Embracing mortality

barrow

LONG BEFORE I even thought of moving to Mexico I was a fan of the Day of the Dead tradition.

A Catrina stood on my bathroom counter in Houston.

But that fascination played no role in my choice of a place to live. It was pure happenstance that I landed in one of Mexico’s major hot spots for the Day of the Dead.

Even more good luck has found me living within walking distance of a generally excellent cemetery to visit on the Big Night. Being within walking distance is important because the traffic here on this day is a nightmare.

So, after doing some chores in the morning, we had the Honda in the carport by noon, and did not drive outside again.

Around 5 we took a walk to the neighborhood plaza for the heck of it, and we sat on a steel bench. I shot the photo above of the man toting flowers to the nearby cemetery.

I then pointed the camera in the other direction. As you can see, we had the plaza to ourselves because all of our neighbors were decorating graves in the cemetery.

plaza

We’ve visited that cemetery most years on the night in question, and the experience has been variable. Sometimes it rains, making a muck of things.

Some years, TV news crews have showed up with bright lights. One year, the municipality installed a huge spotlight on a high pole at the entrance, spoiling the atmosphere.

That’s gone now.

But when it’s just right, it’s spectacular, a very moving and incredibly beautiful experience.

Last night was one of those nights.

We headed out just after 7 because night had fallen. We walked the two blocks to the plaza, which we crossed diagonally. We continued two more blocks.

We crossed over the highway via a pedestrian walkway and looked down at the bumper-to-bumper traffic of clueless visitors heading elsewhere. Just a short walk farther was our huge neighborhood burial ground.

I did not take a photo because thousands of other people have already done it for me. Here is one.

As always, my child bride had built an altar in our living room. I photographed that later with my Fujifilm camera with no flash and with the living room lights off.

We have lots of deceased on my wife’s side due to the large family and unexpected deaths. Her mother died at 31. Two brothers were murdered in unrelated incidents.

(Note to my daughter: Your paternal grandmother and great-grandparents rest among the altar crowd. It’s a pity you’ve never come to visit. You’d love it.)

altar

Just never know

two

SITTING FRIDAY at a sidewalk table downtown, nursing a nice café Americano negro* and reading Ernie Pyle’s excellent Brave Men, I heard a racket coming down the street.

It was a small parade. I have no idea what the occasion was, but I did whip out my new Fujifilm Finepix 850exr, a sweetheart of a camera, and snapped a few shots.

Living here is great because you never know what you’ll see next. A companion shot can be found here.

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* I love typing this accurate Spanish phrase. Were I to do so while a student at an American university, I would handcuffed, tried by a kangaroo court and expelled.

Accidental hippie

pear
Hacienda pear.

I CAME OF age in the 1960s, heyday of the hippies, but I never was a hippie. Didn’t suit my personality.

So it feels strange now that I am harvesting organic pears, tons of them, more pears than we can easily dispose of.

We don’t do anything to make them organic. We don’t fertilize with donkey poop. We don’t light incense. We don’t smudge. We don’t howl at the moon on summer nights.

It’s what we don’t do that makes them organic.

We do nothing.

We have a pear tree that is perhaps 25 feet high in the yard. It was already planted when we purchased the property. We also have a sour orange, a peach and a loquat. But it’s the pear that provides most Hacienda fruit.

Some years the peach gives the pear a run for its money, but the peach is unpredictable. Some years, nada.

The pear is steady, reliable.

We pick up and haul away incredible quantities of pears.  We give them to relatives, amigos and acquaintances.

You will notice two things about our pear:

One, it’s not shaped like a pear. Two, it’s butt-ugly. Of course, being butt-ugly adds to its modish allure. It would likely warrant a high price at Whole Foods.

You’d want to buy brie and skinny crackers.

In spite of its shape and a face like Danny Trejo, it’s quite tasty. I ate the one in the photo after snapping the picture.

Felipe Zapata: organic pear farmer and accidental hippie.

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(Note: Photo is the first here with my Fujifilm Finepix F850exr, a sweetheart of a pocket camera with a 20X zoom.)