In a lonely land

Monarch butterflies cluster in Santa Cruz, Cal...

Monarch butterflies (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once back at the hostel for the night I was loath to go out alone even though I had only diet potato ‘chips’ to eat. But after two hours bleeding my eyes on the computer I went for a walk to a taqueria that had, when I asked, ‘comida vegetariana’, which turned out to be barbequed onion, green capsicum and pineapple stirred with stringy cheese (i.e. pizza topping), served with a pile of tortillas.

On the tv was a soap opera, then people sifting through ruins after what looked like an earthquake. A boy in the doorway was shaving meat off a revolving piece of meat, with flame. Coming back, the air was cool and the street curved away, empty, fronted by walls. Above, just a sliver of home lights on a black hill.

I paid a man to drive me to las mariposas, along with a woman from New England, who could talk alright, and a man from Mexico. In the mountains, conifers, and when we walked through the forest, a monarch butterfly here or there, and then butterflies flying through the trees like a disney movie, clumped over a tree. Also dead on the ground. The butterflies were like pieces of red snow, or light falling in the forest. You could hear their wings flapping. These are the Methuselahs that fly from the US and Canada to central Mexico, for ‘wintering’.

The herbs were burrs, thistles, yellow flowers, lupines. The valley bottoms were brown and flat but the hills were wooded. Because of the altitude the American lady and I had to walk slowly or get out of breath.

On the way back the water in the marsh was white against black plant clumps. The sun set red. There was little spots of burning along the valley, a kiln, scrub on a hill. A semi trailer had flipped on a bend, and spilled cubes of compacted recycled materials. What helped today: be as you are.

Then I took the bus to D.F. and another bus to P—. More burning along the highway, a causeway into a lake, men on horses herding cows, the stacks of corn stalks, lines of drying clothes on roofs. The taxi driver drove me to the hostel and I walked to eat mole enchiladas. On the way back the streets were almost deserted and I got lost.

I’m in a co-ed dorm with four men. I’ve forgotten how to be nice to people casually. One of the strenuous things about travel is constantly being around people who don’t know you. Unfortunately, I’ve started to cultivate a particular and audible nervous twitch when sleeping in the same room as strangers.

On the bus I remembered a poem called The Lonely Land by A.J.M. Smith about the Canadian landscape: the beauty / of strength / broken by strength / and still strong. The poet’s landscape is one of repetition of sound, of dissonance, ‘wind-battered’ trees, wild natural forces: of strengths breaking against one another but conserving their vitality and wildness, even when they’ve been hurled onto the rocks. Of strength that doesn’t dissipate or spend itself. I wish I could know how to describe the landscape here, especially the crumbling houses in the middle of straw coloured yards and rough scrub and cactus, which might be called ‘god-forsaken’.

My friend has written about certain forsakings ‘Everything will be fine, you’ll see’.


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