Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Two homes, two lives

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not complaining. But this teeter-totter life of mine takes its toll. I’m here when I’m not there. When I’m there I’m worried about here. I am fully aware how fortunate I am to own homes in two countries, to reap reward of two cultures, to enjoy friends in two disparate parts of the world. But this lifestyle can be strenuous.

Summers in the north are a whirligig of appointments and errands, dates with family, friends, and neighbors, sundry obligations. I dash in and out of a house that nips at my heels. Feeling her age, 63 years old, she demands big-time restoration. Payback for the view.

Perched eighty-five feet above a finger of Puget Sound, her bank of windows reflects a wide shimmer of blue gray water and water activity. Hand-hewn stairs crafted by my husband descend to a beach tousled with butter clam and oyster shells. A heron prances onto the dock, eagles swoop low, sea lions frolic, actually frolic, a few feet off shore. A family of Canada geese makes its rounds: straddle the pebbles and shells, dip in the frigid water, follow-the-leader swim. It’s rare I take time to watch them. Like the White Rabbit of Alice in Wonderland I am perennially late. Entrenched in a northern mentality.

Late October turns wet and gray. Time to button up and head south. These northern bones resist the move. I am homesick before we cross the Columbia River into Oregon. I worry about the house and the people left behind. Long days on the road, my husband, my cat good companions during the week-plus we take to reach the border.

A day or so north of San Pancho my wooly head clears. Anticipation builds to see my tiny house and blowsy garden. I open the gate with trepidation, nervous about what might have taken root during summer. The house smells of neglect: dust, must, trails of detritus from critters camped inside. I set to work: cupboards must be emptied, contents re-washed, floors swept and mopped. All is well, even when it’s not.

Casa Tango is a home without conveniences. I do not have a dishwasher or clothes dryer. I do not have television, telephone, or internet. Sometimes I do without water and electricity. Ah, but the joy of being here. I shrug off my northern coat, northern expectations. Here I give myself permission to sit in a garden filled with foliage that froths over low concrete walls painted orange, purple, blue, green; to watch an iguana climb the neighbor’s brick wall, follow a butterfly, blink and miss the hummingbird.

In spite of the challenge inherent with living in a culture foreign to one’s own, in spite of the inconveniences, I feel more peaceful here than in my home up north. Fewer obligations. Lower expectations.

Mexico lets me breathe.

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