I seldom write about what I am eating, about to eat, cooking and certainly very seldom about meals in restaurants. This is more an homage to Mexican fruits and vegetables, and to market vendors. Yesterday I went to my favorite seller at the big flower and food market. He is a kind-looking grandfather who has a spot in the back of the market. Some of the market ladies look so fierce that I scuttle away to the safety of the quiet gentleman who is patient with my halting Spanish and my paltry purchases. Yesterday he was selling some beautiful looking peppers. I wondered just how hot they were. “muy callente?” (my version of “very hot?”) He shook his head, smiled under his spectacular moustache and poped one into my bag. He said something like “una regala”. Was it a bonus, a gift? Right, for the big spender!
At home I eyed it a bit suspiciously and then integrated just half into the sauce for my rice. Did I mention I am eating vegetarian since everything is so good here? My only slip up has been a most delicious hamburger as I fell prey to a craving on a cold windy evening. As for my sauce, let us say it was super delicious but…..definitions of “hot” vary.
For those of you who do take an iterest in food blogs, I just discovered a great one…”cupcakes and crab legs.” I was introduced to the author on the street here in San Miguel. It’s that kind of town! Check it out for serious food discussions and great photos.
So, here at the Writers’. Conference in San Miguel when we don’t have a workshop or keynote speaker or open mic ( gulp, I,have it tomorrow!) we lie down for a little nap on the lawn as the fountains play and eager writers have pitches with agents. Oh, no, they sit in chairs at a table for that! And what do we see as we take off our sneakers? Why fluffy clouds and green leaves! And we hear minah birds and turtle doves and the grass tickles out feet. This gives us inspiration to write the great Canadian novel. And that’s why we come here.
This jasmine vine blooms over a bridge. The bridge spans a dried up ravine full of stones, weeds and rubbish. Does it ever fill with water, I wonder? In my home I have a pot with exactly the same plant. Rarely, it puts out a tiny white flower. On those days as soon as I wake up I can smell the scent of that one flower.
It is quite cold here at night now, almost dipping to freezing point. I wonder if the threat of frost makes this plant so prolific. My plant that is coddled and brought into the house in early autumn for fear of killing it off is a prima donna. Of course, I’m very happy to have the few precious blooms, but I wonder if it’s not a little complacent with its safe, beloved status.
Writing is like that. As soon as I step into the fear zone, it gets better. Oh, botany turned into philosophy.
I am taking lessons from my favourite teacher, Judyth Hill. Look her up. Buy her books. Know that she is a wonderful teacher of poetry. Don’t ask me how she does it, but she’s got it. One of the techniques she taught us yesterday was this idea of opening your eyes and in the first moment of consciousness writing whatever comes. People scoff at this …” I have to go pee…..I need my coffee…..I can’t think at that moment.” One of the most important ideas in this technique is that, yes, you are not ” thinking” in your everyday, logical way. That’s the soul of poetry though. To blend the real and the dreamlike state makes a poem and I would say, good fiction too.
Things have to be set up. You need a clean page in your journal, a pen that writes well, maybe a lamp if you don’t have natural light and a bit of a prompt to set you off. Ours was the scent of any flower we liked. I chose daffodil because even though it is not sweet like a rose or jasmine, I love its sappy promise of spring. We also were given some excerpts from a poet called Mirabai, a 15 th century writer….oh well you can look her up. We had to chose one line, write it on the top of the page and then…off to sleep. The journal is right on the night table beside you.
Trust me, after a day of writing workshop, I was wiped and fell asleep like a stone thrown down the well. Early in the still-dark morning a church bell clanged and woke me up. Roll over and write, I thought. I did, in spite of not being able to find my glasses ( they were later found in the tangle of the bed-clothes. ) I wrote in large messy letters and I have not even read what I wrote but I know it was something about a garden.
More surprises from Judyth today. Daffodil kisses…sort of soft and cool and smelling that spring smell…you know…..to you who read this.
if she had any sense. I have seen some intrepid Mexican ladies teetering around this town in high- heeled boots, sandals and pumps but the chic look of the footwear is more than offset by the element of risk. Any walking surface in San Miguel that is not covered in large and unwieldy cobblestones is booby-trapped with iron hooks, mysterious holes, unexpected steps and slanted entries to driveways. I have made it an iron-cast rule to stop walking if I want to examine anything interesting like a fountain or intreiging roof-top. Add to that the fact that the “sidewalks” are designed for slender senioritas or slim-hipped Cowboys and you have the perfect set up for a show-down over who will yield and step into the street.
One fascinating mystery is that one evening recently when I had downed two strong margeuritas in quick succession, I was able to fly home over every obstacle in record time. Must think that over…..oh well, off for my morning ” walk”
This is my third visit to San Miguel in Mexico. Now I know where to get what I need. I know how to walk to my friend’s house without getting hopelessly lost in narrow streets. I know how to sit in the main square, to buy stamps, which is the best bakery. I am accepted as one of the regular Gringas and certain things about San Miguel have become routine for me. When I was first encouraged to visit, I was told it was a ” magical” town. I was sceptical about that term. Certainly on my first visit I thought it beautiful and full of interesting people. It still is but I have been able to look at this little town with some new insights. I have many questions about it still and those questions are part of the attraction of the place.
There are two communities that live side by side here. First are the Mexicans who claim this town as the cradle of the revolution and a beautifully preserved colonial town ( some contradiction there?). They take pride in the tradition of art and writing that flourishes here. It is home to people who have nothing to do with art or music or writing too. They lie on the ground and fix cRs. They drive the busses out of town. One cleans my room once a week.
The other community is the ex-pat English speaking one. Red necks don’t come to San Miguel. I’ve never met anyone who makes his or her winter home here who was ‘t absolutely liberal in social attitudes and politics. It’s interesting to see how these communities interact in sometimes uneasy ways. The gulf between these communities is both gouged out and spanned by money. I am considered rich by many of the people who pass me on the street. Yet, if I were to lose my cash or my credit card it would be a catastrophe. I am only rich here where others are poor.
A complicated situation that requires more thought. In the meantime, let’s get that poem right.
Pretty daring colour scheme but somehow flowers always look right together.