Reach for the sky

My soaring nopal.

I’VE LONG been a desert fan and the cacti that come with it. There is something spiritual about a desert. The same can be said about rainforests, the desert’s alter ego.

When I lived in Houston, one of my favorite road trips took me west. You didn’t have to go far before the environment turned dry, and nopal cacti appeared naturally along the highways. In spring they sprouted red flowers.

Mexicans are fond of eating nopal. I don’t share this love. Nopal is too much like okra, turning slimy when cooked.

So I just admire the appearance, and I don’t have to drive west to see nopal. I need only to step into the yard where I have about the tallest nopal I’ve ever seen.

I shot the above photo with a zoom lens. That’s just the noggin of my nopal. It soars 18 feet into the air.

I measured, more or less.

It was just two of those paddles when I planted it at least a decade ago, having no idea what I was getting into.

My second ex-wife is something called a Master Gardener. You get that title from the County Extension Service after taking an amount of training on such things.

While I am the yard chief here at the Hacienda, she was the garden honcho where we lived together in Houston.

I often encouraged her to plant bougainvillea. She never did. Perhaps it was out of pure spite. I hope not. But she did the right thing. I see that now.

Bougainvilleas are beautiful. They also sport thorns that would fill the most vicious rosebush with envy.

Our bougainvillea likely tops out at 20 feet, and even more from left to right. It is held in place by steel chains. The plant never stops growing, both upward and outward.

I water the nopal because I don’t want it to fall down. I never water the bougainvillea because I want it to calm down.

Springtime is just getting started.

My soaring bougainvillea.



A capital time

A bunch of bananas in the making.

WE RETURNED from a week in Mexico City last Sunday to discover that we had left home in winter and returned in springtime, weather-wise, at least.

We’ve passed thorough 14 winters at the Hacienda and only twice, perhaps thrice, have we enjoyed a winter without one overnight freeze. The 2016-17 season is the latest.

Alas, spring here is no circus, the worst of the seasons. The only positive aspect is that there are no overnight freezes.

Instead there is dust and drab, brown mountains. What passes for heat in these parts happens in springtime. The fact of the matter is that spring is pretty yucky.

Our capital visit was very profitable. After years of waiting, we picked up the deed to the condo. We hired a guy to lay a nice ceramic floor on the service patio. He also improved the drain system for the clothes washer.

We found a great new restaurant nearby. Fact is the entire area is going upscale rapidly. When I first set foot there 15 years ago, it was ugly and industrial, which is why the colonia* is called Nueva Industrial Vallejo.

My arrival, it seems, on most any scene delivers a certain panache. It happened here where we live on the hardscrabble outskirts of our mountaintop town, and it’s also happened in Nueva Industrial Vallejo.

We fled to San Miguel de Allende to escape Carnival. We went to Mexico City for practical matters. But now it’s time to get down to business. Springtime is for renovations.

Our favorite contractor comes today to provide prices for work here at the Hacienda and also at the Downtown Casita.

Due to the stupendous dollar-peso exchange rate over the last couple of years, we’ve done lots of improvements we likely would not have done otherwise.

And that’s where stuff stands at the moment.

Thanks for passing by.

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* Sort of like a big neighborhood.

The shifting sun


THE SUN SHIFTS with the seasons, of course, but I’d never actually noticed it doing so until I moved to Mexico.

I’m usually up before dawn, reading the news and gossip on the computer, and facing a large, second-floor window that looks out to the mountains. It’s the sort of setting that makes the seasons’ shifting sun hard to miss.

I attribute my never noticing this first-hand before to my decades of working evenings and sleeping late. By 10 a.m. or so, the sun is simply in the sky, and where it was born at dawn each day isn’t an issue.

This morning, I slept a bit later than usual, and when I walked through the living room en route to the coffeemaker in the kitchen, something I usually do in the dark, this is what I saw — sun on the staircase wall. I delayed my morning coffee long enough to get my camera for the photo. For you, I make sacrifices.

It’s late March, and we dodged the bullet. It’s a rare winter when it does not often freeze overnight in January and February, and once it even did so in early March after skipping January and February, fooling me into thinking we’d dodged a bullet that year too, but we had not. I think now that we have. Not one freeze.

¡Qué bueno!

The tenants staying in our downtown casita asked the other day which month is best for visiting here, February or March. That would be March, of course, I told them, unless you want to risk freezing your keister most nights.

But our sweetest month of all is November, and the sun arrives through a different door.

The Twilight Zone


This is the in-between time, that space between wet and dry, cool and colder.

The Twilight Zone.

The air here is always good. Some times better than other times, but always good. That is subjective, of course. If you enjoy sweating and living in sandals, shirtless and shorts year-round, you would not consider it good.

You would consider it cold or cool or nippy, unsuitable for beer.

But I do not care about sandals or shorts or going shirtless, and I don’t drink beer, not anymore, so this is a perfect world.

Today, right now, this week, we are on the cusp, the edge between wet and dry. From June to right about now, usually earlier actually, we get rain every day, and this upstairs patio is mostly useless. There are always puddles or lakes in it.

You can make it to the hammock, but venturing farther, especially that corner which offers the best view into the rooms of the sex hotel, is mostly out of the question.

The constant puddles make it nearly impossible to sweep, so the floor accumulates grime. I snapped this photo today just after sweeping the entire terraza, which was doable due to scant rain recently. The rain is about gone.

I removed the light dirt, but the more serious grime will be attacked in the next few days with a hose run up from downstairs, an industrial broom and then the mop.

Then it will be sparkling. November is the best month here.

baby bearPerhaps I will swing in the hammock. It’s just out of view to the left. The air will be neither warm nor cold. It will be just right like the baby bear’s porridge. The sky will be a beautiful blue where birds, big and small, will fly high and low, hunting and singing.

There are two Twilight Zones here on the mountaintop. This one between summer and fall and the other one between spring and summer. That latter can get a bit stuffy on occasion, depending on where you’re sitting.

This one, however, is perfect.

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(Yes, the Moon has changed her attire. Girls do that.)