I Say Possible

La Tigra Gothic
La Tigra Gothic

I want to be a believer. I used to be. I was one of those people that said things like, “everything happens for a reason ,” “there are no coincidences we create our own reality”. But what I learned after moving to Mexico was that it’s much easier to believe such things when life falls into place, for the most part.

But when things fall apart…for years , well, one wonders how there can be reason behind cruelty and deceit , illness, poverty and suffering. Perhaps I was naive to assume that everything happening for a reason meant a “good” reason.

Still, I have an eternally optimistic side, I cultivate a cache of hope —that there is meaning—that life is not a random series of insignificant events.

Sometimes life rewards my tenacity.

Several months ago, I set out for the U.S. in search of a few months of work. I hoped to make enough to publish my book, buy Felipe a chainsaw, and make some much needed repairs to the house. Though I had very nice visit with my mother, and landed my first paid writing gig, I didn’t make any money. Still, because of my battered but prevailing belief system, I felt it was as it should be.

I came home and like a good citizen, I set my resolutions for the New Year: publish my book, finally learn to speak Spanish well, and keep the house from crumbling to rubble. I had no idea how I’d achieve these objectives. I’ve been in Mexico nine years and still have the annoying habit of saying, “en el pasado”, or “en la futura”, rather than learning the eight gazillion verb tenses of Espanol. I couldn’t imagine what might finally cajole me out of my laziness. The other goals required money I didn’t foresee making, and I had a debt to pay and a ticket to the U.S. the buy before May.

Then I received a message from an old friend.

“What would you think about coming down to Nicaragua to do some service and wine training with my staff?”

I replied, “Possible.”

The job is not exactly what I imagined doing in the U.S.  It’s MUCH better. Better money, in a fabulous location doing the most fun restaurant job there is. Obviously, I’ll be required to upgrade my Spanish, and there will be money embark on our projects.

Of course all this amazingness reminded me of a poem.  It is how I feel now.

BELIEF IN MAGIC

By Dean Young

How could I not?
Have seen a man walk up to a piano
and both survive.
Have turned the exterminator away.
Seen lipstick on a wine glass not shatter the wine.
Seen rainbows in puddles.
Been recognized by stray dogs.
I believe reality is approximately 65% if.
All rivers are full of sky.
Waterfalls are in the mind.
We all come from slime.
Even alpacas.
I believe we’re surrounded by crystals.
Not just Alexander Vvedensky.
Maybe dysentery, maybe a guard’s bullet did him in.
Nonetheless.
Nevertheless
I believe there are many kingdoms left.
The Declaration of Independence was written with a feather.
A single gem has throbbed in my chest my whole life
even though
even though this is my second heart.
Because the first failed,
such was its opportunity.
Was cut out in pieces and incinerated.
I asked.
And so was denied the chance to regard my own heart
in a jar.
Strange tangled imp.
Wee sleekit in red brambles.
You know what it feels like to hold
a burning piece of paper, maybe even
trying to read it as the flames get close
to your fingers until all you’re holding
is a curl of ash by its white ear tip
yet the words still hover in the air?
That’s how I feel now.

Culling

Selfie with Chupa Selfie with Chupa

When I was a little girl  I had a friend whose family were farmers. I loved Jackie and the Ludwigs, they were self-assured, no nonsense, capable people. They gave big hugs, and ate huge piles of food at their long table full kids and laughter.

Merle, Jackie’s daddy, was a ruddy man with gnarled hands and an earnest smile. I remember one afternoon spent with him in the pig barn, watching a sow give birth. The place was bright and cozy with heating lamps. There was a rail round the birthing pen to protect the piglets. All Merle had to do was tie off their umbilical cords, cut their milk teeth and look them over. The sow murmured peacefully. I watched, fascinated and relaxed, as mucky piglets slid from their mother into Merle’s hands. Jackie went to nap in the hayloft; piglets were a run of the mill happening. Then suddenly, to my horror, Merle dashed a piglet’s head against the concrete wall. It was silent — killed instantly. My anguished gasp must have disturbed him from his meditative method, because he glanced up and spoke (another shock; he wasn’t one to explain himself.)

“Abby, that piglet would have suffered and died. It was kinder to kill it.”

Then he turned back to his vigil, and I went to the hayloft and cried. I didn’t disturb Jackie; I didn’t want her to think I was a wimp. She was a real farm girl, I knew she’d never cry over a piglet, or doubt her father’s judgment.

I thought of Merle the day I found Chupa with her little legs spinning, covered in fire ants, unable to stand. I asked Felipe to kill her. I’m ashamed to say I usually lack the courage to kill , even to be merciful .

He said, “Let’s give her a day or two.”

I understood. When you raise animals, you’re responsible for bringing lives into the world . Even though it’s their destiny is to die, we’re still inclined to save them; give them time, care —hope.

And so the story goes. .

Sadly, but appropriately, Chupa has been slaughtered. She never fully recovered from her head injury, and as she grew it was harder for her to walk and play without falling. I was concerned she’d tumble into the creek ravine and be seriously injured. My brother-in- law Santos, an experienced butcher, came to the house; she died here with us, swiftly. The meal was made for my sister-in-laws 50th birthday party. It was a fitting end to a truly happy piggy existence.

Chupa spent most of her afternoons bathing in the bog. Chupa spent most of her afternoons bathing in the bog.

I loved raising Chupa, but she consumed a lot of resources and we lost money on her; small losses make a difference on a farm like ours. Felipe has since realized that not culling when it’s appropriate stresses the sow, and undermines her ability to care for her healthy piglets. I’ll not likely have the opportunity to bottle feed a piglet at eleven… one… three… and five o’clock in the morning again, and though I wouldn’t trade my time with Chupa for all the lost sleep —that’s okay with me.

 

 

Year’s End Mexico Style: a Little Late.

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a farm update, so, I am very pleased to report we are 20 piglets more populated and—it was our best harvest ever! Our little plot produced four and a half tons of grain. I believe we own it all to pig poop… and Felipe’s herculean efforts.

What 4 1/2 tons looks like.

What 4 1/2 tons looks like.

We were astonished by the benchmark crop. We’d felt behind in its care all year, and we couldn’t find anyone to harvest (Felipe is working and I have retired from field work with its allergens, scorpions and wasps) so the pigs have been destroying and consuming it for over a month.  But Felipe, somewhere in the midst of the season managed to lug (on his back) 60, 80lb bags of rotted pig manure about a ¼ mile uphill, to a small field he reclaimed from the scrub this spring. I spread 20 bags on our small tortilla corn field, and even with him hauling the bags into the plot for me, it was still hot, heavy, hard labor. As usual, he never ceases amaze.

Here’s a bit of information about “do it yourself” organics that may surprise you. By substituting the manure we were able to use half the chemical fertilizer we have in the past, but—it took 2 tons of manure, rather than 150 kilos of fertilizer. And, a field that would generally take two hours to fertilize took two days of strenuous labor.  Not to mention the months of collecting and managing the manure. Of course, the benefit is less chemicals on our land, in our water and animals. Still, doing it the natural way is MUCH more difficult.

We’re trying a new tactic with the stored grain this year. We put bounce dryer sheets between the bags to keep the field mice at bay. We’re not certain it will work, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed. Rodents do a lot of damage, chewing holes in the bags, making a mess and leaving their droppings in the grain, which the sows do not appreciate.

Gorda and her brood.

Gorda and her brood.

Gorda and Minnie had total of twenty healthy piglets. They were very considerate, birthing on the weekend so Felipe could assist. Still, he was tired Monday morning after 12 hours of waiting, crouching, cleaning and acclimating piglets to the teat.

Felipe assists Minnie

Felipe assists Minnie

 

Finally— we have a new dog. After so many horrible deaths, I’d decided not to get another dog until I could afford to fence in our yard. But King was in such a terrible situation, I decided he was better off taking his chances with us than living as he was: on a chain so short he was forced to sleep, eat and shit in the same place. We’re taking every available measure to keep him safe. He’s assisting in this effort by never leaving Felipe’s side.

Dog in Love

We look forward to another prosperous year at the PDR; this year’s goal: by year’s end, Felipe will no longer need to work outside our farm. Wish us luck 🙂

King

King

 

Speak with Stones

The Amate. If you look closely you can see Felipe sitting in the crouch, just to give you an idea of its size.

The Amate. If you look closely you can see Felipe sitting in the crouch, just to give you an idea of its size.

It’s been a rough year: illness and death, and, the just damn hard existence it is farming, and living in rural Mexico. I was looking at the “signs”, wondering… is it possible it’s time to leave? I like to believe there are signs, that life has a purpose and meaning and that if I’m present I’ll see the patterns and find my way. I totally believed that when I arrived in Mexico, it’s easier to believe when mostly life goes well. It’s more difficult to see meaning when you’re sick, broke, you lose your joy, and the place you love most in the world threatens your life.

Felipe gave up on the philosophy years ago. When I suggest an occurrence has a deeper significance, he replies, “I’ll think about that when I’m consistently able to feed us without worry.”  But, being the wonderful partner he is, also says, “If we need to leave, Abby, then we’ll go. There is nothing more important than your health. I’m not attached to anything here.”

A week ago I went home for a visit, to prepare Felipe to spend another week without me as he works full time and takes care for our farm and animals, alone. Amid the cooking and cleaning, I found time for a walk, not the same walk where I lost Lilly; still, it was into the wilderness. There, I felt joy for the first time in a long time. I went home and sat under my tree, I was breathing deeply with the help of new, more effective treatment.  I thought of this poem I wrote a couple of years ago, about some of the wondrous experiences I’ve had, and I knew this was still my home, here, beneath the Amate.

Speak with Stones by Abby Smith, Hear it Here!

 

Speak with Stones

“Do all stones speak?”
“No, only the ones that breathe.”
Blackfoot Physics, F. David Peat

 

I too have gone to live
In the woods
Nothing novel in that

There, I’ve sat at the feet
Of a turtle with the Buddha
On its back

I have climbed
The layers of water that ladder
To the sky

I’ve echoed a chant
Till the devils in me
Conceded to vibrate high

I’ve marveled in tears
As an eagle swept away
With my charge

I’ve dance in the fire of devotion
Then sifted the ashes
Of my own heart

I’ve gathered together
Pieces of the greatest warrior
I’ve ever known

I have stepped from the threshold
Hundreds of times without knowing
The depths below

I have gone to the woods
And I’m not coming back
Until I can speak with stones

Morning at the Piedra R ahada

Morning at the Piedra R ahada

For those of you who’ve followed this story and have genuine concern for my well-being, many practical measures are being employed to ensure my healthy long term return to the Piedra Rahada, I’m not relying on metaphor, signs, potions…well not entirely : )  Thank you all for your support and kind comments. Paz, Abby 

And a very special thanks to my friend Larry Prater, without whom, I truly would have lost hope.