I am an intrepid decision maker, but sometimes my coping skills struggle to keep up with the fearless nature of my choices. The past several weeks I’ve been scrambling to acclimate to modern life.
When I lived at the Piedra Rahada I felt well organized when I knew what day of the week it was, rich when there was an extra 10 pesos for beer; thus, carrying internet on my body, honoring schedules, disposable cash and availability of products, have left me feeling rattled and unfocused.
Sometimes, when I need a morale boost, I entertain myself with recollections of how we prepared for our move from Chicago. Of course it required shopping, a fundamental element of my life at the time. I bought myself a beautiful pair of handcrafted pearl earrings, $150. Who knew when I would be able to afford such things again? I also succumbed to a craving for a pair of $80 espadrilles from Banana Republic, which I bought too small and never wore. I have no explanation for this but some weird small foot vanity. Then I trekked to J. Crew. These were places I rarely shopped. Mostly I resale shopped, but I had the idea that because I’d be denied luxuries, I should stock up. On what—useless overpriced things? As it turned out, I was stocking up on waste. At J. Crew I bought a $60 sunhat. Now surely, this was a needed item. It was grand, a lounging at the pool glamorous floppy hat to protect not only your face but your décolletage. I’ve never worn it. Why? Well, it’s huge, hot and impractical, you can barely see out from under it and I have no occasion to lounge around a pool. Did I mention it has some gold sequins on it? It really is a beautiful hat, scorpions enjoy nesting in it.
An excerpt from Dirty, Wet and Bitten, my memoir of moving to Mexico.
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.
I believe we’re surrounded by crystals.
Not just Alexander Vvedensky.
Maybe dysentery, maybe a guard’s bullet did him in.
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 this is my second heart.
Because the first failed,
such was its opportunity.
Was cut out in pieces and incinerated.
And so was denied the chance to regard my own heart
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.
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.
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.