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

The perfect time

bedroom
Smaller bedroom window.

NOVEMBER, THAT IS. It’s the perfect time here, not that other times aren’t swell too, but you can’t beat November.

There’s something strange about our perfect time being ushered in by the Day of the Dead when we embrace and drink to the notion of death and mortality.

But don’t dwell on that. November is almost upon us. And why is November so sweet? Because the summer rains have ended, but everything is still fresh and green.

Plus, frigid winter hasn’t arrived.

Friday morning was full of chores while my child bride was out working in her pastry kitchen. Chores for me, that is.

One was window-washing which inspired me to shoot the two photos. At the top is the smaller window in the bedroom, and at the bottom is one of two huge, dining room* windows.

Note the very green grass. People have asked me online why in the world I have a green lawn in Mexico, that it makes no sense. I guess they expect dust and burros.

The grass makes sense to me, especially now that I don’t mow it anymore. Someone else does.  I just admire it.

And sometimes I clean the windows for a better view.

kitchen
Big dining room window.

* Why is dining room two words while bedroom is one word?

(Note: The stained-glass items hanging on the bottom window were made by the two of us about a decade ago at a trade school in a nearby town. There are much larger ones hanging in the living room window.)

(Note 2: An astute observer might notice the black dot on the middle pane of the bottom photo. That’s a very small piece of broken mirror my child bride pasted to the spot. She uses that little mirror to pluck her eyebrows under natural light. Women are strange sometimes.)

Death and cigarettes

A SISTER-IN-LAW lives nearby. Most of the family reside elsewhere. Distance assists good relations.

This sister-in-law, whom I see almost every day, smokes nonstop. It’s not pretty, and it smells awful.

I smoked cigarettes, cigars and pipes for years. I was not a heavy smoker, however, and I stopped in the early 1990s using a tapering-off routine that was pretty easy.

In a supermarket checkout line today I got a good look at a cigarette rack and was amused by the packaging. It was a popular brand in Mexico called Montana.

At least a quarter of a package face displayed a dead rat. Another was a photo of an open human mouth full of cigarette butts, the implication being that you’ll stink like an ashtray, which is quite true.

Cigarette packages, last time I paid attention, simply informed buyers that they’re dangerous. Times have changed.

Candy-Skull-01b-1Of course, tobacco companies do not put photos of dead rats and mouthfuls of butts on their packages voluntarily. They are legally obligated.

My sister-in-law will tell you in all seriousness that she won’t stop smoking because doing so increases the risk of lung cancer. She says  she knows too many people who stopped smoking and immediately died of cancer.

Her twisted logic always leans her way. She smokes to maintain her good health, her stinky well-being.

Are dead rats on cigarette packs in the United States?

* * * *

Speaking of death, our Day of the Dead celebration is about a week away, and the town is putting on its best face.

Streets are being cleaned. Tree trunks are whitewashed. Curbs are splashed yellow, and road stripes are repainted. We look almost new — as new as a six-century town can look.

The Hacienda is getting cleaned up too, unrelated to the Day of the Dead. Workmen are here painting, scraping, cementing, attaching, repairing, all manner of improvements.

It’s a yearly event.

The downside is that I’m trapped here today because much of the work is inside, and going off and leaving them here alone isn’t a bright idea. I don’t know them.

An upside is that I’m killing time by typing away.

And thinking of you.

Like a dead day

THIS MORNING dawned cool and gray.

At 8 a.m. the thermometer on the upstairs terraza measured 58 degrees. It felt cooler. Fall is in the air.

More notable is that the Day of the Dead is near. As my child bride noted while walking the neighborhood plaza yesterday, practicing her English: It feels like a dead day.

Oh, well. She tries.

Noticing that it looked like a dead day this morning, I toted the Canon out on the terraza to make this sweep. There toward the end, you can see a lamp lit in the left window.

That’s where I sit to write this stuff.

On both dead days and lively ones.