Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Just In Case You Think My Life Is Exotic

Just In Case You Think My Life Is Exotic
            Routine. My life is routine. I don’t live on the beach, lounging beneath a palapa, tanning my skin into leather, holding a fruit-filled drink, serenaded by mariachi bands. Ha.

            So, I just returned from two weeks in Mazatlan where I stayed with friends in a high-rise resort hotel on the beach. I never made it to the beach palapa. I had one thoroughly enjoyable beach walk. Mostly, I visited old friends from when I lived in Mazatlan, had medical tests in preparation for cataract surgery later this month, wandered the market in El Centro, shopped for traditional Mexican blouses.

            I live inland, in a farming village where people wear, buy and sell modern clothes. Think Wal-Mart. I like traditional blouses. I wear them into rags.

            I live where men ride horseback into town to pick up a part to fix the John Deere corn picker. I live where one field is harvested with modern machinery, the adjacent fields by men with burros and machetes.

            My home is tiny, rustic. I might have the only casa in Etzatlan, in all Jalisco, without a television or microwave. I live like a rich poor person. While beans are simmering in the olla, I make my own tortillas.

            Nevertheless, a two week holiday in a seaport town is admittedly exotic. In the way one might hold a chunk of coal in one hand and the Hope Diamond in the other, I found myself missing my routine. I wanted my familiar life around me. I wanted to putter in my flower beds, to trim the hibiscus, to pull weeds from the amaryllis.

            I tired of rich meals. I wanted simple beans and tortillas for lunch. I wanted my own sheets, fresh off the line, smelling of sunshine rather than sheets the texture of sandpaper, smelling of disinfectant soap. Metaphorically, you understand, I wanted to relax, to pick my nose (metaphorically!) in peace.

            Saturday morning, boarded the familiar bus, heaved a sigh of relief—I now could reduce my life back to the routine I know. I know the route. I know the hills, the towns, the vistas, the rivers. From Mazatlan to the station in Zapopan is a five hour trip.

            Just out of Tepic in Nayarit, the bus driver pulled off the road, opened the separating door and informed us that up ahead was a tragic multi-vehicle accident, causing a four hour delay. Rather than join the parking lot of frustrated holiday travelers, we would leave the cuota (toll road) and take the libra, the free road. There is a reason it is free.

            In a snap, my routine, which I had settled into like a cat, disappeared.

            The cuota is similar to our interstate roads, except one pays as we goes. The libra follows original cow paths across the mountains. A narrow rat’s nest of a road, it has neither a straightened section through the entire mountain range, nor shoulders nor a turnout.

            But, oh, the vistas! The sheer drops! Villages like nests in trees. Diamond willow-like twig fences. Slab-sided cattle. Goats and chickens running loose. Impossible mountain fields worked by hand. Women in real traditional clothing, not tourista garb, sweeping dirt patios with a straw broom. Boys on bicycles. Men on horseback, oh, the Spanish blooded horses, the silver on the saddles.

            There we were, a thousand-thousand cars, trucks, buses, and one ancient Farmall, all in a row, an articulated snake slithering along the serpentine highway, cut-backs, hairpins, twists and turns across the Sierra Nevadas until, finally, we dropped down onto the plain near Magdalena. We rolled into Zapopan, two hours late.

            I’m glad I had that experience. I never want to travel that dangerous road again.

            At home, I dropped my gear inside my door. There’s no place like home; there’s no place like home. The next hour I toured my garden, talking with my flowers, my trees, my plants. We’re back in Kansas, Toto.

            Know what? We all have an exotic life. We all get to touch and taste bits of the exotic, the mountain passes of Oz. But most of the time we hoe corn in our fields in Kansas, metaphorically. Shovel snow in Montana, realistically. Routine. Routine is not a bad thing.  

Sondra Ashton
HDN: Looking out my back door

January 5, 2017

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