The tilted birdbath

daturaWHAT SORT  of loopy person leaves a birdbath tilted for over a decade when it requires only a few seconds to set it straight? That person, of course, is me.

But today I spent the few seconds and made it level. The birds had never seemed to mind or even notice. I long noticed but did nothing. The birdbath is a clay bowl that sits atop a carved wooden pedestal, knee-high. The pedestal is rotting, but that’s not what made the whole shebang off-kilter. It’s sat crooked since it was new.

I took the bowl off this morning, and moved the pedestal from where it’s rested so long. There was grime below, some bugs and a worm that looked perfect for fishing. I swept it all away with a broom, into the grass.

A slight shift to the right and a bit of circular movement set it straight. I put the bowl back on top and it was level, the first time in a long time. The birds still will not care, so this is a strictly human issue.

It’s not like the birds need my water supply right now because it rains every day. Pools and puddles are all over the place. No matter. My birdbath is quite popular, but it will become more popular when the rainy season ends next month and a pool will be darned difficult to find.

Summer has ended, of course. Our high mountain world is wet, and the plants are happy. When we open the bedroom curtain in the morning, this is what we see, the photo above, golden datura in a frenzy of flowers.

The big aloe vera bushes are full of orange stalks. The birds of paradise have come out to play, the plants, not actual birds, which are not mountain fowl. We must make do with the flowers.

I was sitting on the front terraza a spell this morning, admiring it all and thinking what a lucky fellow I am.

But I should have straightened that birdbath a long time ago. A personality flaw.

The summer scene

WE’RE WELL into summer, and every year or two I like to take a photo from the upstairs terraza to show changes in the Hacienda compound.* One shot, years back, showed a place in progress, rather bare.

But this is 2014’s scene, fully developed:


And looking down to the left. The nopal tree is at least 13 feet tall, and the bananas are even higher. On the far side of the ochre wall is the sex motel:


Now doing a full turn to the right, out toward the back. That angled tile roof behind the red wall is relatively new. That’s where I keep the lawn mower and garden gear:


Abel, the deadpan neighbor who cuts the grass every Saturday morning, had done just that about an hour before the photos were taken. I planted 95 percent of what you see with my own grubby fingers.

I like living here. You really can’t beat it.

* * * *

* Yes, compound. I like to think I’m kinda like the Kennedys. Or the Bushes of Kennebunkport.

Tres aguas


Every year about now, in bone-dry Springtime, we drain the cistern, drop a ladder into its heart and scrub the fine layer of soil from the floor.

Then we reopen the valve to the municipal pipe that sits beneath the cobblestone street out back, and in flows spring water from under the Sierra.

As it fills, I stand above this hole and think, my, that looks sweet. I’d like to take a dip. The water is clear and cool. I never do, of course.

* * * *

Half a century ago, both before and after I could legally pilot a Ford, I’d head through forests and fields of cotton, corn and peanuts till I got to the spot where the swimming hole was hidden just off the road of red clay.

It was southwest Georgia in the heat of summertime.

The hole was a fair size and spring-fed. There was a thick rope someone had tied to an overhanging tree branch, and you could swing from a high bank to plunge into the hole’s deepest part, which was about 15 feet of water.

That water was clear as mountain air and cold all year. Even though it was 15 feet down at the deepest part, you could easily see the floor.

Nothing else was there. No Stop-n-Robs, no gas stations, nobody rented inner tubes. There was nothing, and usually nobody. Just trees, birds and clear, cold water. You had the place to yourself, and it was wonderful.

* * * *

In January 1997, I swallowed LSD and psilocybin a time or two, trying to set myself straight at last, and it worked. I was 52, and it was way overdue.

Later that year, I learned a meditation technique. You need a drumbeat. A cassette will do. Close your eyes and imagine a hole into the earth. It can be any size because you aren’t actually squeezing in.

I usually found a bunny burrow near a boulder in my mind, so I slipped inside to the steady drumbeat sound. And I descended through a winding dirt tunnel. At times there were doors that had to be opened, so I did.

Finally, the tunnel broke out into a wonderful world, and before me was a small lagoon surrounded by tropical trees and soaring artwork birds.

I would step into the water and swim solitary until the drumbeat accelerated, which was the signal to return. At that point, it was necessary to leave the lagoon and rush up the rabbit hole, back into what we call reality.