Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Veil Grows Thinner

We visited candle makers and weavers in Teotitlan Del Valle today. It seems like everyone who lives there is an artist. 

Zapotec master candlemaker Viviana Alvarez and family
World renowned master weaver Issac Vasquez

The sky was its own work of art.

In the church courtyard at Teotilan

I watched the clouds shift and the light change. Within a few seconds of one another, two hearts appeared in the clouds.

Later we stopped at a nearby cemetery to observe the preparations for Day of the Dead. People were cleaning off the graves and beginning to decorate, but they welcomed us. A few of us struck up a conversation with a couple. He had lived in Santa Barbara, California but returned to his town after a few years. 

Back at the Casa, we tested out our altar.


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Everyone Rises from the Dead Here

This morning we sat in the sala, talking about religion and Day of the Dead and what a big holiday it is. Easter is not the huge holiday that it is for Catholics in the States, Jane (the owner of the Casa) told us. "Everyone rises from the dead here in Oaxaca--at least for one day," she said. The weather is changing in Oaxaca, the heat easing, the skies thinning into a clear blue. The spirits are coming, people say. They can get through now. We can feel it.

We went to the Abastos Mercado today to the special section for Day of the Dead. We bought marigolds and cockscomb, Pan de Muertos and sugar skulls, candles, copal, and whatever else people in the group wanted for our alter here at the Casa. As we turned a corner and came upon the flower section--all marigolds and cockscomb, my eyes filled with tears. All those thousands of flowers will be purchased for graves and altars. All that color and sweetness for departed loved ones. Maybe the scent and the color is what guides them to us.

The dining room, decorated for Day of the Dead

Supplies are piling up for the altar, there's sawing in the courtyard as I write this.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Journeying Outside Oaxaca: Mitla and a village church

Mitla is a Zapotec site, first built and inhabited about 950 A.D. During the colonial era, stones were taken from the walls and buildings to build the red-domed Catholic Church seen above. The architectural detail at Mitla can be seen below.

And meanwhile, the villages are being festooned for the approaching Day of the Dead.

Interior details from the church above.
 Wildly colorful, the designs are an amalgam of indigenous and colonial tastes. The indigenous Zapotec artists incorporated their own motifs into the work. Zapotec masks and headdresses can be found surrounding altars to the saints.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Monté Alban

This Zapotec site was occupied for about 500 years, beginning in 400 B.C. It 's immense. It's only 10 percent excavated. There are a total of 6,000 archeological sites in Mexico. The ancient world is beyond our comprehension; so much is lost to us.

I climbed these steps and another set similar to these and walked around on top of the plateaus in silence, listening to the hum of bees and smelling orange blossoms. I walked in the footsteps of the Zapotecs.

Monday, October 24, 2016

More Oaxaca

Mural depicting part of the history of Oaxaca (the more recent era) in a government building.

The state motto of Oaxaca is on the banner. It translates as Respect for All People Means Peace. If someone builds a wall between here and Mexico, I'm staying here.

More fun facts: Oaxaca is the size of Indiana--unless you flatten out the mountains. Then it's the size of Texas.

There's a spectacular beach 160 miles from here with world class surfing. It's a 6 1/2 hour drive because you have to cross three mountain ranges.

A taxi ride anywhere in the city center amounts to 2 dollars and 50 cents. No tipping.

Day of the Dead is approaching. The city is getting ready. We are all on the same path.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Oaxaca: Fun Facts

Oaxaca is a big city. A million people live here and in its environs.

There are 32 distinct ethnic groups in Mexico. Sixteen of them are indigenous to Oaxaca. There are 16 living languages here not counting all the different dialects.

When someone dies here, this is what people say to express their condolences: "We are all on the same path."

Today was the grand finale of the days long Señor del Rayo celebration. This is completely separate from Day of the Dead. There were fireworks at the cathedral. But not like the fireworks you know, bursting in air. There were dancers. One dancer worn a sculpture in the shape of a bull, another might have been a human figure, the third was spinning so fast I have no idea what it was. Maybe a turtle. These metal framework/costumes were rigged with giant sparklers that were set off during the dancing and spinning. When the dancers were finished a tower (40 ft. high?) also rigged with giant sparklers was set alight in stages. First there were wheels of light, then a giant rose, then multicolored hearts, then Christ on the cross (yes, Christ alight with immense sparklers,) then the words Señor del Rayo.

Then the entire facade of gargantuan stone cathedral was transformed into a waterfall of light. Oh, and yeah, there were regular fireworks overhead while all of this was going on.

Oh, and earlier in the day, a local rock band played in the courtyard at this casa where I am staying. That was after a trip to a perfectly curated museum--

 And I devoured an amazing dish of mango sorbet from a little cafe that served only ice cream and sorbet and special drinks. The menu broke it down--desserts made with aqua and desserts made with leche. There was a flavor called beso de angel. Of course I will have to have that before I leave.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Oaxaca: The first night

View of the garden at the place I'm staying. and Monte Alban in the distant mist.

There are birds calling out so perfectly they sound like cellphone rings. Loquats are so plentiful we could feed an army, and every now and then a pomelo drops to the ground.

I'm here for Day of the Dead. I brought my mom and Dan with me.

A brief glimpse of the terrain on the approach to the city.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Worry Moon

The moon was a magician's trick last night. It might've been the brightest moon I've ever seen, and the clouds were streaked with pink and yellow. I've been in and out of the clouds myself lately, worrying about all the big things one worries about. 

It'll be nine years this holiday season since the last set of pre-divorce holidays. I've tried to let go of expectations. Sometimes that effort pops out of the oven like a perfect turkey, sometimes not. 

This year I'm going to be in Las Vegas on the 25th floor above "the strip" with dear friends. We'll be able to see for miles. A good metaphor, I guess for taking the long view of things. I'm looking forward to this meal and the other friends and family I'll see on the road trip. 

But here I am, more than a month in the future. The worry bus. Free transportation to the future. 

Here's what today looked like. 

Lifeguard stations running for their lives. I had to run too. Dry pants are nice way to enjoy the present moment. 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

It's Not All Sunsets and Sea Glass: Post-Debate Thoughts

I'm trying to remember if I smiled the night my assaulter held his hands around my neck, pinning me  against the front seat of my car for close to an hour. I cajoled, to be sure. "I'm married," I told this acquaintance who followed me out of the party, ostensively walking me to my car. "You don't want to do this," I said. I talked non-stop except for the moments when his grip on my neck grew tighter. But I don't think I smiled.
I didn't want Hilary to smile during the debate. Every time she smiled I thought about how women are expected to look pleasant and pretty in the public eye. I thought about how women smile to defuse aggression. I am an unabashed Hilary supporter. I don't want a wall. I don't want Muslims to be barred from the U.S. I don't want to scrap the Affordable Care Act and start over. I don't want women to continue to crawl along without an Equal Rights Amendment. But I don't want Hilary to smile.
Trump behaved like a stalker during the debate. Standing behind her. Threatening to throw her in jail. Pacing around her with his hands in his pockets. And I hated the final moment when they approached one another for that final handshake. He put his hand behind her, appearing to touch her  in the small of her back. I interpreted that as a show of aggression.
And while never having been a conspiracy theorist of any kind, I wouldn't be surprised if the Trump campaign itself released the trash-talking bus video. The message: Watch out. I'm an aggressor. I will dominate you.
Our society is fucked up when it comes to gender equality. Women have have the vote for more than hundred years. Yet we are the last to the party, among all the developed countries in the world, for maternal leave and health care policies that protect women and children, We are expected to do it all and that's impossible.
"I want you to come home with me," my assaulter said over and over again. I had a half-dozen reasons why that couldn't/shouldn't happen. I kept repeating them. When he finally got off me and stood up, I yanked my car door shut and drove home. I was drenched in sweat by then. That 's the way I felt by the end of tonight's debate.
I want Hilary to stop smiling. We don't have to please anyone. We just have to stand up.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Friday Night Beach Report --Even though it's now late Saturday night

Tonight was dinner with friends. Grilled lamb chops and shrimp. Rice. Squash. Sautéed mushrooms and onions with bacon jam. Fruit salad with a dressing made  of pinot noir, raspberry jam, and orange juice. Dessert was chocolate and prosecco. Last night's dinner was popcorn and leftover soup...because the sunset can just fill a person up.

Hollywood Beach beauty brought to you by the goddess of the sunset. She's quite lovely herself.