Return to  TRAVELS


September 2003

Returning East!
     Glastonbury, Kripalu, Vermont

    This crazy summer I promised myself a workshop with ever so grounded teacher Ken Cohen, even if I had to go back east.  Yum, September-- colors'll just be starting.  Good enough.  Said bye to garden: hang on, tomatoes (finally on the verge of ripening)!  Cousin Jim and Laura welcomed me as I made my way from Bradley airport in another rental Suzuki, to their Glastonbury home, on a Saturday afternoon.  Luckily their famous cat Ripper is mellow in his golden years--talk about a good life!
    I'd proudly packed along a couple of my first born tomatoes only to find, as I figured, the counter well stocked with tomatoes from local vegetable stands.  (Naturally I felt there was no comparison, but didn't say so!).  Nothing could have delighted this traveler more than to be welcomed by newly found family, followed by barbecue, corn and tomatoes.  Then, what a pleasure to spend the night in Laura and Jim's lovely guest room in the big trees of Connecticut.  The damp night breeze carried unaccustomed late summer insect sounds.  I was enchanted.  (After I got used to the clonk of acorns hitting house and walk.  Jim hates ‘em!)
    Laura and I went off to church the next morning.  I was interested to see an old east coast church (Congregational, always oldest; required for town charters, Laura explained), as well as visit the denomination of my childhood.  One of the loveliest choirs I've ever heard!  Afterwards, what with my anthropological interest in things old, we stopped at an old, old Glastonbury cemetery—everything historic “back east”, nat.  Back "home" before heading to western Massachusetts, briefly met the "missing" cousin!  Here we are!


Laura and Jim at home in Glastonbury

With Hemphill cousins Jim and Bob! 
    Drove back roads west and north to Lenox, MA.  With the retreat memory of healthy rice, beans and a fixed salad bar and no desserts still vivid, couldn't help pulling off at a drive in that was clearly where it was happening.  Sweet Potato fries--what a find!  Once again I was fascinated by sites from "The East"--gas stations lined with flowers and huge, huge, old homes with vast lawns that surely require full time lawn mowers.  Such a different world, life style, and perhaps, economy.  Couldn't help but imagine my narrow splinter of subdivision that I call home would be unthinkable squalor in the east, at least around the Berkshires!  "Yah, people live like that out west."
    The workshop was everything I'd hoped.  (See Qigong page.)  Didn't realize how much instructor Ken would be talking about meditation.  An hour with Ken and I learned and understood more than in the entire weekend workshop I'd just been to in Bozeman.  What a master teacher and scholar!  Although I knew from visiting 2 years back that the famous cuisine of Kripalu that folks drive hours for, didn't work for this Idahoan, I didn't directly associate coughing day and night with heavy soy, raw or spicy vegetable combos.  Surely dessert free dining shouldn't make me sick!  More subtle was the deliberate omission of garlic; perhaps missed that even more than dessert!  Luckily my dorm mates turned out to be as weary as me and I think, forgave me, for coughing late in the night.  Enjoyed a great bunkmate from Montreal and another heading to Virginia and Australia.  During the week the spectacular view from the dorm across the valley shifted back and forth from sun and stars to rain and fog, as autumn colors moved across the hills.

Fog lifting

View through hot tub 

    Outside of from Ken's teaching, my favorite place to be while at Kripalu is the hot tub.  The hours had been shortened since my first visit—no quiet late night soaking after jets turned off for the night--but I managed to soak twice.  Got my exercise in--this stay I was in the opposite wing of the building rather than directly above the tub.  We're talkin' huge building!
    After good byes, Friday afternoon found me back in the world, enjoying a much anticipated chocolate soda at Friendly's, and checking email at the Pittsford Public Library.  Passed through more beautiful driving straight north to visit Wolmuths.  Wonderful reunion with old Colorado friends Nancy and Alan, in their Vermont log home, plus bonus of coinciding with still Coloradoan Pat!  More barbecuing with more friends.  As if real food (crowned by a dash to the local cafe for real maple syrup bread pudding, cheesecake...) and old friends weren't enough, afterwards we sat around an honest to goodness backyard campfire on a balmy Vermont fall evening.  I could hardly believe what was happening!  How good does it get!  How many Utah campfires we'd enjoyed together over the years!   Now this one in a woodsy Vermont yard!
    The next morning I realized I'd practically stopped coughing!
    Before I left, Alan took me for a spin through the woods.  Had to get a picture of another thing I'd Never be caught dead doing.  Heading back to CT, light rain began.  An Easterner's, Rain Again! is a miracle to those of us in the dry, dry west this year.

Wolmuth yard in VT

VT living - Pat, Nancy and Alan

Only Alan could have done this!

Jim, Bob, Sheryl and Matthew William; Jeannie and Kristen behind
    That evening I poured over family history and photos and visited the newest Hemphill.  Before heading to the airport, I joined the list of Hemphills who've written a check to Laura's boss, Joe Lieberman.  The perfect gift for the girl who has everything, it seemed.
    Northwest got me home before dark.  The tomatoes had waited!

May-June 2003

West Coast--Seattle to San Jose!
    Folklife, friends, and Tassajara return

    Crossed fingers as I left, just before Memorial weekend, for nearly 3 weeks.  Ready or not, frost nipped tomatoes went in the ground; spinach and lettuce on the verge of harvest; iris about to bloom.....  Turned sprinkler system over to God (forgot to mention Idaho Power).
    The theme for Folklife 2003--East Meets West (coasts)--called like a siren.  This year I particularly enjoyed hearing northwest authors read maritime works--from sinkings to savings, enjoy the no nonsense approach to life people who live from the sea have, controversies and all.  I was so smitten by Leslie Leyland Field's poem about losing possessions to the sea, I'm still waiting for interlibrary loan to find her book of poetry.  Meanwhile I'm borrowing her compilation of maritime experiences and am boggled by tales of a young fellow diving for sea urchins during the winter, off the coast of Maine.
    Repeatedly hoofed across Seattle Center to watch maritime documentary films--a cool break off still tender feet.  I was disappointed that "The Water Talks to Me", filmed in Gloucester MA, apparently didn't show up, but I met one of it's subjects in person, Sam Novello, the donor of the historic Vincie N .  I was touched by "The Cranberry Report".  Adored "The Moveable Feast", which followed Boston Italian Americans back to their ancestral hometown, Sciacca, Sicily, to participate in the Fisherman's Feast in honor of the Madonna del Soccorso .....   Way cool.
    Awesome retired Royal Navy shantyman Tom Lewis came to Folklife this year--what a treat!  He's moved from the east coast of Canada to BC now.  Hearing east coast folklorist Jeff Werner sing and speak about collecting maritime songs brought out my old passion for folklore big time.  Ended up short on shanty singing (taiko and things Balkan) this year, but enjoyed shape note and Total Experience Gospel choir singalongs to the max.  Whow!  How my soul loves to sing out, dance and laugh.  Delighted that this year's Community Choir conspiracy included CSL's Choir or Light.
    As always my heart was lightened to see old friends.  Ron Terryl took time to catch me up on Barb and life in Hillsboro.  His "come visit" is impeccably sincere.  We both learned Helena (MT) Mini is now Hawaii Marion!  (Hope she visits family in Boise soon!)  Always a warm greeting from old Illini and dance buddy John Lawson with new wife.  Judith Alexander's retirement is spent between Seattle and Germany, from whence her handsome German former exchange student (high school, if I got it right) hails.  So good to see downtown Susan.  Missed bumping into Grace and Janet this year.
    Johnny Moses tickled my funny bone to near hysteria again this year.  He brings out the kid in me something awful.  Like Pat Wright, I call him a living Seattle treasure.  Of course Folklife is packed with living treasures.  Speaking of laughter... once again split sides watching Ballard Sedentary Souza Band.  That Edith!!
    Didn't dance much.  When I did contra dance, realized how all those Seattle years of clockwise swinging had literally corkscrewed my body.  (Keep yoga-ing, Jeannie.)  Sat safely on the stairs and listened to the music I so love.  However I was helpless to resist Sunday night's Balkan music and dance, so familiar to heart and mind, but feet not up to speed.  Where else can I hear those complex beats played live and throw myself in, following behind the line.  Surely musta had a major former life in eastern Europe, as well as by the sea.
    Most evenings my incomparable Seattle hostess Marli and I ran into each other and staggered back to her home together on the full 16 bus.  Without her priceless hospitality, Folklife wouldn't be Folklife, like it has been all the years since I moved inland.  Now a septuagenarian, her sore feet have slowed her closer to my pace; we enjoyed extra conversation this year.  Although she'd hate to hear it, she's something of the Mother Teresa of Seattle, caring and cooking for so many.
    Ever since moving away from Seattle, Memorial weekends I start Sundays at Center for Spiritual Living--8:30am!  Kathianne's perfected that service.  Left wild roses and tears--one for mom, one for Char--in the mass bouquet created each memorial service.  Off to Folklife, with an extra sense of awe and appreciation.
    Marcy joined me Monday afternoon.  Dragged her to films and music; she enticed me to eat African food, though I was full to the brim.  Speaking of food, this year I had calamari twice--such a treat to this inlander.  Discovered Marli liked Philippine meat sticks; tricked her into letting me buy  snacks.  Then discovered Philippine sticky rice balls--yum.   Chai, Thai iced tea, and amaretto fudge at Seattle Fudge--good as ever.  (Dodged strawberry shortcake this year!)
    Each year I try to do something new--this year it was hear Portuguese Fado singers.  From Argentinean Tango to Sicilian Madonnas, what an experience--Northwest Folklife!
    One last Seattle magic moment took place while making regular urban stops (Discount Books, Thriftco, Whole Foods, Horizon Books, Daly's).  I was talking to Bert, who "just happened" to be trading books at Discount Books, mentioning his beloved Pastor Rodney Romney was moving back to Twin Falls, Idaho--good news for Idaho!  About that time my eye caught the unmistakable flutter of a large moth--Cecropia or Prometheus--the kind that thrilled me to bits as a child!  Here was one of those treasures, casually flitting through an urban parking lot, midday, headed for the alley.  Hadn't seen one in decades!
    On to Bremerton, by ferry, to recover from the weekend, while Marcy finished her 24 hr shift in Seattle.  I'm always sorry not to see everyone I remember fondly while I'm in Seattle; however, the Boise welcome mat is out and gathering dust.  By the end of Folklife, I'm completely done in, socially and physically.  When I found a park, napped in the car, then limped over and gazed at the water.
    Good visiting Marcy's new life and home for the night; discussing our minority views on health and church, and the general instability of the world, over tea.  In the morning, after admiring the amazing new grandchild live, headed towards California.  (Not before running into a Seattle contra dance woman at the nearby Safeway.  I'd known her as Rebecca; she lived in Boise briefly, where we bumped into each other once!)

CALIFORNIA.      Somewhat nervously headed down I-5 towards wild and crazy California, chanting All God's Children.  The second night, near San Jose, delighted to come upon lovely reservoir campsite in the dark, full moon dancing beside it.  The warning to move on never came, so I slept on peacefully.  With telephone guidance, found Paul Brickett and Christina's delightful Willow Park neighborhood in San Jose the next afternoon.  "What would you like to do", my hosts queried, as we sipped real lemonade under their kiosk?  (Not being used to doing much besides yoga classes and talking to myself...)  Uhh...
    The pace picked up--lovely California patio dinner--swallows dove, hearth flickered, heaters glowed.  Due to my lack of interest in doing much (except drink lemonade), the all neighborhood yard sale that was going on all around us was just the ticket.  My eyes flew open when I saw Christina's pile of vintage jackets from across the street.  With 2 days of car rest under my feet, off we went, coffee and tea cups in hand, across the street, up and down and around the block, meeting neighbors and finding treasures.  I was wow-ed by the California flora straight out of Sunset magazine around us--jasmine, hibiscus, lemon, orange, grapefruit, avocado, you name it trees and flowers.  Stuffed beautiful big lemons from a free box into my conveniently just acquired pack.  Periodically Paul shuttled goods back to the house, while Christina and I continued.  I was especially pleased to find a pair of attic exhaust turbines (from a remodel)--stuffed one into the RAV.  Learned a lot about the golden state circumambulating the neighborhood.  Enjoyed hearing lots of Spanish, meeting a non denominational monk--admired his garden buddha through the fence--researching potential churches, smelling roses, admiring lilies.
    Remarkably, after all that, that evening we wined and dined at a Russian piano competition finalist concert.  Wore the "new" designer dress from the vintage clothes collector across the street, with a bear fetish necklace from the neighbor in the San Jose chorus, and yin-yang earrings--getting in the mood for Tassajara--from the Chicana jewelry collector, who also offered the lemons.   Christina carried her new vintage jacket--way too hot to wear it turned out.  What a fun, fun evening!!  This adopted Idahoan was blown away!  How welcome Paul and Christina had made me feel.
    As I stuffed the car Sunday morning, photographed Christina's volvo wagon for Eric, and the cool kiosk for my dream board, Paul's and my long lost college buddy Mark Wilson phoned.  We agreed to meet Mark at Mission San Juan Bautista, which pleased me, since I couldn't get to both church and Tassajara in one day after all, but was possibly a bit close to the opiate of the masses for Paul's comfort.  Mark hadn't changed an iota. Recalling my passion for things geologic, he trotted me right over to the San Andreas fault.  Right on!  At a picnic table, Paul, Mark and I rewound and fast forwarded lives, which hadn't crossed in many, many years.  Reluctantly left Paul and Mark plotting (I hoped) the next rendezvous in the Wind Rivers, and headed onto Tassajara, deep in the Vantana Mountains above Big Sur country.

Mark - Jeannie - Paul meet up at San Juan Bautista

    Hours later, dropped down into Tassajara Hot Springs, the Buddhist monastery I'd driven into with Art Mears, August 1971, just long enough to see his Boulder friend Jerry Halpern.  This time for a 5 day meditation and yoga workshop.  I appreciated the kindness of the check in woman, and was charmed by the kerosene lanterns that lit walking paths late evenings (extinguished at 10pm).  After the heat of the day, loved that first cold, cold night.  Since I arrived in the middle of introductions (no starting time available) to a strange place, the first couple of days were mainly survival, learning the lay of the land, getting used to having a dog following--somehow I figured Tassajara was pet free since info said don't bring pets.  (Tidbit the cat won my favorite cat name...)
    Although the combination of meditation zen practitioners and wine drinking summer guests was a bit uneven, the loveliness of Tassajara can't be missed.  Immediately adored the creek, the bath house, my young Bay area roommate.  Wished the folks who shared the bathroom wouldn't keep locking us out though!  Judith's yoga instruction and Abbess Linda Cutts meditation talks were wonderful.  The hardest part (for me was reconstructing the zendo several times a day.  It was almost more than I could do to repeatedly help move dividers and cushions each time we used the zendo for classes.  By the end of the week I was even more exhausted than when I'd arrived, which was pretty much!  I'll leave the mosquitos, flies, and heat in this paradise to your imagination.)  The food, as rumored, was way above average.  I was particularly smitten by pitchers of herbal ice teas (and coffees) set out in the afternoon.  As wonderful as the food and sitting in the creek (so flies couldn't bite legs at least) were, the very best thing about the retreat was the community spirit that Judith creates at Tassajara.  I've never enjoyed workshop folks so much!  (Helped that this was not a silent retreat.)  We had a barrel of laughs, everyone enjoying everyone else.  I learned a ton of yoga, got confused, got clearer, got affirmed and inspired.

    After the workshop ended, I drove up the everso steep hill to the nearest campground, to spend the night and figure out why I was so exhausted!  So good to "do nothing" that I stayed Saturday night too.  Going no where, doing nothing, recovering.  Those days of no agenda under huge California oaks, were as wonderful as any on the trip.  Listening to nearly 24 hour bird calls, safe from mosquitos in the dome tent, was bliss.  Frequently I unzipped and chased after a bird call; never found who done it.

    Descended to Carmel Sunday in time for mass at the mission, followed by a drive along Big Sur.  Yum, yum.  One last night in San Jose, delivering Tassajara sour dough bread, telling tales, checking email, before heading to Nevada and home.  What a wonderful Journey!  Music, Dance, Friendship, Yoga and Meditation, beautiful country.  (Books on tape selections were a bust this trip!)
    Back home--Yup, iris had bloomed, lettuce and spinach bolted.  Power outages had kept the sprinkler system down.  My transplanted lavender didn't survive.  Welcome Home!

March 2003

Southwestern Journey--Colorado, Utah, Nevada!
      Ashes, friendship and desert peace

    Just before noon, Wednesday the 26th, headed south on I-84 towards Salt Lake City between rain squalls.  The Toyota was buffeted to the point I wondered if all tires were flat!  Winds so strong, could barely open the door to Wendys in Burley (was it?).  Patch of blue, more rain.  Traveling in line of trucks and others, going where and why?  Me, in hopes of intersecting brother Stuart and family vacationing uneasily in Durango, to scatter mom's ashes at the cabin she loved (followed by visiting and relaxing in the southwest).  The family cabin (in the midst of last summer's huge Vallecito burn), now, after a dry winter, was being dumped on by late spring snowstorms, I was warned.
    The new war in Iraq just a week old; Mom fully released from this world, 2 weeks that Friday.
    The night before mom died I was awake--more wide awake than usual--between 2-4am.  Hmm.  How was it that I “happened” to be home at the computer the following morning to receive brother Stu's email at the time he sent it from the nursing home?
    Shortly he phoned, sitting with mom's body.  I ventured: "I just wrote some stream of conscious thoughts, about scattering mom's ashes in the desert,"  "I'm having the body embalmed so the children can see her", came back.  [I thought: he's there; I'm not.]  Then something about Jacksonville, and dad's grave.  "You know mom hated Jacksonville", I said, sticking my neck out further.  "When I think of her, I think of her love for the canyons, the southwest and the cabin."  I sensed relief in Stu's stunning response--“We're vacationing in the southwest next week for spring break, flying to Albuquerque”, he revealed. My teary eyes widened.  He seemed to understand what had just happened and to be open to cremation as well!  I knew I'd be going to Minneapolis and to Colorado, and would be welcome.   After  walk on auto pilot by the river talking to mom—in times of stress: head to the river--began clearing the rest of the way.  (I'll be writing about the Minneapolis experience under Hospice or a new page for Mom.)
    Listening to radio as I near Salt Lake, I soberly pondered my roll in the outrageous society we've created.  For decades my thoughts through the Salt Lake basin, have been stuck in the same loop.  Each time I drive hours of freeway through the steady growth of "civilization", same, same.  Sometimes smog entirely obscures the stunning Wasatch backdrop to the east.  The old west I adore is being covered as we fruitfully multiply and consume, homes marching up valleys, basins filling with roads, vehicles, billboards and malls.  I'm just one of a vast stream of cars.  (Seattle, LA, Mexico City, same, same.)  Just finished listening to Caramelo.  As a new Spanish student, I'm enchanted to hear “Mexican” roll off Cisneros' tongue!  Heard tell she was a wonderful speaker on her recent visit to Boise.  (Her family story ain't nothing like Illinois Heffalumps, I muse, referring to my family with rare fondness—Minneapolis softened me.)  The story about the grandmother, however, was familiar and touched me deeply— disappointment with life, clinging, obsession with sons.  Always and forever the scramble for love and happiness.
    Rain turned to snow in Price Canyon, where I pulled off for the night, having learned (but forgotten until it became dark), I can't drive fast enough at night.  In the morning, not one, but both front door locks were frozen.  Luckily I could get out the back side, until the day warmed.  Arrrrg.  The drivers lock has already been in once for repair…
    Gorgeous fresh snowy views all the way on southeast.  RAV so salt coated I stopped and paid to wash it in Price!  Dat's a first!  Lunch and gas in Moab.  Gorgeous drive through canyon country, filled with years of camping memories.  Pygmy owl sat on a power line about there…  coyote crossed there one evening…  the group camped off there--whata storm!  bought pinto beans there…  the year of the root canal…  Around Dove Creek, always recall a great seasonal job and boss, driving back roads of southern Utah, inspecting oil and gas fields outa Cortez…
    Late afternoon, dropped down into Durango.  Anticipating another cold night on the road, toyed with idea of staying in the motel by mom's old house on 5th (or was it 4th)-- but there was no sign of it!  As I drove the main drag puzzled, noted “Fierce Grace” on the marquis at the Abbey Theater.  What luck, an opportunity to see the documentary about beloved teacher Ram Dass!
    Back in town—late supper with Stu/family; ended up camping on their Best Western suite floor—probably larger than my house!
    March 28.  In the morning, familiar sunlight on valley where I lived 2 years.  By the time we got to the cabin, light snow was drifting down between patches of sun.  Such turbulent weather this week!  Cabin fine--weathering, aging.  Effects of fire in area not so obvious as anticipated.
    While Stu's family (from Minneapolis, mind you--one daughter in spaghetti string tank top--huddled in the van with the baby, or shivered around the heater in the cabin), Stu and I opened mom's ashes.  With a lid from mom's notorious collection of odds and ends, began scattering ashes off the deck where mom loved to feed and watch birds, and entertain people.  So many of mom's letters began ... "I'm sitting on the cabin deck while Stellars jays...".  Then we walked the ridge of the property.  Stu and I each had a copy of the prayer of the camper found in mom's camp poems and songs folder.  I read and sniveled.  Ever collected Stu scattered ashes along the deer trails back towards the cabin.  Mom would be pleased.  Stuart and I felt right.  Mission Mom accomplished.

Cabin - front porch

    Like old times, picked up a Griego's green chili burrito on the way back into town.  I'd let the family eat in peace—ha, ha, a 2 year old—while I went off to see "Ferocious Grace" (alas--no one else interested in Ram Dass!)  As always I was profoundly touched by the authenticity and humor Ram Dass radiates.  What a teacher.  Honesty and compassion always breaks me, to use an evangelical term.  Thank you filmmaker Mickey Lemle.  Between the power of the film and my raw emotion from mom's death and confusion and grief about family and life, “obliterated” was the only word that came to mind--I was utterly spent.
    Fell asleep on floor again, while brother Stu on all fours, entertained the 2 year old, and the other kids watched tv (1 of 3).  In the morning, while family slept in, Stu slipped off do long distance contract work via laptop, in the continental breakfast room.  Packed up and joined him for a few more minutes of long, long awaited (on my part) sibling connection.  Filled thermos, nuked popcorn for the road.  Good byes to wife and family when they appeared.

PART 2.  Desert Solitude
    Onward, across southern Utah, through country mom enjoyed on many Audubon and Archeological Society field trips, and I too enjoyed during and long after living in Colorado (13 years!).  Down McElmo Canyon.  Crossing the White River plateau, the urge to make camp in the piñon-juniper of this familiar area, over looking hogbacks and anticlines, under at last cloudless, sunny skies pulled me over early.  Gorgeous view east back towards old friends: Hovenweep, Sleeping Ute, Mesa Verde, all the way to the LaPlatas.
    One wing of this trip (centered on Mom) was a promise of desert “down” time, to read, write, ponder and be.  This was it.  For 24 hrs I stayed in one place!  Bliss.  The night was so cold that at first I was grateful I no longer made spring campouts with the old gang.  Brrr!  But in the night I got up and saw the stars and remembered why I went.  Whow.  Returned to spacious desert dreams awed.  The next day I leisurely did my favorite things: made and sipped tea; read and wrote.  Sitting on a mat, with laptop on camp chair seat, composed gratefulness list—so many people responsible for helping me through mom's transition.  Many blessings in the midst of this season of change and stress.  Shifted to editing mom's Prayer of the Camper--ever so satisfying, digging in, a prayer in itself.  This put me in the mood to scatter pine nuts into the breeze, off the cliffs, in honor of mom, my personal canyon good bye.  Ashes not necessary.

    After soup late in day, reluctantly headed onward, across Hite, towards Las Vegas.  Such gorgeous country!  So many years since I'd driven this region of Utah; kept stopping for photos.  That night, after (finally) enjoying Stephen Jay Gould on tape, pulled off for another good rest in piñon-juniper.   Stupendous morning drive down into Escalante Stair Case country—Lorrie, Mike, Ben and I hiked there in 1973!  Although it was spring, because of these recent storms, snow was low; few folks were out on the roads; most campgrounds were closed.  Peaking into Bryce National Park at a Fairy Point pull off took my breath away!!  On across the northwest corner of Arizona, finally dropping (or so it seemed) into the big, warm Las Vegas basin.
   After an unexpectedly stunning and remote drive along the north edge of Lake Mead National Recreation Area (No, No, No Camping anywhere--though I hardly saw a vehicle!!), drove straight to the Henderson public library, from which point Sue fetched me.  Following her past subdivision after subdivision I was exceedingly grateful she'd insisted on meeting me.  I'd had NO idea how big Henderson and Las Vegas were.  Without her, I'd still be looking for Moon Vision Street!

PART 3.  Friendship
    Two lovely warm days and beautiful breezy nights with Sue and family.  Great pleasure to see Sue's gracious, busy family and home.  Accompanied Sue to her classes in recreation centers around Henderson, including the ultra-spectacular, new, multimillion dollar one.  Each center had lovely rooms, agreeable staff!  How blessed this crazy area is to have grounded Sue sharing her full warmth, skills and wisdom in any number of fitness classes!  (I teach one brand only; Sue teaches any number of them ably!)  While we were out, we dined on carrot ginger soup and cranberry pies at our favorite grocery store, Wild Oats.  Above all, it was a pleasure to catch up with the letter writing buddy who listens to my stories of church and exchanges inspiration, learning and teaching stories.  Knew it'd be good for my tender heart to visit an understanding buddy this spring (hoped the same for Sue).  Second wing of this trip based on mom--friendship--accomplished.

Bryce View Point - Fairy Point

Desert Friends - Las Vegas park

    Sue headed me north with fresh cut fruit.  The new moon sliver I'd been waiting for hung over basin and range country.  Fine cold, starry, dream filled night off a cow road to a low rocky ridge.  Ah, Nevada public lands--pull off most anywhere, close gate, my kinda country.  After finishing book club's Nickeled and Dimed in America, plunged into Bo Lozoff's It's a Meaningful Life-- yum, great travel companions.  The next morning I thought about Sue's strong kick boxing legs as I puffed up to the ridge, resolved to strengthen legs and stretch shoulders open.
    Beautiful drive north along side a string of state parks; Cathedral Gorge, looked especially inviting for “another time”, as did Caliente Springs.  How I love this old mining country!  Couldn't help noticing the snow level beginning to dust valley floors.  About the time the the crescent moon dropped behind a hill a second evening, I was car camped by snow patches—although I didn't see them until morning.  Brrr!!
    By now I was enjoying listening to Simon Winchester's account of the Balkans, The Fault Zone.  Although I'd read his biographies of the British geologist and dictionary compilers, hadn't realized Winchester was a foreign correspondent.  Because of a compelling passion for Balkan/Eastern European music and dance, I was interested to travel and explore with him, fascinated and chagrined by the complexity of history that has led to such bloodshed, intractable positions and resentment, sprinkled with hope.  Yugoslavia, Serbia, Croatia, the Balkans, history I knew only except through their spirit of music and dance.
    About the border into Idaho light snow began to fall—home just in time the way I saw it, recalling my last snow covered drive through Nevada— February 2001!  Safe, warm and grateful.  Mission accomplished, for both mom, family and me.  Always too much driving; always wonderful to see The West, always yearn to see more, stay longer.  The next morning I was sipping tea, poured from Birgit's authentic German teapot and stovchen with the women at church.

Once again carried on great winds... *

*  Native American saying: "Sometimes I go around pitying myself, and all the time I am being carried on great winds across the sky".  reminder by  Mary Manin Morrissey

South of the Border style hammock potato - digital by Kyle

February 2003

South of the Border--México!
      ¿what? ¿what?  mantilla ready, ¿where're the vegetables?

    After years of threatening to do myself in each gray winter if I didn't escape to warmth and sun, I did it (escaped).
    A board with photos of folks frolicking in tropical waters caught my eye last summer at Volcanic Farms produce stand in Horseshoe Bend.  Even before they started making cherry pies, once I discovered V.F. green beans, strawberries and sweet corn, began looking for excuses to drive north outa town as often as possible.  When I saw off the beaten path tours in Mexico advertised during the gloom of winter, I decided this was it.  Maybe I'd even meet Idaho folks!  (Imagine that.)
    Dialed Don Heffner; he understood--can't stand Idaho winters either, began "going south" awhile back.  Sometime last fall, memories of gray winter overcame my fear of bargaining and being a sitting duck-no-hablo-espagnol-gringo.  Bought plane ticket to Puerto Vallarta; sent deposit to Don.  Before I learned much more, Don was drove off to Mexico with my arrival time and a casual "be sure to bring a swimming suit and sun screen".
    Eek!  México.  In 1966 I picked up an embarrassing number of anthropology credits during summer school in México City just riding buses to places like Acapulco and Oaxaca.  I remembered that if I ever returned, I'd bring a mantilla.  A few years ago I found one at a yard sale in Spokane.
    Although I promoted the opportunity, there were no bites.  Perhaps not enough information!  (All I required was a picture of the beach!)  México--uhh, Guadalajara, I shared, getting more and more nervous myself.  God, you're in charge, I prayed repeatedly.  Dug out the old Rick Steves Backdoor pack and money belt, stuffed in snorkel, shorts, film, mantilla, and sun dress.  At the last moment, couldn't leave without yoga magazines, tights, hat, gloves and socks.
    Early one dark, gray inverted January morning, my neighbor dropped me at Alaska Air.  By the time I got to the boarding area, my winter hat was lost.  The suspicion that followed 9-11 and stunted traveling seemed to have backfired; folks knocked themselves out to be friendly.  Through a twist of fate, a rare en route moment (and brief reunion) were recorded in San Jose by old college outing club buddy Paul Brickett on his digital Pentax.

jeannie touches down, San Jose, digital by PB

Excellent Tour Van XLN2R4U
photos on Ben's travel Olympus

    A few hours later I recognized tour leader Don from a brief Boise encounter in the exchange line at the Puerto Vallarta airport.  In the Excellent Tour van I met 5 total strangers (Don hadn't mentioned who might be along) whose fates became sealed with mine for 2 weeks.  Gulp.  We're gonna love this trip, I prayed, as the early arrivals fueled on margaritas giggled.
    True to his word, Don sped us outa town on narrow, winding roads, past pedestrians and bicycles, past everything and everyone, through the debris of the fall hurricane.  I was reminded of clear cutting.  Immediately we were introduced to the nightmare of Mexico's version of speed bumps (topes, or, if ridged, vibradores)--the first of hundreds--which tossed us out of our seats, even at a crawl.  In San Blas, estado de Nayarit, we dinned on camarones gigantes (sp?) and guacamole at Don's favorite cafe, which immediately became ours.  By the end of that first delicious meal we 7 near strangers had begun to fall into familiar style eating.  Don and I quickly ate any leftovers, though my gut dropped out of the race shortly.  After several days, polite offers "Anyone like another shrimp?" faded away and raised eyebrows became negotiations followed by a swift stab or grab.  We were all appalled but complicit.  As days went on, meals were a huge source of entertainment, wonder and confusion.  No one went hungry, but we regularly ate things we didn't have in mind.  Amy's and Barb's quick "It looks wonderful" at a total surprise, were indispensable survival skills of the veteran traveler.  (I'm "sorry" I missed the night of the chicken foot.)
    We returned to Casa Mañana (Wed.-Thurs.-Fri. nights).  Security guards loitered.  I cracked the sliding glass door to the ocean and braced it with a chair.  It was hot, the ocean crashed.  While others listened to air conditioners, I thrilled to hear waves right outside the window!  Slept deeply.  The following couple of days orbited around the same routine, with side trips like boat trips, banana farm, ruins on the bluff (El Castillo Hill?) over San Blas.  ("Once a military center of Spain's Pacific holdings, San Blas boasts a genuine, 16th century Spanish fort".)

Casa Mañana view

   My impression of México thus far was healthy, happy people, many still walking, (also infamous crazed drivers), gathered around small evening campfires, along the road, socializing, eating, drinking at outdoor restaurants and one grill stands.  Since my idea of a good life is camping (rather than a big house), living near the ocean in a small house that might not have a roof, didn't feel like poverty to me.  (I couldn't distinguish aftermath of the hurricane.)  In the central, agricultural area we traveled, I observed children accompanied by adults, but not the large families of the past.  The biggest surprise, which continued throughout the trip, was that dogs were passive, few and far between, clearly not the center of attention or community.  Human relationships appeared most important.  As I grew more adventuresome wandering around towns and villages, I was able to walk streets without causing a ruckus or being chased by dogs.  What a pleasure!
    Ubiquitous tipping, selling, negotiating anything and everything unnerved me, as I knew it might.  Metaphysically I believe obsession with lack attracts more lack.  Physically I found it awkward to frequently dig for pesos, deal with another money system, and to pay for things I would have done for free for anyone.  I just didn't get it and I still don't know but what paying for everything is just a tourist issue, nothing that continues into personal lives.  Don kept us clear from any need to participate in the "little bite" system.  And of course, México, like the whole world, is changing tremendously.  World travelers for some 30 years, the two retired couples in the group repeatedly affirmed the changes they perceived in México.

Morning mangrove panga/boat excursion.  See Kyle for crocodile evidence!

    Speaking of savvy world travelers...  my companions folks were the most prepared scouts I ever hoped to meet--in all ways.  There was nothing Amy and Barb didn't have along.  I was grateful.
    Don plugged us into a 2 meal a day routine; by majority rule, the 2nd was preceded by the most serious happy hour I'd ever witnessed in my life.  Didn't even know booze came in bottles that large, let along anyone might pack such items along.  While 3 imbibed bottled water, the others bellied up.  (I promised to have a Mexican margarita when the time was right; until then, body and mind warned "don't even".)  The search for a real Mexican margarita was truly epic, as was Amy's patience.
    As a non traditional, tea (but not coffee) drinking breakfaster, after fresh orange juice, morning meals became problematic.  Tried ordering just frijoles, like the side dish the morning before, but they came laced with chili's and chorizo, too spicy for this wimp.  Mexican American breakfasts, like omelets, made me nearly comatose.  What!--no fried potatoes, yams and broccoli like (I make) at home?  (Of course not.)  Hiccuped onward.
   Although technically we were at the beach for about 3 days, the shore was rocky from losing its sand in the hurricane Don said.  The balmy evening we arrived, I tested the warm water with awe.  I didn't swim.  We watched oyster divers in the rocks to the south.  Since oysters were never on a menu anywhere, assumed they were going to Asia.

ONWARD and INLAND - Guadalajara and San Ignacio Cerro Gordo, estado de Jalisco
    Then the "fun" began.  Although I was vaguely aware of a fiesta and some inland travel, I wasn't prepared for hundreds of miles of travel.  Although we "fought" to sit in the back of the van, the riders in the back bore the brunt of the van's violent swaying.  Quickly the savvy senior couples laid claim to the back seats (where I'd imagined lying down) of the Excellent Tour Van; agreeable Kyle went wherever was left.  Quickly driver/farmer Don preferred retired extension agent Earl's knowledge and company; he requested his presence in the front where agriculture was discussed in depth--root stocks, varieties, pesticides.  No field, crop or orchard remained unidentified--tobacco, agave, pineapple, mango, avocado or onion.  We 3 women chatted easily, as women seem to do.  The men, tending towards hard of hearing, were off in their own worlds.  The dominant word for the entire trip cudda been "What?"
    By nightfall, having used "new" toll (aka troll) roads, we were in Guadalajara (Saturday night.)  Familiar with Guadalajara, Barb and Herb escorted me down the street to the famous cathedral.  Several of us went out later to the even closer San Francisco church.  While either a wedding or a coming of age event was in progress (decided it was not mass), we wandered the back of the flower filled church in awe.  Unbelievable, lively places of worship.  (No mantillas here either.)   This Saturday night, the el templo San Francisco was packed, inside and out.  Down the street at the Guadalajara cathedral teenage boys lined up for confession.  When my exhausted chaperones drifted home for the night, I sat in the plaza, watching and listening to Saturday night live a la México.  What activity--sirens, draped couples, all ages out and about, stores open, tasty food and drink booths hopping!
    The following morning includes a scrumptous food memory--buffet offering of baked zucchini and cheese--the last perfectly cooked fresh green vegetable I was to see and enjoy!  Then, off to Ballet Folklorico, down the street.  Right then and there, I decided that in spite of doubts about a culture that seems to care so little about environment, any culture that could produce so many men who dance so easily and unabashed, was doing something very right.  The men were absolutely the equal of the women.  No recruiting anything in pants here!  My head swam with color and grace!
    That afternoon we tore on to San Ignacio Cerro Gordo (Sunday night) to experience the final night of their Virgen de Guadalupe fiesta.  After dropping bag in the room on the plaza, walked up to the hotel roof to survey the country.  Looked right in the cathedral bell towers.  The 360 degree scene bathed in late afternoon light was beautiful--from plaza across fields to a ring of distant mountains.  Experienced a moment of pure travel bliss.  This was real México.

    Hot footed to peek into the church (el templo) a few doors down.  (Hopes of having company for appreciating cathedrals were dashed early on with a blunt any-religion-that-builds-churches-while-people-starve.... (Likely Kyle didn't hear this.)  Regardless, it was impossible to repress my enthusiasm for the center of each community.)  San Ignacio Cerro Gordo's templo de la Virgen de Guadalupe was well kept, loved and lovely!
    Since two large meals a day was keeping my gut in turmoil, I passed on dinner, having spied real french fried potatoes at a booth on the plaza, and opted to see if I could return to the church for a mass.  Don said there was a special festival mass that evening; however, when I heard the bell toll I crossed the plaza and found a seat at what turned out to be a very crowded mass in a small church.  No mantillas here either.  Although the Padre was behind a column, I could see the large imagen de la Santisima Virgen de Guadalupe above the altar.  The Padre's gentle voice was clearly telling a story to friends; the congregation chuckled frequently.  This was religion as it was meant to be, communal, warm and beneficial.  I loved seeing families, lots of men, old and young, rough working hands and business men; voluptuous women, attentive spouses, teenagers, and of course, wailing babes.  Determined to use everything I brought all these miles, I got up the nerve to slip on the mantilla.  No one flinched at the strange nortéamerica in old fashioned mantilla!
    Although my feet gave me fits this trip--too much sitting, too little yoga--I hobbled around the plaza repeatedly.  (Benches fully occupied, early on.)  When I wanted to sit, I returned to Don and Kyle's upstairs balcony room at the hotel.  At the time, didn't realize how fortunate I was to have an inner room.  Later, I grabbed Señor Don to help me order french fries.  (When I asked leader Don if I should try the local french fries, he repeated his usual chant: "I eat everything" (and never get sick).  (I was later to discover he had indeed been sick in Mexico, he just doesn't blame it on food!) The fries, from real potatoes, were terrific.  After that night, I was more or less on my own if I wanted to buy something.  The introvert in this foreigner reigned painfully.  This had nothing to do with how I/we were treated.  I was just one of the crowd.
    Each night we traveled we fell in bed earlier and earlier.  It became quite a joke until San Ignacio Serro Gordo.  "Fireworks are about 9 or 10pm", Don crooned.  Ha.  As the evening wore on, the plaza slowly filled with more and more folks, until there was barely a square foot free.  Loud speakers broadcast music.  Don mentioned that the people of the region often had blue or green eyes.  It was so, I observed closely: beautiful faces, attractive people.  We were on the plaza when the parade came around the corner.  Bands were interspersed with floats re-enacting religious tableaus(sp) or scenes.  Folks held their pose as Jesus, Maria or apostles with utter seriousness.  I was fascinated.   No way on earth was this the good old US of A.  Don chatted in Spanish with a couple who invited him/us in for posole.  Don returned their graciousness; we all stayed at the parade.
    After the parade circled the town, kids carrying heavy picture frames of the honored, drums and instruments from the parade walked through the plaza.  A crowd poured in and spilled out of the church for another service.  The traditional plaza promenade slowly evolved.  Although some women circled the plaza while men watched, arm in arm walkers included mothers and daughters, girlfriends; whole families held hands, any combination seemed a "go".  Favorite young girls had confetti (thrown) in their hair.  The promenade went on for hours and hours.  Meanwhile, power for most of the plaza was off for an hour or so, casting much of it into the dark.  Power flickered on for a few moments--the crowd cheered--then was back off, returning much later.  More and more folks came into the plaza.  In the corner of the plaza, below the hotel balcony, a large blown up animal booth ceaselessly bounced and entertained kids.  Judging from comments from our group, folks enjoyed this more than anything else, reliving stories of their kids and grand kids.  I, on the other hand, was utterly transfixed to to see such a huge, calm gathering, without seeing a single person carrying, leading or letting loose, dogs (cats, ferrets, snakes).  No way could Nortéamericanos have resisted bringing pets to a big outdoor gathering!  A lone dog slunk along a wall, about it for dogs.  This was a family centered, religious based festival.  One could promenade without pet jams or stepping in pet do!!  Hallelujah!
    Early in the evening Amy and Earl turned in--Amy was ill.  Barb and Herb watched the world another couple hours, then gave up without fire works.  Garrulous, long gone native, Don wandered the plaza meeting natives (many of whom he reported had worked part time in Michigan) in their language.  Don speaks a wicked Idaho flavored Spanish.  From the hotel balcony, Kyle and I (fascinated, but fading) observed the plaza.  Like attendance, the volume in the plaza was steadily growing; small brass "um-pa" bands began circling the plaza, often stopping below the hotel.
    Similar to my desire for french fries, Kyle's interest in cotton candy drew him out onto the plaza with his pesos.  Shortly, he proudly handed me green (or was it pink?).  My sensitive teeth cringed as I politely ate wisps, my mind went straight back to the Morgan County fair of childhood.  (Good sports that we all were, every last one of us, in spite of ourselves, ate just about anything on this trip.  At some point Kyle abandoned kosher and ate most anything, as did nearly all of us.)  Eventually I too gave up on fireworks, handed the last of the cotton candy to Kyle and turned in.  By now bands sounded like they were right in the hotel. By now knew right where ear plugs were, the only trouble being, then I couldn't hear my alarm.
    The next morning a testy, pale group was standing impatiently by the van, as I stumbled downstairs groggily.  Drums lasted until 4am, someone commented.  As if we didn't know!  What a night.  The building vibrated.  I'd tossed and turned in yet another strange, large bed.  Several times, when a particularly loud bang went off, rolled outa bed in nightgown, slipped on shoes, and hobbled up to the roof to see if the alleged fireworks had started.  No.  A magical, but grueling night.  Don and Kyle reported they saw fireworks around midnight.  The rest of us gringos missed out.  Little did I know, San Ignacio Cerro Gordo's all night drums would turn out ot be a piece of cake....

ONWARD and INLAND - Pátzcuaro and Uruapan, estado de Michoacán

    On to Pátzcuaro (Monday and Tuesday nights)--I'd heard of butterfly net fisherman!  Hadn't ridden far when light rain began, unusual of course, for the season, but that's how the world is, that's how travel is.  As Don hurtled towards 7000' we put on more and more clothes.  Luckily my socks were in my purse.  At the unheated hotel around a lovely inner courtyard, I pulled tights and pants under sun dress, cotton knit sweater and nylon shell, grateful for (red) wool gloves and grieving the loss of the hat at the airport.  What I would have given for a WalMart ski hat!  Or, a heavy rebozo like natives were wearing.  Never had I slept in so many clothes and wished I'd had more!  In the morning realized I could wear my (unused) beach towel over head, around neck.  Who cares, I thought, as I walked before breakfast on narrow streets, up and down hills, past piles of bakery goods.  The street between the hotel and the plaza was closed/torn up; walkers hiked on narrow trails each side.  Parents walked kids to school, hand in hand; workers walked to shops.  I wandered, much warmer now, in my beach towel rebozo with trains on it.  The others in the group were slow to complain, but I whined and shivered unabashed-- thought we were going to the beach!  Nothing about 7000' on the flyer I saw!  The others quietly got sick.  At times we were a bit of a traveling farmacia/pharmacy, dealing with so many prescriptions and maladies!
    We were visiting the copper ware village of Santa Clara del Cobre when the sun came out--Amy especially appreciated shopping opportunities.  I voted for a boat trip to see those fisherman I'd heard about.  Little did I know we'd be shown a total tourist set up, complete with fellow paddling over to collect money.  Whether real butterfly net fisherman still exist, I don't know.  I know we didn't see them, and so do the guys who pretended to be 'em.  This was the kind of thing that confused me—indifference? game? disdain? dishonesty? a joke?  Lovely boat ride. ("You can take a short boat ride to the island of Janitzio, an interesting native crafts and fishing village. An enormous statue of revolutionary hero Jose Maria Morelos crowns the island. Fisherman with butterfly nets fish the lake's shallow waters."  [oh yeah] )  We also visited Aztec like ruins (near Tzintzuntzan)--Los Yacatas(yacatas being structures, of which there are 5 enormous), built by the Purepecha (Tarascan) people.  Below Los Yacatas Don stopped so I could snap photos of one of the many elaborately decorated cemeteries that intrigued me.

 Los Yacatas; cemetery below Los Yacatas

    The best thing about Pátzcuaro was our hotel was across from the la Basilica Virgen de la Salud, a huge old church (there are so many!).  Down the street a block was a Jesuit college and another old cathedral, not kept up like the basilica, with wonderful old parquet wood floors.  I loved the way churches were always open, occupied, folks young and old always pausing to pray, kneel on the boards of the old wood pews or at a favorite statue or altar.

webshot of Pátzcuaro basilica

Pátzcuaro - possibly the old Jesuit or Franciscan convent

Imagen de la Santisima Virgen de Guadalupe

Lake Pátzcuaro "taxi" to island, like the boat we took

Isla de Janitzi shops

    Gave up trying to read church schedules--not really posted--everyone knows--and listened to bells.  As Don promised, we were well off the beaten path.  Monday evening, when bells rang on the hour, I found a handful of folks attending mass, led by a lively, alarmingly appealing priest in green.  An older man dressed in everyday clothes sang beautifully at a keyboard.  The priest's voice was fatherly, the music lovely.  The woman in front of me recited and sang loudly, confidently.  A family came in "late"--one woman wearing flashing tennis shoes.  (Now I really want some!)  People felt at home.  I loved being there.
    After the service, I wandered around on tender tourist feet studying statues, art, the painted dome, windows, altars.  My first experience knowing in my heart that religion was “real” occurred in 1966 at the cathedral in the Zocalo of Cuidad México.  Seemingly out of the blue, after being brought up anti-catholic, I was profoundly moved to tears.
    I turned when a woman burst into song, and saw the old woman wrapped in a raboso, who'd been standing at one of the statues.  Her clear, beautiful "Ave Marie" filled the huge stone basilica, giving me goose bumps like the opening melody of the gypsy film, Latcho Drom.  A man waited nearby.  Aiyiyi.  I was jealous of this faith, trust and passion. This was why I came to México--to witness simple faith.  Again I was moved and teary.  One church, one community, one God, one México.
    After 2 chilly Pátzcuaro nights we continued the inland loop onto Uruapan, México, I was learning, was vastly vaster, more full of cities than even Don's road atlas could begin to show.  Two nights in a plaza Hotel Concordia (Wed. & Thurs.), this time with only occasional bands.   Jungley, botanical "Parque Nacional Eduardo Ruiz" up the street was beautiful.  Our jaunt to see the volcanic field from Paricutín volcano took us to remote Indian country.  ("Paracutín volcano & village of Angahuan - Paracutín erupted in 1943 and over the following nine years doused the surrounding 40 sq. kilometers with molten lava.  Located in this area was the village of San Juan Parangaricutiro. Visitors can tour the area on foot or horseback and view the amazing sight of the town's church spire and walls emerging from the sea of hardened lava").  Only a savvy veteran of many years in Mexico, like Don, could have gotten us there.  Amazing.  I was feeling home in hilly pine tree country, almost able to tell avocado farms from mango.  Ha.

lava buried village church from distance 

viewing distant steam vents from XLNTR4U van

avocados maturing

    Although I practiced Spanish words in the van or over meals, when I was off on my own, folks generally look puzzled.  Belatedly, in this mid sized city, I was able to buy material for a rebozo where yardage prices were posted and I didn't “have to” bargain; rent an hour of internet time; buy post cards and stamps.  Bought French fries (papas francesas) on my own again (still 10 pesos).   Delicious.
    My body was becoming delirious for vegetables, eyes acquiring alarming black circles.  Who was eating the beautiful vegetables we occasionally saw in markets?  Not us.  "We" ate eggs, bacon and hot cakes.  One Uruapan morning I wandered off and found fresh peas, carrots and an onion on a corner that clearly supplied bulk buyers.  After looking confused by my lone onion, I heard a man tell his child, “nada”; it was given to me.  Another young helper took centavos for the peas and carrots.  (Before leaving Pátzcuaro, I managed to buy a memorably yummy peach in a morning market.  God knows what I paid.  Why we didn't enjoy the bounty, my belly and I never understood.)
    An especially magical experience happened while I waited on the Uruapan plaza for the rest of the group to exchange money.  The plaza was filled with hundreds of (well, many) mom and dads, holding small kids by their hands, following instructions blasting from an amped woman on-stage.  ¿Que pasa?  Parent-child pairs held newspaper pages, or hula hoops, and marched to tunes like "Hokey Pokey".  Gathered up my roll (bolea?), avocado and onion, and camera, and moved closer to observe.  An obvious favorite tune was "Ooo ee, ooo ah-ah, ting tang, walla walla bing bang "of "Purple People Eater".  On cue, everyone waded up their newspaper page; on cue, everyone tossed it high; on cue, they threw their wads onto the ground; on cue, they picked them up, and smoothed them out!  What were these folks doing dancing around, suddenly lying on the pavement, in response to instructions being called out.  Lots of encouraging "muy biens" from the enthusiastic emcee.  In my wildest dreams I couldn't imagine a troop of les estatos unidos parents jumping around with their kids in a public square.  In México, no problema.  With or with out a page of newspaper, parents laid happily on the plaza while small kids sat on their back per instructions.  When I realized the emcee was calling out to parents to massage head, neck, ears, shoulders, hands to toes, I was completely enchanted.  Watched one father carefully rotate his child's ankle.  This was amazing!  Then the parent lay down and the child moved from head to toe as parts were called out!  Holy toledo!  Although most anyone I've tried to describe this to since I returned has snorted, this appeared to be an everyday event in México.  The mystery was solved to my satisfaction on the plane flight into Boise.  My hispanic seat mate from Nampa immediate said "kindergarten graduation".

    Jouncing out of town in the van, I peeled the carrot with a tiny borrowed knife and shared chunks with those willing to eat off the street, as it were.  I was becoming desperate!  Don understated the long drive back to the coast.  He had to or we'd-a-revolted!  Our good natures were crumbling.  I no longer needed my stripped "rebosa" for warmth; instead I threw it over my face each time the van passed a line of vehicles on narrow, curving, mountainous roads, which was often.  To be fair, over the weeks, a handful of vehicles actually passed Don.
    Rather late Friday night, we pulled into Punta Puerula, for our final stay.  It was humid and warm.  We staggered into bed.  Thought I heard the ocean.  In the morning, under overcast skies, Don, Kyle and I swam and jumped in warm swells.
    I'll get the night from hell out of the way.  The following night (Saturday) there was a special disco in the vacant lot next door with transvestites, a benefit for AIDS.  Don't ask.  We were in the middle of next to nowhere, not even a cathedral.  Don, the hotel owner's son and I were game to go, until the wall of volume blew us out of the entrance gate.  San Ignacio revisited, disco style.  I was sure my companions (that weren't hard of hearing) were going to freak.  As usual, I was wrong.  In the morning I was the only one perturbed.  My night from hell.  In "the middle of the night" I'd got up and walked the couple of blocks down to the ocean, and sat below the sand piled by the hurricane, to escape the beat.  I was absolutely beside myself.  This was major, offensive volume.
    After a couple of days of being the only regular visitor to the beach--it slowly dawned on me that my desire for sun and salt water was not shared!  Those in the group who had "been there, done that", played cards in the shade, rarely leaving the hotel.  One day, the men went out in a boat to fish; we dined on what sounded like "Sierra" that night.  The following morning, Ernesto dropped Kyle and I at an island beach to snorkel.  Don predicted we wouldn't see anyone.  But times had changed-- Club Med had tents set up under tarps; locals camped; jet skis roared.  The beach was discovered.  Nude women snorkeled, but didn't wave.  I finned among the rocks watching blue fish, which were just as numerous on the rocky beach down from the hotel, or so I thought.
    Breakfasts and dinners we commuted to a restaurant on the main road, which prepared guacamole from the case of prime avocados Don picked up en route to the coast.  Yum.  When the owner took off on a Herbalife mission, service slipped noticeable.  By then, we'd learned soups might contain vegetables.  But there were only 2 servings, and so on.  The last few days Don helped me ordered fried potatoes, squash and carrots; my gut was desperate.

as close as it came to a group shot,
and as close as some got to the beach

    Two days before we left, we discovered a bar on the beach had margaritas and real french fries.  After seeing whole limes chopped up into the margaritas--I LOVE limes-- I realized this was my Jimmy Buffet moment.  Didn't have to get up early.  Yum, yum, yum.  Waves rolled in, the company was a little worn and impatient, but really, it was a lovely time.  The rest of the evening predictably was a bit of a wash.  Had to lay down awhile, before staggering down to the beach for my evening walk.
    Never did walk on that enchanted island beach I'd imagined from Idaho, in breezy, white cotton dress, solving the mystery of my place in the universe.  But I did walk barefoot in sun dress over frayed men's shorts and tank top, past small restaurants, huts and hotels, abandoned and otherwise, past boats with fish lying in their bottoms, along open stretches, past occasional walkers and waders.  Watched pelicans dive and the last light of day and the new sliver of moon dance on incoming waves.  (With water so warm that fantasy white get up wouldn't have lasted a minute!)

    Beach time turned out to be a small part of the trip.  When we finally got there, I cudda stayed for weeks watching sunsets, snorkeling and swimming. (Not me, go to México to shop, eat, and drink--do that at home!).  Left happy hours and shopping to others, though I acquired dos hamacas (hammocks) and a number of small sea shells ("coquina" I think).  Although I snatched a few quiet moments, swinging in the hotel's fleet of hammocks several afternoons (also crash landed one) it seemed like every time I settled in to do nothing, it was time to do something.  How could that be!!  I'd return for more barefoot walks on the beach in a heartbeat.
    As always when traveling, I learned more about people than place (which was a lot!)  We Idahoans traveled with, to understate, diverse interests; we survived.  I miss Amy's incomparable diplomatic skills.  My straightforward: "the door's not shut", was ignored.  Her sweet "maybe the door's not shut" was a powerful teaching.  I miss howling with Barb, her devastating sense of humor.  The winner for humor, however, in my book, went to the nearly silent Kyle, who suddenly offered to buy dinner February 3rd (is that the right date, Kyle?) in celebration of the 4th anniversary of his divorce.  I shrieked with surprise!  I miss Don's irrepressible enthusiasm for México and his boldness (though not his turning a convenient deaf ear to our whispers for an ice cream stop--even Amy's world class skills persuasive skills couldn't prevail--or mangos.)  I miss Earl's small kindnesses, but not the ceaseless smutty jokes and innuendoes that sounded like they came from his direction.  I miss Herb's good nature and ability to recognize a familiar Mexican dump. What a trooper!
    Although my gut is still reeling from Mexican adventures, other physical reminders have faded--the bloody scrape on my palm from scrambling out of the snorkel rocks when I realized the van was waiting and all the pesky mosquito and noseeum beach bites found even in paradise, which splotched a faint tan.
    I've signed up for espagñol classes--no small thing from a long time phobic language student--and ordered books on México.  This gringo loved the heart of México.  It was like coming home to who I want to be.  I wanna hold hands with kids and pray on my knees daily.  (But no, no tortillas and frijoles, gracias!)  ¡Gracias a Dios!

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