Early in our days in Sonora
I went with my husband to a field camp
by jeep. Then bony backed mules.
The eight Mexicans there were shy as
we said Buenos días to each other.
Next morning they answered my Buenos días
with Buenos días le dé Dios.
It became like that.
I stayed in camp all day.
They went out to hammer rocks in
country known as baranca –
place of broken boulders.
My husband and I slept that night
in the small cook shack cabin.
The Mexicans in sleeping bags
circled close round the fire.
Next morning fear was in the camp.
Talk was in rapid nervous Spanish.
We heard gato – cat and pero – dog
and a word we did not know — Onca.
The Mexicans said I must not be left alone.
Our Spanish was not good
in those early days in Mexico.
We thought gato would be a lynx.
That night the Mexicans stayed up late talking.
In the morning the second dog was gone.
In spite of anxious warnings from the Mexicans
I stayed in camp reading by the river.
After lunch — to the relief of the Mexicans –
my husband and I went back to our town
by bony backed mules and jeep.
Years later– in Arizona
at Tucson’s Desert Museum
we saw a sign saying Onca
and turned a corner towards it.
Suddenly we were face to face
with a brown, black and gold Painted Jaguar
huge and confident looking.
I felt my full foolishness.
The Mexicans in that long ago camp
had been good men who wanted me safe —
in spite of my arrogance
my ignorance and lack of good sense.
After that incident
all the time I lived in that region—
teaching at the convent school
buying chickens in the market
making friends with Mexicans
adopting a street dog
feeding carrots to burros
through the bars on my windows–
I had a reputation
for a kind of bravery.
But It was really about my luck –
that I was prayed for and protected.
As for me now, I am thankful
for those men and their prayers.
(Revised January 2020)
Here is a poem I recently wrote in January. I hope you will enjoy it. It’s called “One Snowy Day in South Porcupine, Ontario, 1975”
In the time when eyelashes turned white in the cold
I cross country skied most winter days.
The babysitter arrived just after three and
stayed till after 4:15 when night began to fall.
In colorful breathable light layers of clothes
I skied across the road and field into the woods
that stretched all the way up to James Bay.
On this particular early spring day I was dressed —
ready and waiting to go at three.
I’d argued with our five year old about property rights.
Should she share toys with her brother?
Weary – I felt the winter’s length and then
hit the woods flying so fast I failed to notice
that snow was beginning to fall.
When I looked behind me and saw
my tracks covered with snow
I knew I was lost.
The light was slant as
I looked for trees I knew
and then in disappointment
kept on moving
Circling — passing the same trees again and again —
my vision shifted. I remembered that we are all headed towards
a spacious place of light. All my hope
sprang up high and deep and wide. After that
I heard the sounds of Finnish boys talking and laughing.
I turned and skied towards them — laughing myself and
crying at the same time.
I’d bought my Finnish skis at
Mr. Kari’s General Store.
I’d drunk cocoa in the family living room
as I tried on my skis and selected ski poles.
The town was small and we took care of each other.
That snowy spring day in South Porcupine was one of
many times In my life when I have been both lost and found.
Not far from San Sebastian we visited the B&B that was once the hacienda of actor-director John Huston. On the property there were remnants of an abandoned silver mine and remnants of the swimming pool John Huston had built for Elizabeth Taylor who visited there with Richard Burton in the 1960s. I took this photo of the doorway from the exterior to an interior upstairs in the hacienda.
‘There is an Opening’
There is an opening, a door.
When I see it I may pass through
to where the more is more.
Disguises tumble to the floor
uncovering light I’m looking for.