Sweep, rake, burn

MEXICAN LIFE isn’t all about sunsets and margaritas. Sometimes it’s work. Yesterday, for instance.

upstairs

First, I swept the upstairs terraza. I got to enjoy a view of the mountains and our neighborhood’s red-tile roofs.

service

Then I swept the service patio downstairs. That’s where the washing machine, water heater, clothesline and propane tank live. Not much of a view there.

veranda

Third on the list was the veranda. Pretty good view, but there’s lots of stuff to sweep around, complicating matters.

rake

At that point, I moved outside. First, the rake which resulted in three piles. Here’s one. Most leaves fall from a pear tree.

fire

I lit a match to a piece of ocote, stuck it into the pile, and flames erupted. Soon it was consumed, a black smudge.

driveway

Back to the broom. I head out beyond the Alamo Wall to sweep the driveway and clear the pastry workshop entrance.

street

And, finally, it’s out to the street where I swept the sidewalk and a bit of the street too. Unlike in some cities above the Rio Bravo, we have no mechanical street sweepers.

I’m a Virgo. We like to be tidy.

man

Lastly, the gardener gets a breather on the veranda, posing with his tool while his child bride wields the Canon.

Flaming New Year’s

burn
Fire started at the top.
remains
A burned-out skeleton.

FOR WEEKS, it had been a spectacular sight on our town’s plaza. A Christmas tree about three stories tall.

Not a tree actually, an artwork, lamentably flammable.

Thursday afternoon, on the cusp of New Year’s Eve, a fire erupted at the top and worked its way down. Apparently, a kid lit a pyrotechnical device nearby, and it landed on the tree.

The flames consumed about two-thirds of the elegant structure before a fire truck arrived and extinguished it.

And so ended 2015.

Below is a “Before” shot I found on Facebook.

(UPDATE: It will be rebuilt. Since Christmas is not the big day for children in Mexico — Three Kings Day is — and that doesn’t arrive till next week, it will be repaired for the kiddies, according to the mayor.)

before

Winter cut & sweep

stone

I’VE ALWAYS loved stone, and now I live with it. Loved mountains too, and now I live among them. Don’t forget cool weather, and here I am in eternal cool. It’s a perfect world.*

Normally, the yard doesn’t need a cut in January. Usually, we stop in November, or rather Abel the Deadpan Yardman loses his summer gig in November. I quit mowing years ago.

But we’ve had the occasional unseasonable rain of late, and the lawn gobbled it up, deciding it was summer, and grew a bit, mostly around edges. The lawnmower wouldn’t crank, so I turned to the weed eater.

(Aside:  I saw someone with a grass blower the other day, and it was strange. Though Mexicans are always noisily blowing everything above the Rio Bravo — or did when I  lived there — a blower here is rarely seen.)

Out to the yard I went. The sidewalk is stone, and so is the Alamo Wall. The mountains soared in the near distance, and the sun was shining sweetly through the 70-degree air. I sighed. It was Heaven, honey.

But there was work to do, so I started the edging. The weed eater is electric, so no physical effort is required. Since most of the high grass was around edges, it didn’t take long. Down the sidewalk, around the property wall, under the bougainvilleas and fan palm and other stuff. Then a good sweep with an old broom.

The first winter cut and, with good fortune, the last.

A month ago, I posted First fire, last rose in which I imagined the sole rose out in yard was the last of the season. Boy, was I mistaken. After a couple of near freezes in December, the climate has returned to November’s style, and it’s wonderful. We have a number of new roses and golden datura.

And more fires have been ignited, the last being on Thursday, dead leaves from the loquat and pear trees. Fires provide the aroma of Autumn, and that’s real nice.

* * * *

Once a year I climb the circular stairs to the roof to sweep. But that only puts me atop the second story, which covers most of the house. The kitchen area is just one story, so that requires hauling a ladder to the service patio out back to ascend to that part, which is the part that most needs a sweep.

roofThis is the kitchen roof, swept pretty clean, that you see in the foreground. The tile roof farther on, left side, is the roof of the Garden Patio. Roofs of red clay tile don’t get swept. After some decades, it’s a good idea to remove them for a good shake and brushing, however. God knows what you might find. Bats probably.

* * * *

* Most of my life was spent in South Georgia, North Florida, South Louisiana and East Texas, places notable for lack of stones and mountains and an excess of sweltering heat. I’ve done a 180. Praise be, brother!

Man and fire

fire

THERE’S AN ART to building a good fire.

And I have no idea what that is, so my approach is to bludgeon the matter. I pile a mountain of firewood, and I torch a handful of ocote, which is a resin-full wood that ignites gleefully when introduced to flame.

Stick the burning ocote under the stacked wood and wait. That’s all there is to it. Perhaps I do grasp the art.

I lit a fire downstairs yesterday, the first of the season. Before that, I climbed the circular stairway on the upstairs terraza to the roof and removed plastic sheeting from the chimney top. Most of the year it’s wrapped in plastic to keep mosquitoes out. It took me about three years to learn that.

On about two occasions, I forgot to uncover the chimney first, and you can imagine what happened.

I paused while on the roof and took a look around at the green mountains. I inhaled the clear winter air, and I thanked the Goddess, hardly for the first time, for landing me here in my declining years. It’s good to end one’s many days in such a spectacular fashion.

There were two blazes yesterday. The first was in the morning because it was dang cold. The second was late afternoon. It was less cold, but I desired a cozy atmosphere. After I got the fire burning, I sat on the nearby scarlet sofa and read a good book about Stanley and Dr. Livingstone.

And felt good about myself. A fine fire will do that.