La Vida Mexico

…At The Inn At San Pancho


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The Heart Of Darkness

The Heart of Darkness
He was young, the man sitting beside me on flight 821, perhaps 20, an awkward age, neither here nor there, confusing and perilous. This particular specimen was covered with piercings and tattoos. I do not use the word covered loosely. He dripped metal, shards of shrapnel hanging from eyebrows and nose and cheeks and lips. Kissing him would require true love or a gun to the head.

Black tear drops fell from his eyes – a sign of what? – sadness, incompletion, insanity.  The arms and hands – each knuckle a different letter, impossible to read because he talked with them to the young woman beside him who had managed to Zulu her ears.* In addition to this distortion she too had a fair amount of tats, particularly around the neck. In all other ways she seemed as normal as most serial killers. There were snakes and exotic flowers and vines twisting round and round the boyfriend’s arms, a heart or two, a woman’s face, a hand.  Jesus lord, none of it made any sense. The powerlessness of addiction can be a frightening thing to behold, particularly if you have a limited amount of space, i.e. having only the one body to work your stuff out on. Enter Zulu — a blank canvas of a co-dependent, a giggler of all things, light to his dark, joy to his confusion.

The guy’s graffiti was more like a swarm than a masterpiece. I could see little cohesion in the mishmash of images and words, but the globs of green and the snake and the vines indicated a Heart of Darkness theme. If he were a wall or a subway car, he would be close to the limit. I wondered what lay beneath his jeans, his black t-shirt. No underwear, I was sure. He was tall, thin, not particularly well built, even a bit gawky.
For a while, I lost skin contact when he started snuggling with Zulu. He had that gruff sort of male sarcasm young men fall into when they are feeling awkward. Joke love. Oddly sweet. Human. Who is this guy, I think, returning to the safety of the Kindle where words know their place. What would I write on myself. What image is important enough to surrender a piece my flesh to.

Strange phrases emerge conversations: A duck landed on the pool, I got sunburned at that funeral, Great report card, Happy Birthday, Ticket to Ride, One Day At A Time, The Silence Between The Notes. Would I like a butterfly at the tip of my spine, a parrot on the back of my neck, a son’s name on each ankle? Shall I name my husbands, list them in small letters on an upper thigh with start and end dates. But more than the WHAT  is the WHY? Why do people tattoo themselves? For attention? For Identity? For a Cause? For Love? Rage? Fear?

It was difficult to concentrate on Elizabeth Strout’s new novel with all the action going on beside me. I managed a page or two and then a woman, younger than me but still old, with that crimped gray permed hair thing going on, overweight, in a yellow t-shirt.

“How are you two doing on the custom forms?”

The couple emerged from their huddle.

“Okay,” the girl said merrily. Yes, merrily. Sorry, but this Zulu girl was one happy, merry stretched lobe sort of kid.

“Sure you don’t need any help?”

“We’re good mom,” he says.

Mom? Mom?

“Okay, Dad and I are back there if you need us.”

“My soon to be mother in law,” he says to me. “We are going to Vallarta to check it out for our honeymoon.”

Flight Zone Mode has been pierced. The door is open. I step through.

“It is a great place for a honeymoon,” I say. “Very romantic.”

“My first time out of the country,” he says. “I’m nervous. All that drug stuff going on.”

Zulu giggles.

“Perfectly safe where we’re going,” I say, and explain about the cartels killing each other off in places to the north and south of Vallarta.

“Yeah, but look at me.”

And this is the first time I do look at him full face, full body, neck, arms, hands, face, knuckles, fingers, ears, the whole disaster of him

“You’ll be fine,” I say, knowing if I was a customs agent, I would drag him off to the nearest holding cell.

“You think? I mean they might think I have drugs.”

“They are not worried about you bringing drugs in,” I explain. “They are looking for things they can put duty on, like electronics you might try to see, or fruits and vegetables. They’re very concerned about fruits and vegetables for some reason. I was pulled to the side once because of a black banana I’d  forgotten to eat. You have any of that stuffed in your luggage.”

“Nope.”

“Then you’re good to go.

No worries.”

The three of us, begin to chat. They sound eerily normally compared to how they look. He — no surprise —  is a tattoo artist by trade and she is his best customer, his muse-model.

As we are landing, his one hand holding hers, his other gripping the armrest (“I hate flying”), I see a short line of print at the edge of his t-shirt sleeve:
Truth Intimidates.

You can see me there in a pair of khakis with my flip flops off, a loose blue blouse, no makeup – plane-weary and wrinkled and suddenly aware of all that I do not know. Some flights are better than others.

*Earlobe stretching or ear gouging as well as implanting horns on your head and hanging by hooks in your flesh from great heights are both extensions of tattooing —  a darker attempt at pushing the edge of identity. A sacrifice of self to become more defined.  For more inform, check out How To Stretch an Ear Lobe in 8 simple steps on WikiHow.


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Two Homes, One Heart

When you live in two different countries, you either discover a knack for leaving or decide to stay put in one or the other.  Forget life coaches and self help books. You cannot learn how to turn off one life and turn on another as simply as that. You need to live through the experience over a course of time, strengthening emotional muscles and developing the patience for processing relationships.  In other words, you have to become less self-centered, less dependent on others, and more open minded. Mostly, you need to explore the idea of consciously creating your own and respecting the boundaries of others.

Imagine this: you board a plane with your freshly minted immigration card, and three hours and 1,000 miles later you are reading Splat the Cat and kissing a sweaty cheek which seems fuller than it was eight months before. The kids are taller, sassier, and do not have pjs with slippers built in. You will not have to change diapers this trip, or ever again. This makes you surprisingly sad. The last first day in kindergarten is three months away. There are no strollers in the garage, and all your grandchildren can roll their eyes, wink and count to 100. You are turning 70, and a decade of little hands reaching for yours in parking lots and crossing streets will be over by the next time you visit.

In three hours you go from managing a staff and welcoming guests at the Inn at San Pancho to reading bedtime stories and playing Shark in the pool. Even your language has changed from Spanish to English. You find yourself ordering coka lite and saying Hola and si and como estas.

Slipping in and out of lives is not at all like you imagined. In the beginning, it was wrenching. Goodbye, hello, goodbye, hello. When will I see you again? I miss you. I miss the kids. I miss the supermarket. I miss my house. I miss my cat. I miss my friends. The language of this life is heavy handed and there are days when you get teary eyed thinking of missed dance recitals and early mornings on the beach and watching movies with grandkids whispering in your ear. There are the dinners with your sons, the talks over mugs of tea with your daughters in law. And then there is Silvia, waking you each morning, going over which of the casitas needs new sheets, which tubs of laundry she should do first, whether or not next week’s guests will need an extra bed, the crib, a welcoming night dinner. There are so many people splashing in the pool of your life – a life which drifts like the sea back and forth, a tidal pool ever refreshing and new.

Eight years into shifting lives, I have come to treat departures and arrivals with less drama. It is time to leave, time to arrive. The reservations are made, the dates set. The angst is gone. The difference today, eight years after I moved to San Pancho,  is that I bring myself – the same self —  wherever I go. Schedules change and there may be more or less down time, longer days, shorter nights, less reading, more playing. But the me, the essential Eileen is all of a piece. I know that bringing love, I will receive it in return.  On the eve of my 70th birthday, I have come to believe that these later years are rather the best. Has life always been so generous, or am I just beginning to realize its vast dimensions now? Oh, dear, I am coming late to the real party, letting myself slide into the days, the changes, the arrivals and the departures as a whole person seeing life as a whole – a person who has enough of everything she needs to go on, comforting and comforted, deliciously, extravagantly alive. 


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HOW TO WATCH A SUNSET

An expat recently told me about a man in San Pancho who has watched “Every single sunset since he moved here.” 

San Pancho being a small village, I chose to say something kinder than “He’s lying,” but harsher than, “Really, is that possible?”

“He’s counting?” I finally asked.

I need to add a little perspective here. I love sunsets. I have loved them from the time I was a little kid. I loved them on every single vacation I ever took.  I did not bother with them much in my real life. I did not rush to the window to watch the sun set over my Hicksville, Long Island neighborhood or from the Berkshire river valley where I lived for the last 30 years.  Sunset watching takes time and location and, frankly, sun, which is rare in the northeast.

Of course, everything, including sunsets, changed when I moved to Mexico. Because the Inn at San Pancho sits on top of a hill overlooking the mountains and the Pacific Ocean, I can, with the exception of the bathroom, watch sunsets from every room in my small house. I watch them while I am reading and writing and peeling potatoes or floating in the pool or sitting on the beach. They are woven into my life and when I go north for the summer I miss them almost as much as I miss my friends and my cat.

Sunsets are like snowflakes and fingerprints – each one unique in its own one-time-only way. Some are quite ordinary, others biblical. Not every sunset  is a Tarantino.  There are sunsets when the sun is significantly larger than usual and you might almost believe something is seriously wrong with the universe. On other occasions the sun simply sets, no big deal. On those evenings, if you are not in the business of collecting them, you might skip the whole show and watch the news or make a salad for dinner.

And then there is The Green Flash phenomenon which I passionately pursued in every end-of-the-dock bar from St. Martins to Key West.  But it was not until I moved to Mexico that I finally had my first Green Flash moment.

“Green Flash this evening,” my neighbor said in the middle of a conversation about the more than 400 varieties of palm trees I could choose from when I was ready to start landscaping.  We were on the veranda at the time and the sun was free falling, picking up speed as it neared the surface of the sea splayed out before us.  

 “Really? How can you tell?”

“I’ve watched so many of them I pretty much know when it’s going to happen.”

“My God, I’m going to see The Green Flash.”

“Yes, I am pretty sure you are. They happen all the time down here. Watch, there it goes…”

The sun was a robust orange, rowdy and full of fire, as it slid into the Pacific. There was not a cloud in the sky.

”Yes! There!” he shouted. “Did you see it?”

“I saw something, like a green pulse and then it was gone. I must have looked away for an instant.”

“No…no….that was it.”

That  was The Green Flash.”

He nodded. “Yup.”

“Tell me it’s not always like that. Tell me this was a below average Green Flash.”

“No, that’s mas o menos how it always is.”

For all people who have yet to see a Green Flash, who are actually standing on beaches and mountaintops around the world, waiting to see it, you are wasting your time. The Green Flash is not a flash, nor is it a streak of green lightening shattering the sky. It is so nothing that it is difficult to describe. It is perhaps the color of a half ripened lime and visible for a microsecond. That is it. This is the truth.

Like the man who counts sunsets, the man who puts a notch on his Ray Bans every time he witnesses a green flash is not so much watching as he collecting.

When I came to Mexico it was difficult not to pick every beautiful flower I saw.  If it was yellow I saw it in the kitchen, a spray of red bougainvillea in the living room, a lily for the bedroom. There was such an abundance of flowers – all so exotic. I wanted them in my house, in my garden. But there are only so many vases, so many square meters of soil in which to plant.

I moved into the Inn at San Pancho, and each night as I watched the sunset  I reminded myself that whatever had gone wrong  during the day – and something always went wrong – it paled in comparison to the rage of orange and pink and red swirling across the horizon. Each night I took a photo of the sunset, capturing it as I had earlier plucked the flowers. I did not want either to slip through my fingers as I believed so much else in my life already had.

I cannot pinpoint when I stopped collecting flowers and sunsets as if my world was going to run out of them. I only became aware of not having done so for a long time a couple of years ago when I was with a group of friends from the states eating burritos at my favorite beach restaurant, La Playa. I was watching what was turning into a spectacular sunset and about to announce the possibility of there being a green flash, when the woman next to me tapped me on the arm.

“Look, look at this,” she said, holding the screen of her IPhone up. The sun was doing stuff with the clouds and the whole horizon was changing colors from one moment to the next but I turned to look at the camera anyway. It was a very good photo of exactly what was going on the second before I turned away from reality to look at the image. She had caught the sunset perfectly, right down to the salmon colored sea. “Great shot,” I said and turned my face back toward the sunset just in time to see a tiny green spark disappearing beneath the sea.

Life is contrary and unexpected.  The chances of anyone managing to catch every sunset are relatively thin. One would have to set their minds to it, as you would to any challenge. One would have to rush home from Costco or a friend’s house, leave the pots simmering on the stove, the laundry to wrinkle in the dryer, the phone to go unanswered. One would have to tell the plumber he could come back tomorrow to fix the leak, and the cats could wait to be fed, the dog to be walked because THE SUN WAS SETTING AND THERE COULD BE A GREEN FLASH! For some of us that is simply too big of a commitment.
Sunsets are not collectibles …they are not coins or stamps and you cannot hang them on your walls or keep them in a safe deposit box. They are the gift which reminds us on a daily basis that we are part of something too vast to contemplate.

10 Tips On How To Watch A Sunset

  1. Don’t get there too early. Arriving 15 to 20 minutes before the show is time enough.
  2. Wear sunglasses
  3. Bring insect repellent – you are not the only sentient being waiting for the sun to go down
  4. Watch it alone
  5. Watch it with friends
  6. Don’t brag about the sunset; it is not yours just because you watched it
  7. Bring a camera but limit yourself to how many photos you are willing to take; otherwise you will miss the real sunset
  8. Do not expect to see a Green Flash – you are liable to be disappointed even if you do see one.
  9. Send up a prayer, a hope, a message, a thank you
  10. When there are clouds in the sky, the sunset might only be a preview of the show to come. Be patient. Don’t leave before the miracle. 


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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. 


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What It’s Like Now

Light — at the heart of everything we see and always impossible to describe – is what woke me this morning.  Not just any old morning light. Imagine a light strong enough to wake you up. It was silver and had no edges, cast no shadows. It was just light, there in the room, like a piece of furniture. All three bedroom windows were open and a strong sea breeze, powerful enough to knock over my granddaughter Cassie’s picture on the bureau, swirled through the room and turned waking into spectacle.  I hesitate to use the word nature – so overused, as in “I like nature” – but truly you don’t expect nature to walk in, wake you up and take over your bedroom. At least I don’t.

But there they were the two of them, the splendid light and the swift, cool breeze blowing around the inside of my house. Not a hurricane, you understand, but a damned stiff wind. The white curtains were sailing toward the ceiling and the sheets were rising off the bed, and I tell you this was nature doing a jig. I heard something fall in the kitchen.  

Eventually, the luminous light evaporated and light itself became less of a presence as if a stranger had come and settled down for a brief rest – it being so blustery out – and then faded away.

Meanwhile, I am still in bed with the breeze drifting over me. To my right at the far side of the village I see a sliver of beach and a ravaged surf, white caps, one lone white sail. To the south, at the end of my bed, the Primervera tree — blossoms mostly gone — is swaying like an old gypsy at the end of a party. Beyond it, the mountain climbs crookedly toward a bluing sky.  The east window is a wall of foliage —  dead leaves dark as winter rivers,  others the spring green of five minutes ago. The bully wind is having a bit of fun with two yellow butterflies and the mountains you pass through on the way to Guadalajara are lavender.

Though astonishing, I don’t mean to suggest this blend of wind and light was a miracle in the way of the Lady of Guadalupe or the parting of the seas. My waking was not so much spiritual as it was spirited. I am still here in bed several hours later with the wind and the memory of the light, feeling quiet in a lively sort of way, and trying to describe the light ….and what it’s like now.


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What Happened…Stage Five (Part Two)

What Happened….Stage Five (Part Two)

You memoir is unbalanced.  You do not, as an editor suggested, have a theme. Without a theme — this so called thread that has the heavy work of carrying your entire memoir on its back – your book wanders all over the place like a garden snake, twisting from one cluster of events to another, seemingly at random and without purpose.  The memoir does not have the arc every successful story needs:  What It Was Like, What Happened, What It Is Like Now. But you have no discipline and you are reluctant about paring the memoir down, indecisive of what should go and what should stay (Mom: “You don’t know what you want.”)

 Consider the numbers:

 —   32 jobs loosely spread over nine career paths.

—   24 moves across several states and three countries.

—   Two sons, four grandchildren, the two best daughters-in-law in the world.

—   Four divorces, three broken engagements, a few encounters that need not fit into the memoir of a 70 year old woman who has found her own brand of redemption, and is grateful for these few secured borders.

—  A bit of college – a bit of three colleges, in fact. (Mom: “I warned you.”) and a graduate (1963) of Claremont Secretarial School (Motto: “Hat, Hose, Heels, and Gloves”). Three writing retreats, a couple of weekend workshops. Life.

— 10 years sober since one hell of a nasty Mother’s Day in May 2002

 

 

You look at the statistics of your life, the hundreds of people and decisions and events they represent and a memoir seems impossible. You begin reading snatches of it here and there, realizing over a period of months that this is the wrong book. You also admit there may not ever be a book. Last summer at a Natalie Goldberg workshop at Kripalu Center in Lenox, MA, you learned that process is equally, or possibly even more important than the end result. You found great relief in this new perspective: Life as process, writing as process, you as process.

 

You continued writing and one day, who remembers when, you began thinking about a blog. Thanks to your mother and Natalie and AA, you realized you needed a structure – okay, a discipline – to embrace the process. The framework of the blog offered just such a solution. The blog would nudge you along on busy and challenging and lazy days.  It would allow you to move freely about, writing short to mid-length posts which had their own beginning, middle and end, while not necessarily directly relating to the whole. Your life, your blog, will refresh — reflect — each other.

 

You think about the fisherman on Lake Patzcuaro hurling his hand woven empty net over the dawn-chilled water; hauling it back in hand over hand at sunset full of wet-squirming, pop-eyed fish. The fisherman will not keep all the fish. He will cull through them with rough hands, choosing which he wants for himself, which he wants to sell and which he will toss back into the dark waters of the lake.  This is how you see your life – your real life, your life as memoir, your life as a disparate whole, cohesive only because you are the container for all the stories whether remembered or forgotten. Like the fisherman you will choose which stories to tell, which stories to sell, and which stories to keep for yourself.