full of tools, the bins of screws and nails. Snip Snip the twelve-foot-long diamond saber saw made by Bob’s own hands with castoff parts from Lawrence Livermore Laboratories. Snip. A lifetime of papers cast on the dump heap: old teaching files, tax forms from the seventies. Boxes of chapbooks, journals, old letters.

Snip went the slow loading of the van with the remaining possessions that would go with us into our new life. Snip went the doctor’s hard news just days before we would have made our escape from our past life and our journey into our new life in Mexico.

Snip went those weeks of single-handedly nursing Bob at home. His death. His memorial. The long drive down to Mexico with his ashes in the toe of his kayak still lashed to the top of the van. Snip went my first year alone as I labored to repair and fill the empty house I’d thought would be ours.

Finally, Alejandro puts down the shears and begins to blow dry my hair, running his fingers through it to the roots––the most sensual experience I’ve had for a year.  He turns off the dryer and I look in the mirror at a woman twenty years younger.

“I must have you,” I tell this woman, “I must have your carefree demeanor, your unencumbered life. Your freedom, your simplicity.”

“You done,” says Alejandro, clicking off the dryer and spinning the chair to give me a better look in the mirror, cutting me off from the past. Giving me her.


I couldn’t help myself. I had to check out the links and it turns out that one of them could have been the prompt for my story. It was “short-short-stories

The photo, by the way, is of yesterday’s haircut, not the one 21 years ago!

By and By

By and By

Lately, when she couldn’t sleep, she debated whether
she should forsake winter for a more salubrious weather.
Hidden under blankets with a heater at her feet,
she dreamed of balmy breezes and the sunlight’s heat.

In less than a day, she could drive down to the border
and find a small posada where she could sit and order
margaritas by the pitcherful beside a sunlit sea—
a novel fallen from her hand, a chihuahua on her knee.

Tacos or enchiladas? In her hometown, she’d be loath
to order either one of them, but here she’d order both,
all her peccadillos unviewed by censoring eye.
She pledged an oath to do it in the by and by.

Prompt words today are border, both, salubrious, peccadillo, winter and hidden.

“. . . In the sweet by and byWe shall meet on that beautiful shoreIn the sweet by and byWe shall meet on that beautiful shore . . .”

—lyrics by S. Fillmore Bennett and music by Joseph  P. Webster

Vivid Mexico


Vivid Mexico

Those individuals who choose to spend the remaining years of their life south of the border have some strengths in common. Some come because it is a cheaper place to live, but those who remain generally stay because of a love of the richness of the life here. It is an existence not free of snafus—a life not for the lackadaisical or the personality set in its ways. There are fewer safeguards and rules–fewer antimacassars to protect chair backs from oily heads. Fewer lifeguards to warn someone they are too far out in the water.

If one falls into a hole where the manhole cover has been left off and sues for damages, the judge is more likely to enquire if they were blind and then to dismiss the claim. You couldn’t see the cover was gone and walk in a different place? It is a place of accountability for one’s own actions, creating less of a propensity to blame problems on someone else. Mexico is not perfect, but it is perfectly beautiful and varied and life-filled. If one wants to cram a lot of life into their last twenty to forty years, it is one of the places  where it is possible to do so.

Prompt words today are antimacassar, lackadaisical, snafu, water. In addition, Pensivity’s “Three Things Challenge” prompt words are individual, strong and border.

The Real Marigold on Tour Comes to Ajijic.

Lookie, Lookie!

The latest excursion for this BBC show on retirement spots all over the world is Guadalajara and Ajijic, including the fraccionamiento where I live–the Raquet Club! There are several people featured that I know.The first woman shown in the pool at the start of the video is my friend Lety.  She is also shown at the end of the video. The pool they are in is two blocks from my house and the view you see is my view.  If you are viewing this from elsewhere, wanna come visit?