Elections in El Salvador; the Will of the People

March 2, 2015

Elections in El Salvador; the Will of the People

There is, no doubt, that the American media has reported that there were elections held in El Salvador yesterday, Sunday, March 1.

The polls here in Puente Arce were closed early because two women were fighting! The rest of the family went early to the high school up the block and around a corner to vote but George was too late mostly because he focused his attention most of the day on the store room where we organized and categorized my load to be re-packed in the van.

There is a little more to the story, of course. George has been making all the moves necessary to get an official driver’s license. It has meant already two trips to Santa Ana on the motorcycle which takes about a three hour round trip and the bureaucratic hoop jumping added in. On the second trip, he learned that he would have to get a newer birth certificate.

It was necessary to make a trip to the other side of El Salvador to the mountains near the Honduras border. Nefta, his 70 year old father, Deanna, an 18 year old cousin and he went on the bus beginning their all day trip about 3 in the morning to his birth place where his family once lived several generations on the land.

What George learned filled in a lot about his very early life and the life and times of his father and mother. Seems they once owned much land in this area. When the Sandanistas began their pillaging of the people and when the resistance of the guerillas, the people righteously affronted by the criminality of that regime, set the whole of the state aflame both figuratively and in some places literally, it became necessary to flee.

Seems George discovered that his dad is a hero to many people. As they walked through the town there to do their business, there were many people who recognized the now much older Nefta and came to greet him. He is revered because he literally provided transport and money for them to leave, often with nothing but their lives, their children and the clothing on their backs. He brought them here to Puente Arce where there they have been able to begin again to build a town simply through a lot of hard work and the come unity spirit that lives in them to help each other.

So the personal family history forms a side bar to the elections going on across the state and the gathering in the high school cut short by contentious ladies acting out.

I do not know the official outcome but I am certain that the guerilla factions that formed a political party have prevailed once again and the will of the people rises to support their efforts.

The result is a united country. People support and help each other. All the family system is supported and everyone is housed, everyone eats, everyone shares the work that is needed to make it all be what it becomes. Here, when George brings home a fee from his work assisting English speaking people to navigate the border, there is food for everyone, even the stranger in the alley who is another one of the family for a while. This is their culture.

Be yea mindful of strangers in your midst, for you may be entertaining angels

Participation, the Short Version

Part One: Pay yourself First

My personal story begins in 1979 when I attended a ‘Prosperity Seminar” given by John Roger.

His teaching was simple: Pay yourself first by tithing (10%) to the God Force living within you/me. Separate 10%, 10 cents of every dollar, one dollar of every 10; 10 dollars of every one hundred and keep it in a sacred stash (not in the bank.)

The basic idea is that in order to empower yourself, your natural creativity, your natural generosity, your natural magnanimity, it is necessary to do that with sacred money; money not related in any way to the private bank’s fiat money.

Even though we are using that fiat currency, when we separate it from the ‘system’, as soon as we declare it sacred, it becomes our personal empowerment.

At the time, I placed the tithe I had in a small cotton bag and wore it in the front of my jeans at my naval. People came to me to pay me back the courtesy loans I had made to them. People also asked more often for my services and I discovered that I was actually bringing in much more money than I thought.

Over time, this method has kept me solvent: I have never again been broke. And I always had money to fulfill my purpose whether it was a new set of tires, a special educational seminar, to offer a sacred gift to a person I saw as worthy of generosity or for a special concert or event, or relocating myself to another part of the world.

 

Part Two: There are two ways to interpret the rules of the game.

So, what’s the game? Play to Win! Of course!

But what is going on in the world of money is that the game is set up so that most of the players are not supposed to win: only the banks are supposed to win. Every time we use the bank, we are giving it power over us and over our lives.

Isn’t it time to stop playing by their rules?

At a seminar given by one John Kalench, I learned that there are two ways to interpret the rules of the game.

The way we play, one by one, empowers the bank of take our money and keep us broke so we believe we need the bank.

However, when we cooperate together to play, we empower ourselves so that all of us can achieve a perfect score. I liked that idea!

 

Part Three: Here is how it works

Imagine a group of people in our town coming together to form a sacred circle of power, a circle of people declaring themselves sovereign, responsible and accountable. When we gather together in such a circle, the God Force is both in us and with us and our resources can be found in the empty center of our circle. When two or three are gathered together, there I AM.

Each of us then dedicates ourselves to bring a tithe of our earnings daily to our circle and to place this money into a sacred stash to accumulate for the good of all of us.

By pooling our small resources, they become large until we have a great deal of power to do good for ourselves, for our families, for all of our people. And we teach everyone we know to participate with us as we grow. By pooling our small resources, they become large until we have a great deal of power to do good for ourselves, for our families, for all of our people. And we teach everyone we know to participate with us as we grow.

When we do this in a cooperative way: everyone places their sacred money into a group stash this is the beginnings of a PUBLIC bank.

A public bank is defined by the people who are the bank, who make their own rules to operate their bank. By pooling the sacred stash, a great deal of financial power can be accumulated in quite a short time.

It is a spiritual truth, that everyone knows what is needed and wanted for their lives, and everyone knows what they personally can do to achieve their natural life.

Every group of people, by forming a sacred circle of sovereign power, has the intelligence, the energy and the creativity to govern their lives and to provide for themselves and their families.

 

Part Four: Participation

Because of the way the game is set up by the private banks, everyone competes often times even with their friends and neighbors, with all their people. This competition serves the bank to keep us all broke with the money they make scarce, with money they manipulate worldwide to create debt, and which enslaves individuals and whole nations to their debt.

All we have to do to prove this statement is to check out the situations in various countries around the world who are beholden to the International Money Fund which is, yup, another private bank!

How can we participate in the world according to our best ideal? How may we serve the Peace among us, among our people if we are playing the biggest game in our lives, according to some one else’s rules?

Is this not a formula for failure, for despair, for running on empty in the endless squirrel cage?

It has been for me a lifelong, sacred task to educate myself. None of the teaching I got as a young female child convinced me to depend on men for my life, or my identity. In 1957, when I was only seventeen, I began to make personal decisions about the people and the world I was living in. I could never fit into the program that was being offered as it would have been, in my view, a spiritual compromise to become the kind of person they wanted me to be.

As I have grown up over time, I have worked out for myself what was really going on in my world. I listen deeply to people, I listen to how they talk about themselves and their lives, I listen to how they identify themselves and how they make their way given what they can understand.

I began to understand how the small games worked and I also began to understand how the world game works. In terms of real human potential, that is a really small game!

None of us is supposed to win. There are elements now in our world who seek the destruction of 90% of the world peoples. They do that my telling us there are too many of us here.

If we gave every single person of the billions there are, ¼ acre on which to live on the continent of Australia, there would still be about 20% of the land mass left. There are not too many people in the world. We have a natural right to live, we have a spiritual right to thrive. We do not need permission from anyone to help ourselves. We do not need permission from anyone to do what is right, either.

This teaching is about empowering each other to thrive. I invite you all to participate to win the peace we all crave. It is really hard to recycle bombs! Why not make them and all those really bad games, obsolete?

If it isn’t you, who? Is it isn’t now, when.

P.S.  It is always now.

Puente Arce, El Salvador: typical and untypical town

February 25,2015

Blog: Puente Arce, El Salvador: typical and untypical town

Puente Arce is a border town between El Salvador and Guatemala: in this it is untypical. The main street is always crowded with big trucks coming and going. There are local buses that go to Cara Sucia and onward both south to San Salvador and east to Sonsonate and Santa Ana. There is some traveling auto traffic and there are plenty of local peoples’ Japanese cars and pick-up trucks adding to the congestion, along with pedestrians and a host of uniformed border guards with their camo mufti, belts, and guns in their hands that stand more of less behind the barriers surrounding the border.

The town is laid out on either side of the main highway. With approximately 9000 people here, each section is easily more than a square mile in extent. This family live on the east side and our dirt street is off the main street which is perpendicular to the highway and right at the barriers of the border crossing. Left turn out of the crossing to the street with the hot spot, several comida that open to the street, a couple houses and then left turn again to our alley, up two blocks and this is home.

The other side of the town seemed to be more a traditional Hispanic town as I saw it when we went over there to the funeral. The streets are paved with stones, there is a creek running through to the river, a bridge and tall trees, gardens and a few of the Spanish style homes inside tall cement walls with wide iron gates.

Up the road about 2 miles is Cara Sucia a somewhat larger town which is mainly a market town with ferreteria, farmacia, mercado, franchise chicken places and a host of local restaurants, banks and offices on the second floors of the buildings lining the streets. The whole place is busy with people walking about, with motor taxis coming and going, with the crowded mercado laden with food, clothing of various descriptions, tools, kitchen equipment and just a lot of stuff.

Instead of coming all the way down into the thick of Puente Arce on our way home, we turn right up the paved and curbed road about three blocks short of the border, up a short hill, up and over between rows of homes, tree covered vacant lots, and empty lots which graze goats. Further along on the right is the school, a single story row of windowed buildings with an enclosed soccer yard in front. Always there are bunches of kids hanging around that seem mostly middle and high school age. They wear white shirts, blue skirts or pants while at school and lots of colorful variety after hours.

The other roads on this side are more or less a grid and only a few are paved which really means that once upon a time there was a cement surface now pitted, cracked and treacherous enough to keep us moving at about 4 ½ miles an hour. There is time to watch and observe especially since George does the driving. I cannot say I have any real idea of the layout of the town because there are angled streets, short streets, dirt tracks that end in the bush of a field and even a dead end which we slipped past.

When we come sometimes in the evenings, with the lights on in the houses, I can see through the openings of windows with their decorative iron bars.

Many homes have plastered, pastel painted walls and smooth cement floors which are kept immaculate with the traditional broom and mop applied daily. I see interesting furniture: wardrobes with mirrors, dinner tables and chairs, sofa chairs and just about everywhere hammocks for cool dreaming are strung to stanchions riveted into the walls. All these things are in one large quite gracious room sometimes hung with family photographs in frames. Sometimes there are large fabric partitions hung from wire above sectioning off the sleeping areas or the open closets. Kitchens are basic stove top grills, a bank of cupboards with a cutting surface and other stands for pots and pans, dishes and utensils. The brick ovens are constructed outside on the verandas for cooking outside.

The homes have open windows or bars across spaces as this tropic zone is warm in the dry season, hotter and more humid in the wet season. It is a life quite comfortably lived outside and under the roof.

The homes in the whole area have been built rather like small fortresses with cement walls; cement and brick enclosed courtyards, each separate from the other and often taking up the entire space of the ‘lots’. It is an eclectic mix of creativity as each builder, each family have made their place as they wish it to be. Each neighbor has taken his space next along the streets. In the more outlying areas, there are open lots with grazing animals, some with what look like wells, set in a natural forest of native trees. Some of the courtyards are made into gardens that are charming green enclosures with bougainvillea and hibiscus bushes, the color of geraniums arched over with tropical almond with their wide green leaves for thick shade.

Each person’s home is his castle. Everyone enjoys their privacy and the neighbors never would imagine to ask for less noise, never would make a fuss about a dog, or the speakers booming when the church people sing Saturday all day and Wednesday  evening. People sit on their porches, and hang on their hammocks. People walk up and down, visit, speed past on bicycles, generally just having a pleasant time.

Everything is going on in this town. The chickens hunt along all over the dirt for their food. They produce eggs with the most hardy shells I have ever eaten. Goats graze along the tracks, in the lots and Papa takes ours down to the river to drink. Even tall wired fences do not keep them from their leafy morsels. They eat all the vegetable peelings. There is a man with two large white oxen who set them in traces to pull his wagon loaded with 55 pound sacks of grain and bales of hay grown just up the road. I look out the window the van where I am writing to see them lumbering up the alley and turning the corner.

Life is what is happening when we are busy making other plans!

When I have taken myself to the hot spot, I noticed a sweet old lady with a bandage on her wrist. It was pretty obvious she could use some help so I stopped and sat with her to do some acupressure that soon put her to sleep while easing the pain and giving a boost to the healing. One lady who, with daughters, has a comida, broke her leg riding on her motorcycle. It was a good surgery done by doctors trained in Cuba as part of the medical outreach sponsored by that country. I sat smiling with her and did some simple acupressure; the ache in the bones was eased and inner healing promoted. These people are hardy and they are strong. We soon become friends. The old lady there and the white haired dear up our alley sit together. We just hug and smile.

The heart always knows.

There is great charm here and a lot of contentment. Even the young kids who are school age are friendly, kind to their fellows and hearty at the soccer game. Many people have bicycled wheeled carts and cruise the town offering fresh cut fruit, tortillas, and various interesting local cuisine for sale.

Dear friends, there is life here and it is definitely human friendly. The men have a cultural honor inbuilt that causes them to stand well in their shoes. This grandfather here has been with his wife since they were in high school and their family has thrived in their love and tenderness. This is a wholesome culture.

The rumors and the bad news that is heard in the American media is an element that is somewhat separate from the life of the people. The state police have check points along the road that make sure, for instance, that customs and immigration have passed my van. They inspect trucks especially when there is intelligence of large cocaine shipments and the border officials supported by the army are vigilant because the border attracts criminal activity. So the shit does happen but it is in a much larger circle of energy rather more remote than in the close enclaves of this small town or among the local people.

It is not ‘news’ here: it is on the news where you are for another kind of reason.

The people take care of each other. When one of them ‘has’, the whole family has whatever is needed and wanted. When a female person leaves her home, she is accompanied by a family member be it down the block, to the town or wherever it is she wishes to go. They were very concerned that I was traveling alone: where is your family, where is your brother, they wanted to know.

It is in this tradition that George has decided to accompany me on my way to Panama and he may very well come all the way to Ecuador. Our paths have merged while I have been sitting here in the red dirt alley in Puente Arce, El Salvador. I feel blessed and cherished. How wonderful is that?

Ready, Set, Almost a Go

FEBRUARY 24, 2015

BLOG: Ready, Set, Almost a Go

I do not think I will envy the tourists who take themselves on exotic cruises on those enormous ships. It might be great for some to have a printed menu in their hands before they leave the safety of their own back yard. It may be okay to know exactly which day is to be Papua, New Guinea and at which hour there will be dinner on the terrace of the local palace.

For some, this is the ideal and for all of this, they pay handsomely for the privilege.

Although parts of this great journey have been a little harrowing, other parts have been exotic, charming and truly beautiful. The meals I have enjoyed on the terraces have been offered by willing hands from cooks with the skill that is accrued by feeding their own kind of local cuisine to many numbers of people over the years before I even sat at their tables.

I have been in El Salvador now for about a month. It has turned into a patchwork of the times: getting grounded once again with money from travelers cheques has proved to be so far a long, terribly long waiting game. It is not yet sorted out and we wait on the bank.

Other aspects of this trip have been uplifting and very creative, lots of fun and a exploration of a culture, a family of dear people, a new friend and, of course, the one who never leaves: me. My friend, George, proves every day something more of his skill.

While we have been waiting on money to flow, yesterday George serviced the van, changed the oil, checked the transmission, brake fluid, hydraulic fluids and emptied the radiator to refill it with anti-freeze and water, and replaced a bolt in the bottom of the engine where it was leaking oil. Deanna here took the cleaning rags to double clean the doors and windows on the inside and while the doghouse was off in the front, cleaned out the floor readying it for what will need to be stashed there when we begin once again.

So, this is a short piece that will have a lot of feeling packed in that we will now be able to proceed on the next step. George will go to Santa Ana two different days to get a proper driver’s license. We will sort, organize and make a list of the contents of the van and translate it to Spanish for the border crossings to come. We will do some welding inside the van to make a hook for a hammock where George will be able to sleep and make a pair of hooks to lash the clothing rack up-right where all the clothes may be hung and covered. And the rest of the van will finally be packed, the hitch and spare tire locked in place on the rear.

Then there will a great moment when we will begin again forward to Ecuador after a stop in San Salvador to the Canadian Embassy to let them know I am traveling. Then we take a trip to Panama.

Long time ago as a kid, one old friend of my mum’s who was in the navy made a stop in Panama and brought me a wire doll dressed in a tropical outfit with a woven palm leaf hat on her head: I called her Panama Hattie. We are on our way!

 

Fisher Folk, the beach in El Salvador

February 21, 2015

BLOG: Fisher Folk, the beach in El Salvador

I have some fantasies that come along with becoming a ‘divine older woman’, one of them is that, even though I am always willing to drive wherever I wish to go, having someone else drive is wonderful. I get to go where I would not usually go especially in a foreign country where I am not so familiar with the roads and the destinations.

My friend George who found me at the border here of El Salvador has taken over the driving. This includes navigating the alley where the van is parked and the destinations that are near here. On one of our trips to Cara Soucia, our planned stop at Western Union was stopped by a cranky computer, so I said after we had found some fruits and veggies at the local mercado, let’s go to the beach!

The highway was paved until the final turn off at the playa where we turned to a sand and dirt packed road that wound around the evergreen mengle forest, around the houses and yards, around the coco palms and the bougainvillea bushes draped over the stone walls and eventually around a playa beach camp until we came to the shore of the estuary that opened to the Pacific surf and beyond.

As we passed we came upon what can be described as a perfect ‘South Pacific” type fishing village gathered under a series of thatched roof huts, behind jetties planted in the muddy sand of the river estuary to accommodate the wide tidal flows, piled with flat bottomed wooden skiffs loaded with gear and sporting outboard engines on the back. The boats were painted white with their names emblazoned across the sides. All of the boats were well used, each looked like such a boat was the life and times of the fishermen who plied the waters and rode the surf out to the ocean to fish.

Above the huts, the coco palms sparkled and swayed in the lazy breeze. We drove close to the shore line. On our right through the trees and across the small bay, we could see the clustered village. To the left was a wide bar, rows and clusters of cocoa palms and a natural green lawn of native grasses spread around and under more small huts with thatched roofs. Each of these tropical abodes was balanced on a series of poles anchored in the sandy ground all with natural sand/dirt floors, the needed table and cabinets for a kitchen and hung with colorful hammocks, the coolest bed of choice for the quite warmly comfortable tropical nights. Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza were nowhere in sight!

Playing in the waters of the flowing river was a mother and a bunch of boys ranging in age from about 7 to a gangly kid about 12 just about ready to sprout even more. They were as all children are running in and out of the water, playing with a bamboo stick thrashing the water to make rainbows in the sun.

We watched as the incoming tide quite soon engulfed the beach where I was perched on my Ikea stool chasing us back down the alley to the van. We brushed the very dark charcoal sand off our clothing and climbed in to drive back through the larger village of stone and cement built small and larger houses, most with thatch roofs, some with yards planted in tropical flowers: hibiscus, bougainvillea, flowering trees and coco palms.

George told of one quite old gentleman, a traveler he had encountered at the border crossing, that he took to the village one afternoon. The old man loved it so much he stayed, found a wife and made a family all in the space of a few months, retired into a sweet happy tropical life.

There is a lot of human life going on everywhere I have been traveling. People here are ‘normal,’ they are doing their daily thing without a second thought of what is not, about what might be or about anything else except what is before them: sleep, rise in the morning, fish for a few hours, bring the boat home over the bar and the surf, eat dinner, make music and fun for the evening hours and then, find the hammock to sleep, perhaps to dream! Simplicity.

The only other things I might add to this tropical bliss are a few books, my pen and lots of paper to write. I would be right at home too. Perfect!

Love is our only Reality: the Practice of Human Life

February 14, 2015

BLOG: Love is our only Reality: the Practice of Human Life

Dear friends, as you might have discerned by now, I have been at a stall at the border in El Salvador for over two weeks. I have been most fortunate to find a home here while I wait for money stuff to sort itself out. And I have been doubly fortunate to find another part of my family here among very ordinary extraordinary people. I hope you will enjoy a little more about this part of the story: Journey of the Lotus.

There is a part of me that at 76 is experienced and skilled, I have educated myself and taken all the lessons of my life as wisdom of the heart. Then, there is another part that is naïve and guileless. When I came to this border of Guatemala and El Salvador, the second part of me was the larger. I simply did not know what I did not know.

Even when the very attractive young woman had denied my entry, I did not know from her rapid Spanish that that is what she had said. I am told that until Costa Rica, none of the borders in Central America offer English and so without fluent Spanish, how could I know.

So, I got again into my van parked at the curb. As I sat there, I was approached by Raul who offered to assist me but somehow his eyes and his face said no, no you.

As he and his cronies hovered around, along came George. His face and his eyes were smiling and open. Here was the person who eventually finessed the border crossing saying to that same beautiful young woman, “Would you deny your sweet old grandmother entry?” She stamped my passport and sent me on to customs to sort out my personal property and get a permit to travel with the van.

George and his friend, Alexander, unpacked, sorted and made a list of the entire contents arranged on the curb opposite the customs office and eventually the inspector approved and permitted my entry along with the van. All this work took about 4 hours until it was fairly late in the evening.

I took the boys to the local cantina for a beer and a conversation about the next step. They found me a place to park safely and went home. Next morning they showed up again and we began a search for where traveler’s cheques might be cashed. So far that has proved a fruitless task.

On the drive that second day back to Puente Arce at the border, George drove the van to the alley outside his family home here. He parked me beside the buildings with this: you cannot stay in the town and so I brought you here to be with my family to help you. You are welcome and anything that you need, we will be happy to do for you. Here is your home. You may stay as long as you need to and welcome.

Love is our only reality.

I have been here now for a little over two weeks. The money trip has not yet been entirely solved but real human life thrives.

This family here is the elders, Dad, almost 70 and Mum about 60; two boys somewhere in their 40’s, one is George presently a single man and his brother with a wife and a young boy. There are also two young women, cousins, one with a toddler in her arms. There is a small herd of goats, two roosters with a brood of about 6 hens and two generations of young chicks pecking about, a small dog and a smaller cat. Around and about there are three very large placid brahma cows and a whole bunch of dogs. The river Arce is just over the rise north up the alley where I have been swimming a couple times. Down the alley and right turn is the road to the town always parked hip and shoulder with big trucks making their ways across the border.

The town and all of these people went through the assorted horrors of the Sandanistas and the American ‘occupation’. George, at 16, was sent north to the US because it was not possible for him to learn to be a paid killer for the army. He worked for the University of Riverside for 15 years as a gardener: he did the dirt while the agricultural students watched. Go figure!

The whole village of mixed Indian and Hispanic heritage survived because the approximately 9000 people worked together and helped each other. Food and other resources were shared; everyone benefited from the safety that was made by a certain contingent of the village men who simply out of who they were made the safety for their whole village. There is such honor here among these people that it was all done without any fanfare and without drawing any attention to themselves or any reprisals. The whole village made it.

Perfect love casts out all fear. They were invincible. We are, too, when that love becomes whole in us. This is the reality that makes my trip possible. This is the love that makes space for me here as long as I need it.

So here is this rather older white girl showing up stranded, driving a big old red van with a pile of her stuff in it. First thing is to unload it all because it is a mess in there. George and a cousin did the job.

Then it was about what will you eat? We will bring you what you need. And they did bring avocados, tomatoes, cucumber and I made a meal, soon after putting my head on my pillow and sleeping without any worry or the stress of needing to keep one weather eye open.

What I am saying here is that there are simple ordinary people in your world whose life is made with the love and kindness in their families. Their children are gently and consistently taught to grow up wholesome and kind as their parents. The love that is shines on every face. I am immediately part of the family simply because I am there with them. It is obvious to them that I am also a human needing everything human to make my life.

The border story, my journey, all of that is a remote part when it is obvious that I eat and sleep, smile and joke with them. As we get those other details sorted out, they know I will be going on to Panama and that George will come with me. They say, please stay longer. They also say it is the right thing that I am going on to Ecuador. They will miss me. I will miss them.

Imagine what I have learned, imagine what kind of feeling is seeping daily into my body and healing me of all the stress that has been in my past. Imagine my gratitude not only for the healing but also to recognize that this is a healing. It is never too late to become whole and well, to become what we really are.

These people and I will never again be apart. I will simply be making a larger circle. George and I are deeply connected and right now we conspire to create the project in Ecuador. Our stay in Panama will be a part of that work. It’s all happening in the cauldron of Love and what has been called: continuous high regard.

It is real, my friends. There are nations of people who through the real terrors of war have remained, who have made it through simply because of the love in their hearts.

The heart teaches us moment to moment what to do, how to live.

This is the perfect day to grow up all over

Living fences

February 20, 2015

BLOG: Living fences

There was quite a lot of pure bliss on the drive through Mexico before I came upon the human realities of border crossings. The more tropical the weather and the land, the more I noticed and recognized the crops that grow in these humid and warm climates.

The first big one was sugar cane. I had not known that when it is maturing ready for cutting, it sets up a feathery plume similar to corn but much airier, similar to pampas grass clumps I have seen in more temperate regions.

There were groves of coco palms not so very different from the date palms in the desert regions of the Coachella valley. Papaya was also a surprise: it is an annual plant, sending up a crown of umbrella leaves over the fruit which ripens near the top and then, when they are cut, leaves the clump to be chopped down and composted on the spot for the next crop.

The most fascinating and what became the most ubiquitous were the living fences. Seems that in tropical regions, when the branches of the small trees are cut down to set in the ground in marker rows of fences, they send roots and soon leaves above ground that turn into small trees once again. I am sure there is a wire there somewhere to hold the sticks until they sprout but the wire is not to be seen when they turn into small trees branching over their row. And not every single stick will sprout, so there are some gaps even in the fences that have evidently been there long enough to grow into taller trees.

Soon I noticed that just about everywhere I was traveling there were rows of living fences across the wide hills, bordering the dirt tracks no doubt leading to settlement, houses, plots of ground and gardens. The tropic friendly brahma cows rested under spreading arboles behind mature fences whose growth of trees sometimes reached 30 to 40 feet of spreading long green rows, rectangles and field spaces set apart from one another.

So, what is there to be seen instead of the tired old saw cut chubby posts strung with barbed wire are rows and rows of wonderful, vital green fences, each a living testament to the fecund land and the ingenuity of people used to making solutions with what is at hand without either a Wal-Mart or a Home Depot anywhere in sight. Here in El Salvador, in Guatemala and southern Mexico, frugality and tradition has saved us without a protest from box stores: what a plan!

Mountain Bones

February 20, 2015

BLOG: Mountain Bones

Dear friends, part of my plan with this blog of my ‘Journey of the Lotus’ is to tune you into some parts of the travel adventure that might not commonly be noted.

Forget the cities built of piles of stones and cement, girders and flag poles, the icons and the cobbled squares in front of 400 year old massive churches proclaiming a legacy of a corrupt church, forget the madness of traffic in congested cities, the hideous piles of plastic basura that seem to be an inevitable feature of light fingered humans everywhere, forget the beaches and the resorts, just forget all that.

I’m much more related to – mountains.

I was born in northern British Columbia in the gold veined mountains near the eastern borders. Not so far north of that is the Yukon Territory and westward, Alaska, where the mountains of this vast cordillera stretching all the way south through North and South America might be said to begin.

My youth was spent on Vancouver Island, part of that boney spine made insular off the coast and also in the city of Vancouver where people of the world fly in to travel to Whistler and Blackcomb mountains to indulge in the only useful downhill sport: skiing.

I traveled across Canada by train at the beginning of the Raven’s Flight and remember lying awake most of the first night in my compartment bunk while the train with several working engines in the rear, pushing, and in the front, pulling, made the long painstaking climb from the coast to the crown of the great Rocky Mountain range between British Columbia and Alberta on the way to Calgary, home of the great stampede.

Several times I hitch hiked from British Columbia to California through Washington and Oregon States through the surf-like Cascade Mountains from the US border to Mt. Shasta and Mt. Lassen in northern California and further through the great dry forest of the Sierra Mountains.

This drive has taken me through at least 3000 miles of new territory and the mountain bones of Mexico, Guatemala and now El Salvador. These mountains are short guys compared to the great Rockies but they are all part of the spinal column of the two continents. They are stacked and arranged in threads and short ranges on the north-south back of the land, sometimes up to what I estimate to be 10,000 feet and at least an average of 4 – 6,000 feet purpling in the distance often greened in scrub trees or made tan-brown in the dry grasses now enduring dry season on this side of the equator.

There is something quite romantic about mountains rising in the hazy distances across a nearly empty land, or at least, countryside not peopled or graded into highways simply crowded with arching trees and the green leaved living fences that I have described. It feels a little like a land voyage across a fairy tale landscape only believable because I am here to see it all.

And, now my friends, you may see it in my writing and in pictures when I am able to transfer pictures from the chip in my camera to a data base able to send it to you, in the meantime, lift up your own eyes to the hills and be a little happier today.

Love and Blessings, Amraah.

El Salvador Mercado

February 22, 2015

El Salvador Mercado

My stay here in El Salvador is accomplishing one of my purposes for this Journey of the Lotus: cultural immersion.

Here in this family there is an ice chest that is supplied with ice only once in a while. This means, of course, that the getting of fresh food is an almost daily expedition. It also seems to be that a fair number of people depend on the street vendors for cooking. I am certain that people come to know who they like to cook for them and they habituate their businesses offering a few quarters to have everything just done right. Interesting.

My personal style is to make my own food. I am joined here by the senior Mum, Orbelina, who makes meals for Papa Nefta every day. George often supplies himself by visiting his favorite vendor and because he is over at the border daily, he brings me what I ask for when he comes home for the evening: avocados, tomatoes, cucumber, papaya, melons, onions and other strange tropical fruits that I am being introduced to but have yet to learn the names of: all delicious.

Then when we are out with the van, we get to visit the mercado in Cara Sucia just about 2 miles up the road. It is a large market with a wide yard out front busy with milling people and with a dairy cart in front that has leche, milk, cream and a dry hard cheese that is a little like feta.

As we enter the covered area, I make my way with the herd of people down an aisle that is bordered by the permanent stalls with the other food vendors arranged out front. In back, there are places to buy dried, partly chopped corn and ground corn meal: masa. There are cashews and peanuts, there are black, red and kidney beans all to be found in 50 pound sacks which are like the bulk bins in our familiar chain grocery stores for people to choose a pound or more at a time.

Spilling into the aisle are the stations of the vegetable and fruit vendors, mariscos arranged head and tail over the ice buckets and also some already prepared food especially things like cookies, buns and other goodies. The whole place is alive with the spirit of the people here and with the amazing quality of what is presented.

It is quite obvious to me that all the vegetables to be found: onions, carrots, tomatoes, avocados, tropical fruits like papaya, coconuts, cabbages, various spinaches on their long stems, cilantro, melons, cucumbers and zucchini squashes, and other offerings that I have not seen before: all of this is locally grown within a few short miles brought daily here by very industrious folk.

Where you are the designation of organic is important. Here it is quite obvious to me that all of this array of totally wonderful wholesome vegetables and fruits are grown in traditional ways with compost and cultivation.

Don’t you know that all the fertilizers and pesticides are simply way too expensive for these poor people who know with their deeply indigenous wisdom that their way is better?  After all, these farmers have for generations been supporting themselves and their people by doing what they have always done to grow their crops.

I can buy 12 Roma type tomatoes for $1, 4 cucumbers and two onions for the same. A pint of milk is about 60 cents, and enough cheese for two salads is $2. A huge cabbage is $1, a bunch of 5 or 6 bananas also $1. Dove bar, vanilla chocolate covered:65 cents.

As we proceed forward the rear of the building continues to a courtyard in the back bordered by the familiar 10 ft. brick and cement walls wild forest on the far side. On either side of the aisle are even more vendors showing their fine vegetables and fruits.

About half way down to the end, an aisle goes to my right and here is to be found the ladies with their ropas: clothing, mostly very interesting tops and t-shirts, skinny jeans in very bright colors that sell for $15, scarves, skirts, dresses as well. Everything seems really inexpensive to me because I am used to a different economy but here, those $15. Jeans take a bit of doing to come up with the cash. Even so, most of the younger girls and some of the young mothers up to the age of about 30 are wearing a variety of skinny jeans and tights in woven patterns: all colors of the spectrum. The older ladies mostly wear dresses with fancy embroidered aprons tied in such a way to show off their round bellys. Here we are beyond belly fat: it is the style of the times.

The whole of the mercado is abuzz with the voices of the people greeting each other, choosing their supplies of vegetables and fruits, fishes, grains or dairy items. There is a great life here tenderly disguised as quite ordinary human people going about their Saturday morning market business, each smiling, laughing and obviously enjoying their time here.

The heart is warm, giving and including everyone and everything. What a way to live! If I were not so purpose driven in my life to make my way, there is a great deal to be said about this sweetness of spirit alive and quite well indeed right here. Somehow I believe this will be to found in Ecuador, my eventual destination.

Love and blessings, my friends. Take a look around you and give something back, give a kind word, give a tender glance and a smile. Imagine for yourself the spiritual blessings given and received in these simple gestures and feelings. Bon appétit!

Arboles Magic: Tree Magic

February 12, 2015

BLOG: Arboles Magic: Tree Magic

There was some time ago that I began to understand our human relationship with the plant kingdom. In my 30’s near the beginning of my training, a sweet older woman sat with me to talk about the kingdoms of nature. At the time, it was all a new concept but as she softly spoke to me, I watched the wonder of it all slip over her whole body like a beautiful lace shawl. From there it was not difficult to relate to what she was telling to me.

Remembering that this may be termed, spiritual science, the concepts are broad and also mystical in their progression and dovetail into what our ‘hard’ science has discerned about the history of the planet, the solar system and our galaxy.

The planet begins her journey in her mineral form and attracts to herself ‘atmosphere’, the element of air, and from that the rains (water element) fall incessantly for quite some revolutions of the sun forming rivers, lakes and ocean on the surface.

The plant kingdom is first seeded in the ocean forming a delicious ‘soup’, a nourishment, for the next life forms and for the progression of the plant kingdom to the land. Between the atmosphere and the plant kingdom, the mineral surfaces are eroded until there are layers of plain dirt into which root systems may penetrate allowing vertical growth of plants.

I did say something about mystical and magical, did I not?

The Plant Kingdom becomes more dominant on the surface of the planet and at some mysterious moment in the no time of the infinite, from the aluna or mirror worlds also known now as the quantum universes, the animals are attracted to the environment created for them.

Sometime after, as the environment has become fecund, fertile and ready to support human life, the humans also appear from the mirror and begin to populate the whole of the earth.

This period is alluded to in our Bible with the idea that spirit moves across the waters.

There have been virtually unfathomable, vast eons of time, revolutions of the planet around the sun and the progression of the solar system around its galactic core. There is no possible way that our brains can really cognate on what all this really means and so, as all cultures have done, we create a mythical story about it some of which remains very mysterious and some of which becomes codified, recorded and accepted science.

I believe I was fortunate to learn some of these charming ideas from so lovely a woman well into her 70’s in the days I was 30 something. Now that I am where she was then, I take upon myself the welcome task of being, as she was, a way-shower, someone willing to take up the ideas, weave them once again into a tapestry of words that can be a spiritual garment thrown over your shoulders, warming and comforting.

I have not taken them as ‘belief’ rather as an underpinning of informed feeling that supports the intelligence I have partly trained by my experience and partly trained by education in school and beyond.

Just as you have done in your life!

Then, recently I have taken myself, in my big old Red Bear van, off into the hinterlands of North America southward to a destination in our southerly sister continent. Sure, there are countries, people, towns, highways, tons of basura, and borders but nothing of the natural kingdoms recognize any of these boundaries. The river Arce here does not know it flows between Guatemala and El Salvador. Only humans think like this.

With these strange understandings, I drive daily across the land and witness the plant kingdom and the trees, arboles in Spanish.

It is not just the trees, my darlings, it is the spirit of the trees. It is not just the land, it is the spirit of the land. It is not just human people, it is the spirit of the people. Are we so clever that we do not recognize the deep nurturance that comes to us from these understandings?

The trees in the tropics grow to be tall, spreading and magnificent everywhere in the fields, across the landscape, seen as green patches on the distant hills and mountains. Many of them near the highways here in Mexico and further south as allowed to simply grow as they will upward and over the roadways, bending and blessing the way with the shade they create and by the spirit living within them. We are kin. Our blood is green and it is made with light.

Now that is a really enormous idea to contemplate and to allow to seep and settle into your sensibilities as an enrichment for your life and times. Bon appétit!

Journey of the lotus: All the Fine Princes

February 9, 2015

Journey of the lotus: All the Fine Princes

In any kind of journey, people are all important. Even if I am rowing myself solo across the Atlantic, there is some one other person or persons to whom I am related, to whom I wish to return and who I would wish to thank for supporting me. Two of these three criteria fit me and so this small piece honors the Princes who have showed up for me as I have taken this kind of solo roll across a continent to another. Even if they do not remember, this is my remembrance of gratitude for what they did in service.

It seems that at every turn, in every place there was a smiling face and a helpful gesture. I asked Pemex station men if I could park in behind in the truck parking only to be waved through with their kind of welcoming, knowing I would be just fine thank you to sleep through the night in their lot.

There was a gardener with small, full, green lush piece of ground, a middle aged grey haired wiry guy who came out of his garden gate to offer me ‘ok to park’ after I had seen his sign: food for birds. I figured he might be compassionate to critters and old ladies in vans seeking a sleep at the golden scarlet end of day.

There was a bartender who quite lovingly and masterfully constructed a truly marvelous traditional margarita for a Christmas Eve celebration. His finesse with limes was memorable.

There was a young guy sitting at the counter of a country restaurant somewhere in the hills past Tepic. He had three tall bar stools to re-string with colored plastic cord and he was quick: I watched him finish one and another while I ate a meal there. Being a skilled craftsperson myself, I am always appreciative of other kinds of skill, artistry and mastery.

In El Salvador, in the small border town of Puente Arce, I saw two not so young men who I am certain went through the assorted mayhem of the Sandanista regime and the American ‘occupation’ thereafter that were the part of the warrior back bone of their village, instrumental in their survival and now of their slow but sure recovery.

There is a mighty and timeless honor among the men of the Red Lodge and I am thankful to witness it.

There was a handsome patrician Spanish Patron whose house I slept outside of in Santa Ana. He kept horses and his man, as he passed me sitting in the van, probably called the older man to come to talk to me. I was waiting for him and we quickly negotiated one night and touched fingers as our mutual salute to honor. I understood and he knew it.

Some moments of human contact last forever in memory as this one will in mine.

There was one young smiling MacDonald’s employee who gave something more than the usual service. Yes, there was wifi around the corner and he brought the tray of coffee with sugar and cream on board – and another one of his smashing smiles.

Somewhere along the road, I had picked up a nail in the front left tire. It was soft and slowly losing air. Not good. Must find a fix. I had asked the young man in the bank where I should go and as I cruised the streets, I found the Goodyear dealership. I rolled in through the gate to be greeted by a dark, short smiling guy who indicated the bay where I should park the van. As I watched him rummage in his tool box for an even bigger socket, I unlocked my door and pulled out the 1 1/8 lug wrench I had pursued before I left and handed it to him. “How many people bring their own wrench?” Even though he did not understand English, he understood the joke! We laughed and he did the repair: 100 pesos, about $4.50! I’m rolling.

One morning there was a definite moment to refill the jugs with clean water. As I drove the highland area where I was, I came upon the sign: agua artesian. Shortly, I saw a new building constructed of rough lumber still golden in newness. Pulling into the open space in front, Gregory came out onto the veranda to greet me. Seems he brews and distills mezcal, the pure original tequila liquor in four different classes: today, yesterday, a couple years ago and four years ago. Along with telling me about his family of 4 children, his wife, and his property with the artesian well, he has a world business of those people who come past his place.

By the time I had crossed Mexico to the border of Guatemala, I had entered into a whole new ball game found especially in Central America, specifically the borders at Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua where the law for white tourists is interpreted a little differently than the law for fluent local Spanish people and truckers. As I rolled near to the boundary, Victor Manuel Lopez Mendes presented himself to be my benefactor to guide me through the craters and assorted hazards of the crossing. It took two days: first day the van went to the inside parking lot for the day and the entry immigration stamped my passport.

Parking on the street outside the lot but not through the border during the night, I watched the life of the townspeople from the local restaurant owner and his wife serving people and later eating their own meal. I watch people next to me take blankets out of their packs and bed down on the steps of the restaurant establishment at the door of which I was also sleeping in my van. I watched the young men cruising, I noted the older guys with handfuls of currency and power at their exchange business. I watched the much too young men (all are grandchildren!)  in army camo and automatic guns across their shoulders pounding in big steel toed boots trying to look casual on a stroll through the town.

At night, in the eerie lights of the town under the pale mystery of the second quarter gibbous moon, the whole scene changed from the tawdry, gritty shabbiness of the day time into a stage setting for a magical mystery play until it was empty of every human leaving only the shadowy other worldly spirits roaming the street.

Next day Victor showed up once again and we completed everything: vehicle permit, immigration and customs. I paid him a fee a little steep for my budget but, under the circumstances, acceptable for the magnificent integrity he showed to me.

George Uno became the epitome of the son of the High King when he came forward to greet me once I had passed from Guatemala into the zone of El Salvador. I had already been turned back by a beautiful young woman, an utterly arbitrary gesture that just did not compute properly in the larger scheme of what I was going for. Her ‘no’ was simply not the right answer.

George, he reported later, recognized me immediately and began a successful crossing negotiation that included a proper immigration stamp on my passport given by the same young woman, a vehicle permit and a customs inspection of all my household. Passed and permitted. Thank you very much.

Sometimes during my travel, it is important to take a meal that I have not prepared for myself in the van. Usually I treat myself to what I cannot normally find in aborrates: fishes. In one small town, I noted a restaurant with a veranda at the highway’s edge with a kitchen just inside under the sloping roof. I pulled into a small spot and came out to a table where I sat. A tall, totally handsome, skinny young husband, came out and in rapid Spanish asked me what it was I wanted to eat.

It’s not that I actually understood, but what else would I be asking for? I knew: mariscos. He showed me a small fish and after I nodded he went to work producing a delicious complete meal with salad, rice, beans and tortillas, and the small mariscos tenderly cooked in corn batter. While he cooked, I played hide and seek with his very young boy, held the baby for a minute while smiling appreciatively with his young wife. While I ate, I invited his mother, a skilled embroidery artist who had done the cloths on the tables, to visit with me and we smiled together in admiration of our mutual sewing skills.

Meals like this are more satisfying than simply the food. What a blessing!

There were some reluctant princes. In one highland area through a long stretch between Pemex stations, it became necessary to find about 5 gallons of gas to get me through. A burly kid in front of amercado had what I wanted. He did not make himself completely clear at the outset what he wanted and so after he siphoned the gas, there were a few minutes of stress until he realized that I was not interested in cheating him. I already knew that he was asking about the price of an extra gallon for the 5 that went into my tank. Muy Gracias.

The trip out of Acapulco was a three time pass past the exit to Highway 200 leading southward to Pinotepa Nacional. I was very confused because the center of town was blocked at one point at what was the usual exit place and had to be navigated around.

That took the special attention of a gentleman in a Walmart mall, a travel advisor named Armando and his crew of two young women and two men. Our encounter yielded specific directions for me and a renewal of six hearts that the human family of which we are each and every one a part, is indeed well and thriving in a mall in Acapulco.

It shows me again that the life of the Spirit is eternal and immediately with us.

Then there were the very last moments in Mexico at the border town of Tapachula. I had negotiated the night before to park at a Pemex station that was permitted by a young security man in a crisp white shirt.

Waking in the morning, I determined that it would be prudent to check the oil and water properly, the transmission fluids and the overall state of the engine. Driving slowly over to the diesel pumps, there was a man about 50 who presented himself. I asked him to open the hood and take care of business. He obliged, charmingly and diligently, with the proper 2 quarts and a half of oil, and a couple gallons of water in the rad. The tranny was ok. I had checked the day before to be told I was fine but something said to check again. I gave this guy a good tip as he showed me to the gas pumps on the other side.

Here, as I rolled in, were four young guys just hanging around and they always will. With smiles, laughter and a little kidding, these four musketeers immediately pumped a fill of gas, washed with hoses and cleaned my windshield as we all laughed, I took pictures and we just quite thoroughly enjoyed the jokes that are really very close to the surfaces of the human heart. What a send off from Mexico!

In natural tribal societies, Grandmother knows the children and she is their advocate. In Manzanillo, I was turning around and around in the barrio areas seeking the road 200 south out of town. Although I knew I was close, I was not quite turning the chambers of the lock of the roads to the right opening. I stopped at a curb beside an ‘alto’ sign, waiting for the signal for the next move when who rolls alongside in a nifty black and white police motorcycle, a really cute young guy who had a bouquet of flowers stashed across the handlebars of the bike obviously for his girl?

“Por favor!” I call out. He takes off his helmet as he reaches for the map in my hand. Looking at it for just a minute, he says, clearly: ‘Follow me!” He replaces his helmet, revs the cycle and off he goes with me in pursuit up and down a couple streets, across the rail track and finally down a nearly empty road to a wide three way entry with one of those green highway signs over one of them: Highway 200. He was so sweet a young man, I got out my camera not to miss this opportunity and what does he do: a little jig on the cycle as I snap his picture. What a guy! What a lucky girl!

As I left the renewal project of Ixtapac on the dry windy highlands near the southern border, I had to turn around and around until I found just the right entrance to the cuota highway and what turned out to be about the best road of them all in Mexico. The booth was manned by a very sweet, sober looking mature man, a little portly as we used to say in Victoria, with grey curling hair at his temples and a grey mustache.

Now, in places where I know my English and their Spanish are not exactly understood, the universal language of smiles, laughter and hand gestures always works. In a few seconds, we understood each other perfectly as he charmingly waved me onward after paying a 30 peso toll.

In many places, it was needed and wanted to find the right road. I had cruised around the town of Hidalgo Union through the town square with the church on one side and the mercado opposite, around and about the grid of dirt streets some of them trenched and torn up, until I came upon an open faced young man with his baby son on his shoulders. He indicated that I return to the cuota road and make a right turn south. It was once again a sweet moment of connection with the earnest and compassionate parenthood of the human family. Another day to grow up all over again!

The Princes each and every one made a difference on the day we greeted each other. Their service came easily and naturally from the center of the humanity within them. Imagine gratitude! Imagine the delight, the utter charm as well as great gales of laughter! We can trust this anywhere and at any time. How sweet is this?

West Coast Mexico, Redux: the Final Miles

February 10, 2015
West Coast Mexico: Redux.: the Final Miles
It was an eye opener when I first checked out the map of Mexico, taking note that the distance from Tijuana to Acapulco was 2000 miles!

After the wild trip through the teeming centro of this truly quite fabulous metropolis, and the liberation I experienced as I drove up to the empty highlands once more on the way next morning to Pinotepa Nacional, the rest of the coast of Mexico figured in my mind as a kind of afterthought over the almost 1000 miles remaining.

I was by this time quite thoroughly steeped in the magic of the land as it had become even more tropical. Everywhere I was in view of the beaches and the rolling surf, I once again imagined swimming in the Pacific waters. As I rolled through the thickness of the coco palm groves hung with bunches of green cocoanuts, as I gazed upon the many fields of papaya hewn down waiting for the wet ground and the damp air to settle and compost the old leaves and stems, as I slowly and carefully navigated my way over the topes in the very small towns, visited the local aborrates for vegetables and fruit obviously grown within a few miles of these places, the tenderness with which I had first viewed the waters of the bay at San Felipe ripened and settled even more into my sensibilities.

I was assimilating the sights, sounds, aromas, color and the people into my heart-mind. Without available wifi, I was rather focused on the driving rising very soon after the sun, cleaning up, drinking my green morning elixir, walking around a bit before settling into the driver’s seat to travel even further down the highway.

This southern west coast is much less populated, towns are fewer. Didn’t mean the roads were any better but the travel was easier because there was much less traffic, fewer trucks and more wide open space over the land, the fields and the mountains in the distance. There was less of the teeming subliminal buzz sounding in the space. There was quiet on the highlands and from my view above the shore, there was only a echo of the ocean’s eternal tides.

These were 6 mornings awakening in assorted settings, 6 days adjusting even more to the tropical air, the damp heat that my northern body was not used to, and 6 nights contending with no-see-ums biting, mosquitoes biting and the juiciness of sweating through the close, hot darkness.

One afternoon, I made a quick turn down a road that turned out to be about a 3 mile trek to the beach. Somehow, the entry invited me and after all this time eyeing the surf and not actually getting wet in it, I had decided to check it out. The track was narrow dirt for about the first mile, and it soon became even more narrow alongside the living fences of sticks in the ground that soon grow again, with the growth of palm, grasses, and flowering bushes leaning over the road.

Closer to the shore line, I noted in the distance a large condominium complex, a little indistinct because of the lay of the dunes. It seemed to be quite extensive and when I made it nearly to the shoreline, there were posts and a chain across the entry, a small guardhouse about a 100 feet into the area. I was not going there, so rather than foolishly driving myself to the shore in sand that was sure to capture a loaded van, I parked nearby.

Changing into my bathing suit, putting the water bottle, a small towel and my camera into my shoulder sack, with the purple noodle in my hand, I trekked over the dunes to the beach. Standing at the edge of the Pacific, I once again became enthralled as I had first been as a kid standing in the waves of the very chilly waters of Oak Bay. It seems that all the beaches where I have ever been swimming meet in the sand and surf I am presently standing in.

Sure enough, when I was sitting in the waves, they were much stronger than I am at this time and along with the delicious saltiness of the water and foam, there is: sand. Above is the tropic sun more directly overhead than ever. I can feel it burning into my head and over my exposed skin. Wonderful

It was nearly evening when I finally cleaned up enough of the sand, ate some salad and made my way back up the track to pull off road into a small clearing to sleep. A man came along speaking me through the broken window in the back of the van: May I stay here tonight? He said yes…in English. I was content. But it was a big night and the first with really swarming insects. Not much sleep and the guy shone a light on me about 4 am wanting to know if I was sleeping. Well, darling, not now with the light in my face!

Next morning, it was important to find a supply of water and so at the next highland area, where there was a sign reading, ’agua artesian’ I pulled off to fill up and use the banos (bathroom). Gregory showed me his mescal liquor as we talked, as he filled up my jugs, about his business growing agave, brewing and distilling, his children and his property here; seems the artesian waters made a lot of difference to his product.

Onward, shorter distances than had been the ride to Acapulco, until there was a small town and at the southern edge, alongside a dirt road going deeper, there was a comida with a large front yard and just the right place to park. Soon in the evening came Rosie and Ramon to open. They provided meals and parking to some big trucks traveling through.

In the morning I awoke having been affected through the night with what I had seen the previous day. It took a huge investment to erect 3 miles of electric poles and wire, it took big bucks to architect, to excavate and to build the huge condominium complex that I had seen. It was not a stretch to imagine the profit motive that impelled the ‘investment’ of something in the order of 5 million dollars to do all this and to assimilate the satisfaction that came with the activity. But it saddened me because although I saw the charm of the place, I knew that the people who bought or sold these places or rented these ‘vacation’ condos there hardly noticed anything beyond the days of their lives. They could not see more than what they could see.

What were they missing that was so obvious to me? I sat with Rosie and Ramon and drank a coffee with them. Along came Rosie’s good friend and these two women first made a bowl of corn flour, with lime in a bowl of water. This handsome woman friend kneaded the dough with splashes of the water until it formed a ball of damp dough. Then out came the stand made by a local ferreteria with his torch to press the corn dough into tortillas. A few sticks of wood supplied by Ramon were fired up in the cement cook-stove/fireplace made with a sheet of iron over the fire to cook the tortillas and add them to the stash for the next trucker’s meals.

I could see their beautiful and comforting, fruitful friendship beaming on their faces and on the sweet face of Rosie’s daughter. I could see the dedication of Ramon to the care of this woman, his wife and to his lovely daughter. It warmed and heartened me that there was indeed a deep core of love in humanity’s heart on our planet. I went on my way happier and well fed by their coffee and their loving kindness.

I drove through Huatalco further down the coast where I went to find a bank to cash traveler’s cheques. It was another exercise in the noticing that the money that makes these centers into tourist ‘attractions’ beautiful, glamorous, well groomed and efficient also marginalizes the barrio and the people who were to be seen polished and uniformed in front of the hotels or in small neatly done mercados, ready for some really needed tourist dollars. I did my business and left hurriedly following behind a convoy of busses.

The week passed and the days became checkpoints of interest in my memory now being recounted to you a couple weeks later.
The Saturday morning found me in the heart of , at the totally grimy, musical, noisy, thriving and crowded downtown market square. The iconic cement cathedral with its front area becoming a park formed one side of the square, while around the rest of the way were the hole-in-the-walls mercado stuffed with colorful merchandise. Roaming the streets everywhere were bicycle carts with various foods being pedaled about by an assortment of young men cooking or dispensing cold fruit drinks from their coolers. People sat in their best attire on the benches in the cathedral park, and on the curbs at the sidewalk’s edge. The talked, gesticulated, shouted, sang and bellowed out their joy along with the bargaining for the goods they wanted. The scene captivated me entirely as I ever so slowly moved the van at a snail-like speed through the throngs of both ethnic Indians of the local area and peoples of obviously Hispanic origin.

Here was I, a 21st century almost mythical traveler, making my way through at least 2 centuries of life. It was unmistakable from the past except for the prevalence of the ubiquitous plastic which eventually would be basura dunned up on the sides of the streets and buildings.

A clean shaven cop in a police car, sitting with his partner, “stinking badges” on their uniformed chests and guns on their belts, a rifle stashed on the seat between them, shouted out to me pointing to the road out of town. I’m gone leaving the magic of centuries behind.

Further and further still I went, following a path of the now resting and rusting bus that drove Ken Kesey and the kids of the acid cool aid test. They drove stoned all over America while my choice is not to be stoned on any substances down the west coast Mexican roads onward to Ecuador . Further!

Not all is dismal, decaying and dirty in the towns of Mexico. I came upon a interesting two year on-going historical renewal project happening in the town of Ixtapac situated near a high wind area in the province of Oaxaca. It seems the local political light decreed that the town might be restored to a tidiness, a historical color and integrity by a coalition of all the people with the government of the state. The result, after one year, is that there is a noticeable clean up everywhere of the roads and streets, the centro of the town has been face-lifted with coats of colorful paint the choice of Mexican hearts everywhere and the spirit of the place has been resurrected sufficiently that such as casual traveler as I am has noted quite a difference.

Driving through the town, I came upon one of the last cuota roads, paying my 30 peso toll, onward I went through dry, very windy uplands planted by giant wind turbines turning steadily in the gusty wind. It was one of the best roads I encountered and so, taking advantage, I drove a comfortable 80 km through to the end of the day.

Finally, I found myself on Monday morning, January 26th, at the border town of Tapachula next to Carmen on the Guatemalan side. My drive through Mexico was ending and I was about to face a quite different kind of experience as I crossed through to a different country.

Little did I know what new adventure awaited me as I closed in on half way to my destination: Ecuador!

No Tire Basura: There Is No ‘Away.’

February 9, 2015

No Tire Basura: There is No ‘Away.’

It is a tribute to Julia Butterfly Hill to remind ourselves that the trash simply does not go away.
As I am driving the libre roads of Mexico on my journey so far I see plastic garbage littered nearly everywhere. Most people simply ignore it while they drop another small water bottle, another plastic bag, another empty aluminum coke can.
The Spanish word is ‘basura.’ It sounds like a cute Disney bear character in a blue jacket coat and green pants doesn’t it? Well, friends, it is the same old same old trash, and it is almost exclusively plastic trash, mixed with aluminum cans. It is drifted in piles next to buildings everywhere from the very small roadside towns to the center of the cities, in the streets and alleys of the midsized places and along the highways everywhere.

I stopped at an elaborate shrine constructed into a large boulder at the perimeter of the wide open area along the highway. It had been lovingly made, painted and decorated with images of our Lady of Guadelupe and Day of the Dead effigies and, it was thickly banked with basura, all colors and varieties of plastic garbage, next to the sacred shrine, across the wild garden behind, around and in the right of way off the road.

In the US people are doing a little better. State highway departments do the roads and rest stops. Towns and cities collect the stuff and whole corporate organizations are dedicated to recycling. It is a little better and it is still bad. We should not be patting ourselves on the back about our treatment of basura.

None of it ever goes away. Where might it be going, anyway? It does not rot as compost to turn to dirt; at least not for some exorbitant thousands of years! In each of the 5 major ocean bodies on the planet are festering boils of plastic circulating across many cubic miles within the water. They are a danger to the local life in the ocean and a hazard to all swimming and flying creatures. Even the humans who think they are immune are contaminated not only by the actual physical stuff wherever it is but also by the mindset that allows it to be in the first place and the simple disdain of all the trash lying around. These heartbreaking evidences of toxic pollution are only symptoms of a much more prevalent disease. It is no longer possible to mask the symptoms; we must seek to cure the disease itself: the primal cause.

That will not be a simple or easy task because it begins first in the mind of science that daily seeks to create materials and products that aid our notions of convenience and utility. People do their jobs and are paid and do not feel in any way responsible for the widespread results of what they invent. Individually there is no fault, the ideas that impel science are ill considered of consequence.

It is not until much later that I see the stuff strewn on the highways. It is not until much later that you in the US pay a monthly fee to a garbage company to haul the stuff out of your sight. It is not until much later that the ocean cauldron cooks with the swirls of toxic stuff.

Unless we allow ourselves a peek at the vast problem that has been created, we will not be able to change it. I believe that the same science that created it can also create a chemistry that will once again alter it back to a biodegradable form. I also believe that it will take a worldwide commitment and an individual human effort to heal the point of view that has permitted it in the first place. Then, it will be possible for us all to clean it up piece by piece and with the technology gifted to us of chemistry to turn it all into something benign.

I believe it is possible but I do not yet see on the horizon that there is a collective social will to even begin. It seems that, as it is here in Mexico and in Central American, not one actually sees it on the ground.
No tire basura. There is no ‘away.

West Coast Mexico: Redux: Manzanillo

February 5, 2015
West Coast Mexico: Redux: Manzanillo

In this zone of the west coast of Mexico, the cities look a little like American centers especially that there are Walmarts. There is a difference here, however, in the tropics: the parking lots are covered with tent-like roofs and there are bevies of older guys, in their white shirts, hang-tags, caps and blue pants that help you park, that unload the packages and then guide you as you back out once more. It is expected that you donate a peso or two and a kind,“muy gracias” will also suffice.

Also, roaming around the lots are young men who barrow along trolleys with buckets, spray bottles and rags who will clean your windshield or wash your car as you shop, also for pesos.

Walmart, for all its corporate crap, is a pretty good grocery store here in Mexico in that there is a much wider variety of local produce along with quite a lot of what may also be found in the US, especially Washington apples cold stored often more than a year before they make it here. It is easy to notice what is real food: the agri-farmed stuff has labels and none of it is organic.
The bakery sections are interesting: the muffins, Danish pastries, the pretzels, the ice cream wafers, the breads and rolls (all, all of it bleached white flour!) are laid out on rows of naturally varnished shelves. The lady at the counter gives you a wide aluminum tray and a tong. Then, I go to choose what it is I wish to have by placing my selections on the tray, which goodies she packages and prices. I could buy a muffin, an ice cream wafer and a chocolate donut (oh, fie) for about $1.80. And sometimes, there was Hagen Daaz ice cream that must be eaten right away sitting in the car in the parking lot smoothing and smacking it all away. Muy delicioso! Muy indulgence!

At the time of day that I arrived in Manzanillo, it was late in the afternoon, just the time when I am seeking a place for free parking over night. It is not wise ever to drive at night on these roads even though it does sometimes become necessary. I find myself talking to a charming, Hispanic woman about mid-forties who is manager of the store. You go, girl! She says she does not encourage people parking at Wal-Mart but if I go out of the lot north and make a left there is a beach area where I will find what I am looking for.

As I turn down the sandy parking area right next to the beach, there is a large RV obviously well stationed there under a series of wide leaved, tropical almond trees. As I pull near her space, she pops out of her rear window: “parcar aqui durante al noche?” I ask and she nods me to an area nearby. I slip into a space careful to angle the van so there is a flow of cooling air from the beach. I eat the avocadoes, tomatoes, the salsa and an ear of sweet Mexican corn for my dinner and soon, after writing a piece in the diary I am keeping, I am snoozing under the tropic moon.

I stay there for two nights watching the sights, the people and the police who seem to have somehow lost a criminal in the dark of the night. Next day, they keep coming back to see if he will grow himself out of the sand. Not happening. I saw him skip over the fence across the street, head toward the beach and disappear. Gone forever….at least until he makes another mistake!
I eye the beach and the surf: just thinking about swimming in the Pacific Ocean once again tempts me but I know very well that those waves bowl me over in the sand. For a just a little refreshment, there is a lot of sand everywhere. I take a walk but do not go near the water.

On the morning of the third day, I start off thinking that there is not much left to Manzanillo. How wrong I was! Instead, I discover, as I ride up and over an arching bridge a little way south on the highway, is an enormous, thriving, crowded, hustling sea port; the very large harbor lined with tankers, and container ships, the jetties filled with fishing boats, those very tall orange painted iron stanchions that hoist the loads and, just to make it all truly mad, a giant road construction happening.
Between the dust and the congested traffic only threading its way around and through the barriers, the whole place is simply crazy. Fascinating. It takes the best part of an hour to travel from the bridge to the edge of the mess and then came even more city! By the time I am threading my way through the very down town barrios, I become aware that it is the right time to find some directions to find my way out of the maze and onward south toward Lazaro Cardenas

As I am stopped at an ‘alto’ sign, a small, wiry young motorcycle cop rolls alongside me. I can tell right away that he is a romantic and that he has a favorite girl because slung across his handlebars is a packaged bouquet of flowers. I roll down my window, and show him my map. He takes off his helmet and takes the map in his hand. I can notice his mind which quite quickly is made up: “Follow me”he says, handing me back the map, replacing his helmet and firing up his nifty black and white machine. He smiles a totally charming smile and I know I am ready to find my way once again. Off he goes, up and down the streets, over the rail tracks, through the mercado of several more streets until we were to be found at a wide triangle turn in the road where above me is a sign proclaiming: Highway 200, the arrow pointing this way to Lazaro Cardenas. Fabulous.

I take out my camera as this young guy is really too cute to miss and as I aim it at him he does a little jig on the cycle to pose for me. I have to imagine that young woman has made a really good deal in this man. Grandmother enjoyed the pleasure of his service and was thankful to send him on his way to his girl.

And I am on my way to find a place to park after traveling southward down the highway across a couple mile long spit built across the southern harbor area through a deeply shabby, grey and obviously poor fishing village until I spotted a Pemex station with a wide truck yard in behind. I am waved through, with a wide smile as I ask my question: here is safe parking. Thank you very much.

West Coast Mexico; Redux: Playa Azul

February 5, 2015
West Coast Mexico; Redux: Playa Azul

If you believe that you need some tuning up in the realm of patience, I can recommend a road trip down the west coast of Mexico to assure an outcome that you will become either a mountain of patience or utterly frazzled and burnt out, a basket case!

The road is fascinating; the landscape verdantly green and tropically beautiful with gardens of coco palms, of papaya, and a sea of natural vegetation: grasses, bushes, flowering trees. The road itself, sometimes even smoothly paved with a yellow line down the center, is two trucks wide at the best without a shoulder: the overgrowth of the land comes directly to the asphalt. Sometimes there is a white line on the right but not always. Without a right side white line, trucks especially, and all the traffic hovers over the yellow line making it a necessity to slow to their speed especially over the slow grades up to higher ground. It’s not possible to see around the huge trucks piled high with dry brown cane. I never did take the lead of the Mexican cowboys to pass on curves up these grades preferring a slower life to the roulette chance of meeting oncoming traffic.

It is beautiful. It is greener than you have been able to imagine. It is lush and fragrant in the wind of the air conditioning blowing at me through the windows. It is almost and only 30 mph to drive here so I have the opportunity of momentary glances out to my left and right to view the astonishing natural garden on the hilly land. And it is also tedious after the first few  hours and necessary to stop, pull off as best I can, take a deep drink of water and just wait for a while walking around a bit.
It is just this kind of narrow highway that led me south of Manzanillo and still further south for a much longer day than had been before. When I came near dusk to the T in the road to the left was Lazaro Cardenas, to the right, Playa Azul. I went only a short distance down the left road until I realized that I was not meant to go there.

Turning around in a dirt driveway, the right turn road led me to Playa Azul, a small, quaint, still old fashioned beach side town with the local cantinas and restaurants near the shore line, the downtown abarrotes under corrugated roofs, dirt roads and thronging people. I asked a trucker standing by the road about parking as it was now very nearly dark. He waved me vaguely down the street along the beach but as I very slowly made my way viewing the camps and cantinas, none of them said they were parking for me. Finally, I turned around and came back until I saw a big truck parked on a side street next to the white and blue painted Hotel Andrea. I stopped on the street opposite to rest and reconnoiter my situation. I might have easily parked safely in the street.

Looking across the cement yard of the hotel, I saw several people sitting at a table conversing. Shortly thereafter, I turned the van on and drove very slowly and respectfully through the gates and parked across the cement paved yard opposite the two story row motel, and slid down the seat to the pavement. As I walked across the yard, I saw two young men who were LDS missionaries talking with an earnest young woman over their books of Mormon. I went closer and said, “Buenas noches.”
The Universe has her ways to show us our sweetness and pleasure. Being invited to sit, I discovered English speaking people. We quite soon indulged in some rousing conversation that engaged all of us for about an hour. Erica introduced herself and we made a deal about my staying there at least for one night. I was thankful to sit in the cool air and relax after the long day.

I stayed there for 3 days transacting my healing services with Erica and her mother, Theodora, for my lodging with the luxury of a simple shower and a flat bed. We three had a delightful time of it as women will. The motel was, I believe, somewhat similar to many such establishments along the Latin way. The lot was cement walled in on two sides with the two story walls of the motel forming the other two. There was a tall, double iron gate shut at night that formed the final boundary to the place. Planted at the corners were tall coco palms. There were a total of 20 places, one downstairs was ‘prive’ for Erica and her mother when she visited, one was the office and under the center stairs leading to the second floor was the storage area especially for water which was brought in in 5 gallon jugs by a hardy truck driver. Above, on the roof was an old cistern that likely had been for water, and several clothes lines where sheets and bed spreads were flying in the wind.

Each room had two beds set on cement slabs, with cement stands alongside and ‘head boards’ painted blue on the white walls. There was a white plastic table and two white chairs in the corner next to the bathroom door; a mirror and tray fastened to the wall opposite the beds. The bathroom was white tiled to the roof with a shower at the end wall with a slightly sloping floor into the drain, a toilet about 5 feet down and a sink another 2 feet next to the door, all of this open, spare and utterly clean, for a single person 200 pesos a night.

It took this serendipity as a perk to rest and relax and attempt once again to fix the broken window in the rear of the van. I went to a meeting with Erica Saturday morning to listen to Spanish and to discern a little of the cadence and rhythm of the language. We also went shopping ‘downtown’ in the one short block of mercado to abarottes, the grocery store finding local tomatoes, avocados, romaine lettuce, a pineapple without a Dole label on it anywhere, a papaya, the same and ripe, a huge crunchy bunch of celery just the thing to tune up the kidney function through the winter as I am beginning to get seasoned to the tropics. It was a 4 meal feast all for about $4.25. I’ll take it, muy gracias!

Erica, although much younger than I, is, like me, not a married woman. Because she is somewhat different than the average female person in this culture, her education sets her apart from the many women who are encouraged to be only and simply mothers. She had been trained as a computer scientist and so spoke fluent and educated English. Her curiosity and mine was a match and so our conversations held us engaged and deeply satisfied spending two morning desayunos together over the table. Her grandmother made breakfast for us and grandfather bicycled it over to the motel. We spread the table and ate between the bites of conversation that enthralled us. I believe we were both ready for the treat that we offered each other; although it is a truth that neither of us is really lonely, the opportunity for lively talk is irresistible.

There are times and places, my dear friends, that call on us to be ready without anything else going on to simply be in the moment and grow up all over again. It is these moments that we can look back on when we are older and enjoy them again and again.
After breakfast Monday morning, I took the short drive to Lazaro Cardenas where I found the last free wifi opportunity at a MacDonald’s that afternoon. It seemed obvious to use the time to catch up on the mail before taking off the next morning for the longer drive to Acapulco. Little did I know that this was the last for a 2 week media blackout while I traveled even further down the coast of Mexico to the border of Guatemala and then to El Salvador.
All these blog entries are coming to you courtesy of a sojourn in Puente Arce, El Salvador, where I am able to rest, write and wait for my financial situation to sort itself out. I am being gifted by the Great Universe through a new friend, George (who finessed my border crossing here), and his family simply to be in the flow of love and kindness, learn a little Hispanic culture, swim in the river that flows between El Salvador and Guatemala at this place, and catch up on the writing. I hope you will enjoy the results. And Thank You for staying with me all this way! I have made it about half way to Ecuador! Imagine that!

Puente Arce, El Salvador: Philosophe

February 6, 2015
Puente Arce, El Salvador: Philosophe

I was taken down again to the river today: Arce flows here between the borders of Guatemala and El Salvador.
As I shifted myself into the cooling waters flowing quite swiftly over the stones in the river, I became entranced by the whole of the view I was looking at from close to the surface of the waters.

In the distance are mountains of modest height, their vegetation enduring the dry season which comes when the earth and sun are focusing near the tropic of Capricorn. They are rounded and rolling even further over the land southward from where I am here. They turn to blues and purple hues floating with the mist of humidity the further away.

The river is quite swift but not so much that the young boys who are strong swimmers cannot make it across the flow. While I sit at the edge clinging to a rock to keep myself steady, they are jumping in and swimming vigorously toward me to get up on the bank, walk up the way a bit and jump in again and again, tirelessly it would seem.
At this shore the steep bank has been stabilized with cement that has literally been poured down the slope to cover and anchor the stones. At the top, behind the fences are the unpainted brick and cement homes with corrugated roofs of the village people, who I am told number about 9000.

We have made our way up the dirt track to the overlook of the river and while I have shimmied down on my rear end, the kids skip to the edge, the mothers carry the babies or their laundry tubs. Because Arce flows so well, it is probably quite clean. What I see of landscape before me to the east is not farming country rather it seems to be rather more pristine, raw land. Without nitrogen fertilizer, the water is clear not foamy; without pesticides and herbicides, it is mostly clean.

At the other shore where the river is much more shallow and the current more swift, there are bars of sand and clumps of pale green bushes and trees with long, quite lacy leaves that are unfamiliar to me. A man in one of those white cowboy hats came leading a small pony across one of the bars a little up river. I watch the sweet animal bobbing among the short trees, leaning to graze on the obviously fresh grasses.

There is a place in the river about 6 feet from the shore line where there is planted above the natural rock, a flat cement block that once was pavement or something somewhere else. Now it is a surface where the ladies station themselves on the rocks to wash their laundry. They have, at their homes, piled the lot of it in plastic tubs (the only modern appliance to be seen here), rolled a t-shirt in a circle and hefted the load to their heads. I had watched them amble their way up the alley another time on their way to their labor. Their indigenous lives are at the same time in the 21st century and in every century previous to this.

The land knows no boundary; it is a human idea to pretend there are separate countries, that there are separate people some of whom are Guatemalans and some of whom are El Salvadorians. While I am here as a guest of this family, I am a foreigner and I am also, in those pure terms, a honored member of the family. We know each other well by the love in our hearts.

The stones in the river have been in their places many millions of years before we humans ever appeared. The sky above is a timeless vault of blue, clouded or clear, raining or dry. The trees I see here are young as they are now but they are ancient having planted themselves here those same millions of years.

What kinds of ideas are in our collective mind that disturbs and distresses the natural land? It is my question to ask if they have originated in ourselves or have they been assumed from another source? If so, from where?
What is the healing that might be the peace we wish were not just here in this small place but also in the wider world around us? How can it be that we may notice the simple profundity of the land, the mountains, the river and the trees and allow ourselves to flow from that same deep place?

I believe that these feelings exist in all of us not just in these happy, simple people here, the ladies washing clothes in the river, the kids jumping in and swimming, the old man leading a goat to the stream, all of them at peace in themselves.

From where I have lately come, the American people I know, my friends, have not been so fortunate either to take this kind of journey or to have been exposed to the understanding that these people are loving and kind. They have taken it as gospel what has been told to them and it has colored their sensibilities with a patina of ignorance that is not their fault but that has nonetheless changed them.

So here am I, this strange anomaly of an old silver-haired Grandmother who has taken herself away out of the country where she has been 40 years to go on a quest to discover more of herself in the landscape and life of a different land and in the hearts of a different people.

I am willing in myself to ask difficult questions and to seek answers not to be found in books, on the nightly news or even in the words of my peers and friends. I send them to you as a gift to make of what you will. It is my prayer for you this day, that there is enough here to cause you to ask yourselves the questions that you have not sought before and to deeply contemplate even the tentative answers that will show up for you.

In 1983, the Hopi elders that I met told me that the change of the worlds from the Fourth (which came to be after the Great Flood) to the Fifth World will take about 50 years. We are 32 years on and I believe at a tipping point in the changes that are happening everywhere. In order to truly be ready for peace, we must view the evil and know it for what it is.

Let us all be the peace we seek. The Love in our hearts is invincible.
If it isn’t me, who? If it isn’t now, when?

If I Had a Hammer: Swim in Arce River

El Salvador,  January 30, 2015

If I Had a Hammer: Swim in Arce River

The first night in the village allowed me to truly relax and sleep peacefully for the first time in nearly 2 weeks. I do rest well even in the remote places that I find free parking along the way, but in the warm aura of loving beautiful people, something wonderful settles into me even with the lumpy bed I have piled with much of my worldly goods. I awoke this Friday morning to George’s greeting and smile.

In his world, it is necessary for him to hustle daily to make the family needs appear. He went off quite soon with a wave and his agreement to return in about 2 ½ hours to assist me to empty the van. It had been rather hastily repacked after the evolution with the customs inspector the late evening before and it could only be reorganized by starting all over again. Another evolution!

He returned with the news that the border was dead and there was nothing for him. We moved the van and he took down the spare tire and the hitch so that the rear doors could be opened. Then all the stuff came out of the back into the spare room along the alley and he took a small broom to sweep the remaining glass off the carpet in the van. I got a look at the volume I had as it was stashed across the beds and tables in the room.

Off he went again on his daily rounds.

The river Arce it seems, separates, at least at this point, the boundaries of Guatemala and El Salvador. It is a lovely river spanned with a bridge that is quite usually stacked with big trucks in both directions waiting their appropriate crossing.

The evening before, I had been meeting with the family: George’s mother is a tiny beaming, grey haired lady younger and more indigenously mature than I with the usual fancy embroidered apron looped around her waist (commercial seamstresses have replaced their traditional hand worked aprons with quite marvelous, ruffled aprons that every older lady wears) and with his father, a man about 70 with whom I have found the opportunity to play some fun.

He found me a ‘baise-boll’ shaped gourd and brought me hardened moro fruits shells which immediately fit well into the ball and bat. I pitched the fruit with the bat-like gourd and managed to crack it. Off he went to find me another gourd to keep. Good game even without any language to share.

I also met Deana, 18, who is George’s niece. She has finished school but is learning English with the objective of teaching it as a second language so as we worked out that she might make it to the local aborrote for veggies for my dinner; with a lot of gesturing and smiling we learned quite a lot of facility with our different languages.

There is also a family with Dad, George’s brother and his wife and their boys, another niece nursing a girl perhaps nearing 2 years, altogether about 9 people sharing the row of brick and cement rooms that turn into kitchens, bedrooms and living areas for the whole group all turned onto the alley where my van was aligned close to their walls so that the neighbor’s many bicycle vending carts can pass.

Deana and I liked each other immediately and last night we determined that a swim in the river was just the right antidote for both of us.

After George went off on his morning adventure, we got ourselves ready. With the old lady picking her way along with the stick through the yards bordered with rickety fences, over the rocks, trodden weeds and seemingly inevitable basura, past the taciturn Brahma cows sitting chewing beside the lean-to shelters and cement buildings to the river’s weed planted shore, we made it to the stream’s edge.

Chucking off the shorts and t-shirts, each of us sunk our feet into the mud at the shore, waded a short distance, and then sat in the water with the plastic noodles for buoyancy, soon to be blissfully paddling our ways through the quickly running river. Water temperature is about 70 something, cooling and yet comfortable enough to stay in for about an hour.

Gazing up and northeasterly from where we were in the river is Guatemala’s brown plains above the tropical green of the nearer area and below the completely vegetated mountains following the north to south path of all mountains in this vast cordillera from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego at the tip of South America.

At this point, the River Arce is a main channel moving quite swiftly downhill with a short fall that leads to the back water where we had entered. Because of the grade, the river moves quickly enough to make me want to plant myself in front of a rock to hang out in the water. The best swimming hole is to be found beneath the bridge but even that would take a rope tether tied to my waist and to the shore to be able to swim; in other days, that’s probably where I would have been.

Soon after we were in the water, a local woman with two children and her laundry came to the area where we were. She deposited her two kids, a crawling baby and a girl about 5 under their blanket shelter and came into the water with her basket. She had a wonderful pinkish cylindrical ball of ‘surf’ detergent soap to clean the clothes on the cement slab set in the water above the rocks where we were hanging out. It was a scene out of time and out of history.

Women of the world hold up half the sky. Meals must be made, children must be cared for, laundry needs to happen and the women happen it all. These two ladies were doing what women everywhere are doing every day. Without women’s work, things would stop in about two hours.

There is a little more to add about all this and that is the essence of the elements: air, earth and the waters of the river. As I am in the water, I lean on the noodle back into the water and soak my crown chakra in the element. As I do, of course, I see the cloudless sky above me. I feel the cool rush of the water around me. I feel also the spirit of the air and the spirit of the water all nestled in the great spirit of the Mother Gaia herself. She, it is, I speak with as I allow all her elements to purify my spirit and soul as I am making this Journey of the Lotus through the territories of Turtle Island and onward to South America and the mountains we call Andes.

It is a sacred pause out of the madness of pavement, trucks, border crossings, the many, many people just making their way through the life they believe in. I think myself very fortunate to simply be here at this timeless eternal moment breathing and praying for the whole of us.

Then there was the scramble back up the short rocky hillside to the back alley way. As I return on my hands and feet up the slope, there is as usual detritus but this time with a slight difference. There, rusted and waiting for me is a sturdy steel hammer head. I pick it up and drop it into the pocket of my shorts.

Once again up in the alley, there are my people waiting simply sitting enjoying their moments in front of their house. I show them the hammer head and listen to myself sing Mary Tyson’s famous song:

If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the morning,

I’d hammer in the evening, all over this land.

I’d hammer out danger; I’d hammer out a warning.

I’d hammer out love between the brothers and the sisters

All, all over this land…..

Sing it again to yourself here and now. Blessed Be.

Making the Impossible Happen: It takes Angels

BLOG: El Salvador, January 30, 2015

Making the Impossible Happen: It takes Angels.

There will be entries that in time come before this one, but today I am writing to you from a wonderful alley home in Puente Arce in El Salvador right at the border with Guatemala.

As I arrived at this border two afternoons ago, I was met first with the refusal of a young woman from Immigration El Salvador to my request for passage that had something to do with the failure of immigration in Mexico to give me a entry stamp on my passport. But quite soon after this first interview, a young man showed up with an open face, a fine smile and delicious brown eyes offering to assist me. His name is Jorge, George, like my grandfather was George. His cohort was Alexander as my father was Harold Alexander. Go Figure!

At moments like this it is important to make a quick assessment of the integrity of whoever you are looking at. The first young man who offered services did not make the cut. This man, George, as it turned out, was a Prince, both knowledgeable and with a fine open heart. It did not take us long to understand each other.

At the beginning of the Sandanista occupation, he had been sent by his family out of the country so that he could not be conscripted into the army, and he had been doing work, believe it or not, in Riverside, at the agricultural school there doing the gardening while the students learning theory watched. He knew plants, gardening, English and my neighborhood. It turned out to be a blessing to us both.

So, with quite a lot of heart-full talk on his part with the same immigration people, we were free to proceed to customs. Here, we were met with the insistence of one of the customs agents that we take everything out of the van, make a list, and wait for his inspection.

Jorge and his cohort, Alexander, very masterfully unpacked the van while I swept up the whole rear area of the thousands of shards of glass that had fallen from the broken rear window. Finally, after about 4 hours, we emerged from the check point into Puente Arce with documents in order and permission to proceed on our way.

Whew! This one was a definite squeaker!

First things first: to the porch of the local cantina and a cold beer while we sorted out all of our accomplishments and made a bare bones strategy about what would be next. Our destiny, it seemed had been determined and we would complete quite a long part of this journey sharing with each other: their savvy and skill of the border games that are played in these territories and from me, the simple and profound wisdom of Grandmother.

Each of us in our own way was ready for the very different gifts we were giving to each other. It always works.

They found me a place to park and I gratefully went to sleep rather later in the morning and only for a while sometime between the rumblings and noise of engine brakes of many big trucks that crossed the frontier most of the night.

Next day, they came in the morning to greet me. The first thing to do was to figure out about how to change travelers cheques so there would be cash to pay the toll that was paid the day before by Alexander (I had nothing left from the crossing from Guatemala), and what would properly compensate these two for their services.

So, imagine that this old lady, stick and all, slung her leg over the back and climbed on George’s go-fast red motorcycle! Off we went, putting away down the highway to the quite near town to see about our quest. There was no bank there that would help us. We made it back about the 5 miles to the border crossing and determined that we should go to a farther but larger city and to a bigger bank.

Three of us climbed into the Red Bear, Jorge and Alexander in the lounge in back and I in the driver’s seat. Off we went at the usual Central American speed of about 35 mph about an hour down the rather torn up highway roads until we found the banks, one of which was willing to cash only a $100. cheque.

As we had been working together now for about a full 24 hours, we had learned quite a lot about ourselves and the possibilities we might have to be of service. As we drove back from the banking expedition with George driving, (I was much too exhausted to do it,) we determined that I was invited to park in the alley of his family’s home in Puente Arce.

In conversation with him, I had determined that it was necessary for me to take about 10 days off from the road. I was invited to join the family scene here for the duration while I recuperated.  Then, later accompanied by George, I could make the trip through the several boundaries until we made it to Costa Rica where there was a lot less hassle, and where I would be in much less challenging territory all the way through to Panama. George quoted me his very reasonable fee and informed me of the charges that I would be facing for the trip. We made a good agreement and so, here I am.

It seems that the human family once more found a home together in the dusty alley of a very small town nearly lost in a ravaged state. None of that matters, I can tell you, when I look into the faces of my sisters and brothers and our children. We recognize each other immediately: it’s a heart thing, don’t you know!

As we wound our way through the quaint, dusty red brown dirt streets of this small town that had survived with simple people-to-people commitment. What a relief and what a blessing as at last the respite I had been asking for became a reality.

I can report to you, my friends, those of you who keep coming to visit the experiences I am writing to you about, that you cannot make this stuff up. It comes along because there truly are unseen helpers (we have called them ‘angels’) that show us the way to go. George was pacing his beat that afternoon as I was coming through the border crossing. I had met the bureaucratic hurdle that without his help might have been impossible.

First of all, I already know there are two ways to interpret the rules to the game and I play to win. It became obvious within a very few minutes, that our destiny’s were matched. It comes through a meeting of the hearts and minds. It is very quiet and…

v e r y subtle.

The operative word here is: Trust!

Playa Azul. Michoacán

January 18, 2015. Playa Azul. Michoacán

The Tao of the Broom and the Mop

Just about wherever I am going doing those ordinary needful things that are an auto trip, gas and bathroom, specifically; I encounter the holy people wielding brooms and mops. They are in the Pemex lots where they sweep across the pavements before the gas tanks, around the stanchions of air and water, around the stands of engine fluids, oil and anti freeze, and in the larger turn around areas. There they are sweeping the detritus left behind from all the other ordinary people like me making auto trips either across their town or across the state.

In the convenience stores, there are older women and some men also sweeping with a tall broom and a dust pan on a handle. They sweep and clean and lift the plastic bags, the plastic trays, the plastic cups into the larger plastic bags that hang off the cart that they push around with them.

At both MacDonald’s and Burger King where I know I will find free WiFi, there they are as though these not so tall ladies are a band of elves who has appeared here again and again to sweep and clean and mop with long handled heavy mops that they wring out by hand over a bucket they carry around with them.

They leave behind them areas cleaned, tiles sparkling, and a little damp. Over and over during each and every day, they are there sweeping and cleaning.

At various  stations across the territory, there are small cement buildings housing banos, bathrooms designated by the familiar signs for Hombres (men) and Mujers (women). Often outside these places are the custodians watching and waiting.

In the past few days, I have met two wonderful older ladies sitting doing truly artful embroidery on napkins watching and waiting, holding court with a needle and a mop.

We smile at each other for I, too, am a practitioner of the needle arts with 7 decades behind me. I appreciate these artful women because this kind of needle work is really never been of interest to me. To see their fabulous stitching, the color selections, their attention to the details of the flower, leaf and vine themes is humbly awe inspiring to me. Their needles are racking up time while they also swing their mops, brushes and cleaning cloths keeping toilets, sinks and floors clean for the flood of people.

They honor their occupation and their art all at once and so do I honor them and their service, for this kind of dedication deserves the 2 pesos they ask.

The Tao of the Shovel and the Rake.

The tropical gardens and plantations are the home of a hectare or two of capped rows of table vegetables grown for the people in the villages and towns nearby They are also many hectares of commercial crops: melons of many varieties, papaya which are small trees up to about 6 feet tall which bloom, fruit and are picked only once, stands of coconut palms and avocado orchards each with much longer growing and harvesting cycles..

Certainly somewhere there must be some mechanical equipment which plows out the rows, which orders the orchards when they are planted initially; but most of the labor is done by a man with a shovel.

And when it is time to clear up the garden that has been harvested, there is a man with a rake; or properly, many men with rakes.

In the truck gardens when it is time to cultivate, weed and pick, there are women who wear pants and dresses and t-shirts, who swaddle their heads with two bandannas covering their hair and their faces clamped down with a peaked cap all of these with dirt and grime well worn into the fibers of the cloth.

These simple, very hardworking fraternities and sororities of people keep the wheels of the world around them turning providing them with all kinds of food and nourishment. The work is there to do and they are there to do it.

When I lived in the US, commonly I went to the large grocery chain store to find bins of vegetables and fruits that I might be able to eat. I chose to learn which of the selections I found were relatively ‘clean’ and which were ‘toxic’ with pesticides, herbicides or heavy fertilizers that could not be made edible even with washing.

Here in this place, in this country and in these states, I saw the people who used their shovels and rakes in the fields, set the compost, cultivated, watered and nourished and later picked, cleaned and bundled for similar people who lived in their areas. There was no need of some government committee to ‘certify’ these were organic, one saw the people with their shovels and rakes going into the fields to work. I could notice the wholesomeness of the whole of it and realize that anything I found at the stands, however it ‘looked’ was all living nourishment for a traveler.

So, I gas up and I drive. I stop to rest and I eat the food I have found and some that I have brought with me to add to the nourishment I need. It’s all organic. It’s all real, wholesome and above all, human.

Beetles are Forever: VW’s are in Mexico!

Beetles are Forever: VW’s are in Mexico!

Well, you were thinking that because of all the smog rules, and the traffic rules and all the other rules (some of which you are not even aware of rules) that the Volkswagen Beetle had about disappeared from the scene. Except, maybe, in some collector’s garage.

Think again. This one I can prove. The following post today is a collection of the Beetles that I have taken pictures of all about the deserts, cities and byways of northern Mexico. Bon Appetit!

Volkswagen Beetles in Mexico
Volkswagen Beetles in Mexico

A take down souped up model in Culiacan.
This might be a BIG mechanic!

Volkswagen Beetles in Mexico
Volkswagen Beetles in Mexico

The paint attracted me so I turned around and leaned out the window…
what you see is what you get…

Volkswagen Beetles in Mexico
Volkswagen Beetles in Mexico

Side street in Guaymas next to cemetery

Volkswagen Beetles in Mexico
Volkswagen Beetles in Mexico

The guy driving waved at me as I took his pictures obviously enjoying every minute of his notoriety.

Volkswagen Beetles in Mexico
Volkswagen Beetles in Mexico

Low light in the shaded parking lot in Walmart, Mazatlan.

Volkswagen Beetles in Mexico
Volkswagen Beetles in Mexico

My vibe is that he has owned this VW forever! A Plaza in Guaymas.

Volkswagen Beetles in Mexico
Volkswagen Beetles in Mexico

Iron gates are everywhere around the houses and stores,
on the side streets of Santa Ana,
near where I slept at the gate of the horse Patron.

Volkswagen Beetles in Mexico
Volkswagen Beetles in Mexico

This is the racing model somewhere in San Felipe.

So, my friends, that is the Mex Mix of VW that I have found so far. I have definitely caught the ‘bug’ so to speak so here is the first serving of fun for you.

And Please, just send me your thoughts and comments. I will, when I can, get back to you as soon as I can. Have a wonderful day and keep on smiling!

Dateline: Navojoa

January 4, 2015: dateline: Navojoa

Se Vende: what’s to sell? Who’s to buy?

The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well here in Mexico. It is pushing carts, it is under thatch and plywood board roofs along every highway, it is on the streets of the towns, in the parking lots of the glossy plazas, of Wal-Mart, along the boardwalks at the shoreline, on the right of ways along the highways, at the stop lights in the cities and just about everywhere! The vendors are young and old, many are men, some are women with their children, or there is a husband and his wife holding the baby and herding their offspring among the crowds I witnessed especially on New Year’s Eve in Guaymas.

Everywhere are shack and shanty businesses; they coexist with all the other kinds of service establishments built of cement block, plastered and painted bright colors with signs that are the same hand painted and colorful. There is everything from the llantera (tire) places along the highway, hat and belt vendors next to MacDonald’s in the towns, near the churches, in front of the rows of shops and assorted mercado that often sell much the same goods as the street vendor down the block.

All over the place are taco stands proclaiming carne asada, pollo or mariscos (meat, chicken and fish) usually rolled in a soft taco shell (presumably made from Mexican corn rather than American GMO corn #2) hand held with sauces or salsas in handy tall bottles to spice the mix.

Everybody eats at these carts and stands.

At the Pemex station where I was those first couple nights, the grandfather arrived before 7 am with his upright, neat grandson to push out his quite uniquely decorated rolling cart stand, fire up the propane burner under the kettle and get ready for the crowd of truckers who rolled alongside just long enough to eat up and clean up and be on their way. All day long, bursts of people from the gas station and from the local town congregated next to him and he obligingly cooked and joked and made them welcome. At the day’s end, with ‘adelante pronto’ to his grandson, they moved their tables and chairs and rolled the cart back into its waiting trailer for the night.

On that Saturday morning, a quiet young man rolled up in his CA licensed small car next to where I had been all night. From the roof of the car, he loosened 5 large sections of wire fencing each about 7×4 ft and placed them upright at the edge of the gas station parking lot, tying them to each other and to the tree under which I also found shade to steady them. Next, from several sacks he pulled the well known white cowboy type hats to hang them in their individual plastic bags from the wire racks. Along with these were about 3 or 4 dozen leather belts, black, tan, studded, glittered and buckled alongside a collection of wallets. And just to decorate for the season, there were placed 6 pinata to hang from the tree and from the taller parts of the racks. He stood all day there, often bargaining with the people who wandered over from the gas station. I do not know how well he did but it must have been okay because the next time I was there on the Saturday returning from San Felipe, there he was in the same black pants, jacket, the same cap, the same taciturn demeanor.

At the in-town Pemex stations, at distances from the standard OXXO convenience stores, the cart venders come with tacos to sell becoming a kind of competition for the bags of chips, candy, soda and cigarettes stacked formally in the store.

Along the highway towns, which are really only collections of small cement brick and plaster houses, often behind fences of sticks planted in the dirt strung with wire are even more vendors some with mobile carts, many under specially thrown up thatch lean-to stands; some have tables and plastic chairs; all are swept dirt floor areas, arranged around the propane fire heating the large pots of oil. There are primitive type art signs often on sheets of colored plastic hung as side walls around to keep the sun and dust off. The names match all the rest of the color: Mariscos El Rey, Asada Pepe Gonzales, Tacos Emily.

Take your pick and satisfy your hunger.

In San Felipe at the La Palapa camp where I stayed, several men and even a well burdened young woman came trudging through the camp with layers of ponchos over their shoulders or with bed spread type large printed cotton squares.

A motley collection of scraggly chin characters brought 2 ½ ft by 20 inch fastened cases with a waiter’s type scissor racks over their shoulders offering silver, brass and copper bracelets very well polished, dangling earrings, and trinkets like money clips made from large, even old, silver coins for sale.

It is all fascinating how these people are everywhere vending, selling, hawking, and urging us to buy their wares. There are not many jobs to be had around and about, so people do what they do to make it every day. I do not know how they make out and they do in a way that must somehow provide the basics of their life.

What seems to be the most amazing is the obvious camaraderie which seems to exist amongst all the various members of their unofficial club from Mexicali, San Felipe, Sonoyta, Santa Ana, the back streets and neighborhoods of Hermasillo and now as I continue my travel southward to Guaymas and Obregon.

I have chosen quite purposefully simple, even old clothing so as not to look much like a tourist. My van has not been washed ever, I think, the most new and polished part of it is the hitch and spare tire rack on the back.

Still I am a mark because I am driving on the highways and through the toll booths, over the tomo (horrendous speed bumps in the towns) where people collect with bags of oranges, or fried pig rinds, even an old guy today with small cages of cockatoos.

Even so, in my former world, I am a thrift store maven, I am considered wealthy by these ubiquitous, very busy laboring people. I am moving through territory on my way to a far country and all the while I am learning what I could not learn any other way. It will be on me to use the experiences to make something of all this and with the people where I will be living. What will I give them?

I hope you will continue with me as I go onward. This Sunday afternoon I am at a MacDonald’s where there is free wifi and an alright cup of coffee to fuel the words. Enjoy yourself and if you simply must have more of this, please check out Smashwords.com with my pen name: Amraah Carole White and you will find my autobiography, Raven’s Flight. She is aloft today!

Love and Blessings. Amraah

This is not exactly a travelogue

January 2, 2015 Guaymas, Mexico

This is not exactly a travelogue
A while ago I looked up on one of those interesting internet sites that feature synonyms to discover what other words there are besides journey to describe this precedent setting trip to Ecuador.

The first obvious one is ‘hegira’ which is actually rather religious in nature like the journey that Mohamed made from Mecca to Medina. It didn’t seem to fit this kind of road trip mostly, I think, because I cannot be classed with any sort of religious figure.

Along came the word ‘trek’ but somehow Gene Roddenberry first used this word to his and our advantage quite some time ago. It also made me think of some kind of trail blazing accompanied by other intrepid types seeking to be the first to – trek – unknown territory. Following already paved roads across well mapped countries just wasn’t what this term signified, not to say across parsecs of deep space either. Already done!

Along came ‘peregrination’ but this felt rather round about and round about I go. My budget and the price of gas cancelled out the use of this word. I will leave it to its namesake, peregrine falcon, to soar in circles over desert land seeking dinner morsels of tiny mice.

Finally there came ‘progression’ like the tours that were made by Elizabeth 1 around her kingdom. These were both expensive for the hosts and a series of wild parties that were intended to solidify the fealty of her court. These rather social affairs were not appropriate either because I am travelling solo, there are no hosts awaiting me and my wardrobe is just not up to the glamour.

There were not so many words to choose from and so after eliminating the former list, I settled on ‘journey’ and “Journey of the Lotus” indicating an idea that each of us is metaphorically part of the Lotus, a Hindu concept referring to the Great Universe.

Indeed, we are One in an ocean of many Ones, all within a Great One! Something about that idea had captured me a long time ago enough to inspire me in this time to rediscover what a journey my life has been so far in the mirror of a trip in a well loaded, not so very new, red and white one ton van across the rest of this Turtle Island continent and onward southward across the Equator.

Journey it is, but not a travelogue.

Moving on with the idea of a web log, or blog for short, meant to me, at least, including a conversation not only about what I was to see on my way presumably the sights to be found along with way I am travelling as well as the day to day necessities of living, driving, staying healthy and certainly enjoying myself!

I had to pause on the issue of the sights as well because I have followed on a couple of those web sites that feature destination travel. That felt thoroughly like Americans invading places across the world making the ‘pyramids of Mexico’ for instance into some kind of commodity destination.

“If this is Tuesday, it must be Belgium” kind of tour guided special: 10 days, 5 countries, $5000.00 air fare from New York included. But you get to make New York from wherever you are , extra of course. Oh, remember, meals are included.

Nope. That’s not it either. I’m moving myself and bringing my life with me. It’s all here, as much as I might easily and comfortably include: my $10. thrift store stationary bicycle, a rebounder trampoline 1985 vintage, a backswing of a similar time used to hang out for real to stretch my spine to its natural length; a Soloflex vibrating platform which tech amazingly potentializes yoga, pilates, straight weight lifting and work with stretch bands all intended to renew and build my strength and energy.

There is a stash of books some classics, some new and modern delivered by the intrepid Amazon.com. After seven decades as a seamstress, I needed a pair of sewing machines, both newly purchased specifically geared without any cyber vulnerable computers accompanied by an array of thread, notions, scissors, an iron and ironing board and some precious fabrics that could not be left behind. There is a table and a chair, a hundred foot heavy duty electric cord, and pared down and made efficient few boxes of other gear that will begin a household where I will find myself in Ecuador.

Since my health and well being is a primary concern, I bought a really good, really easy to use juicer which can be powered, because of its low wattage requirements, with the inverter and a deep cycle battery. I also stocked up on nutritional elements because I will have no way to buy them nor a place for them to be delivered as I make my way.

I stock my extras under the bed made of layers of Hudson’s Bay blankets and memory foam. Finally there is a pile of clothing that will keep me going over at least 3 different seasons beginning here in mid winter in northern Mexico, through the more temperate southern Mexico and finally to the tropics of Central America and the shoreline roads in Colombia in South America.

Finally there is my office, dictionary, computer and camera each of which can record the details of my trip. And for the Red Bear, the colloquial name for the van, there are all the various fluids needed, a heavy duty tire jack, a battery charger, a really big lug wrench and a few tools.

Journey this is; a Journey of a 76 year old Lotus, matron and grandmother.

It, very definitely, is not a travelogue!

It’s Always Best to take Good Advice: Making it to Guaymas

December 31, 2014

It’s Always Best to take Good Advice: Making it to Guaymas

The route takes me onward: Sonoyta, Santa Ana, Hermosillo and finally today, the last day of 2014, to Guaymas, even further south in Mexico, from the dry desert to the humid air of the Gulf.

I pace myself each day because I simply do not want to drive a great distance each day and the roads, although paved, lined and often with wide shoulders, are not entirely smooth. There are rough spots; there are dips and places across the bridges (puente) where the pavement has not been made even. So the road is somewhat bumpy and it takes a continuing attention to drive especially when the rough and ready big trucks or the sleek modern busses whiz past me doing 110 Km while I am tootling along at a relatively easy slow 80 km, about 50 mph.

The kilometer to miles math is about multiplying the number of km by 6 and lopping of a digit to discover mileage. So, I am driving only about 120 to 150 km a day which is the distance between the stops I am making at the small towns along the way and quite enough driving for me.

First, there was Sonoyta where I found a truck stop to sleep at. Then on to Santa Ana where I drove up and down the streets until I found Policia station: I needed a map and some help to find just what I was looking for. Imagine that my still grade school sensibilities decided that the best assistance would be to stop in to talk to a policeman!

It worked: the man hunched behind the deep blue desk in the small dark office with a tall counter was a ‘son’ about 50 while the younger man who spoke un poquito englaise was like a grandson. He took me on a short walk up the street to a copy shop but the proprietor said he had no maps.

It was necessary to find a ride if we were to find what was needed. After the young man made a call, along came a cop car with a male driver and a generously built young woman carrying a semi-automatic rifle. She got out, I climbed gingerly into the jump seat and, with her taco built bulk, she filled up the passenger side again next to me: off we went around the town to find a 711 where indeed there was a very good plastic coated road map of Mexico. The next part of the ride was about attempting to cash traveler’s cheques but the exchanges only work off cash and already the banks were closed.

And so, back again through the ups and downs of the back streets of Santa Ana riding in the front seat of the Police truck until there we were back at the station. Tayna let me out with a most patient gesture. Muy Gracias.

As I cruised the streets looking for wifi gratis, I found a cyber café but he had a gaming set up with only a needed bathroom for me. Then a little more driving looking at the town, I spied a side street and as I entered, I saw a long high, brick plastered white wall with an ornate iron gate and a side yard where there were two well cared for horses one of them looking at me curiously over her gate.

Taking that as a good omen, I pulled around and parked the van behind the horse trailer. As I stayed waiting in the driver’s seat, soon there was a quite elegant, 60ish Spanish patron who came to see what I looked like. In about 2 minutes, we negotiated a one night parking spot and with a gentle handshake, a gesture of honor which I knew immediately, and I was ready to take time off as the golden hour just at dusk made the fields behind me glow pale golden, hushing to intense orange and finally fading to twilight. Sweet dreams.

Next morning I was ready early with frozen fingers to gas and find a free road off to the east at Magdalena but as I made the 11 kilometer ride over in that direction, I realized this was a toll road that went to Nogales. Not on my route. I waited till there was a gap in the heavy traffic of big trucks and went across the highway to the opposite direction.

At the OXXO store was a slender, educated Spanish man who gently, in English, advised me to go back to Santa Ana and take the toll road south (65 pesos) to Hermosillo from there.

It is always useful to take good advice.

This is northern Mexican desert country. It is everywhere planted as the Great Mother plants her garden with saguaro cactus, the smoke trees, with acres of cholla cactus that look like so many rose bushes ranging among tall grasses and some other kinds of green herb plants. I stopped along the road to eat my meal and to put out the carpet I have to stretch my back and to stretch the wide rubber bands that I am using to build strength into my legs and torso, and breathe myself among the amazingly lush desert land.

Finally, I came to Hermosillo, a quite large town even further southward on Route 15. I had made my intention to find a bank so that I might cash some traveler’s cheques. I was not about to run out of money so I gave myself a little space of dinero to make sure that I would not.

After one stop, I was directed to Bancomer a little further down the main road in Hermosillo where I parked alongside and made my way inside. Imagine that these banks are floored with natural marble tiles each different and all in the signature colors of grays with blue accents in paint, furniture and signage.

I went to the teller window to be greeted by a very lovely young woman. I pulled out the cheques I had, along with my passport, driver’s license, green card, and birth certificate only to be informed at once that the manager was not in the bank. A few minutes later, the senior teller, another truly beautiful girl, said that she had decided to cash my cheques and would I please be seated.

Well, it took her close to 2 hours to figure out the data base of American Express and finally at 3:56, I signed the cheques, signed the receipts and walked out with the cash I needed already changed into pesos. All it would take would be a stop later at an exchange to make some of the larger bills smaller.

Thank you very much. Have you noticed that it often comes down to the heart and to the women of the world? Muy Gracias.

Later I was able to find parking overnight at a Pemex station in a slot between an abandoned trailer and a truck parked in a side lot. The whole thing cost me some change for a tip. The dude at the pumps pumped the gringo dame for some dinero.

The perk was that I was across the street from a large hotel with a free wifi signal that blanketed the local area. I slept early after sitting so long driving and waiting at the bank to wake at 3am to blog and answer emails, then go back to sleep until the sun shone in my window about 8:20 in the morning.

The final leg of this part of the journey through the Mexican desert country, took me down the way to the shore of the Gulf of California to Guaymas, famous for its fishing fleet and large shrimp. I drove into town about 2pm in the afternoon to drive ever so slowly all the way through the busy town.

Seems not only were the locals out on the last day of the year, there were also quite a few out of state and foreign vehicles driving around amid the very noisy, well used buses, bicycles, taco carts, motorcycles and lots of people just walking around, shopping and talking animatedly on the sidewalks eating from various carts around and about. I took a lot of pictures to record the color and flavor of the town.

I have to imagine what I would have been like in the 1930’s and 40’s when certain Hollywood people found the place. The territory about is dotted with cathedral like rocky hills and sparse dry desert landscape right down to the shore line.

I did not see any campsites around this town as I had in San Felipe because it really is a much larger place and the shoreline is filled up with a immense fishing fleet.

I had spotted a Pemex truck stop just outside of town where I was welcomed into the back lot to park over night while the earth turned and the calendar changed into 2015.

I have to imagine there were many wild parties, lots of music, tequila, beer, dancing and assorted goings on in the town but that is not my style. You are being treated to this blog instead. I hope you found some time to party down while I am content here to watch the end of the day with incense and candles along with the avocado salad that I am about to make for myself.

Feliz Ano Nuevo. Prospero Ano Nuevo. And sweet dreams.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull

I had not seen much of Jonathan for quite some time since I left the coastal regions of Washington State about 2001. Raven favors the desert uplands where she scavenges for carrion doing her kind of clean up eating also berries and seeds from the Joshua tree and pinyon pines. Family member, Jay inhabits the sierra forest where she dominates with her raucous call and bold ways.

But, Jonathan is a coastal bird soaring above the waves from dawn to dusk, congregating in flocks on the beaches also scavenging. There is a certain squat and plumpy waddling majesty to these winged ones padding with webbed feet on the sandbars at shore’s edge.

With grave attention to the speed limit in order to make the most of the efficiency of the engine, I rolled down #5 from the Pemex station to San Felipe in search of a bank or some way to turn my American cash into pesos. No dinero, no gas!

It was a quite a trip to nurse the gas tanks seeking to discover just what it would take to once again work off only the front tank and a driving range of about 120 miles. It seemed that the switch from front to rear under the dashboard was not working and even though I rode with the switch to the rear until it coughed in protest, I believe that I was rolling on the front tank all the way.

The Universe and I made it until I found a medical center just outside San Felipe where I knew somehow there were English speakers who would be able to direct me to the bank.

There is only one bank in San Felipe and when I parked on the narrow street and walked over to the bank, there were long lines of waiting people outside and many others congesting the lobby awaiting service. I put my name on the list for “personal service only” to discover a little later that it was necessary to have a Mexican address to open an account that would have facilitated me to use a card. However, the friendly gentleman directed me down the street to a currency exchange where a sweet and obviously knowledgeable woman gave me the pesos needed to buy gas along with some hint to the equivalency of pesos to dollars.

Then figure out how to calculate the price of gas in pesos at 14.76 per dollar and the amount of gas measured in liters rather than gallons. I settled for 14 liters (about 3 ½ gallons) for one of those 200 peso bills with some clattering change in my hand left over. Once more there was enough gas to at least explore the town.

I was perplexed that the ocean was to the east but it would take another day or so to finally get it that I had found my way down Baja and not on the road to mainland Mexico.

Nevertheless, I found myself touring the little town at a very slow speed until on a short trip up the wrong way of a one way stone paved street, as I turned into a slot to turn around i spied a large clear sign that read: free wifi. Just what I was seeking because I had been out of touch with the cyber world for about 2 ½ weeks as I was finally making it across the border out of the US.

I pulled out the waiting computer, assembled the wires and gadgets, pens and my notebook, the pouch finally filled with sufficient Mexican currency, and took myself inside the place to be greeted by a friendly young man, Rene, who waited tables. He showed me to a table by the windows, I ordered coffee, used the code he gave me and voila! I am on line ready to get up to date on all the thank you notes I needed to write.

After breakfast and a couple hours on the net, I left and took myself all about on the streets of the town. The area closest to the beach is rowed in small colorful mercado, stores selling the traditional hats, belts and wallets along with other touristy stuff. Rockadile, a volleyball club, sported cartoon crocodiles in various beachy games painted large along the street side. In the mix was the bank and other more formal businesses well dotted with hole-in-the-wall small stores hung with bright clothing, and other wares. I cruised through the town up one street and down the other looking at the assortment of vacant lots next to walled cement houses with small doors on the streets and somewhere garages in behind. Many of these places were two stories piled like children’s blocks one on top of the other with balconies above the walls with potted plants, palms and thorny Bougainvillea bright pink and red flowering bushes in profusion spilling over the wooden railings.

If we wish to compare the townscapes we are used to with these quite different places, our somewhat more orderly sense might be assaulted by the torrent of strangely built houses, the multi-story hotel structures, the brick painted gates, the iron work on the windows and a chaos of dusty roads without curbs or real pavement.

But to do so would be to miss the flavor and the passion of these wonderful city streets. Sure, there is plenty of dirt, dust and piles of trash, people doggedly walk about in well worn clothing, when people smile their Spanish greetings, their teeth are often blacked and pocked but their hearts are open and blazing. They attend to their ordinary work with a simple, humble stance and when I greet them with my halting ‘muy poquito Espanole” and a smile, they brighten and return their rapid Spanish greetings to me.

It all works because the human spirit is within waiting for the connections. I am warmed and I feel acknowledged and quite safe.

That first night in town I drove a little up the highway north until I spotted a sign leaning over the bank that said, “Food for birds.” I drove down the next open space and asked the man there, a gardener with a thriving nursery business, if I might park outside his gate to sleep. His smile said yes. I knew I was in the right place as there were flitting and diving birds everywhere. So the old lady bunked out before his iron fence dreaming through the night.

Dateline: Pemex, Mexico #2

Older ladies, and probably gentlemen as well, are awake in the night. Sometimes I am awake for a couple hours, sometimes meditating, in the old time in the coach, I might be working on the computer or sewing. It is a sweet time, quiet and undisturbed because most of the rest of the world in my zone are sleeping, perhaps to be dreaming.

And I also waken rather more early here in the van because I do not put up screens across the windows to simulate the dark. Van life is a dawn to dusk reality.

Yesterday, I explored the yard where I am parked. It goes back toward the mountains behind quite a distance with a junk yard at the very rear piled in well rusted equipment, trucks, scrap metal, and a magical assortment of unrecognizable metal and wood stuff. There are lean-to buildings that somehow manage to remain upright, spanning the area beneath them also filled with piles of scrap. There were at least two very old mechanical machines which I do not know the purpose and one old old rounded fender automobile that might have been left over from the 1940’s. There is cactus planted and in front of a green painted plain house there was a mosaic stone and cement wall, a round table with the same benches four of them arranged around the table all fixed in cement and nobbed in stone, with stone pots growing with a certain succulent that hangs in hanks down to the ground. An old, small golden dog was asleep on the warm cement behind the table and benches. There was a sun-moon plaster plaque mounted on the wall next to the door of the small house that seemed to border the northern edge of the property.

At no time in the two days I was there did it seem anyone actually lived there, but there was still plenty of activity in the front areas of the yard. Grandfather and grandson came before 7 am to move their wheeled taco stand with a canvas roof painted as a blue ocean with fishes and a leaping shark spanning the deep fryer and counter top. This contraption rested before a shelter roofed with palm leaves under which they had brought a couple round plastic tables with chairs and the basket of condiments arranged in the center. Over the two days there were often groups of people arriving in cars or trucks, or walking over from the gas station waiting for their meals. My English mind was asking about how long the oil had been in the deep fryer but I could not sample the wares because ‘no dinero’. These two men worked diligently over the days providing their offerings and pocketing what was quite likely an adequate amount of money for their work.

Across the yard nearer to the gas station stood an old rolling kitchen truck now planted in the sand, tires flattened and dammed in by sand and rocks. The woman stood in the truck cooking dispensing beans and tortillas, enchiladas served on paper plates, soon to be ditched in the large barrel along side.

Many cars came, unloaded people who ate meals and soon left. Life was happening as the old lady in the funky red van watched and clicked many pictures. At one point, late Sunday afternoon, a truck and trailer rolled beside the taco stand towing a wagon filled with a miniature merry-go-round with an orange floor forming the sides behind which were the elephants, horses and ostriches of the ride set under all the metal machinery which was painted blue turquoise. A woman jumped out, went to the gas station store and returned with sacks of their packaged goodies to take with her on the way home.

Monday dawned crimson and soon the sun glowed behind the now overcast sky as I watched once more as life took its merry course. It was merry because of the people but not so happy as it was obvious these were hard working people whose life was hardly larger than the necessity to pull it all together every day to provide their sustenance.

I was, it seemed, a very rich white lady who could not speak their language. My own personal story had nothing to do with them and the distance between what I perceived as what was real for me and their reality was a chasm barely able to be spanned. I was simply parked for a day or two next to their places, observing them closely and here, writing a blog about it all to my friends who are also a very large distance apart and away as well.

Then it was necessary for me to drive away down south to San Felilpe to deal with the situation of ‘no dinero.’

I had discovered some sort of glitch in the gas tank apparatus that showed up as no gas in the jets when the switch was on the rear tank. When I first discovered it, I was somewhat dismayed that Bud and I had not thought of changing out the switch along with the fix on the rear tank. A couple of days just allowing it all to be what it was schooled me to simply run as I might, switching to the rear tank as long as it would and switching back to the front to continue the drive.

As it turned out, the distance that remained to San Felipe was short enough for the front tank to be adequate. Changing money in the small colorful coastal town proved timely for the first Mexican gas and the first schooling in gas prices measured in liters and the denominations of paper money in my hands. Along with some fancy gestures and stumbling English to Spanish and back to figure it all out enough at least to fill 14 liters in the tank for 186.74 pesos, whatever that might be.

And you are now receiving this blog post because on the roadway at the shoreline along with many side by side mercado that spill out to the sidewalk was a large gracious bistro with free internet and Rene, a young waiter who made me an omelette to eat along with the coffee he brought.

There is more to this story, so tune in. You may also download my e-published book, Raven’s Flight, now available for a very nominal $3,99 from Smashwords.com. I hope you will be inspired to read and to enjoy on any electronic device or by downloading a PDF file directly to your computer. We are, you know, very rich!. Love and Blessings, Amraah

Dateline: Pemex, Mexico

The gas company in Mexico is called Pemex. Everywhere in Mexico you will find Pemex and gas is the same price wherever you go. I thought that to be a really great idea.

As a van-gabond, gas stations can be terrific places to stop to park, use their bathrooms which are usually decently clean, get gas and even stay for a while, a night only or a few days.

After making it through the international boundary Friday afternoon, the confusion of Mexicali confronted me at about 35 miles per hour in near to dusk evening traffic. It was necessary to tune up the intuition quickly because it was obvious there was nothing about that would serve me to park overnight. I took a side street to the west until I realized there was to be nothing there to help me and so I turned around on a side street with the request to find the freeway south.

Behold, an almost unmarked entry point presented itself and I turned down the on-ramp onto the freeway. It seems that even drivers in Mexico can be expected to follow the lanes at least more or less and they do not want to hurt their cars so they nicely avoided a rather slower moving, ugly old van. Off I went with a new sense of observation firmly in place scanning the sides of the road, scanning the cars around me and scanning the landscape for signs that would show me the way to go.

It was so quick through the border that I did not stop at the recommended customs office for a paper map and so I was on my own with the universal intelligence that is in all of us and a few years of driving skills.

I found the main road #5 which leads eventually down most of the west coast of Mexico. I had discovered its name and number on one of my internet cruises a few months ago. Turned out that San Felipe is 198 K from Mexicali (Mexico works on kilometers which are a little more than twice what miles would be: San Felipe is about a 100 miles south.) I had already discovered that the rear gas tank on the van was not working properly, seems the switch in front does not do what it is supposed to do. All this means is that the driving range of the van is about 100 miles on the front tank only.

Would you know it, I had not stopped to exchange money either. No dinero, only dollars! At the rate of traffic, I was cruising this highway headed south seeking as soon as possible just the right place to stop for the night.

It showed up about 30 k down that road where I noticed just the right Pemex station on my right with just the right look to inspire me to pull off the road, observe the general area and assess where to park. I found it, too, just on the south boundary of the station in a wide yard unpaved and vacant of moving vehicles. I turned the van into a sandy area under a flowering tree inviting me to its shade.

By this time, the sun had been gone for at least 50 minutes and even the last crimson in the sky had paled to a dusky glow over the hills on the westerly side.

Imagine that I was ready for my first sleep in Mexico.

I had taken myself to Trader Joes for the final shop where I collected my favorite yoghurt, a few lemons, tomatoes, a sack of avocados and my swansong indulgence: the ultimate berry pie! Yum, the traveler made a hearty meal and was quite soon comfortably off to dream land in a new country, a new language and a whole new adventure.

I hope you are as ready as I am for more!

An End Run: The Final Days

The value of friendship cannot be under estimated. Two of the very best showed up on the last Saturday in November to put in a big day loading everything that had been in the coach to stuff the van floor to ceiling and right to the doors. I drove out of the driveway of that very last day complete of an Aguanga friendship which spanned about two and a half years. My gratitude is unbounded for what I experienced in that place which expanded my visionary awareness and solidified my resolve to seek an entirely different kind of end game than what might have been expected of a 75 year old/young woman.

In that time, I came to understand that I did not wish to simply wait around for the end of the end game. Somehow, it just did not sit well with me to waste what I have come to know and be to just allow the passage of days without participating at some meaningful level.

Once out the driveway, I drove myself to be with two other friends, this time in Anza, where it was utterly obvious that a fair amount of that pile of materiality had to go in order to make the trip I have been contemplating. So: first was unload; second was sort and re-organize; third, reload it all in some semblance of order that would facilitate the travel, the living in the space on four wheels.

I did not know it would take another 5 days to do that probably because the energy it took just to get out of the coach mostly exhausted me and the volume of my stuff proved rather overwhelming for the legitimate capacity of the van.

Sort I did and parted company with quite a lot of collected materials that might have become pouches or skirts, sweater coats or hats. And all of the boxes or baskets that simply would not work in the van that had to work as a living and sleeping space for a 6 to 9 month journey to the very southern parts of North America and onward to our southerly neighbor beyond the Panama canal zone.

Then a morning came that marked the full pack completion and so, once again, with a little sadness and a lot of gratitude, I drove out of their driveway to make one last visit with my very best-est good friend, Robyn, where there was a hot shower waiting for me, a sweet meal and the deeper heart of loving kindness that nurtures the soul of each woman.

One last Anza stop remained to place myself in the drive of a fine mechanic who made a special point to complete some critical parts of the steering in the van, fix the windshield wipers and with a sweep of his hand, send me off to the greater world.

On the turn from the last Anza road onto Highway 371, there was an ordinary extraordinary moment that ended my stay in the valley and began the final run to the border of the US with Mexico another five days on from that Monday morning.

It was one last winding down Highway 74 through the sparse dry landscape to the desert communities in the Coachella Valley for a visit with a woman artist friend over the next few days. We had been promising each other such a time together which turned out to be both a beginning and a deepening that somehow we both knew was there for us. We went one whole day to Desert Hot Springs to soak in the pools at the Spa hotel and tune in once again with a wonderful sweet Hispanic woman who had been friend for several years. The big swimming pool became a watery gymnasium to release all the tense stiffness in joints and muscles, the warm water cooked out the last of the dust and grit of the upland valley leaving me relaxed and happy.

It was a week of wrap up: closing the bank account, purchasing all the very last of the last needed things to take on the trip. I had already spent some quality time with my lady Annika who administrates this web site while we strategized the directions of where we might be taking our efforts to serve a growing come-unity of friends and followers.

We both hope that you, dear reader, will appreciate our joint work together and that you will be entertained and enjoy our offerings. Annika will be making sure it all comes together in an artful way while I will be providing what I hope will be some sparkling prose, insights, observations and a lot of interesting photographs to tell the story we are calling: Journey of the Lotus.

Rain closed in the last night over dinner with my friend and her mother dampening the roof of the van and leaving a dry footprint where the van had been parked in her drive. In the morning following, there was a cup of hot tea and some full up eyes to mark out heartfelt “Via con Dios”, some hasty pictures to tell the final story, turn the key, shift the gears and roll out of the drive and the electric gate of her drive.

Out into the larger now wet world in the amazing rain that will in about a month turn the remaining wild places in the desert to stunning fragrant bloom of verbena that used, in the 70’s when I was first brought to this desert valley, to cover most of the territory that is now Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, La Quinta and outward to Highway 10 still a major throughway across America.

The last night in America was spent in a quintessentially Americana experience: parking at Wal-Mart. Thanks to big daddy, Sam, in most places in the US it is possible to do one night on his parking lot while traveling. And it rained even more. The next day was another landmark: I have not taken a mall walk ever but this day was a day on a quest for a camera shop which sent me through the whole nine yards of a two story underground mall, escalators, glossing stores, and all the beautiful people. No camera store. The quest will have to wait for another time because the day was becoming too narrow to find what I was looking for.

The run to the border ended in a stop to a Mexican insurance company where a beautiful young woman completed the transaction needed to make sure I would be legal on my travels in Mexico.

Suddenly, there it was, the border, which was simply a lighted track through the US side onto to the Mexican side where only a few cars and trucks waited for their green lights to pass. A purposeful Hispanic woman took a look at the pile in my van, asked if it was all my stuff, if I had a dog and with a significant look, turned on the green light for me.

Onward, to Mexicali, its narrow streets, trashy vacant lots, razed buildings and the stop signs, the same shape but with “Alto” painted on them.

The journey and the quest had surely begun sometime close to dusk, Friday, December 12, 2014 exactly 55 years from the day I had first been married in 1959.

The Universe has a way of creating in circles

At last making it to Mexico

It is somewhat of a shock to be in Mexico after the United States with its rather orderly streets and buildings, signs and signal lights, its overall standard of living. Mexicali is chaos after all of this. The streets are narrow without lines anywhere. The stop signs are the same shape, red and they say, ‘alto’ which even the most dense of us can recognize for what they are. The vacant lots are piled in cement scraps, bits and pieces of bricks and wood, and lots of plastic trash. This is desert land and so the underlying dirt is actually beige sand that has a way of blowing everywhere in the slightest wind. Buildings are mostly unpainted often cement or brick and many windows are broken out. There is unruly trash lying around just about everywhere. People are walking on the sidewalks and they look what my mother used to call: shabby with old dirty trousers and sweat shirts. If I was not so curious and willing just to watch, I might be depressed by the distance I observe between what I have come to know as my life and this..

The end of day scarlet bands of light just above the horizon had faded to dull orange and the lowering clouds seemed even darker than earlier in the day when it had been raining. Dusk was fading fast into dark night.

My night vision is not so great anymore and it was evident that it was imperative to find just the right place to park and in a big hurry.

About a couple months ago, I had cruised the internet at the road map of Mexico and so I had actually seen the number and name of the of the highway that would be wending its way southward, the one I should be taking in order to make it out of town.

As I looked around at the areas near the freeway, there was nothing that looked like a hotel lot or a gas station available to park, so, onward I went.

When in a strange location for the first time, it is important to tune up the intuition. It was doubly important here because the language on the signs was Spanish meaning that adding to discovering just where I was, it was discovering also how to decifer the language.

Quite a lot of that dash through the town happened because I just managed serendipitously to be in the right lane at the right moment to make several turns through stop lights following big trucks on their way down the same road. Soon the buildings became single stories, soon the fences were less than six feet tall without razor wire rolling on top and soon there were fields opening on the right and left of the highway.

Of course, I had not seen anywhere at the border beyond customs where I might have found a paper map and changed some of my dollars into pesos. It was not until much later in the evening that that knowledge grounded into my awareness.

Onward. Further down the highway I rolled keeping the van at the sweet spot for the engine efficiency at about 58 mph while most of the traffic passed me. That speed made it possible for my fuzzy eyesight to see what I needed to see to keep me on track while the dark surely closed in even deeper because of the cloud cover.

I drove about 40 kilometers down the road all the while asking the Great Universe to find me the perfect place to park for the night.

The territory is quite different here. It is doubtful there is much in the way of what is common in the US called zoning laws. Buildings are built, fences are strung, signs are painted by hand and flung up on posts and poles. Everything is like a rag man’s art: if it does the job that’s needed, it’s quite all right, thank you. It makes for a fantastic variety of both store and house treatments mostly simple and often rather untidy, okay definitely trashed out quite a lot. It was nonetheless fascinating even as I dashed past unable to see anything much.

Finally, as I covered the distance, to the right about a quarter mile off, there was yet another Pemex gas station which looked quite all right. The voice said, there us your spot, just check around.

I rolled into the shoulder slowly in front of the station with the familiar front of the usual small, squarish store until I could see an wide opening just beyond the pavement into a yard

I pointed the van forward under a flowering tree behind a 35 foot kitchen wagon on the sand facing toward the gas station. Here I would be staying for the next two days while I rested, decompressed from the unimaginable weights of my former society and assessed my situation.

And I slept hard most of the night waking to an already bustling community of Mexican people doing the daily zen called making a living.

Journey of the Lotus: Chapter One

Are you wondering how this all begins? I mean the idea of an exit strategy might not be the first thing on your mind today.

What I am discovering is that my own idea of an exit strategy began quite some time ago: the late summer of 2011. At that time I was completing an earlier cycle of my life over in Mountain Center. It was showing me how to empower myself and to grow up all over again after 70.

It was showing me people who, simply put, were going nowhere. They actually lived in a fantasy world based on their appetites and what it was taking day to day to satisfy their cravings. Some of it was money, some of it was food, some was substances of varying degrees of legitimacy. All of them were downhill freeways to an unanticipated and unrealized futility: literally until they were flat on their ass in the dirt! What the bleep?

I like to catch myself before I stumble by paying attention to the rocks in my path that come in the form of messages from all directions and that do not in any way proclaim their importance. It could all be a shrug and walk away.

But I’m not built that way. I’m asking the question: what’s really next? That causes me to notice subtleties. It’s like grabbing invisible balls out of the air to juggle.

It took three more years looking and asking even bigger questions when I finally got it that I’m seeking a different kind of end game to my life.  It’s not at all than I am discontent with what I have, rather than I still believe there is more.

I had learned from an interesting friend some of the intricacies of unfolding numerological cycles based on the addition of the month and day number of my birthday with the addition of the numbers of the current year. The inkling became a kind of mental empowerment that sent me off into the cyber world of information. The uptake was that I took a wild ride on the information highway researching what life might be like in a different corner of the world.

As I took deeper notice, it soon became clear that a lot of the world was about to be in serious crises meaning that any ideas I might hold about building something beyond the present status quo would be met with heavy resistance in many of the places that I might have been interested in: Canada and Europe, specifically.

The more I learned, the more I understood that the heavy mire of government would make slogging it out in the trenches mostly a game of survival. I was already doing that where I was at the time and when I looked around me I could see no handle on the door with which to open it.

Today it’s quite different. What I have uncovered is that in order to actually create something useful, to make a platform for myself to give back what I have learned about a lot of things, it will be necessary to leave here to relocate to a much less bound and gagged society, to a fruiting land, in the mountains, in a simpler, more wholesome culture with happier people and much less toxic surveillance, police presence and skulking fear.

My view has sought and found an opportunity in the highlands of the Andes Mountains somewhere in northwest of South America. Well, I am already northwestern in North America, that is.

I’m about to drive myself in my one ton Ford van with my most essential worldly goods through the Americas thence to South America. I’m in wrap and pack mode right now. My house is chaos with piles of stuff. The website, RavenLight.us, is being designed and built by some of my good friends. I am writing as much as I am prompted to do as I assemble Raven’s Flight, the autobiography of my earlier life, preparing it for publishing digitally.

That part of the plan is forming the pieces of my new found literary career. I feel a little like how it might have been for Grandma Moses when she began to paint at the age of 78. I’m her junior!

I called up the young man (at some point all the young men are children or even grandchildren!) who publishes the local High Country Journal, a bi-monthly paper that offers some interesting articles along with pages of local advertising: May I blog my trip for your paper? He loved the ideal.

It seems there is to be a bridge built between where I am now and my destination in South America. With that I can get a press pass so that I can delve even deeper into the parts of my journey with words, pictures and video. Imagine that I feel like a real journalist!

Another piece of the process aiming for the evolution called packing the van is to get my trade together. I have been sewing nearly 70 years. I always have a stash of materials which now require going through to see what can turn into “Lotus Booty”, hand-made goods to trade through the site and on my way for gas money. So along with the time on the keyboard with the thesaurus beside me, I am sewing some clothing, pouches and tote bags with collected recycled materials. I had to buy two new sewing machines, both of them properly engineered all gear machines without any kind of computerized system anywhere and nothing to get in the way of at least 25 years of service for which they are warranted. Fine, I’m rolling and I am on a roll.

It feels really good even through the intense heat of this summer, the summer when I am detailing everything once more about my life. The Budget has shown itself to be the fuel for the game: how do I get what I will really need to make it first on the trip and then in the new country? Gas in Ecuador is $1.65: driving range is extended beyond what is possible at nearly $4. a gallon.

Motivation for something larger and more wonderful is quite easy when faced with the gas bill and the food bill and the insurances bill. Are you beginning to understand my thinking here? It involves something we are labeling “quality of life”!

When I began my research to discover what life might be like in South America, I came upon ex-pat web sites that told me all about where there are golf courses in Ecuador, which are the best hotels to stay in, where are the classy resorts and which beaches have the best restaurants, how much of my pension would I be spending for rent and utilities where I might settle.

I wore out this information very quickly because I will be seeking another kind of life more aligned with the local indigenous peoples, an organic kind of life. I will also need to earn as I go because I have no pension and only a little in savings which will get me where I am going.

So the story I will be weaving for you, gentle reader, is somewhat unusual, off beat, and in sync with a deeper rhythm that lives in the earth, way beneath the road bed I will be rolling on. It is also a somewhat mystical and magical tale of a journey and a continuing commitment to expanding my perceptions and intelligence.

The story is the story of human beings who live where they live, quite different to my white girl kind of life here in the United States. There is another language to learn and since sensibility and words inform each other, it will make a different style for my English speaking persona.

I believe I will also enjoy a little more respect as an elder in these simpler societies that does not exist much here. Even understanding that many of my peers are pretty ragged around the edges, are a little fumbling, even somewhat demented by years of doctor’s drugs that are not part of my life, my vitality and clear voice will make me a place in the world I am seeking.

Sometimes I talk to my older friends reminding them they must behave better and not whine about their aches. I have always believed if I am giving advice, it seems obvious: pay attention to advice I am giving as I seek to become a part of a different community.

Oh, my dears, it is all so very exciting just to be thinking about it. So I am going to lead you on with me to discover what kind of adventure we can find. I hope to make this writing fun and informative so you will stay with me.

Let’s roll and keep on truckin’

Why is a Raven like a writing desk?

I have always believed that Lewis Carroll was on to something!

My heartfelt greetings to you; thank you so very much for hanging out with me over all this considerable time. There have been, for each of us; surely all of us, a lot of changes since sometime in 2014 when RavensMedicine first appeared.

As you well know, I am one of those ones who is always ready to go even deeper down the rabbit hole. Even since I was led to come back to Canada in October 2015, I have been steadily keeping on.

Now it is 2017, only a very short time to solstice once again.

I’m certain that you are noticing in your own way and in your own place the changes going on in our world. This old lady is, within herself, one of those not very wimpy or weak ones, but one of the meek ones whose plan it is to inherit our earth.

At this time, however it appears that the game going on around us is increasing in momentum and in the many revelations of ghastly evil that abound. It is enough to cause wise ones to take a deep breath and ask a few questions of one’s friends.

So draw a little closer around the fire here, bring out the sticks to toast the marshmallows over the flames and cozy together for comfort and camaraderie and, while we munch out on sweet and sticky stuff, let us together check this out.

I know you have questions and here are the ones I am asking.

I’m an old lady, (I crossed over from ‘older” to being “old” some time ago!) and I’m here in one of those world class urban environments, Vancouver, Canada. I’m presently homeless, living in an emergency shelter and rolling in a wheel chair because my long challenged lungs no longer support the oxygen levels needed for my heart to function properly, which in itself is teaching me a lot that I did not know.

What am I going to do now? Where will I be living? Who can I count on to support and assist me? Where are there real friends? Who is it who can understand that we are always better in a creative cooperation, in a collaboration that is our collective safety? Is it useful at all to continue to put out a consciousness raising blog when all about me are people racing after money and fame and just some kind of life? Who might be listening? Who else gets that we are in a very dangerous situation everywhere in our world?

I know I’m not the only one with these ideas and concerns but I am hanging out here mostly alone wondering who else might be thinking like this.

That is the motivation of this letter. I’m sending it to the ones in my life who are my most important and those who have shown themselves to be more awake than many. You are one of those who has responded in many different ways. You probably know that I am able to piggyback on your energy signature since you showed up. I notice and validate your brightness and inner spiritual convictions. It just seemed obvious to ask these questions of you now.

What are you paying attention to these days? What is making sense to you? What are you up to day by day? What are your plans? Might it be that the ideas, the words of RavensMedicine are something that you look forward to, that you might consider supporting with your meditations, with cooperation and collaboration? It this whole trip useful to you?

And more important than any of this: what else are you aware of that I am missing?

And just as if this were not a big enough question, this is what else: we do have to understand that any and all kinds of electronic communication has been collected and stored for at least 10 years. The world is managed and governed by a criminal cabal alive and well all over the world which plan is endless war, non ending crime, growing miserable abject poverty including lack of nutritious food and life sustaining water, disease, torture, lawlessness, and increasing police or religious control of our societies. There is even an indication of an inner and outer invisible matrix from which there might be no way out.

If there is one single reason, out of many, that I am motivated to continue the blog, to continue to reach out to people, to continue to give the best understanding and insight that I can, to continue to put myself on the front line; it is that I am certain that the peace and our freedom are in jeopardy. It is, after all a human world.

It is a truth not well understood that we do not know our true potential having lived in state of siege and survival for a very long while. What might humans be like if our world were at peace?

So there it is. Please allow a little time to contemplate and soon find some kind of time to thoughtfully reply. Consider that our lives depend on us and on our view and vision for our world.

I love you dearly. Thank you very much. This is Amraah.

The issue is invective, vitriol and other kinds of bad attitude.

The stuff is everywhere in our world and so are the people who perpetrate it. It is not difficult to call forth from any stranger on the streets some kind of anger,  road rage, or a torrent of shouted words laden with the verbal filth of our times.

Since it seems to be so prevalent, I felt it was a good plan to meet it head on and add this short piece to the mix which is meant to address those who find it part of their quest (or paid for work) to add their invective to the blog world and my site particularly.

Grandmother holds her hand on her hip: Aren’t you ashamed of yourself yet?

I notice that the ones who are most likely to hold these bad attitudes are ones that in some way find it necessary to broadcast their authority and overall self importance. Another way to say this is that they really cannot help it: they are automatic tyrants, with accents on the ‘rant’! They are not in charge of their mouths or their lives. And. as said, they may even be paid to cruise and drop excrement wherever they pass.

Grandmother says, ‘Shame! Shame on you!”

In fact, they have come along to the coat rack of the choices of what to be in life, how to feel and how to act toward themselves and others. What do they choose: really ugly, ill fitting, dirty and ragged garments that do not become them?

Remember: what goes around comes around: they are piling up the fuel for their own roiling, churning self hate.

They are up to their armpits in the alligators they have created no doubt wondering where they came from.

The side effect is that it is so bad for them, they simply must hand off all that bad attitude and bad acting.

I have heard from others who blog that sometimes they attract someone to their site who simply trashes everything with awful, stinging words.

I say this to my blogging friends: they can’t help it. It’s their job to trash themselves: who, after all, is the first one to wear these ugly words and feelings? It is not me nor is it you my dear friends, my readers.

In all our lives, we can make a choice for beauty, for truth, for loving kindness and sweetness – or not! The ones who choose a wholesome and generous way become our friends and supporters.

The rest are out where they should be: in the muddy outfield unable to affect their rage on anyone else.

So let us together say to them – the ones who came here to trash me and my writing and those ones who choose to confront with their invective: what goes around comes around: enjoy the banquet!  Thank you very much.