And the Wednesday Butterfly Visit

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Probably most of you have heard about the miraculous migration that Monarch butterflies make from Canada to their winter homes in Mexico.  Today I visited that home.  Seldom have I been so moved by beauty, quiet, respect for the magnificent sight I was privileged to witness.  The forests where the Monarchs mate is over three hours’ drive from San Miguel.  It is another province that surprised me by its forested and mountainous terrain.  When we finally arrived at the reserve I was surprised and impressed to learn that this section of forest, set aside for the butterflied is owned and managed by indigenous people who have  lived in this area for centuries.  We parked the van and set off on foot or on horseback.  We were at an altitude of over 10 thousand feet and I was feeling a little headachy so I opted for my friend Paloma.  A young fellow from the region led our group of horses up the steep track for about half an hour until we reached the area where the butterflies swarm.  They like sun and we were lucky enough to have a mainly sunny day.  Strict quiet is requested and we stood transfixed by the sight of these millions of beauties flitting around and covering the pine branches and trunks.  I must honestly say I was in tears, I was so moved.  I think the only time I have come close to feeling like this was when I saw whales from the boat last September and when I saw thousands of snow geese on their  migratory trip outside Quebec City.  The butterflies love the cool air and shade of the forest.  It is clear that the people who work with visitors take their responsibility and heritage seriously.  Many of the children do not go to school but start working in the forest as guides from an early age.  What a wonderful life.  Should they be encouraged to work as accountants or computer programmers?  What more wonderful life could they have than being surrounded by animals, their beloved butterflies and people from all over the world who follow their instructions so that they too can enjoy this wonderful experience.  They have a small,cluster of booths at the entrance where we bought the most delicious lunch cooked in a wood oven and we were able to buy baskets or embroidery. . . . The motif. . .guess!

I was very happy to complete to trek up and  down the mountain without mishap on Paloma’s back – although she did show marked tendency to want to be first in line and would take an unexpected shortcut sometimes!  I was in awe today and I know I will never forget my visit to the Monarchs.

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The Tuesday market in San Miguel

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It is astounding.  I went once last year but I had forgotten the sheer size, noise and variety that confronts one at this huge weekly market. It takes place well outside the city.  Finding the right bus was a bit of a,challenge as I had to look up a few words in the dictionary and then construct a sort of question about going there.  Well, it worked and after a ten muinute bus ride up a windy hilly road we arrived and trooped over an overpass.  Tiny children and ancient crones managed to get up and over the highway and then we decended into a dusty, noisy, chaotic, seething mass of humanity all hell bent on a bargain and a damned good meal.  Some of the most popular tables were second hand clothes and I saw quite a few gringas supplementing their wardrobes.  You name it, the San Miguel market has it.  Shoes, knock off clothes, lurid underware, tools, cosmetics, toys, kitchen utensils, electronics, fruit and vegetables of astounding quality and price, cowboy hats. . . .well, the few pictures I post should give you an idea.  All this shopping can make a muchacho hungry and there are several makeshift kitchens set up.  Fried fish is a great favorite and the smell is wonderful.  Tamales,cook on griddles and some sort of pork and onion combo twirls on a spit a bit like a Mexican version of gyro.  The drinks are huge and thirst quenching.  I had coconut juice in a small bucket. I prudently only drank half as the ” banyos” at the edge of the field did not appeal to me.  I met a few friends, as one does in San Miguel, and we decided on steamed fish.  Who knew nouvelle cuisine had wormed its way into the big market.  We had fish, steamed veggies and very hot sauce out of a piping hot styrofoam container and withdrew from the tables and chairs, for,shade and to avoid the earnest singing of a woman with a microphone.  She raked in quite a few tips.  Oh, I,forgot that some people didn’t have stalls but wheeled their,stuff around in wheelbarrows ( wonderful walnuts) or wandered around the market grounds hollering their wares…anything from carrier bags to clothes pins or sponges.  The sweets were out of this world…huge mounds of smarties, gummy bears, lickorice.  It was overwhelming.  I managed to find the knock off Real Madrid jerseys I wanted as presents for my grandsons.  I almost gave up,but finally found the stall right at the edge of the grounds.  Very nice too.  Needless to say I spent a good bit of time in the hammock later in the afternoon reading Thomas Moore’s ” Care of the Soul”.   Just the thing after a few hours in bedlam.

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A few sights around town.

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The sunsets in San Miguel are justly famous.  I saw many beautiful and quite astonishing sights.  I never dreamed of seeing papayas in a tree.  The passerby who smiled  at my puzzlement  and managed to tell me that papayas do not have a remarkable flower ( it was a combination of instinct, intuition and five common words that allowed us to get ideas across) went on her smiling way leaving me to gape in wonderment.  How ever do they get such big fruit down without smashing it?  I finally saw an artist painting a picture right out in the street and a man caning chairs next to the fountain.  He graciously allowed me to take his picture.  I spent the afternoon at the swimming pool puzzling how one can be burning hot in the sun and cool and shivery in the shade.  The altitude?  I have not written much latelyin this blog as I am writing other things and reading Anita Brookner.  I have read two of her books and that is quite enough.  She is very witty but there is a modern sort of sadness that is a little too familiar for comfort.  One week left.  That makes me feel Anita Brookner- ish.  Enjoy the pictures.

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San Miguel Pantoum

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I had to study some different forms of poetry at the convention.  One was called a Pantoum and you can just go and look it up.  You will see that involves repeating lines in a particular order as you proceed down the poem..  Tonight just at sunset the moon and the evening star were breathtaking.  This picture does not do justice to the moon as thin a sliver as you could ever see turned up like a perfect bowl and the lustrous star beside her.  How lovely!  So, I thought I would try a Pantoum!

 

 

San Miguel Pantoum

 

San Miguel evening, sunset and a star.

Small pomegranite flowers, lipstick red

Round jewels, a bell rings from afar

A chance, a whim.  I am led.

 

Small pomegranite flowers, lipstick red

Glimpsed above a blue wall.

A chance, a whim, I am led.

A woman sits at the street corner.

 

Glimpsed above a blue wall.

Small jewels shining in green leaves.

A woman sits at the street corner

Among rough cobble-stones.

 

Small jewels shining in green leaves

I wander lost in narrow streets

Among rough cobble stones

After the heat of a winter day.

 

I wander lost in narrow streets

Round jewels, a bell rings from afar

After the heat of a winter day

San Miguel evening, sunset and a star.

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Hammock

 

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Swinging in the Spring hammock

under the late evening sky

The stars emerge

Up on the roof terrace with its yellow flowers

I hear the faint creak of the star-burst

twined ropes.

One bright star above rocks with me so that I am not lonely.

Hold me in your arms rocking rocking hammock.

I see the gaudy pink geraniums

Flourescent against the salmon coloured wall

and the shadow of the starburst ropes

against the cooling wall.

Back and forth, creak creak

and the two-note bell

from the Parish Church

calling heedless rocking souls to repentance.

 

Balloons over San Miguel

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Hot air balloons love early morning.

They love the cool clouds.

The still air

of early morning.

 

Hot air balloons love the jet

of helium.

The basket below

hangs in early morning.

 

Hot air balloons love pearl dawning.

Carried up by flame

and flame-clouded dawn

of early morning.j

 

Hot air balloons love gliding up and away

The faith, the joy

in the basket below.

Hot air balloons love to fly in early morning?

 

 

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This is what Lent looks like in San Miguel

 

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Mexico is not a quiet place.  I am writing this with a pair of orange ear plugs stuck into my ears.  Yes, it does somewhat deaden the noise of barking dogs, cars bumping up a cobble stone road, motorcycles roaring up the streets, the roasted corn seller bawling out his eerie cry at exactly seven o’clock every evening, gas trucks rolling up and down blasting canned music and encouragement to fill up one’s canister.  The  garbage truck comes to our neighborhood every Monday morning at 6:45 and rings what sounds like a schol bell.  I am required to be up and dressed and to fumble with the three separate locks that protect me from the dastardly villains who are said to abound ( although I have never seen one) before running up the street to hand my refuse up to the mysterious hand down in the inside of the truck.  The church bell tolls the half hour all night and day.  Minah birds shriek in the pomegranate trees.  At exactly four am every night, a bird whose name I do not know serenades me with the sweetest and most uusual song.  I have named that bird myself with a special name.  On weekends happy couples dance until dawn with the doors of the church hall open to the neighborhood.  They are accompanied by Mariachi bands of varying talent but unfailing stamina and volume.  The evening, having mutated into the early morning, wraps up  with a rousing volley of firecrackers.

Mexico is not a quiet place.  I still prefer its sounds to the rumble of snow-ploughs or the sick moan of my car battery on a bright morning when the wind chill  factor is minus 25.