Thursday, April 26, 2007

A Sonora Desert Oasis with Children

April 18, 2007, Mexico

I can hear Nora’s high pitched tuneless song. If I turn to look out the window, I can see the girls burying their bikinied Barbie in the sand. Two century plants are in bloom at the edge of the yard; brilliant yellow orioles, fleet hummingbirds and mobs of bees work busily among the agave blossoms high on fifteen foot stalks.

When Maria sings to Anita, “There’s nothing to be done, not a thing I can do,” I feel her fatalistic love. We are stuck, trapped now, helpless in our love for these tiny vulnerable beings who bounce and careen around the desert yard as fluidly as balls on a pool table.

Yesterday, Tuesday, we took the children on a little walk through town, ending up at the cultural center. I found a children’s library in one corner of the building. A woman pecked away at a manual typewriter on the front desk. She unlocked a cabinet door to hand us a few pieces of computer paper for coloring. Mia drew pictures with magic markers while I badly sounded out picture books in Spanish. The three school-age children at our table watched patiently. The boy tried out the word “castle,” then blushed. They handed us their pictures as they left.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Another run to the beach. The expansive blocks of pale gold sand and dark blue are a minimalist tonic. I take deep breaths of the clean air. I could call these waves playful as I dodge the fast carpet of foam running towards my feet. But I know there is no safe contact with the water here.

I recognize this stretch of beach. The lagoon there, a rocky steep hill towering before me – we climbed that hill years ago, exclaimed at the view. And the waves then, as I remember them, were tumbling eighteen-wheelers, a cascade of cement mixers, every few seconds. The heavy walls of water fell a few yards from our faces. We stood on a cliff of sand, separated from the crush by a steep short slope of hard pack sand.

Last night the children cooed over Emma, a dachshund in the restaurant. After dinner we walked to an ice cream stand – “Mia, can you see the surprise? It is the bright, bright green of a really crazy apple,” Serena riddled. The funny thing is, there were two green buildings on the block. In this tiny village, (recently designated as officially "Magic" by the Mexican government, much to the snorting of the ex-pat gringos,) brilliant sensations greet you on every corner. Strawberry creams, avocado with a strawberry ice chaser, pistachio, cherry ice cream. Phenomenally good. As good as Florentine gelato. What do the girls need for their vacation? A hammock to swing in, gentle dogs and tolerant cats, water to splash and drink. Ice cream.

Brent and Serena have a talent for making people feel good. We have known them for years, but this trip I study how they practice this craft. Much ebullient and generous laughter at the jokes of others. Repeating a phrase you have said, making it sound suddenly clever. Patience for the whims of children, the moodiness of guests out of their element. A casual attitude about clutter. Generosity of spirit, specifically extending even to use of their own bedroom, their own bed for afternoon naps. In conversation, responding to the suggestions of others with an enthusiastic “yes!” even if the point is tangential. And delicious dinners, cups of tea and bottles of beer don’t hurt either. Good friends.

Baja for Beginners from The New York Times.

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