Saturday, March 30, 2013


morning view at Ranch Cerro Largo in San Agustinillo, Oaxaca
magic hour
Some places you leave and know you will never return.  Other people, places and experiences become like a chorus in the song of your life. . . a hook that stays with you, which you sing to yourself again and again. . . or an exotic plant whose ripe seed is scattered by the wind, then roots, and yields.

Mario Corella and his cliff-top paradise above the beaches of San Agustinillo stayed with me – as did our email exchanges from 2009, my last and only other time visiting the coast of Oaxaca.  Mario is a high-spirited Mexican yogi/painter/former flight attendant from a town called Hermosillo in the north.  He claims to be the first non-indigenous Mexican to settle in the part of the coast where he built his artfully designed eco village on the hillside – a settlement where one enjoys outrageously beautiful views from almost any location.  Being a man of fine taste, he also fills his house with beautiful and charming Zapotec men who run the kitchen and pretty much everything else – yet more sparkling jewels.

the tree next to my house

My visit coincided with the nights leading up to and night of the full moon, and just avoided the onslaught of Semana Santa or Easter week travelers.  Someone as dynamic and generous as Mario tends to attract interesting visitors – I had just missed Mark Ribot on my last visit in 2009 -- but I had the particular good fortune of being there among some sweet and talented Canadian musicians seeking refuge after performing at SXSW, a Norwegian reality television art director, a nutritionist from Chico, various Mexican yogis and philosophers, and the most awesomely irreverent English woman I’ve ever met. 

Ranch Cerro Largo is the kind of bubble that holds you in a comfortable and unconstricting embrace; I was, however, lured outside the peaceful enclave of hammocks, twice daily meals and morning yoga classes to discover the village of Mazunte just down the road – a relaxed hippie town named for a particular type of crab, and home of a turtle refuge as well as a flagship store/workshop for environmentally friendly cosmetics opened by Anita Roddick of The Body Shop.  With one of my new ex-patriot friends, we experienced a perfect sunset and moon rise at the Punta Cometa, which is claimed to be both the southernmost point in Mexico – and is also one of a handful of places from where one can see the sun both rise and set.   We swam in gentler waters without the fierce undertow of the beaches further east, we drank beer and ate fish tacos at a dusty roadside taco joint, and rode winding roads by the light of the moon on an orange imitation Vespa.

Obe, the tall Spaniard of Mazunte
Punta Cometa - sunset, moon rise

Playa de San Agustinillo
Hil and Mario and a couple friends in the background

Back in Guanajuato, I enjoyed yet another traveler community in Alma del Sol, where I have a home.  Patron saint of artsy gringos from the Pacific Northwest, Hugo assembled a group of mariachis on the rooftop of Alma to serenade a woman celebrating her 75th birthday.  We mixed perfect margaritas, and later  Hugo and I synthesized the last days’ experiences in the printmaking studio in Marfil. 

From cliff tops and roof tops, watering the seeds of our experiences, we watch them grow.

Templo de la Campana, Guanajuato
sunset from our roof in Guanajuato
Mariachis de Santa Rosa on our roof

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Light, the Tunnel

Today was the Viernes de Dolores, or the Friday of pain, translated literally; it’s the Friday before the Friday before Easter, when hardcore Catholics make alters to the Virgin Mary of Sorrows.  Although I was raised Catholic, I never studied the Bible – this shit is pretty crazy.  Mary’s sorrows were serious, definitely surpassing most of the grievances I hear from modern parents: 1) Your son is going to be circumcised. Okay, that’s not the end of the world -- unless you’re French. . . but it gets worse.  2) You’re going to have to flee your home to escape the guys who want to murder your son.  Lame.  3) You’re going to accidentally lose your son on a trip to Jerusalem.  A worrisome nuisance, even though you find him again. . . 4) You’re going to meet your son and he will be bleeding from some radical headwear.  He will also be bearing a cross. 5) Remember that cross?  Your son will be crucified upon it.  6) Your son will be removed from the cross and placed in your arms.  7) Time to bury him. 
All of Guanajuato -- a conservative Catholic town where drivers adorn their cabs with religious iconography, men cross themselves before sleeping with their mistresses, and only scandalous women, university students and gringas wear shorts – alighted with alters to Mary and her sorrows  last night.  The arteries that carry tourists and Guanajuatenses throughout the city’s multitude of winding cobblestone streets and mysterious callejones -- delivering them to cultural events and family gatherings -- become clogged with vendors selling tacos (of course), but also flowers from the surrounding countryside, and plastic egg-shaped novelties from China.  The flowers were originally meant to decorate the alters to Mary and her sorrows (remember?) but somehow the tradition has transmuted into one in which drunk teenagers use peer pressure to sell flowers to anyone they perceive as being a couple.  Girls wear their shortest miniskirts -- strictly forbidden on any other day of the year -- in anticipation of the dances that take place on the night of Viernes de Dolores.  I don’t really get the dancing part – aren’t we supposed to be meditating on pain?  Anyway, I can’t remember the last time I was antagonized by a 15 year old. . . oh wait, I did almost get into a fight with some kids in my neighborhood recently.  Nevermind.  Teenagers are a nightmare, the world around.   At least some things are consistent.
Anyway, it’s interesting how traditions change and are arguably bastardized as they travel through space and time.  One could say the same about yoga, or Chinese cooking. . . not that I’m such a traditionalist, but I do think it’s interesting how people make things their own.  I suppose the same could be said for me, here in my annual retreat location in Central Mexico – maintaining my late dinners and adherence to green foods.  Fortunately my friend Hugo is no stranger to unconventional ways of being – he did live in Portland for 15 years – and we tend to see eye to eye about things. 

I’ve spent most of this week up high -- in my head, writing stories; and sitting on the roof of Alma del Sol, my home in the center of Guanajuato -- soaking up the mountain sunshine and listening to the operatic clatter of traffic and taco making in the streets below.  I go out when the sun begins to set, making my rounds at the track or going in search of dinner in a pleasantly lit room.  I avoid the crowds, the main roads, finding beauty and inspiration in the periphery.