La Vida Mexico

…At The Inn At San Pancho

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The Beach At San Pancho

Consider the location of the beach – an easy five minute walk along San Pancho’s main street which ends at the Plaza with its statue of the village’s patron saint, Francis. Look over his shoulders, beyond his hands full of birds and blessings, and there it is:  a roiling open sea and a stunning mile-long stretch of white sand lined with palm trees.

 The river which runs through San Pancho empties into a lagoon where the birds — herons and frigates, pelicans and egrets — hang out. Stray horses can often be seen lounging around this estuary, nuzzling one another, occasionally snorting.  The peacefulness of the scene – there are only three small restaurants at its center, and except for a dozen or so houses, the beach is relatively undeveloped — is regularly shattered when a school of mahi mahi or red snapper or some other delectable fish swims by and all hell breaks loose in a frantic flurry of feathers and beaks and head-first diving.

Tourists look up from their margaritas, order more shrimp tacos and smile at the freedom, the vast delicious reeling freedom of the sea and the birds and the sail boat on the horizon.  Because the ocean here is ornery, calm one moment and tossing like the devil the next, the beach is rarely crowded.  At certain times of day, planned properly,  you might well be the only one watching the fishing pangas heading out or the curling crests of waves turning emerald in the gold light that falls when the sun takes its first peek over the mountains to the east.

San Pancho Beach, with a large rock cliff jutting into the sea at both ends, is as lovely as any I have ever seen. On the north headland, cunningly tucked between its massive boulders – easily climbed like a staircase -are tiny mini beaches, large enough for a Tommy Bahama chair and umbrella.  The view down its length to the mountains and distant bays to the south is the sort of miracle you don’t expect to find after a lifetime of middle-class wages and absent pensions.  

For most of us who live here, this beach was why we came.  Along with the jungle that covers  the surrounding mountains and the welcoming community of Mexicans who live here, the sea was a symbol of paradise found. We called the vultures buzzards and disregarded the unpaved streets, the ravenous summer bugs, the drug cartels.

Considering all of this, the short walk, the splendid destination, the solitary pursuit of nature at its best, why then do I not take more advantage of the reason I came in the first place? Why do I not go daily, twice daily, to the beach? What is the inertia which holds me in place, sitting on my veranda with my first cup of coffee, watching the sunset as I read my book or write in my journal –all things I could easily do on the beach just as easily?  

What is it in me – and us for I am not alone in this — that holds us back from embracing the joy that is barely five minutes away? Is it the walk? Though if that is the answer – the walk — why not drive? Perhaps, it is because it is getting too hot. I should have walked more in December and January, in February and March. But now, now after beautiful April, perfect April, I am in May and it is a particularly hot May.  Too hot to climb the rocks, too hot to sit and read under a yellow and white striped umbrella. It must be the heat, I think, as I consider why it is I do not go – the heat combined with the weight of the umbrella and the chair and the bag with the kindle and the water and the towel and the journal and the pen. 

In considering all this, I come at last to realize a pattern. There has always been enough – yes, yes, I know such a cliché – and I, crippled with anxiety and doubt and bills and children and divorces and accumulated resentments and miscellaneous annoyances, have not recognized the abundance at the edges of my life. More to the point – I often ignored the offerings, preferring the inglorious nature of survival over the rich stew of recognition.  Everything I needed and most of what I wanted has always been close by. And now the long-dreamed beach at the end of the main street is mine to have and I sit instead on the second floor veranda, peering through the foliage at a tiny slice of beach and pounding surf wondering why I am not up to my eyeballs in it.

This mind has a way of dealing with life which is deadly dull and complacent. And so I give notice: My name is Eileen, I live in San Pancho. I have ignored too much of what has been given. When I wake up on each of the next 30 days, I will consider how I can embrace the edges of my life as the Main Course.  Today, the beach; Tomorrow, the world.  The clock is ticking…


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Lost and Found

Now, I have a cat. A second cat. A four week or so old cat – a cat without a birth date and no means of support. Or, more to the point, I have a lost cat. Or, I lost the cat. He is not outside in the dense Mexican countryside where danger lurks around every palm tree.  He is somewhere in my 900 square foot house.  He is under something or over something, behind something or in something. His tiny little cat heart is pulsing and he is alive, I assure myself, as I look for him everywhere, and then look everywhere for him again five minutes later. I look in baskets, behind curtains, in cabinets and closets and bowls. Finally, I realize that the kitty must be dead. In between calling “here, kitty, kitty” like some demented old cat woman, I sit quietly letting my ears wander in and out of cracks and corners, searching for the high pitched chirp of Fabio who weighs less than 10 ounces and has a brain the size of a gabanza bean.

Cats can hide anywhere. They can disappear inside empty rooms. Burrow into mouse holes. Flatten themselves out as if ironed and vanish into walls. This is the difference between dogs and cats.  Find a dog that can hide and I’ll show you a cat who can whistle.   

I consider calling a cat whisperer I know in Marin Country  (where else?) but at $75 for a half hour Skype session, and a wavering belief in cat psychics, I worry instead. It is the least I can do. But worry, like hives, spreads from one small lost cat to the nuclear option.  In the end, this is all I can do – tell you a story of the cats in my life while in the back of my mind I listen for the smallest sound, the merest swish of fur against the tile floor.

Once upon a time, I was afraid of cats. In fact, I hated cats. My family hated cats. The whole neighborhood, possibly the entire country hated cats back in the 50s. It was said they were sneaky and carried germs and were not loyal and loving and smart enough to learn how to roll over and beg.  Cats were stupid.  Back in the 50s when kids had dogs and gold fish and while they lived, yellow chicks at Easter, no one owned a cat. No one I knew even thought about owning a cat. The boys in my   neighborhood swirled them around by their tails and threw matches at them when they weren’t busy kicking little girls’ shins. 

Out of that dark and triumphant decade of regimental thinking when America was tensing for world dominance, and my father was recovering from WWII, I developed many fears — atomic bombs, my next door neighbor Billy Miller, my mother, spiders, going bald, dying of cancer before high school and, as if all that was not enough – cats. Given this early distaste for them, it is odd how regularly cats continue to arrive on my doorstep. Strangers walk up to me with box loads of cats, friends beg me to take the best of the litter.  The world is full of skinny, homeless cats and until the beginning of my sixth decade I managed to refuse everyone who ever offered me one.

Since that time, however, I have, except for the lost kitty, accepted two cats into my life.  One came from a friend who was unable to continue taking care of it – a matter of having paid an inordinate amount of money for a brother and sister pedigree Terrier team trained in the art of killing felines.  Whiskey, named for her coloring, was a bulky Henry the III of cats, haughty, demanding and cranky. Like so many cats, she did not have a specific birth date, or even a birth year. Whiskey and I had a few disdainful years together, some of them in Mexico where Whiskey, an Inside Cat, spent much of her time sleeping, and the rest of it chowing down kibble. In her last years, she took to my bed, eating from her bowl on the night table, and only stirring herself to address the kitty litter every now and again.

Next came Beggar, another cat without a birth date, who showed up in the garden one morning and never left.  Having made it clear she would tolerate no incursion into her territory, Whiskey settled into old age gracefully while Beggar assumed the role of guard cat, patrolling the perimeters for hostiles.  I adapted to having an indoor and an outdoor cat. The seasons turned and Whiskey died and Beggar and I decided it was time to pursue an inside/outside relationship. He began sharing my bed at night, and continued clearing the property of snakes and rodents and geckos during the day.  Resting at night, prowling by day, Beggar has grown fat and wizened. Most guests fall for him rather dramatically, some even asking if, missing their own cat, they can sleep with him now and again during their stay. They feed him tuna and take his picture and Beggar is thrilled to oblige.

All has been well in the kingdom until Quinn, the gardener, arrived last week on Mexico’s Mothers’ Day with a Nike shoe box. Tucked inside, small enough to fit in a child’s sneaker was a pouf of white with big blue eyes and stand up ears.  I hustled him off that same day to the vet who dipped him for fleas and promptly snipped off the poor guy’s tiny cojones. 

Back home, the fat sassy guard cat was displeased. Well, to be honest, Beggar was enraged by the newcomer who, due to size and a vast sense of bravado, is temporarily an indoor cat.  Our once tranquil days and nights are full these days of squealing and hissing and someone-is-going-to-get-hurt wrestling. The kitten will not leave Beggar alone.  He will not stop gnawing on his tail or eating his kibble or flinging himself underneath his body looking for something to suck on. The other evening just before sunset I caught Beggar, seemingly at his wits end, looking into the gathering darkness as if about to end it all. Never have two males without balls fought harder to get into the bed of one old woman.

And now Fabio is lost and Beggar is begging as only he can to be let in and given his evening treat. I open the door, grab a can of tuna and scrape it into Beggar’s bowl. I feel a soft wet brush against my ankle and there he is – Fabio is back! He is not dead. He has been waiting for Beggar.  Inside, outside or otherwise, these two cats – the second and the third – are here to stay.