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The Mouth of the Canyon

We left New England on September 8th, in a month that also marked 21 years in Massachusetts for me. As we spent the prior months packing and sorting and discarding, I knew I was ready for a change of venue. I was also acutely aware of how much I have come to love and depend on the palpable change of seasons in New England.

September is a month of movement; it, like January, has usually been a month where I could feel the possibility of new projects and actually put them into motion. August marks my birthday and a certain ‘lethargy’, of holding onto the latter half of summer for as long as possible, especially when there are children involved. By the end of August, nights would have been crisper, a few sugar maples around town would have started to turn, and we would have been camping on the coast of Maine in Acadia National Park.

Years ago, when I lived in Puerto Rico, I used to joke that it had two seasons, ‘Hot’ and ‘Hotter’. I did notice, after awhile, that it had seasonal changes; they were just a lot subtler than New England’s extremes. Now that we have moved to central Mexico, I am happy to note that here, too, there are harbingers of the recent transition into autumn; for one thing, mornings and nights are cooler, enough for sweatshirts and feather comforters.

The change of scene has put my eyes and other senses on alert again. As most of my regular yoga students know, the mundane act of walking to the yoga center regularly brought bird and flower sightings which in turn would inspire a meditation or focus for that day. That familiarity with my landscape brought comfort; even when I was depleted, I could usually count on nature to add a little something to my tired heart.

Here and now in Mexico, I am grateful for the wonders I am seeing; objects in nature are coming in to sharper relief, and not just because they are ‘new’ to my eyes. I don’t mean to infer that I am having one of those transient ‘It’s newer, so it’s better’ experiences. The way in which the bright spots of nature are so concentrated here is what draws my eye.

Last Friday, we joined students and parents from our son’s school to hike into ‘Cañada de la Virgen’ (Canyon of the Virgin). You enter through ‘la Boca’- the mouth. You wear shoes that are good for hiking; you pack water, snacks, and eyes that are open to wonder. You tuck your watch into your pocket and soon you are off the road and into nature, walking along dusty paths that follow the stream, or maybe you are walking IN the stream. Looking up, the walls of the canyon start out fairly consistent; the green of shrubs and trees and the brown of dirt. As the wide walls begin to close in and the ‘mouth’ begins to narrow, other colors begin to appear. This time, a long look up unveils the rusty pinks of the canterra stone, and a light green as well. When you find round, fist-sized specimens of the more porous green rocks near the stream bed, you can crack them open. Some hold crystals and geodes. Your eyes go from the grand to the smaller, and soon you are noticing that caterpillars and crickets come in colors from black to lime green and yellow. You see wildflowers, from understated sunflowers in lemon, to lavender cosmos, to other flowers you have no name for, in shades of deep pink, cornflower blue, blood red, and another red that is tinged with violet. None of the blossoms speak of voluptuousness, lasciviousness or a tendency towards over-ripe. They speak, instead, to a certain state of concentrated essence. Down-stem from the colors that first catch the eye are often spikes and thorns and dried remnants of seed pods. They spill over with hard, dark nibs that make percussive sounds when they hit the ground.

‘Amrita’, I think, the nectar of immortality. The concentrated color and size of the canyon’s flowers might not be from some ‘immortal’ bounty they hold in reserve. But the reduction of matter (‘of what matters’) down to its essence; there is something to meditate on this day. ‘Amrita’, said to flow down the back of the throat in deeply meditative states. ‘Amrita’; there, in the mouth of the canyon.

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