One of my very favorite everyday things about living in Mexico is that some things that would be luxuries to me in the States are very affordable here. A perfect example is that a lady knocks on my door twice a week with fresh flowers for sale. Armloads of fresh flowers for sale. I happen to love roses quite a lot and I can enjoy a fresh bouquet of them in my living room and in my bedroom. A dozen long-stemmed gorgeous roses cost about $3.75. Delivered. Lupe, the lady who brings the flowers knows that I love roses, so she always promotes them to me. One day last week a different lady came by, but I didn’t buy from her, as I tend to be a loyal person, and suspected she was cutting in on Lupe’s territory. When Lupe came the next day, I mentioned to her that someone else had been by, but that I had waited for her. She shook her head and said I would always know her by the blue bucket that she carries her flowers in. I smiled and told her that I would always know her face.
They say one picture is worth a thousand words, and I think this picture, shot from our bedroom window, tells the story of San Miguel. The mariachi band was wrapping it up for the day, probably after serenading in the square. When I leaned out and said, “hola,” they looked up and waved.
Tomorrow we leave San Miguel. I am already looking forward to my next visit to this lovely little city. Even though this time I’ve spent most of my time here literally just being “around the house,” I have enjoyed the simple pleasures of being here – looking out my window on the sweet little fountain, venturing out a few times for a meal and some people watching, cooking with Fred in our little kitchen, hearing the sounds from the street. I’ve even enjoying the rains of the season, which usually come late in the day.
I’ve learned some things about myself on this trip. I have been very fortunate in my lifetime and had very few physical problems. I hope that this experience will make me more compassionate and understanding towards other people. It has taught me how much it means when a friend reaches out and shows they care. I have also had to evaluate the importance of a positive outlook. It is a choice, and I have had to decide each day which way I’ll go. Above all, it has shown me what a great guy Fred is.
As soon as I recover from my untimely injury (see my July 2 entry) I am going to be ready to come back to Mexico. I love it here more each time we come. So, until later, beautiful city, we’ll see you again soon.
I am always a little bit thrilled to walk into a wedding. To just randomly share one of life’s great moments with total strangers and have a chance to capture it with a photo is a real pleasure. This picture was taken the other day on the square in front of The Parroquia, the wedding-cake-like church in San Miguel. To first see this church is like the first time you see Notre Dame in Paris – breathtaking.
The large puppets lead the wedding procession (it’s a Mexican thing, I wouldn’t understand). All the young women exit the church dressed to the hilt, including the most inappropriate possible shoes for walking on the cobblestone streets. And then the bride and groom, with dozens of friends taking photos. I decided to take advantage of the opportunity and snap a few myself.
There is something so hopeful about a wedding. I love the romance of it all. I usually cry at weddings. If Fred would do it (he says once is enough, thanks) I would renew our vows every year. This would be a great opportunity to throw a celebration and wear a fabulous dress. I have been quite happy to see the USA move into the direction of recognizing marriage regardless of gender. I have many gay and lesbian friends who have been couples for decades and I want them to have all the rights that Fred and I have.
While being married to Fred for the past 32 years has been wonderful for me, I also know that it may not be for everyone and can be hell on earth if it is with the wrong person. I know this because I was married once before. So, while I love weddings, sometimes a divorce makes sense, too. The whole point of it all is sharing one’s life, making life easier, and being happy.
Life isn’t always easy, and there are ups and downs, married or single. The most important thing to me about being married is having that one truest friend who is there to share the good times and help ease the pain of the bad times. Finding Fred was the best thing that ever happened to me. And what I would wish for the handsome couple in this picture, and for any couple, is that they, too, will feel that way about their spouse as the decades pass. Friends have sometimes asked me what I think is the secret to a happy marriage. After the important part about finding the right person there are three phrases that sum it up. Make these things easy to say and you will find most problems will solve themselves: “I love you.” “I’m sorry.” “I forgive you.” And let the last thing that happens every day be a good night kiss.
Reasons to Love San Miguel
Your senses are in for a treat in this beautiful little city. While there are quite a few “gringos” who live here, it is still very much a Mexican town. Fred and I have traveled quite a bit in Mexico–the Pacific coast, all over the Yucatan, Isla Mujeres. Isla Holbox,
Oaxaca–and I have never seen a more aesthetically pleasing place. For that matter I can’t come up with a place in the USA that I like more, or any where that I have been in Europe.
It is a very clean city; the streets are immaculate. The weather here is close to perfect.
San Miguel is high in the mountains, on a plateau, right in the very middle of the country. We have been here for the past three summers but are thinking of coming in the fall next year, to check it out during what is supposed to be the most perfect time, and because we’d love to be here for Day of the Dead, the major local holiday.
There are great restaurants here, and for cooking at home, the markets are amazing. We feel perfectly safe here. The people are friendly, and while many of them don’t speak English, they will slow down and work with you if you are trying to speak Spanish. But the thing I like most about San Miguel can be seen in this photo. You truly never know what you are going to see when you look at the town around you. Art is everywhere here, and the simplest things become moments you want to keep forever.
My Unforgettable Birthday. Featuring “Dr. Handsome
One of the things that gives San Miguel its charm is that it’s a very old city and all the streets are cobblestone. Great for aesthetics; not so great for walking. And there lies the problem. That is to say the problem became me, lying on the quaint cobblestone street. Have you ever had that experience where you were walking in one direction and the next thing you knew you were down for the count, facing the opposite direction? I went down hard, and while at first I thought everything was probably fine, by the time we got home I was really in pain. Miraculously, I hadn’t gotten a scratch, but I had definitely done some damage, and I knew it.
So on the day before my 70th birthday, while on a much-anticipated trip to celebrate it, I found myself in bed, basically unable to move, really freaking out. Fortunately I have a good friend, Lisa O’Leary, who spends a great deal of time here, and when I contacted her she said, “My doctor makes house calls.” By that afternoon Dr. Martinez was at our house checking out what I could and couldn’t do. He told me I needed to get an X-ray on Monday, as I possibly had a fracture. He left me with some pretty good pain pills and the plan to visit again after the X-ray. Now that the plans were made for my big birthday,
I had to make a decision as to how to deal with my mind and emotions. I was pissed, but I didn’t want to be depressed. So, I decided that I was going to keep a good attitude and to believe that I would get through this ordeal and manage to live in the moment and believe for the best instead of the worst. I refused to have dark, negative thoughts about my circumstances or my body. That decision was made on Sunday afternoon, while I still couldn’t get from the bed to the bathroom without help from Fred. (Who, of course, was a knight in shining armor).
So, on July 1, my 70th birthday, I found myself in a little clinic in Mexico getting my pelvis X-rayed, while Fred was buying me a cane. After he looked at the results the radiologist gave me a big smile and said, “You don’t have a fracture.” Wow! That was such good news that the fact I was walking with a cane seemed trivial.
And I meant to tell you, Dr. Martinez is known locally as Dr. Handsome. (My friend Lisa told me this). He sort of has a movie star thing working. So, Dr. Handsome came back to the casita, looked at the X-ray, and said he thought I’d be fine in two or three weeks. I needed to take it easy-that won’t be a problem-but that I could take taxis about and moving around a bit would be good.
So, I’m still taking the pain pills but I am very happy. (Possibly a connection between those two facts). I plan to enjoy the rest of my time in San Miguel. I have learned a lot from this experience, mainly how very important it is to be thankful every day for excellent health. When Dr. Handsome looked at my X-ray, he asked me how old I am. When I told him it was my 70th birthday, he had the right reaction. He said he thought I was in my 50’s (bedside manner is alive and well in Mexico), and complimented me on the health of my bones. He said that if I weren’t in good shape the results of the fall could have been much more serious. I also need to tell you what this episode cost: 2 house calls, one on Sunday, medication, X-ray=$125 US. Try that in the USA.
I plan to spend the rest of my trip just enjoying being with Fred, taking taxis to restaurants, coaching Fred on cooking good meals at our casita, and sitting in the Jardin, watching the world go by. We are invited to a 4th of July party by Lisa and I am planning to taxi there, too, and spend most of the evening sitting down. I am going to slow down, enjoy my days, one at a time, and do some of the reflecting that got postponed.
So, birthdays come and go but one thing is for sure, my 70th will definitely be the one that I will never forget.
I have always enjoyed a bit of badness. While I am really a very good girl, sometimes I just like to misbehave. It is true, as the years progress one definitely needs to rein it in a bit in the interest of self-preservation.
One of my favorite forms of decadence is to sit in a dark bar on a sunny afternoon and drink mescal. It is very important to be able to see outside while this is going on.
My all-time favorite bar is La Sirena Gorda in San Miguel. It is very small, the bartender is very nice, and they serve a killer artichoke, too. The music was great and the mood was perfect. And the whole thing felt kind of divinely decadent. It was still bright outside when we left, and as we were walking back home we passed a tree full of beautiful white birds. It was a late afternoon in the mountains of Mexico. The sky was blue, the air was clear, and I was holding hands with Fred. I had a little buzz, nothing to cause a problem. I sometimes think life is really about these divine little gems of time.
The Secret of Life
Is Enjoying the Passing of Time. James Taylor
Fred and I are porch sitters from way back. In San Miguel, the porches become rooftop terrazzos, giving you a perfect view of this charming little city. This is our third summer to come here, and each time we choose to stay a little bit longer. At this moment we are cozied up on a big lounge on the rooftop of the house we have rented, listening to the church bells proclaim high noon. We had breakfast in the courtyard of an old hacienda, now converted to a hotel. The food was wonderful, there were a couple of men playing classical guitars, and I felt I would be happy to just sit there all day, passing time.
We will both enjoy passing our time here. Fred brought a guitar and he is looking forward to having lots of undistracted time to practice. We are both studying Spanish and I am determined to speak it while I’m here and not revert to English when I realize the person I am talking to also speaks English. They’ll just have to put up with me. “Hablar mas despacio, por favor.” I also plan to do yoga every day, probably up here on the roof, and to write this little blog about life around the house in San Miguel. Glad to have you with me.
Sometimes it’s just time to shift a gear and move on to the next thing. People who know me seem surprised that Fred and I have sold our business and retired. Not that it’s so unusual for a woman approaching 70 to be ready for a change. It was great to get in touch with what I really wanted to do-design jewelry-and then to somehow manage to do it, and do it with a fair degree of success, for 30 years. It was a wonderful life for Fred and me to both quit our day jobs and do something that seemed so risky and adventurous. And we did have an adventure. We went places we otherwise would not have gone, and met some very interesting people along the way, but when it was time to move on, it was time to move on. Personally, I had reached a point where I wasn’t enjoying my work as much. My motto for the past few decades has been, “Always leave while you’re still having fun.” I wasn’t having much fun and I was completely tired of selling things to people.
I had jokingly said for about the past five years that I liked photographing the jewelry more than any other part of my job. I really only had time to do one portrait a month which was the ad for my jewelry. I needed to spend more time on photography in order to see my photos become art. I wanted to spend more time studying Spanish, and to turn our 3 week vacations in Mexico into much longer stretches of time. I also wanted to have time to cook more and develop wheat-free, vegan recipes. I felt I needed more time every day for physical workouts. As I was approaching 70, I realized more every day how fleeting time really is.
Fortunately, my husband and partner, Fred, is a good planner and he had starting to thing about the economics of our retirement. That is huge, and you are never to young to start thinking about this. We found a great financial advisor, and realized that we actually could retire without living in a cardboard box.
It took a year from the day we knew we were both ready until we actually left. In the midst of that time we sold our business to Mclaine Richardson, a very talented young woman who had worked for us for about three years. She is young, doing an excellent job, and I believe she is having fun in the same way I did so many years ago. I was so happy this happened; for many reasons. Obviously, it’s great to sell your business. It is also a very good feeling to know that your loyal employees will still have jobs, and to see the name of something you have worked hard to develop for a long time be continued.
I’m sure everyone who has ever retired has had their own process to go through. For Fred and me there was some stress to get here, but for now, it’s absolutely the best life I’ve had so far. I don’t really think of myself as “retired,” just as someone who has changed her state of mind.
This blog will be about how this journey unfolds. I will focus a lot on cooking, and try to be helpful to people who want to eat healthier. I will explore issues that relate to gender identity, as this is currently the subject matter I am most interested in photographing. When we travel I will share those destinations. Next trip up is to San Miguel in the mountains in Mexico. The photo for this piece was taken there last summer. I don’t want to define and confine this writing on the front end. Who knows where it will go? Who knows where the journey will take me? I’d love to have you go along for the ride.