I’m rubbing my finger down the patterned, table runner I bought in Mexico City on my birthday 2 years ago. I turned 51 then. It’s fuchsia and royal blue and orange and green, woven with hands. It’s exactly what I had wanted. I had taken Maya to Mexico City as a graduation present, when she finished Cal State Monterey Bay, the first of anyone in my family to walk the stage and earn a degree. It was a huge deal. The trip coincided with my birthday. And it was the trip of a lifetime. I can’t wait to parcel out details of that trip, but on my birthday, we went to a craft mart with kiosks. It was empty because we had gotten there early. The linoleum tiles shined and all the blankets and clothing were tightly folded, and the bags and plates and glasses were neatly arranged. There was a faint smell of floral disinfectant. But it felt like we shouldn’t’ve been there -- like, was this mart any good because we were the only ones there? But, like I said, it was early.
Vendors stepped to us immediately as we passed. I spied their goods quickly, avoiding eye contact; we mainly kept it pushing, speeding through the mart quicker than we had expected. I was losing my patience until we slid into a large kiosk. The woman behind the counter said hello, but didn’t move so I took my time in there. And I found the runner. It’s handmade so it was expensive, comparatively. I’ve been told that when shopping at kiosks, one is expected to negotiate. But I imagined a woman making this by hand and what? I was going to haggle for sport without thinking about callused finger tips and hurting backs and hopes of good sales? I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I didn’t want to play the back-and-forth game. The vendor, with a neat helmet of a hairdo, told me the price and I said, “Bueno, gracias,” and handed her the runner to ring up. Maya said to the woman, “It’s her birthday today.” And the woman looked at Maya who said, “She’s my mother,” and the woman took 20% off, equally sad for my lack of negotiation skills and touched by Maya’s desire to speak up for her mother. The runner has been on my table ever since.
During that trip, the day before my birthday, we climbed the Pirámide del Sol in Teotihuacan. The volcanic steps were not easy to climb; two-thousand-year-old, precisely-cut steps that were narrow and daunting, laced with a thin rope as a railing. We were huffing in an altitude of eight thousand feet. And yet, grandmas in skirts and sandals made their way up in slow and steady steps, assisted by the elbow on steps that were two feet high because this was a passageway to a spiritual portal. We felt that. We plodded up the ancient pyramid. At the top, after the tourist’s instinct to take silly or smiley photos, we just stood and took in an energy beyond our understanding, standing on a city that -- beyond the fantastical facts of living sacrifices that seem to foreshadow all other facts -- was so sophisticated, not just terms of engineering and technology-- well before the Greeks and Romans -- but where their spiritual sophistication laps us a thousand times. Most indigenous people inherently pull to the forefront the godliness of nature. It was evident here with the hundred carvings and paintings of animals and birds and plants and insects. The names of gods and goddesses were of Nature itself! We are not above that or more important than them, as humans. We are from that. We are that, for gods sake.
We thought of our ancestors up there; our dead, our guides, our protectors, without trying to conjure them. They just came and comforted us and made us feel light and overwhelmingly safe like this was a big surprise to us when -- we forgot -- it happens all the time.
In Teotihuacan, butterflies are thought to be akin to the soul. Obvious metaphors for rebirth, reincarnation, transformation are present. But also, they are thought to be relatives to dead warriors; protectors. The first time I was on the Pirámide del Sol with Julio two years before, I saw no butterflies.
But standing there with Maya, many copper and black beauties made their erratic and circular routes over and around us. It seemed astonishing. They seemed miraculous. And our heads bobbed and flitted trying to keep up with their flight pattern. Maya tried to capture them with a photo as they toyed with us. Finally, I stopped trying to track them and just watched them dance above Maya, circling her; or falling towards her and then darting up. My beautiful woman-child was being blessed with transformation.
This is all to say, hi. It’s been 10 years since I blogged here. And I suppose if I make this regular again, I’ll be nostalgic about the last 10 years, the years I didn’t write about much -- some, but not much. I feel like a different person now, but it seems my themes are still the same. I’m missing a lot of things right now, but I am suddenly missing this connection; stitching us together with words and you relating to them in your own way. Mainly, I hope you’re well.