Estoy escribiendo hoy desde Oaxaca….no, no, no, I mean I’m writing this from Oaxaca today. I can hear the grinding of the gears as my brain switches between Spanish and English. I can hear a little more grinding in the switch from Go-go-go-go-go to relax-relax-relax-relax. and even more grinding between the London bobby style of giving directions (“Two blocks down, Miss, on your right, blue door, black doorknocker, can’t be missed….”) and the Policia Municipal (“Si, si, Senora, the museum used to be here, it moved, maybe a block down, maybe four or five, but not too far, over that way, just down that direction, maybe on the other side of the park….” and it’s always nice to walk through the park even if you don’t find the museum.
Eventually – a few days into things – the gear-grinding stops and all is smooth. You are not quite you, but you like the you you have become. The logical left brain gets quieter, the right brain sings. Colors intensify.
…and the sense of smell intensifies. You can smell ripening guayavas somewhere. There, on the other side of the wall, a guayava tree.
A green parrot hangs in a cage from a tree inside a cloister built in the 16th century. He looks at you sideways, his bright red eyes rimmed all the way around with yellow. “Hasta luego!” he says when you walk away.
Hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, touching….every sense intensified…this is what writers and artists need from time to time. Walking, listening, seeing, slowing down.
It’s an important time in Oaxaca – the three-day spread that surrounds the Day of the Dead, and I’m headed over to the cemetery as soon as the sun goes down. There are tubas and trumpets and drums; there are people who have become skeletons; there is dancing in the streets. There are marigold-covered altars to the dead inside many courtyards. There are images everywhere of La Catrina, the young lady skeleton with wide hat and parasol. Everywhere, Los Muertos – the Dead. And I am feeling quite alive.