There is a giving in and there is a giving up. A giving over and a giving into. When I went to San Miguel last November I was both giving up and giving into...the desire to have space and time to write, to be able to redefine my destiny even with so much unknown lurking in the future. To seek those incandescent experiences that are fleeting yet tender. For me it was important to create several stories--the story of my life as a writer, the story of my ideals being manifested once more in a cross-cultural landscape such as San Miguel. I wanted to re-enter a world in which living was meaningful and required some effort--the boiling of water to drink, the purification of vegetables, the ordering of gas for the stove and hot water boiler. I wanted to turn the corner to find the cramped tienda where I could buy my leche and pan dulce, then later go sit in the sun at the patio of Bellas Artes.
Most of all, I desired to find that special cafe where I could sip my cafe con leche and write for hours, losing myself in the inspired flow of words.
My yearning was as simple as the opportunity to once more take in the San Miguel jardin: couples and families strolling arm in arm, the abuelita selling her dulces and sodas in front of the parroquia, children running in circles with their furry toy monkeys on wheels trailing behind them.
And the markets... to enter the cool, damp world of chopping knives, the bartering of fruits and vegetables, and to emerge into the welcoming sun, laden with fresh food, a bouquet of yellow and pink roses in my bolsa...to visit the Christmas market at San Juan de Dios and return with miniature ceramic nacimientos, the renegade hermit and his cave tucked next to the figures of Mary and Joseph.
And I did. I did all of these things until the rains came. The ceaseless, potent rains, an unexpected deluge that arrived fiercely in late December and stayed throughout January. Las lluvias which should have arrived in July but pounced upon the city in the cool winter months, flooding the villages around the presa and holding stunned northerners hostage in cold hotels. These incessant rains altered our expectations and feelings about San Miguel, which was now transformed into a veritable Macondo that rattled our sun-deprived souls.
I sat, thinking I had never left the Midwest summer of the flood, trapped on my third floor Departamento Rojo, but fortunately with a gas fireplace that offered warmth and some escape from the dampness. And rising in the early morning to the pounding rhythm of rain on the flat rooftop, and telling myself, "Neruda did this, only he had a mongoose and a friend back in Argentina to urge him on" I wrote...but really, truly, I was not Neruda, but still, yes, I was a residente en la tierra... writing.