Six-Month Check-In. May, 2001
It’s All About the Egg.
(The Prequel to The Casita Story)
I wrote this nearly a decade ago, just four months before finding the house (and immense project) that would keep me very, very busy and eventually become Casita de las Flores…I hope this little blog provides encouragement to those who dream about turning over a new tree. (Do it!!)
I’m sitting in the hammock listening to the birds.
So many birds.
I’ve never lived in the country before, so I really had no idea about the birds. Watching a woodpecker peck (first time I’ve seen one outside of Woody in the cartoons). Feeling a dreamy, lethargic peace at 3:25 on a warm but overcast silent saturday afternoon. Thinking (not too hard) of what I really should be doing, other than sitting in the hammock, listening to the birds, watching the woodpecker peck.
I’m a world away from my life in the US, where, on the rare occasion that I couldn’t think of what I should be doing, my impatient mind immediately and urgently intruded to suggest the next vitally important task—one in a long, long list of vitally important tasks to be done.
But here in my rented yard outside of San Miguel, my mind simply wanders over my rather lazy day.
My mother claims that, if you’re lucky, you can accomplish one real thing a day in Mexico. I’ve proved her wrong a thousand or so times already, but I’ve come to realize that sometimes it’s actually good for you to accomplish only one thing in a day.
This morning, I continued the house search. Went and looked at a tiny, extremely funky house for sale, for which the owners had decided on a firm, absurdly high price—despite having no idea of the place’s square footage, and despite the fact that the “house” is in need of tons (of tons) of work…stucco on the walls, for starters.
There. That’s one (attempt at) productive activity. Ah, yes…I also got an email from a friend I haven’t connected with since I left the States six months ago.
Six months. Half a year of a new life.
“Aha,” comes a quiet voice through the languid afternoon haze. “Write,” it says. So here I am, on the page. (Well, on the laptop, in the hammock.)
I admit, I’ve been having guilty type-A thoughts lately—I haven’t been doing enough. I’ve been “wasting time.” Nearly six months of time! What will become of me??!! Ack.
But then my friend in the States writes about how great my life seems—having the time to do the things I love—painting, photography, gardening, writing, yoga, dancing, hammock roosting.
Suddenly, even though I am lazing in the garden, I feel as if my life is, actually, productive. Every now and then, life should simply be about living.
Yes, of course, I am a bit poor, financially speaking (except for my tiny nest egg). And I have no real prospects (yet). But my life is rich, isn’t it?
Rich in butterflies (plenty of the stomach kind, but mostly the insect kind): Small black flutterers with cobalt and crimson spots gleaming in the sun. A few huge white lovelies sailing calmly by, and the occasional stately orange and black Monarch.
Rich in flora: Nasturtium, spinach, and forget-me-not seedlings standing as tall as they can, just a few days out of the earth. (Am I, perhaps, a seedling, just six months out of new earth?)
A miniature broccoli forest coming up. Infant zucchini boldly protruding from under wide, variegated, sun-catching leaves. Tomato plants freely offering up the pointy yellow flowers that portend juicy red fruit. Cheeky little adolescent lettuces. (There is so much hope and bravery in a new garden, not to mention many happy salads to come.)
Rich in feathered friends: Noisy, rat-tat-tat woodpeckers. Mournful doves mooning about. Haughty orange orioles lounging in the branches. Huge bickering blackbirds squabbling on the ground. Tiny, blindingly scarlet birdlets lingering in the purple Jacaranda blooms. And of course, many busy little jewel-colored hummingbirds zooming from blossom to blossom.
Perhaps I was a hummingbird in my first-world life? Not jewel-colored, so much as pale beige, but buzzing frenetically from duty to duty…
Maybe. But now what am I? Not a seedling, not a hummingbird. A hen, perhaps. (Colorful now—yes!) Sitting—roosting on my little egg of potential, my potential egg—doing apparently nothing, but thinking, dreaming, and scheming, waiting for my future to hatch.
Unemployed, yes. Poor-ish, yes. But I am so very rich in one of the great bounties Mexico has to offer: Time.
Time to play at painting the Virgen de Guadalupe. Time to tinker on the guitar (I can now play Greensleeves—if I had a phone, Carnegie Hall would SO be calling). Time for the joys of photography (which literally means “writing with light”). And, most of all, time to write (with light, ink or pixels). To muse, to jot, to scribble. Attempting to get to know myself and my newish surroundings though black marks on a white page/screen.
My doubts seem to dissolve, and, for once (or twice), I actually know I am doing fine.
Sure, I have no foreseeable way to make a living in Mexico (to be “secure”), but I am fine. Really fine. Finer than frog hair, as my father always says. (It took me almost twenty years of hearing that expression before I got it—“Wait,” she finally says to herself, “Frogs don’t have hair…ohhhh.”) And so, despite my lack of the career-building activities most people in my former Stateside life deem to be essential to a sense of self, my self seems to be fine. Finer than…iguana hair.
Six months into this Mexican adventure of indeterminate length, I sit and look back. Not literally back at the towering Mesquite tree that supports the north end of my hammock, but back at the months of stress and preparation for leaving my conventional life up North, half a year ago:
Quit job. Finish thesis. Jump through all the right hoops to graduate. Sort through 20 or so years of accumulated stuff (the pack rat’s instant karma). Have two massive garage sales and still give a driveway full of stuff to a charitable organization. Fall in love at the last-possible, most-insane minute, and leave man and town and country behind anyway, because it had to be done (because it was my future, my egg).
Drive 2000 miles in a car filled to the gills with Mom, pets and my carefully-packed belongings (60% books)—still, somehow, so very much stuff.
Arrive at new, Mexican home. Unpack, organize, play house and play in the garden. Survive while distance smothers a fledgling relationship. Live in near-total isolation for four months while trying to find a foothold in what was once, long ago, Home—the place I grew up. Get to know (again) the town, the language, the lifestyle, and the birds. And then, finally, blossom once again into the world of humankind.
So very much can happen in six short months.
Did I make the right decision? To leave almost everything (material) behind for a brave/insane new adventure in a foreign country? Definitely. (I mostly think.) Of course, it has been very difficult, at times, to have sacrificed security and a nice, reliable paycheck for the unknown. But the benefits are manifold, not the least of which is the time to simply sit in the hammock and think. And tend to my egg.
Ten Year Check-In, May, 2011
Forgot how to play Greensleves on the guitar, but learned how to play it on the Piano. Not painting at the moment, but still crazy in love with photography. Accomplish a multitude of tasks on most days, but still spend the occasional lazy Saturday pondering in my new hammock in my new garden. (And even manage to write now and then.)
What I didn’t know then was that Casita de las Flores, which turns ten next year (!), would change my life in so many ways: providing me with a life-sized art project, meaningful work, lots of new friends, and even a decent income, eventually.
Best of all, a decade later, I am still rich—not so much in money, though I am a wee bit more secure—but in time (and birds and butterflies and seedlings). Yet, I find I’m roosting yet again, sitting on that good old future egg, wondering what comes next.
Here’s to you, adventurers—don’t let the unknown keep you down. And take really good care of that egg.
Wishing you love and lots of great eggs,
Casita de las Flores