The Piedra Rahada

Distant Horizions

Distant Horizions


I’ve written many difficult posts for vsvevg: posts about loss, illness, failure, disillusionment, weakness, and our struggles to live up to our principles; but this is one of the most difficult I have had to write.

Felipe and I are leaving the Piedra Rahada.

King was killed one month after he came to us, and we finally decided that though we learned not to judge(mostly), though we had accepted that our ideals were the antitheses of La Tigra’s, we were exhausted by the sorrow and hardship the beliefs and actions of our community have caused us.

I have been grieving for five years over Elvis, Jake, Jackie, then Lilly and now King.  It is not only these acts of cruelty, but a pervasive negativity that promotes fraud, deception and the belief that to take advantage of one’s neighbor is a good thing.  It sometimes felt like we were living with the IK.

I don’t blame the community, we’re different, they have their own path, but we can no longer be consumed by our inability to conform to norms we can never accept.

We stayed much longer than was good for us in many ways—because we love our family and the Piedra Rahada, but as we buried King, we looked into each other’s eyes and without words— we knew we were done. We decided we would let the Piedra Rahada go if that was what it required, though it caused us as much sorrow as all the other losses.

Then my friend called…

Felipe is now with me at Rancho Santana. We will work here contributing to the farm to table concept, utilizing the skills and ideals we worked so hard to manifest at the PDR. The revenue from this challenging, interesting work will provide the capital to build in Tepotzlan, a community more in tune with our mindset. We will not need to sell the Piedra Rahada. We are working to save it.

I doubt we will ever live full time near La Tigra again, but we will have the Piedra Rahada to nurture and visit as we choose. Though sadly, without a dog.

I considered shutting vsvevg down, but then remembered it’s really about Felipe and my journey with our land and our commitment to it. Our time in Nicaragua will be a part of that process.  It’s the perfect situation for us and I’m much more excited about it than this writing implies. Certainly I’m was excited about Felipe’s arrival. We drank a glass of bubbly and toasted the Piedra Rahada, our friend who gave us this redemptive opportunity, and our wonderful new adventure.


 Moecha, my sole survivor, La Tigra’s oldest dog(they had no idea a dog could live so long—she’s ten) is currently residing with our ever generous friend Larry. We will bring her to Nicaragua when we figure out how to get her here, until then she is safe and happy eating chicken and hanging with Larry and his entourage of rescued dogs and cats.



Master of the Night

Stairs at Escondido

This morning I walked to Playa Econdido, as I do most mornings. But today I hoped to see the turtles hatch and make their way into the sea. I sat on the stairs watching the tide, it was higher than I’d ever seen it. It almost slurped its way into the nests. I thought of the eggs and the tiny creature’s ancient instincts responding to the ocean’s pulse as I waited for the rangers.

When they arrived we made our way to the two nests due to hatch. They dug first with a shovel and then cupped hands, deep into the sand. The ranger pulled out something that looked like leaves.

La  cascara? I asked.

Si, se fue, he replied. They are gone.

I was thrilled to hear this. He thought my excitement odd. I explained that it made me happy they had done it on their own, and that the were probably stronger because they had dug themselves out.



Para es mas peligrosa, he said, waving to the seagulls.

Si, es verdad, I admitted it was true.

I thought of the duckling I lost to an eagle, I was three meters away when the bird caught my charge in its talons and flew away— the heartbreak and wonder of that moment.

Coincidently, I memorized this poem this week. I dedicate this recitation to the tortugitas, those that swam away…and the ones that flew.



Death in Mexico

Jake can make a pillow out of anything.

Jake can make a pillow out of anything.

Poetry is preparation for death. Nadezhda Mandelstam

I’ve known more death while living in Mexico than in the rest of my years combined. Since moving here I’ve lost my Grandfather and Grandmother, my stepfather , my constant companion of 24 years my cat Elizabeth, Elvis , numerous farm animals whose lives were my responsibility, and this week, my dog Jake.

Perhaps it’s because as Octavio Paz, claims “one of the most notable characteristics of the Mexican is his willingness to contemplate horror.” How is it my losses relate this statement? Because in Mexico I’m not able to avoid death as I was before.
I once had two very old cats, one of them, Gordy, was euthanized due to declining health and my rationalization that he was suffering. But after his death, I knew it wasn’t true. He wasn’t in pain, he was dying, and I didn’t want to watch it because I loved him and it hurt and scared me. I didn’t want to have to call in sick to work because my cat died, so I scheduled his death for my convenience and to avoid my own suffering.

When I moved to Mexico I brought Elizabeth with me, determined to allow her her own death. The three days she faded away were excruciating for me. She was tranquil. Still, there were times I turned away from her I wish I had not.
When Elvis died, though it was a horrible death, I didn’t avoid one second of our last moments together. I fought to save him and failed. I held him as he bled his life away on me, I kissed him and told him how good he was and he died with the sound of my calm, adoring voice in his ear. It was my most genuine Mexican, possibly my most human, moment to date.
There are some obvious reasons for this glut of death that haven’t anything to do with Mexico, I’m aging and so are my loved ones, and death is an integral aspect of farm life. And yet, though it may be a poet’s perverse romanticism it seems to me that in Mexico, death is more accepted as part of life.
Though I hope to someday to experience Laurie Anderson’s explanation : “Death is a release of love” (perhaps at my own death) so far, this is what I’ve learned. Death touts regret, but is about forgiveness. Death is helplessness. Forgiveness is the anecdote, acceptance the balm. In these moments when I tried and failed, or was without recourse, I felt completely the futility of life and inexplicably —the splendor, and with that, I went on.

Felipe and Jakeline(Jackie)

Felipe and Jakeline(Jackie)

As is often the case, life follows its own purposes.
After Elvis’s death I was determined not to get another dog until I could provide a safer home. Earlier this week I came across a tiny, sick puppy abandoned in a garbage dump. It’s a common sight. Though I’m not proud of it, I’ve averted my eyes from hundreds of pathetic animals since moving here. But something about this puppy stopped me. She wriggled on her belly, blocking my passage, and I read in her eyes, You’re not really going to leave me here to die are you? I picked her up and was crawling with lice by the time we got home.
Felipe wasn’t thrilled to have another mouth to feed , and the rest of my animal companions looked at me disgustedly for days. I thought maybe I could entice my friend Larry to take her, he loves dogs and has a more generous heart than I can claim.
After a long struggle with cancer, Jake declined daily requiring more and more care, causing deeper heartache. As I ministered to him, I applied treatments to the puppy for her parasites and solid undercoat of scab. I resisted naming her.
We decided the day Jake could not rise to relieve himself would be the day he died. His distress grew with his immobility. Felipe had the horrible task of ending his suffering. There’s no scheduling a humane injection in our world. I’m immeasurably grateful to Felipe for his strength and courage. I doubt I’ll ever be so brave or unselfish.
He came home that night with a need to talk about the experience. I listened, overawed by his willingness to embrace life fully no matter the circumstance.
We finished our dinner and the puppy scurried around the table harassing Felipe’s cantankerous dog, Lilly. He laughed and said. “Why don’t we name her Jakeline.”

Goodbye Jake, my miracle dog. Such a very, very good boy you are.

© 2013 Abby Smith, Writer