||January 12, 2000,
Before I left Ajijic, Carl and I took a last hike up the same trail but this time only as far as the wide gray rocky expanse of the dry waterfall, a popular picnic spot. In one of our pauses during the climb, I detected a lovely fragrance that smelled vaguely familiar, like something from a half-remembered dream. Peering out over the canyon I spotted a bush, just starting to bloom, with a few of the round spongy yellow flowers that give off such a sweet perfume.
"Look," I say to Carl excitedly. "Mesquite in bloom! Ajijic is three months ahead of San Miguel. The mesquite doesn't bloom until March there."
"It must be the beginning of spring," Carl marvels.
Indeed this is a temperate zone, with a climate much gentler than the spiky desert. I've relaxed into the warmth as much as into the comfort of my friends' company.
And now it's time to venture further west, into a zona mas caliente. It's hard leaving , and I tell my compadre and comadre through the window, "This is the first place I've felt comfortable since Steve died." With a last wave, Xuxa and ES and I are on our way again, and I feel more relaxed than when I left San Miguel over a week ago.
Again, I opt for the cuotas, though it pinches my miserly pocket. I can just hear Steve raving in the background, "Sixty-three pesos! That's highway robbery, literally!"
Soon I'm coming down into sugar cane country, the first sight I've had this trip of these spiky bright green bushes so tall and dense. It brings to my mind the countryside around Compostela, on the road to Tepic. I think to myself that I'm glad I won't pass Compostela on this trip. It would be too sad. (We have had a family tradition of telling "the Compostela story "about the little girl with the wicked stepmother who grows up in a compost heap and inevitably triumphs. In one memorable version she ended up training an army of pigs to make machete handles out of recycled plastic bags!)
Descending by degrees into the tropic heat, I feel my being relaxing to a more profound leveling like chocolate. As I descend from the hills around Colima, the temperature rises up to meet me. When I see the first flowery pink tree I cry out to Steve, "Look!" It has always been a moment of excitement, of passageway to paradise, to sight that first flowering glory of the coast. A long day's drive (let's face it- they're all long!) brings me to our family's favorite beach, no longer at the end of a rutted dusty road . Now a smooth asphalt lets any lazy sight-seer in, as well as the riff-raff rich. Our secret is no more.
As I drive up along the beach I note other signs of the times. A new hotel is being built- the second- a big ugly white blotch of cement right next to Bob and Betty's palapa.
"There goes the neighborhood," I greet them, as I get hugs all around. On this trip I drive from one embrace to the next.
I'm out of the truck and knee-deep in the ocean when ES is barely parked. I have never seen so many pelicans here! They flock and fly and float in vast number. If only Maki were here to see them! And Steve, of course. I remember our second trip to Mexico with Churpa when she was 10 months. We traveled with Maki in our shinny almost new blue Toyota camper to Baja, and our favorite family occupation was admiring the pelicans, those great-beaked prehistoric-looking ancients of the ocean.
I've made it just in time for sunset, and the usual spectacular rosy-gold spreads out over the sky like a blanket of many-colored light. Later that evening, camped temporarily with friends, we watch the night ocean put on an incredible display of fluorescent green light in the crashing waves. We agree that both the pelicans and the phosphorescence seem truly good omens for the millennium.
As far as we can tell Y2K comes in with a whimper, not a bang. Life does not come crashing to an end here on our beach, or anywhere else, as far as Patty and Jerry, ham radio operators, can tell us. The next day the Guadalajarans leave the palapa that has reserved been for me, and I start moving in and setting up camp. It's a hard day. Last year there were up to 5 of us in camp, with Churpa, Kamari and Sam right next door. The contrast is bleak.
Luckily, Deborah shows up from the resort one bay over, where she is working as a holistic therapist doing Watsu for the very wealthy. She is able to sit neutrally with my anger, undismayed. She knows this is just a part of the whole wicked dance of loss. We fix a simple lunch, walk down to Los Colorados, the giant mauve/red rocks at the end of the beach. She helps me get through the day.
Once I have my camp set up, tarps against the almost daily afternoon westerly wind that irritates me and makes me grumpy, outhouse dug and sheltered shower space for rinsing off the salt in the evenings, I begin to feel more comfortable, more at home here.
Just yet one more transition, I think. Over yet another hump. It's mostly about acceptance. Once I truly accept being alone, there will be no resistance left to cause this particular pain that keeps coming up, like the ache of a wound, not yet healed.
Each night the thump of the waves wakes me, startles me, and then I recognize the sound and lie awake awhile just listening. I fall into my morning ritual of meditation and then coffee-making against the curtain of light of the rising sun reflected in the ocean. The days start to melt away. As Mercedes once told Dobie, "I have coffee in the morning, and the next thing I know it's time for sunset!"
On day in the routine of camp life the ice truck stops by, and I buy a "quarto" , which almost fills the cooler. The iceman says to me, "Y tu esposo?"
It's always hard having to say it, in either language. "He died," I say in Spanish.
"Siempre murio?" he says.
The question confounds me. The sentence translates something like, "He always died?" Or, "Anyway, he died?" Or even- "He died forever?" Is this even a question? It's hard to tell from his intonation. But I answer "Sî." Yes, it's true; Steve always died, forever, anyway. Like the core of me surrendering to the tropical heat, softening, my being, bit by bit, absorbs the reality, the finality, of Steve's death. It is a knowing that comes slowly, by degrees.
....continued with Keys for the Road