July 10th, 2014
This small, damp towel is the only thing protecting my shivering body from the cool breeze. It’s not that it’s so cold outside but I feel sensitive, I might be starting a cold. My body needs some time to warm up after swimming in the public swimming pool where Saíd and Helen are still playing water games and pretending to drown each other. From where I’m standing, their laughs are distant, lost in the openness of the field.
Earlier by the poolside, I felt so contented to sit on the warm cement, heated by a full day of sun, and watch the uncle and niece share a beautiful moment. Saíd is 15 years older than his 11-year-old niece but they play together as if they were the same age. Helen, his niece, seems to want to be older than she is while Saíd has a young heart and is a self-proclaimed big baby. After being tickled, thrown and splashed enough though, Helen let her guard down and the 11-year-old girl inside her took over with fits of laughter. I couldn’t help but just smile and watch, thinking how lucky they are to have each other.
Beyond the fence around the pool I watched Saíd’s mother slowly walking her 94-year-old uncle around the grounds. They stopped for a moment and watched as their kin enjoyed a precious moment of youth. My passive observation of the two older generations watching the two younger generations was interrupted when Claudia, Saíd’s older sister and Helen’s mother, came to sit beside me. Saíd’s mother and great uncle continued on to walk the grounds, Saíd and Helen kept on playing without a notice and Claudia and I fell into another deep conversation like the many we’ve had since we met a few days ago.
We got into talking about conquering fears and purposefully exposing ourselves to them for the sake of growing. Claudia has a sincere heart and has lived through many hardships but has come out stronger and wiser. Her and I connect so well and I feel as if we are the same person in different bodies and backgrounds. She’s a fellow explorer as well, mostly covering ground in the philosophical world being that her present situation ties her to this physical place. I’ve been enjoying the little explorations we’ve undertaken together, whether it be a conversation while walking in the park or a late night discussion at the house. She is proof that the ability to travel has more to do with mentality than resources or opportunities. Throughout her life she has managed to hitchhike to different parts of Mexico when time allowed but more importantly to always have the mind and attitude of a traveler wherever she is.
. . .
It’s dusk now and I can see the illuminated trails of fireflies appearing and quickly disappearing on all sides of me. Off in the distance, I see quick flashes of lightning hidden behind the dark grey clouds. All of a sudden I hear a series of loud thumps upon the ground behind me and turn to see a few free horses galloping past. The sight is amazing. It occurs to me that I’ve never seen horses running free in an open area with no sign of an owner anywhere. I’m intimidated and at the same time in awe by their size and beauty. As the sound of their galloping fades out, in fades the faint sound of a distant guitar. Beyond the pool is a group of young people camping out on the land and one of them is serenading the dusk.
This whole scene just seems surreal to me. I don’t quite understand what this area is. We drove pretty far through the Zacatecan countryside to arrive at this little town called Incarnación a few kilometers off the tiny highway. At the far end of the town we took a little dirt road that led to an open field. In the middle of the field is this shallow pool with some cement around it. There are a couple of randomly placed huge trash cans in the shape of Shrek, the animated character, scattered about property. When we first pulled up there was a group of youngsters hanging out by the pool blasting dub step from a shiny convertible Ford Mustang whose doors opened upwards to the sky like the Dolorian from “Back to the Future”. Some old man driving a lawnmower pulled up and collected twenty pesos from each of us to be able to be here. This most unusual combination makes me feel like I’m in some abstract art film…
. . .
A few feet away the family is packing everything into the camioneta, (S.U.V.), for the ride home. I want to be alone for a bit and take in the bizarre feeling this odd place is giving me.
I feel warm now and good about the whole day. We visited Saíd and Claudia’s mother’s childhood home an hour and a half outside of Zacatecas, a humble farm in a small town, we explored La Quemada archeological site, a holy ground where different cultures lived for thousands of years, and of course this most surreal place I’m at now. It’s been so good to spend time with all of them and I feel almost a part of their family now.
I see that they are ready to go so I walk over to find my seat in the back next to the uncle who has been sitting there for the last two hours but doesn’t realize it. He looks up at me with a scowl, I smile and he looks back down to the floor without a change in expression. He doesn’t recognize me or remember that we’ve had several conversations in the last days, mostly consisting of him retelling a story of his travels through Montana many years ago and encountering a group of wild pigs.
Claudia finds the other seat beside me and we take off. I feel like I’m back taking a family vacation as I did many times when I was younger but with my new Zacatecan family. Four generations and a foreigner in one car. Claudia and I talk for most of the ride back “home” to Zacatecas, sometimes being interrupted by Saíd showing me some Norteño Mexican electronica music or the mother sharing a story relevant to wherever we’re driving by.
Back at the Colonias outside of the city, Saíd and Claudia’s mother prepares us all hot chocolate and we spend an evening of sharing stories. She is a natural born story-teller and captivates us all with childhood stories, poems that she recites with passion, and traditional Mexican songs sung beautifully from her years of experience being in choirs. I do my best to keep up and she always kindly stops to explain words or phrases I don’t understand.
I mostly listen, finding it hard to express myself well enough in spanish to maintain the beautiful flow of conversation. Everyone is so open and honest with the stories they tell. They openly admit vulnerabilities, explore new states of mind and listen well to one another. It’s so inspiring to be around people who spend time with each other in such a quality way by sharing so freely. I eventually doze off in my seat to the sound of their voices. What a beautiful day of history, family, philosophy, love and surreality…