I'll be departing Puerto Vallarta either Monday or Tuesday for the marathon drive that begins with a winding 100 miles or so through jungle and mountains to pick up MEX 200 (the tollroad) in Tepic, then over that long, creepy stretch between Tepic and Mazatlan, Mazatlan to Culiacan, Culiacan to Guaymas, and finally the crossing at Nogales. A few days ago, Israel and I watched a tribe of Huichol Indians in their brightly colored native dress trudge across the beach between the high rises occupying land that used to be theirs. A couple made their way to our little stretch of sand by the Pitillal River and each spit on the sand to mark the ground where they stripped down to their underwear for a swim. Guess the spitting ritual staked their claim on the spot for the few minutes they hung out at the river.
I'm not spitting on anything in PV, but I'm leaving a few personal items behind with my friend Seth, with the intention of returning here in a few months to pursue work, dreams, friendships, maybe even buy a house. I've felt more creatively energized, more connected, more at home here than anywhere I've ever lived. I used to struggle to make friends in the evangelical Christian community...a place I never really felt I belonged. Down here among the Mexicans and the quirky ex-pat community, I've found a sense of community that was missing before. The other day I was stopped at a light on Francisco Villa Blvd. and Bo was in the passenger seat with his head sticking out the window. "Hello, Bo," someone said from the bustop. It was my old neighbor from across the road at Edificio Brando in Col. Villa Las Flores.
When I walk around old town or the romantic zone, it's not uncommon to run into two or three people I know. With all the tourists in PV, it's still a pretty small town at its heart. I stopped to visit Denise and Stewart at Banderas News a few days ago to discuss future work I might do for the paper. They were both so kind and encouraging. I met a guy in the office there...a writer? Not sure, but when I introduced myself, he said, "Oh, yeah, I've heard good things about you." And I realized how it fills the soulto be part of a community where people believe the best about you. I haven't always felt that, either in the places I've worked or even amidst some in my own family. And I realize how very, very, very important it is to be surrounded by people who like you, respect you and look forward to seeing you walk in the door. I've had a lot of big hugs from new friends leading up to this departure for the states. From Ricardo, Marcella, Seth, Birgit...and on and on.
In these last eight months, I've found meaningful friendships, creative outlets and a sense of purpose. Covering stories about people who want to make a difference for the poor and indigenous people of Mexico. And yes, that's in addition to stories designed to market businesses, restaurants, resorts, etc. PV is a town where money and cash flow are on everyone's minds. You have the richest of the rich sharing sidewalks with the poorest of the poor. The other night I dropped Israel off at his little room in Pitillal. Families were sitting in their dusty front yards, cooking dinner on makeshift grills, or bedding down for the night with all their kids on dirty, fifth-hand mattresses. A woman approached me with DVDs for 25 pesos each. I purchased Crazy Heart, The Hurt Locker and Nine. But the point is, I've given Israel such a hard time for not spending money on me...but I've had to face facts: in a country where the average take-home pay is about five dollars a day, he is lucky to bring home 200 pesos a night - just under 20 bucks. He doesn't have a refrigerator, a stove, a sofa, or even a lamp to read by. So what if I've had to pay for both of us...as an American, even with no job, I'm still at an advantage. He loves me as he's able, providing devotion, protection....and every meal prepared with love.
There's much more I want to write about in these last couple of days, but time is running out. But I want to get this much down in case I forget: In Dec 2006, Stephen and I took a driving trip to Rocky Point, Mexico for New Years. As we drove along the narrow blacktop with Stephen at the wheel (as usual), I remember seeing the colorful roadside "bathtub" memorials festooned with colorful plastic flowers and handpainted crosses and feeling so whistful that Stephen wouldn't slow down the car to let me take a closer look. And when the pickup trucks jammed with Mexican families would sail past us on the right, I was secretly invigorated by the lawlessness of it. And all the broken sidewalks and cement block houses with rebar sticking out the roofs...just made me smile inside. Something about Mexican culture resonated with my soul.
At the time, I felt an overwhelming sadness that I had to experience it from a distance, trapped in a marriage to a man whose only response to it all was, "What a bunch of fuckin' wackos." He couldn't wait to get back to Arizona. But guess what. Even then, the stars were aligning. They were aligning 20 years ago when I met an artist who was selling off all his household goods to move to Lake Chapala, Mexico...and I had no idea where that was, but it sounded like such an intriguing idea.
They were aligning ten years ago when for some inexplicable reason, I bought a copy of Choose Mexico for Retirement. They were aligning the day at Focus when someone let me listen to Lyle Lovett's CD, The Road to Ensenada. They were aligning the day I spotted a chewed up Mexican bench standing in the blazing sun on a wash in Tucson and couldn't wait to get it home -- even though STephen refused to let me bring it into our house. They were aligning the day I bought a little Mexican folk art angel in Bisbee, AZ, and hung it on my rearview mirror for good luck. Or the day I bought my first Mexico road map. Perhaps even going as far back as 1972 when my sister Kathie took across the border to shop at the old city market in Juarez.
The point is, stars are always aligning. You look back over your life and at a precious dream you had that you thought would NEVER come true, but you kept believing, kept hoping...and then, one day, the dream caught momentum...and it CAME TRUE. Things happen when they are supposed to happen. You are exactly where you are supposed to be right this minute. Just keep dreaming and trusting the universe. Remember: the stars are aligning!