Monday, May 16, 2016

Life Amongst the Elves In Etzatlan

            Life Amongst the Elves In Etzatlan
            I’ve always liked the story of the shoemaker and the elves. In the evening, before he retired, the old shoemaker cut the leather and prepared his work bench to stitch the shoes in the morning. In the night the elves came to the shop of the good shoemaker and stitched the shoes, the most beautiful shoes.

            When I had my shop in Poulsbo, Washington, often I cut fabric for the following day. Each morning I entered with eyes of hope. The elves never came.

Here in Etzatlan, Leo is my chief elf. I inherited Leo from Joe and Yvonne, former owners of my casita. Leo is caretaker for several casitas on the rancho. Leo is twenty-six or twenty-seven. He began working at the rancho with his uncle when he was twelve. Leo has an university education and could teach school or have a “real job” but he prefers work among the plants and trees.

Yesterday I went with Lani, a neighbor elfess, to the vivero in Ahualuco, the next town south of us. I bought herbs and flowers, not that my yard needs more. But there is a sad little neglected plot in back, shaded in the morning, sunny in the afternoon.

When Lani drove to my gate, Josue, my neighbor across the way, who is building my kitchen cabinetry in his evening hours, in true elf fashion bounded out to carry my plants to my patio, where they could await my desires.

            Nights are cold here, which is great for sleeping, with windows open and me snuggled beneath my down comforter. Until the sun warms the day, mornings are chilly. I shower, dress, grab a sweater, brew my coffee, and sit on my patio in the emerging light and warmth. By the time I finish coffee, I fling my sweater over a chair and I have my plan for the day, knowing full well plans are made for permutations. Take this morning, for example.

I asked Leo if we had a shovel. “Yes, we have a shovel.”

“Oh, good,” I said, knowing I might never have to use the shovel. Leo continued pruning the hibiscus and night jasmine, shrubs heading for tree-dom.

I split a variegated ivy into a couple pots destined for shady places. Then I carted my herbs and flowers as well as a batch of mother-in-law’s-tongue given me by Ariel, another elf who looks after me, to that scruffy plot in back. I set the pots on the ground where I figured they would look good, then went in the house.

Sure enough, an hour later I heard sounds of “scritch, scritch”. Leo hacked away at the dry soil, preparing it for my flowers.

One of the hardest things for me to do, blame my upbringing, is to ask for help. I cannot explain how I landed in a place where the people around me simply look out for me. I hardly express a wish before Lani hauls me to town or Ariel sends over a bucket of paint or, well, here’s another example.

My brick-walled back yard consists of a grassy area bordered by prima vera, palms, bougainvillea, a thousand amaryllis, night jasmine and things, tall and small, I cannot identify. One of the mystery trees wears ferny branches which just days ago burst into bloom with hanging red bottle-brushes. I asked Leo, who can identify most of the greenery, “What is that?” He looked at it thoughtfully for a long moment, “A tree.”

My long-range back-yard plan is to forget the grass, create rockeries, install three or four citrus trees, a mango and a coffee bush. Pathways with benches for sitting in contemplation will separate the areas. A plan, emphasis on “long-range”.

This morning I mentioned to Leo that I wanted to create a rockery in that dry patch near the wall. There I’ll plant the cactus which now live in pots by the front door, along with other rock-garden beauties. I know that in three or four days Leo will back his pick-up through the gate and unload a pile of rock and a few bags of dirt. Poco y poco. Little by little.

Sondra Ashton
HDN: Looking out my back door

April 7, 2016

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