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Monday, November 24, 2014

Walking the San Miguel de Allende Streets

As I meander daily down the cobblestone streets of my beautiful adopted city of San Miguel de Allende,  I look down a lot, not wanting to trip or fall on the rough cobblestones---not wanting to be one more member of the "Fallen Women's Club" of SMA. I've already been down that road when falling while dancing at a fiesta last February, celebrating the publication of my first novel.

But back to what I see when I walk down the streets: looking down affords me the opportunity to observe all the detritus of life here.  I am not using the word "detritus" in a pejorative way. No, I have come to appreciate the detritus. It is what makes life so real here, for all the things one sees are emblematic of a culture I have come to love. That doesn't mean to say it might be nice at times to see more trash cans along the streets, less trash in the arroyo near our house, and in the gutters. But, at the same time my observations give me pause. All this detritus tells me more about the people and their daily lives.  When one sees a dried corn husk with a bit of red salsa decorating its edges one knows someone nearby was eating a tamale that day, or I may see some candy wrappers when I pass one of the local elementary schools. The woman on the corner sells snacks and sweets (Mexican children eat far too much of this and that is perhaps why there is a high level of diabetes here; the cokes too certainly contribute).  Other objects of daily life are found in the gutters, such as Q-tips, rubber bands,  paper and plastic cups, some popcorn or fritos dropped out of a bag as someone ran home from the local tienda, or a tissue wrapper one finds around a stack of fresh tortillas. An old shoe may rest along side an electrical pole; one day a flattened baby shoe attracted my attention. Hopefully, the baby was okay even though he or she lost a shoe. Sticks dropped by a passing burro who carries his heavy load with such patience can be found, or a nopale leaf. People scrape the thorns off and eat these cactus leaves here. They're tasty, if prepared right.

One day, the lady I bought the cute handmade cloth horse from dropped her thread and it rolled into the gutter as she walked down the street bent from age and hard work. I ran to catch her and got a sweet toothless grin with words, Muchas gracias, SeƱora!  Life is in the streets here. Somehow, the  city streets in Portland where I used to live now seem sterile in comparison.  I must admit to the fact that I came home from Sweden two months ago raving to my husband how lovely it was to be in a place where everything was "so clean and organised." Life is full of contradictions!

Maybe it's just the human propensity for adaptation that is helping me to see past the dirt of my Mexican town and to readjust my thinking to one that is less judgmental, an attitude encouraged in last Sunday's presentation at the UU ( Unitarian Universalist Sunday service). Judging less leads to a healthier and happier life of acceptance and opens our hearts to new experience. Ted Englander, the presenter pointed out that there is a difference between discernment and judgment. I discern that perhaps it might be good if there were less detritus in the streets, but at the same time I don't judge it as "bad" now, or indicative of something distasteful. It is what it is. Refraining from negative judgment is almost impossible; we have a culture that thrives on judgment of other people,  places and ways of life. Negative judgements separate us from others. Eckhart Tolle talks about being aligned with what happens, taking the road of non-resistance, which ultimately leads to more happiness.

So, I'll keep walking these streets and seeing the positive, the insight they give me into my Mexican friends and neighbors.
 Maybe someday they'll see that cleaning up of the detritus leads to a safer and healthier environment, but for now I'm glad  I can be here and appreciate everyday!