Friday, November 2, 2007

Here and There, Both Perfect

Some days are just so damn beautiful that they'll break your heart. Today has been one of those. One of those perfect fall days with cool air and sunlight pouring out of a blue sky to paint all the leaves in silver.
Ah. It's enough to just be alive today.
And as my son pointed out in his most recent blog Thursday's Child Has Far To Go at , changes in the weather can throw us into deep nostalgia for places we've been, things we've done. Fall especially, I think, has a natural tendency to do that. It's a time when we start to draw into ourselves more, to think and to feel.
My son thinks of Atlanta when the weather turns cool but I think of Cozumel, Mexico. Sometimes, the brush of cool air, the way it smells on these early fall mornings, throws me completely back to that small island in the Caribbean where my husband and I have spent so many anniversaries. Our first trip there was in 1987 and since then, we've probably been back eight times. More or less. Mas o menos. I can close my eyes and see the little town of San Miguel, smell the garlic grilling as supper time approaches, feel the sidewalk under my feet, hear the sounds of mopeds, the waves hitting the shore, the bread man banging a metal pipe to announce his wares as he pedals his cart along the street, see the way the sea goes from green to blue to violet, all of it crystal clear, like a fabulous jewel, and I can taste the Ixnepech, the ubiquitous fresh salsa that tastes perfect on everything from the morning's eggs to the evening's fresh snapper. Most of all, I can see the Mayan people, small and brown and always smiling, ever-patient and gentle, always eager to talk about their island and their families, always curious about where we live, always eager to help in any way.
Cozumel is my magic place. It is the place in the world that besides my own home, I feel safest and most in love with my husband. Every one of our trips there has been a honeymoon. There isn't a whole lot to do beyond snorkle and explore and watch the sunset. And it's such a small island- thirty three miles long, eight and a half miles wide. It was sacred to the Mayan goddess Ixchel, who was the goddess of childbirth, the sea, the moon, seashells and weaving. Mayan women were expected to make a pilgrimage there during their lifetime and I guess I've made enough trips there for several lifetimes, but somehow, it's never enough.
I have to admit that the over the course of twenty years, the island has changed considerably, mostly due to the fact that it's become a port of call for cruise ships. Don't get me started on that subject. Just...don'
When we first visited, it was still a sleepy place, a diver's destination, "discovered" by Jacques Cousteau. It was, and still is, a place where actual families lived, where people worked and lived and raised their children. And oh, what beautiful, so-obviously loved children!
But since the cruise ships have taken over, so much of the island seems geared to catch the folks vomited off those monstrous boats as they take their six hour shore leaves and sell them jewelry, cheap trinkets, Kahlua, and T-shirts, and send them back drunk on bad tequila. The cruisers love to eat at places they know so Ruby Tuesdays and Margaritaville do booming businesses while the restaurants that families own and which have served delicious meals to thousands for decades stand empty.
Oh yeah. I got started.
I'm sorry. That's not what I meant to write about. What I meant to write about is how this time of year, my heart yearns to go back there, cruisers or not, to feel that soft air blow over my body, to walk down the seafront and say "Buenos tardes" to the people we pass in the evening and to hear them say it back to me. I want to go to the Zocalo on Sunday night and watch the families dressed in their best, walk around the square and dance and eat and I want to hear their voices. I want to stand on a balcony with a drink of rum in my hand and my husband by my side to watch the sun go down. I want to hear the liquid notes of the Mexican blackbirds as they gather at dusk and call their contentment with the day. I want to watch the lights come on across the water at Playa del Carmen. I want to see images of the Virgin of Guadalupe everywhere and hear the street musicians play the Cozumel song.
I guess I want to make another pilgrimage and I know it won't happen this year.
But I know it's still there. I know that time and even cruise ships can't destroy all that magic.
But I yearn, oh how I yearn! Even as I am content to be exactly where I am, there is a part of me that is there, right now, this very second. That part is wearing a dress and silver earrings and she is discussing with her husband where they should eat their supper. She is smiling. Oh, how she is smiling! And she is happy.


  1. And to think I live in Merida much of the year and haven't been to Cozumel! I guess because of the "don't get me started" stuff. If you want to make a serious pilgrimage this month, I'll pick you up on my way to Merida by car -- just as soon as the road in Tabasco is open. Oh, those poor people in that awful flood!! :(

  2. Yes, I've been reading about that flood. The Mexican government seems to be better at helping its people during such crisis than ours does, however. Which will NOT bring back the dead, of course.
    Wow. The thought of driving to Merida and then heading to Cozumel...
    Well. Wow. I am so overwhelmed at the thought. What would my family do without me for Thanksgiving though? Oh Lord, Lopo, I feel as if I've been dared (and scared).

  3. Ooops. I forgot about the Thanksgiving thing. Yeah. It would be weird to leave them on Thanksgiving. Walt is going to be disappointed if I'm not in Merida by then, but I can hardly blast through a closed road, right??

  4. Man I am jealous! Sounds so peaceful & nice - can't wait to go visit it...

  5. CME- you would love it there. I think. I get so homesick for Cozumel. It's almost weird.

  6. I feel the same way about Zhijahtenjo. Funny how a place can captures a piece of our hearts.


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