The Jacaranda trees are in full bloom here in San Miguel. Some people are so allergic they have to leave town for a month or so. The blossoms drop almost non-stop, making it helpful to have a phalanx of broom wielders handy if you happen to have a tree in your yard. I was at the home of one of my private clients yesterday morning, before the gardening crew had arrived, and it looked like a party planner on steroids had blanketed every available outdoor surface with artfully tossed petals. Yet even though the Jacaranda clean-up is somewhat relentless this time of year, it is a pleasure to look up at the hills and see their soft purple mantels ameliorating the monotony of the wide swathes of dusty brown. The daily afternoon rains that turn the hills to green and the streets to streams are at least a month away.
We are nearing the end of ‘semana santa’, and today is ‘Good Friday’. I wasn’t raised within any religion, so much of the ritual and ceremony taking place here are foreign to me. I observe, however, that ‘Easter’ is marked very differently in central Mexico than in southeastern Massachusetts. Certain practices have been outlawed, but you will still see people gathering tough, thorny vines with which to fashion the crowns they wear during solemn processionals. You will see pilgrims walking slowly on their knees; bloodied, focused, intense. The one thing that touches me deeply are the smells: chamomile, mint, rosemary and other herbs are strewn over the cobblestone streets. Each footstep crushes flowers, leaves and stems, and the air becomes redolent with more than solemnity. There are also the distinctive smells of copal and other incenses burned in the churches, sanctuaries and home altars. Scent is such a powerful holder of memories, that I wonder what has been triggered deep in the recesses of my brain.
Before wading into the rivers of people heading towards the churches that ring the center of town, I am at my desk, windows open, enjoying the bustle on our street. The cats are napping nearby, which always seems to calm me. They are doing their part to help me focus. My yoga these days is about self-observation: looking at certain habitual things I do that seem to land in me in hot water with my ever-supportive husband. These ‘habits’ are the ones that create consequences which then make me say to him, “PLEASE DON’T LET ME DO THAT AGAIN”. Then, when I am about to ‘do it again’, he dutifully tries to stop me and I override his concern- usually assuring him that this time will be different- and we are back at Square One, rolling our eyes at each other. I am happy he hasn’t given up on me, yet I think it would please us both to let go of certain habitual, reactive behaviors that do not serve us well- individually or as a couple. Luckily, it’s not a lengthy list. Just two items. Easy, right? (If it’s so easy, Liza, why did you have to leave the country to work on it? Just askin’…)
After my walk to the jardin: There is something potent about being an ‘outsider’ as I watch most everyone around me participating in solemn, ancient rituals, or observing them with a degree of knowledge I just don’t have. There is a sense of community that I will never penetrate. I do not feel the need to be welcomed in, and I appreciate that I am allowed to politely, quietly, and respectfully observe. This lack of grasping to join or ‘be part of’ has allowed me to release into a kind of fecund anonymity. Yet, even as I stand in the plaza, in the sun, amidst a moving crowd of all ages and social strata, I have a small but significant epiphany. I have rarely felt a sense of belonging to any one big group; my tribe is more scattered. I love many people, deeply, yet it is the natural world that brings me more often to tears or to a sense of connection. It is these dual senses of separation- or is it distance? or isolation?- and integration that form the delicate balance of who I know to be me. And where does the blossoming of a Jacaranda tree in the arid, dusty high desert fit in to the grand scheme of things? Maybe to remind me of all the flowerings and fallings in my own life; maybe to remind me to be always ready for beauty, and accepting of loss; and to occasionally grab a broom and sweep the path clear.