I am nurturing the following dream into existence, so indulge me while I share its details. Maybe broadcasting its vague outline is how the ephemeral is captured in a jar and kept alive just long enough to study…
The last 7 years have been interesting. A gift. I have been (almost) completely on my own. I was always a partner kind of girl – either married or a girlfriend. But lately – amazingly, I am it. So daydreaming what’s next means I get to create – confirm – plan and execute alone. For some that might seem daunting or sad or not much fun. I get it; that might have been my thinking too… once upon a time. But now it is a thrill – I finally meet the requirements to ride the tilt-a-whirl alone!
Mexico sparked my imagination years ago and was kept alive with a steady stream of books that followed me home from the Strand Bookstore in NYC. Cozy in my small Brooklyn Heights’ apartment turning page after page of glossy photos picturing impossibly beautiful vistas: cascading bougainvillea over stucco and stone walls; jacaranda trees dotting the landscape with amethyst drifts; interior courtyards alive with the sound of burbling fountains… intensely colored tiled walls and floors; markets spilling handmade crafts and locally grown produce…arid terrain with scrubby growth transformed by summer rains into lush greenery. Music and dance; art and culture available for the asking. After gorging on books and Pinterest images I decided it was time to for us to meet – to see if Mexico would hold up on close scrutiny. It did. I traveled to the state of Guanajuato and stayed a couple of nights in the capital city before moving on to San Miguel de Allende. These two beautiful colonial highland cities were my picture books come to life. A too short visit to Mexico City left me wanting more…
Guanajuato, MX Spring ‘15
Guanajuato, MX Spring ‘15
It is one thing to visit (4 times now) and another to move – how do you know that this is the place? The dream provided answers: store most of my stuff and spend time as a vagabond. The dream didn’t specify hostels or backpacks – but living light with a rental in San Miguel for a year provides the flexibility to spend time exploring numerous Mexican cities: Oaxaca, the land of mole and craft; Santiago de Queretaro, another colonial highland city near San Miguel de Allende; Guadalajara, the second largest city in Mexico (me love cities!); a return to Mexico City to explore neighborhoods and more time in Guanajuato, visiting during the Cervantes festival (Festival Internacional Cervantino). Now that a new progressive President Obrador is taking office – Mexico’s star is shining brighter than ever. And of course Mexico gets points for being a short flight to LAX – gateway to easily seeing August, Noah and Tammy and now – tadahhh! – an expected granddaughter…she will need her abuela nearby 🙂
Robins teeter as they hop rock to rock on my patio, defying logic that such a rotund creature on spindly legs doesn’t fall over in a heap. They are an early morning amusement. My habit is to give thanks upon rising and before sleep at night: for the birds and their song and the “almost looks neon but that can’t be!” green on the grass and woods beyond…
…for warmer temperatures that makes working in the spring garden easy. These small gifts are most welcome and make the transition to the dreary northeast
a little easier. Leaving and missing Mexico and returning to much spring snow in March was a strong cocktail that left me – hungover?… dazed?… confused?
Now that I have made the decision to sell my house and land and move abroad I am eager to find, like my robin friend, stable footing in my rolling sea of “to-dos”. The most pressing items deal with getting the final approvals from the town to sub-divide the land. The other day I sent out 11 certified mail announcements of a public hearing so my neighbors get an opportunity to weigh in on the sub-division. Then my wonderful yard man – Gilberto – worked 2 late afternoons wielding a machete to clear brush (skin shredding thorny sticker bushes) in an attempt to rough in where the driveway for the 2 new lots will sit. The town came out soon after to walk the property and see what they think compared to the prepared drawings already filed. When all goes according to plan I should have permissions by late June. Then my house can go on the market.
I know it will sell quickly. omg / yikes/ holy shit
And the list grows: renew my passport (along with the required 10 year older passport photo…did you know that you can’t smile in your picture anymore?! I guess that is how they catch the bad guys…); apply for global entry; explore international health insurance; decide: do I need an international driver’s license? Each task a stepping stone, I can’t envision all that is to come but these stones create a path: one stone nudging me to consider another stone that hadn’t made the initial list. Last month found me home – no consulting work in Stamford – with plenty of time for calls and errands. The free shredding day at the local library pushed me to dig through my files… keep the closing papers of a 2006 coop purchase in Brooklyn? How about notes from Noah and Tammy’s wedding? Anything – at all – from years of working in education? Or at SRA/McGraw-Hill?
Clicking empty file drawers closed… another stone.
As for work…I finish my consultancy in Stamford next month. The curtain falls on a temporary gig that has sustained me since 2009. My newly renovated diet (no grains and sugar after a lifetime of baking and enjoying them…sigh) has made me a very different sleeper with intensely vivid dreams. From the few sketchy details I remember it seems I am burning the midnight oil to produce a diorama of possibilities: work that is portable, creative, in which I write, take pictures, and find ways to allow money to fall into my lap… and something with monkeys, but then I think that dream was just messing with me 🙂
Shack and a Heap was always a scheme intended to compliment city living. When the grand plan became the only plan writing it’s story needed no title tweak. The tagline, too, came without a moment’s hesitation: Finding home. It seems I have been looking for a long time, at least since I have been on my own. When I was married as our boys were growing up – those three guys and the dog were what made where I lived home. Happily I married someone who cared as much as I do about the place where you hang your hat. Together we worked hard to make our nest happy and comfortable. But since then… while I have lived in many sweet apartments…I have always felt unsettled and transient. My restless brain in a constant “what if…?” state. When change and challenge are put on my plate I eat with gusto.
Even here in this place, in these woods where I have family nearby and mother nature inside and outside my door I know… it doesn’t fill the bill. Aye aye aye! And so, wasting no time, I put my mind to the next adventure. Today I sit on a red-tiled roof terrace in Mexico and butcher the beautiful Spanish language with Alicia who has come to water the geraniums and lavender. Her English does battle with my Spanish – we both smile a lot and say “gracias” for everything. I think patience is her middle name. As she rounds the circular stair to apartment level I return to sitting, planning, wondering…
This morning’s travel, over cobbled sidewalks barely wide enough for one and half people, finds me loaded with a bag of laundry (2.5 kilos I learn) in search of the “lavanderia”. I come armed with instructions in Spanish (cold water – laundry deter for sensitive people – because yes, I am) yet I leave the garage size laundromat wondering if I will see my clothes again. Every day brings these small tasks with steep learning curves and enormous pride for doing things I see local 3 year-olds handle with dispatch. It is sobering and humbling – good lessons for this American.
My days are spent walking, writing, dancing and meeting people. It is now evening and I am recently returned from my first salsa lesson in 4 or 5 years – I will sleep well tonight. It feels an extravagance to have a private class in a rooftop studio even though my USD fares well against the MX peso. My body remembered moves I was sure it had forgotten – only my lack of stamina betrays me. I am thrilled to be dancing again.
I wonder…. is this home? Can’t say until I tick off a few more destinations in the year to come. Unsure of everything except: there are more Spanish lessons in this chica’s future.
beautiful view of La Parroquia across many rooftops
outdoor cafe in SMA
my new favorite thing to eat
the owners daughters were these 2 sweeties – and the food was delicious!
There is an old logging road that I look at while drinking my morning cup of coffee. For the past two years the tangle of bushes, vines and brush made it difficult to pass through into the woods. So, a month ago I asked lawn magician Gilberto to take his clippers and weed eater into the woods and clean up the old path. In no time a new vista opened. Now as I sit and write I see morning light streaming through the trees, falling on a leaf strewn earth. The path curves to the right and out of sight. This small bit of beauty astounds me. It makes me grateful on a daily basis. If I pray then this is my church and this gratitude my prayer.
I have reached a crossroads though. All this beauty comes with a price tag. My town appreciates my woods too. They assess that these woods have value to them as well as to me. I have watched my taxes go up each year even while living modestly. While I agree with the assessor that these woods are dear I am not sure what to do with a bill that annually creeps higher and higher.
Will my logging road view go the way of my Brooklyn Heights view of the East River and Staten Island Ferry – too rich for my blood?
Being practical as well as sentimental I am taking steps to aid my decision making. Over the summer a survey was conducted (it is now officially 8.03 not 7.55 acres) and the wetlands “flagged”. I have come to an agreement with my neighbor on what exactly is our property line. And it seems I could subdivide. Selling it off piecemeal is tough to imagine. If being practical was my only goal this would be easy ; but the deer and turkey lover in me thinks it all more complicated. The two will spend the fall wrestling each other.
Watching winter creep into these woods isn’t going to make the decision any easier…