In my previous post, I talked about how a few of the women of Alamos, Sonora, Mexico planned to profile each of the fabulous women there and ask them to write the story of how they arrived in Alamos. Here is MY answer:
Curiosity. I’d always been curious. In Coquille High School biology, I asked, “How does the water get up the corn stalk?” She answered, “It’s God’s will.”
During rush week at University of Oregon, I asked, “How much is your mortgage?” My father had said, “The higher the mortgage, the less money for good food.” In those days, I was slender and hungry so I pledged a sorority with no mortgage.
In the early hours of labor with my first child, I wanted to know everything that was happening. “How long will this take? Is the baby’s heartbeat strong? Am I fully dilated?” My husband said, “You ask the doctor too many questions.”
At a party in the winter of 1988 in San Carlos, in the state of Sonora, Mexico, a guest said, “Well, if you like arches, you ought to go to Alamos. They have lots of arches.” So I climbed into my little yellow Toyota truck and drove three hours south to see them. I stayed at the Hotel Las Portales, listened to the flutter of doves, the murmur of women’s voices in the church, the clop-clop of horses’ hooves on cobbles. Curious, I walked in the early morning light and around a corner near the church, met my first gringa, Elizabeth Nuzum, who was carrying pastel plastic bags of fresh vegetables.
“I’ve just come from the Mercado,” she said, “and have to put away the food, but come at eleven o’clock and we’ll have coffee.” She answered my questions about Alamos. Later that day, I met Pat and Joe Axelrod in front of their home, had coffee with them, too, and told them, “You are so fortunate to have a house here.”
Pat said, “See that house over there? Here are the keys. Go have a look.”
I looked and fell in love with the tumble down structure held up by vines. I bought it over the phone, asked contractor Ben Anaya to make a new kitchen, fix the bathroom, replace the caved-in roof, and paint everything. Then I left for six months. On my way north to my home in San Mateo, California, I asked myself, What are you doing? You’re a 61-year-old-woman alone, don’t even speak the language, and you’ve bought a house in a foreign country.
In October, I returned, the truck loaded with kitchen equipment, a library table, chairs, a word-processor, and dreams. I would sit at the table to look out at the verdant garden – brilliant nasturtiums beneath the palm tree, orange and pink bougainvillea climbing the wall — and write. That was my romantic dream. For years, I’d wanted to write, but was too busy. One of my sons says I have had five careers: grade-school teacher, wife and mother, director of a tutoring center for dyslexic children, peace activist, and, at last, a writer.
Instead, I got married again and dreamed of both of us writing. Wrong. Not his dream.
Now, twenty-four years after I was first entranced by Alamos, I, single again, have realized another dream. To be myself. Just me. As is. Just be. Maybe to spend almost all day lying around guiltless and reading. To not know all the answers. To be curious. To let go of expectations. To believe that anything is possible.In Alamos I’ve had time to grow.
Among the expats who dare to live outside the familiar, with Mexicans who are sweet and polite to me, among rhythmic arches, and passionate music, I live and write my stories.
I wander along the narrow streets on errands, meet fabulous women, and they say, “Come. Sit down. Be with us. Let’s have lunch.”