Tina's Mexico

The People's Guide To Mexico

The Geography of Ghosts

December 23, 1999

Solstice Eve the big white moon rose over the rancho at sunset, the sky pink and gold to the west, the darker blue to the east already tinged silvery by fullmoon light. I had spent the day packing up camp, and a good soak in my neighbor's tub had somewhat revived me, when I returned to ES and discovered a mysterious object slipped into the pages of my journal. I unwrapped the vaguely familiar scarf and discovered a family cluster of slender spired quartz crystals nestled there.

Memories flooded in, the dam broke, and I sobbed out the collected tears of the past week, unshed in the company of my girls. I cried for now and for then- how many years ago? -- when I left that crystal and scarf sitting on the mantle of my friend Fen's house soon after her husband's tragic and sudden death. And now she has returned the favor. I missed her visit, hot in my tub, but the crystal cluster speaks more eloquently than words.

The next morning I carry the tiniest pebble I can find -- little more than a speck of gravel- to the cross on the hill in honor of the shortest day of the year. I leave it there with prayers for a safe journey and safe return, and shortly thereafter Xuxa and I are on our way, with a stop at Maestro Tomas', my mecanico, where he siphons off the extra half quart of oil he mistakenly put in at the oil change. I noticed that the oil pressure gage was reading unnaturally high. Steve would be proud of me, I think! I get a warm hit off Tomas, who talks me into taking the cuota via Guadalajara to Ajijic, and he sends me off with the usual comforting but very genuine "Que le vaya bien. "I can tell he means it.

During my day's drive, as I occasionally slip off of the cuota (four lane highway with little traffic and no pot-holes) onto libre connecting roads, I notice how my anxiety level soars upward, somewhat like the oil pressure gage with a too-full system. Though the cuota roads cost me a total of close to $20 between San Miguel and Ajijic, I decide it's well worth it in the savings counted in gray hairs. Driving the libres induces a few too many involuntary isometric exercises through-out my muscular system! Anyhow, this is one of the ways I have vowed to change my life; I will be able to afford the cuota in my golden years, which, I decide, have already begun.

It gets a little white knuckle around Guadalajara, where the pre-Christmas traffic is dense, and Mexican drivers change lanes with wild abandon. I put on Steve's favorite baseball cap, which reads simply "Fishing", both against the glare of the late afternoon sun and as a superstitious, symbolic ayudo, just in case some of his formidable driving skills have rubbed off from his brain into the hat.. With the help of Lorena's excellent directions, sent in a series of emails that led me to believe driving to Moscow would be easier than actually finding their house, I manage to maneuver into all the correct lanes and continue toward Chapala. Six hours after my departure from San Miguel, I am thumping on their door in Ajijic, and as Carl and I fall into an embrace, I call out to Lorena crossing the room toward me, "I did it!"

I am exultant. With every additional "klick" driven, my confidence grows. I've come a lot further than anything measured in miles since I left Oregon.

We spend the next morning in the market of Jojotopec, where I find romeritos, a mysterious and delicious Mexican vegetable, and buy a batch to cook up for our holiday dinner. On the way out of the market I snag some miniature plastic animals to use on my icons; I'm particularly fond of the pig.

Late afternoon finds me and Carl climbing the high rounded hills that overlook Lake Chapala and all the communities clustered along its edge. Our hike takes us eventually to a long-abandoned milpa on the upper hillside where we sit and rest and enjoy the silence, which is broken by scattered sounds from far below that sound to my imagination like the lost echoing songs of dead shamans.

We talk a little about Steve, about our sense of loss. I tell Carl how comforted I feel by being with him & Lorena. Their long and deep connection with Steve evokes something of his presence for me, and we all have the familiarity of many years of friendship. Carl tells me how broken up he was all summer, how he had to struggle with his grief to prevent its swallowing him up. I confide that I felt confused when he didn't respond to the emotional content of my communications during those first months after Steve's death, and he admitted that he just couldn't. We linger on the hillside until deepening clouds remind us of the coming sunset.

On the descent we are treated with panoramic views of a flaming puesta del sol with the light reflecting off of great gray clouds and etching islands of reeds in the lake far below with a glistening silver outline. On the way back through town we come upon a street blocked off for a posada, with a little girl dressed as Mary in a pale blue satin cloak seated on a burro and accompanied by a serious youngster with charcoal-painted beard in the role of Joseph.

I had planned on leaving the next day, but I am easily persuaded to stay awhile and continue on my own pilgrimage to the playa after Navidad. Carl & Lorena are quite entranced with Ajijic, how easy life is here, how everything works. And Lorena is down-right enamored of their part-time maid, Esther, a dynamo who can swamp out the entire house, do the laundry and prepare a mountain of vegetables for future use in a matter of a few hours.

Carl tells me he can't handle San Miguel anymore, for all the ghosts that pop up at every corner -- a memory of their first winter there with Steve, a vision of John Muir on Callejon de las Animas, or of Diane, my sister whose big heart stopped on Valentine's Day three years ago.

As I take a walk along the shore this afternoon with Xuxa, I realize I am protected by no such limits of geography. I spent virtually no time in Ajijic with Steve, yet the lake takes me back to Panajachel and Lake Atitlan, where our family spent many visits as we prowled markets for treasures of artesania to take home. I wave those memories away, and a few steps later a trail of leaf-cutter ants has whisked me back to a hike in to Bonampak years ago. I take my ghosts with me. There's no escaping them right now. And maybe I don't want to.

...Continued with: The Baby Jesus

Tina's Mexico:
On the Road Again

#1: Preparing to Leave for Mexico

#2: On The Road Again

#3: Dia de Guadalupe

#4: Gamboling for Cookies

#5: The Geography of Ghosts

#6: The
Baby Jesus

#7: Laughing Buddha

#8: Degrees of Acceptance

#9: Keys for the Road

#10: Not Pie in the Sky

11: Raison d'être

#12: Butterflies & Turtles

#13: Yes, Howard, We did eat Steve

#14: "56"

#15: Dia de Amistad

#16: Rio Purificacion

#17: Popcorn

#18: Ode To Odette

#19: Departure

#20 Pueblita's Flowers

#21: Rearview-Mirror

#22: Lingering


#24 1st Anniversay of Steve's Death

#25 The Mexican Left Turn Angelic Blues

Tina's Stories

Day of the Dead Altar
Ritual for October
All Us Desert Rats

Living by
Lake Chapala

© by Tina Rosa, 1999-2002
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Email Tina Rosa at tinar@mexconnect.com

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