The arch at night

arch

HEADING TO bed the other night, I turned around and saw this, and it occurred to me that I’d never taken a straight-on shot of the arch.

The camera was sitting on a table by the front door just off to the left, so I grabbed it, set it on flash, and shot this picture. I almost never use the flash, but it was necessary.

I was standing in near-total darkness.

Those two large plates hanging on either side of the arch were purchased years apart. The one on the left we bought about a decade ago during a trip to Taxco. The one on the right we bought more recently in Ajijic, Jalisco.

Ajijic, like San Miguel de Allende, is one of the most beloved spots for Gringos who want to live down here, do “art,” and not have to be bothered with learning pesky Spanish.

See those two carved-wood columns at the bases of the arch? That was my child bride’s idea. She came up with some doozies during the Hacienda construction.

About a week after moving into the house in 2003, we had a party to show it off to people we knew here. It was back before I turned into an almost complete hermit.

One of our invitees brought someone visiting from above the Rio Bravo. He was an architect, and he told me that finding someone in the United States who could build that arch would be almost impossible these days.

The old guy who built ours, Don Felipe Gonzalez, did it by hand, and it was interesting to watch the work. He was the boss of the three-man construction crew. Don Felipe turned 70 during the construction, and he’s since died.

He also chipped stone blocks out of rock piles to build the two fireplaces and, later, the Alamo Wall out in the yard. He did them by himself. Don Felipe was an artist.

When we hired him to build the Hacienda, he was 69 and just recovering from a lengthy illness of some sort. He was having trouble finding work due to his age.

Ageism, sexism, almost all the isms, thrive in Mexico.

People thought he was not up to it. He was recommended by a relative, and Don Felipe gave us an exceptionally low price for the labor. We jumped at it.

He’s long gone, but I think of his talent almost daily as I wander around here, even late at night before beddy-bye.

The fireplaces

Upstairs fireplace
Upstairs fireplace
Downstairs fireplace
Downstairs fireplace

FIREPLACES WERE a part of my childhood because we spent lots of time at Granny’s House. Actually, we lived at Granny’s House until I was almost 7 years old. There was a fireplace in every room save the bath.

After moving away — to Florida — we returned often, for decades.

There is something primal and savage about fire. It speaks to us, and warms and comforts us too. Before building the Hacienda we lived in a two-floor rental nearer downtown. There was a fireplace upstairs and down. The first year I lived there alone, not long after moving over the Rio Bravo, wondering what the devil?

It was very cold that first winter, and I would sit long spells with a coffee cup in the mornings in a chair placed quite close to the fire. I would watch those flames, which are fascinating if you pay sharp attention. If you are spectacularly alone, fire can become a dear friend. Like love, it warms you.

When we built the Hacienda, we told the headman, a stone mason among other things, that we wanted a huge fireplace downstairs made of stone. He did just that, but we would have preferred something even larger. I don’t recall now why we did not stop him in mid-work to get something bigger.

He was a stubborn old man.

See that chimney from the downstairs fireplace snaking up the wall toward the ceiling? It continues on through the second floor, also against the wall, providing an architectural touch with cornices on the floor above. The chimneys of both fireplaces are not inside the wall. Instead they abut the walls inside, not out.

I would have liked to have one of those chimneys that are so immense a person can stand inside or nearly, but what we have, especially downstairs, is pretty grand. We don’t use them much, however, but they’re great to admire.

When my Granny died in the 1980s, my parents moved to the Georgia farm and renovated the house. All of the fireplaces were covered, and central heat and air was installed. The ceilings were lowered. A new entrance was constructed. My parents were practical people, but I would have kept at least one fireplace.

Perhaps that one in the kitchen where I heated Coca-Colas on the hearth on cold mornings. Small Cracker kids sometimes do the craziest things.