Friday, April 6, 2012

Wrapping Up, Winding Down

Ritual a Quetzacoátl Fireworks
 There are less than two weeks before my return to Oregon, and I am feeling that strange, happy-sad feeling that comes with departures and homecomings. After six months here, Cholula feels like home. It may lack the "pueblo magico" luster of places like Oaxaca, but it has it own charm, its own "realness". It has that duality that Marie wrote about so frequently in her sketchbooks: opulence and poverty, beauty and ugliness, side by side. Being alone here has had it definite advantages, I became part of the local landscape, another known passerby that street dogs can ignore, another pair of shoes to shine in the zocalo. That in itself, is reason to be here. So what is it I like best about Cholula? It is:
• The turkey, Hortensia, at my front door daily, leaving droppings of friendship
Hortensia's morning visit
• Bicycles built for one, carrying four
¡Te quiero, mi amor!
• Young lovers embracing on park benches, zocalo grass, at bus stops, ahhh to be young again!
• Pregnant women, round-bellied and beautiful, pushing baby carriage down the street (ex park benchers!)
• Cohetes (frighteningly loud fireworks), endless cohetes, celebrating life in Mexico
• Pyro-technique displays in church courtyards without fire regulations to ruin the fun
Ritual a Quetzacoatl
• Church bells ringing out synchronized percussion symphonies
• Clowns proving that laughter is the best medicine
• Processions through the streets accompanied by a brass band
• Aztec dancers, motionless mimes, and voladores de Papantla on Sunday afternoons near la piramide
• Ice cold Negra Modelos, bien preparadas con sal y limón, not to mention las tequilitas, Yummmmm,
No comment
• Multitudes of street vendors offering everything from watches and toothpaste to corn on the cob with mayonnaise and chile, and
•  Culture everywhere, constant reminders that we are the latecomers here, following in sacred footsteps. These are a few of my favorite things, things that I will miss dearly upon my return.
 So as the days tick away, I start to wrap up the projects I have been involved in. I finished the Illustrated Journals workshop at Project Iskali last week. I was very nervous about doing this as it was Marie's specialty, but it turned out great. Once I gave the group their sketchbooks and made materials available, they took off on their own, enjoying an opportunity to play that most never had before.
Project Iskali artists
Ethno-botanical garden
It was a nice mix of ages, and everyone approached it with the innocence of primary school children with unique life experiences to express. We were even able to take two excursions to sketch outside the neighborhood, a rather dusty, dismal area without a park or playground nearby. The trip to the Ethno-botanical garden in San Andrés was a big hit, and Marie would have loved every pencil stroke of it! It was a very rewarding experience, one that I will not hesitate to try again.
I also went back to Ayotzinapan, the library project in the Sierra Norte de Puebla. I delivered over $1200 US to the group, money that you all so generously donated.The money will go to buy more fruit crates to use as book shelves, put a door on the library, and hire someone to staff the library for as long as the money will take them. We also brought a good number of donated books, some from people who live in Puebla, and others that were sent form the States. The group was very grateful, and a communication to donors is in the making as I write.
Se Sentanemililis readers
Since my projects have come to an end now, I have found more time to write. I have been trying to combine my words with Marie's sketches, a very experimental process. I recently received an e-mail meant for Marie from Ana, a young Mixe (indigenous group in Oaxaca) woman that Marie sketched in the Oaxaca zocalo in 2002. She wanted to thank Marie for giving her the confidence to do what she had so long wanted to do: write. When I told her that Marie was no longer with us, she sent me a long, quite poetic, e-mail, telling me how important the encounter with Marie had been in her life. I will meet Ana in DF before I leave to talk more and read some of her writing. To me, this event was no accident. It was the impetus I needed to start writing. I will end this posting with a poem I wrote recently about the view from our living room window in Atlangatepec, where we lived in 2008-09. It is quite personal, but then it has to be.
Ink Strokes on Paper
Beauty, like happiness, occurs frequently. 
Not a day passes by in which we don't, for an instant, live in paradise.  
Jorge Luis Borges

Framed in weathered wood,
El Popo spews ash and plumes of billowy smoke
into the azure blue bitterness
of the January morning.
Huddled around the radiant crackling
of an old wood stove
we sip steaming cups of Cordoba coffee
warming our innards with bowls of avena
as the frost melts off the high desert landscape.
The stark beauty gives her respite
from the angoisee that is stalking her,
A reason for being
in the Tlaxcala highlands
when she wonders why
she is there.
Ink strokes on paper are the best medicine
for the darkness and pain
that have crept into her spirit
And her bones
without our knowing.
Beauty, like happiness, occurs frequently,
Ink strokes on paper are moments in paradise.

Credit to Quena for the Borges quote, which I love, and, of course, to Marie for the  priceless treasure of sketches she has left me with. May I do them justice with my words. Hasta pronto.


Fran said...

Hi Dick, You write so poignantly of the beauty and craziness of Mexico, I miss being there. Thanks too for sharing your sad sweet words with Maries precious sketches. Love to you in the transition.

Alma Flor Ada said...

Dear Dick - how beautifully inspiring to continue to see the powerful and delicate love between you and Marie, transcending the physical absence, capture in your words and her strokes. Living in paradise is sometimes knowing people like the two of you. Un gran abrazo, Alma Flor

Alice said...

beautiful words linked to-gether to form image. much beauty, so much of life in death
keep connected to All is a journey not many take. Merci Dick, for stepping into it with humor and courage