Getting almost anywhere here on foot requires going uphill or downhill at a very steep angle, unless we’re simply dashing out to grab eggs and bread at the ‘tiendita’ that carries a small selection of essentials. Or if we have a hankering for steamed artichokes and potent margaritas, in which case it’s out the door, turn right, walk one block and go through the swinging doors of the old saloon.
But I’m not really thinking about tienditas and saloons this morning. I noticed, when faced with a particularly steep incline on my way home from walking with my son to his school, that I am very susceptible to the Call of the Metaphor. They are everywhere here; I would be willing to bet they’re abundant everywhere, but what changes is how open we are to seeing them. Moving to another country, living on the outskirts of another culture, certainly contributes to the awakening.
I am an outsider here. Yes, there a lot of other ex-pats, from the States, from Canada, from elsewhere. There are more and more Mexicans moving here, too, from urban areas, looking to distance themselves from the violence that plagues other places. But until I learn the language, and begin to understand some of the innuendos and overlays that permeate the words and societal rituals here, I will be an outsider, and that’s okay. Being on the Outside has allowed some overworked parts of me to fall into a much-needed slumber, and other parts to wake up.
Back to metaphors. Here, it would be very unusual to see a front yard leading up to a house. Instead, most properties are fronted by a wall- sometimes it is a wall surrounding a courtyard, sometimes it is the front wall of a house. But, always, the wall, flowing into the neighboring wall, or rounding the corner in a hug or stretching into an alleyway. There might be a metal gate, in front of the door you enter, or simply a wooden door, often carved and stained or aged naturally. You might be able to see the remnants of many layers of paint that have been applied, faded, scraped and reapplied over the decades. The door knockers here warrant their own fan club.
You can’t always tell what is behind the doors. Large, elaborate doors might open into a once-palatial home that is in ruins, given over to trumpet vines and disintegrating mortar. Behind a more modest door could be a warren of casitas, little houses, with dogs and cats and multiple generations cohabiting in colorful harmony. In my year here, I’d like to be invited behind some of these doors.
This day, I really get that it would be a loss to try and replicate my Massachusetts Life here in Mexico. I find myself, occasionally, stepping into a ‘thing’ out of habit. “It’s October so therefore I should be doing/thinking/planning this or that”. Yesterday, I started to send out batches of inquiries to many of the people who took yoga classes with me, to gauge interest in a yoga retreat during the winter.
The most useful result of that inquiry was the reminder, to me, to be right here, right now, stewing in the juices of my process. I have known a number of academics who had a sabbatical year, and it looked so much like their regular years that when it was >this close< to being over, they either panicked or succumbed to their inertia; ‘got published’ or perished.
Every day, here in the hills, there will be some up and some down. Every day presents another opportunity to knock on a door and see if it will open; to peer into the depths more closely, and look out at the vista that sprawls below. We- my husband and I, and our boys- moved mountains to get here. We let go of our house, our livelihoods; of the ease created by having a car, and nearby friends, and a life defined by routine. We asked for the opportunity to tumble through space, to be in the rush and the thrill and the possibilities presented by a supported free-fall. We could have chosen a much more terrifying, or exhilarating option, like a country where neither of us spoke the language, or a place more deeply situated in Nature. But here we are, for another 11 months. And today the hill I climbed, and the wall I hit, became this metaphor: I made the choice to leave one place and arrive in another. And it is too soon into this dance with Mexico for me to put on the hats I used to wear and start performing the steps that used to carry me forward. I brought my old clothes, but the walks are strengthening my body, the air and sun are giving me browner, desert skin and it is all taking me to places I have wanted to explore for a very, very long time.