Friday, November 3, 2017

Three geographical gifts: the United States, California, and Mexico

Papel picado in San Antonio
My word machine is on overdrive. Some sort of dam has burst, flooding me with ideas and words that demand to be freed. I’m supposed to be packing for my trip to California, but my brain refuses to focus on suitcases and such.

Morning after in San Antonio Tlayacapan
As I was walking home from breakfast watching men taking down the colorful papel picado streamers that had decorated the streets for the Day of the Dead celebration here, it suddenly hit me how incredibly gifted I have been geographically. I also realized I’ve never expressed my appreciation for these gifts. It’s time to fill this gap.

United States: I am so fortunate to have been born in the United States. (Of course, being born white to kind, hard working parents who valued integrity also gave me gifts that have taken a long time to fully recognize.) 

The US is a deeply beautiful and resource-rich country that has given me opportunities unknown in other places on our planet. I’ve had access to affordable education, a variety of interesting work situations, and endless places of natural beauty.

While this country has a deep shadow side that pains me to examine, it has also tried to live up to the democratic values expressed by its founders. It’s that yearning for equality, justice, and freedom that makes me love it, even when it falls short of its intentions. (I refuse to make any comments about our current state of affairs.)

Mesilla, New Mexico

Grand Tetons, Wyoming
California: My first husband’s tour in the Marine Corps took us to California in the mid-1960s. It was love at first sight as we settled into a tiny, flood-plain house about a mile from the endless, blue Pacific. It didn’t matter that we were almost immediately flooded in one of the occasional, extremely wet years. I knew California was home and for almost all of my adult life, it cupped my heart in its hands as I explored its mountains, deserts, lakes, rivers and ocean. California gave me a beauty that seeped into every cell.

Owens River outside Bishop, CA

San Francisco Magic
Mexico: California also gave me Mexico as we lived so close to its border. My first crossing was a psyche-jolting experience as the land remained the same beautiful coast, but a human-drawn line in the sand made all the difference. Even after years of crossings, I still barely comprehend the differences, but, somewhere along the way, I realized I was in love with two countries.

Water Dancer: the face of Mexico
 I had forty years to learn the nuances of California. I’m sure I won’t have that long to get to know Mexico, but I’m going to try. It has things to teach me that I will only learn here in a different culture, in a different language.
Wall art, Ajijic, Mexico
 We’ve just finished the Day of the Dead celebration here in Mexico. One of my insights during that time of sorrow and joy was that I have moved from head to heart. Only time will reveal what that really means.

Off to pack.



  1. Love this reflection. Thank you!

  2. "One of my insights during that time of sorrow and joy was that I have moved from head to heart. Only time will reveal what that really means ... "

    That sounds like such a nice journey. Way to go, Joyce, and keep on keeping on!


  3. Beautiful shared and so touching. Where will you begin California?

  4. Have a wonderful trip -- I just sent you an email as your 'queue' post comments box isn't working. :)