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My vision is to create a business from my garden, so that I can afford to leave my job, have the garden as income, and paint and write. I also want my customers to read the story of my garden, look at pictures, and get an idea of the process of the work of the garden.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

I am feeling sad tonight. My boss got fired last night and I found out this morning. He is one of the most supportive, decent people I have ever had the pleasure to work with, and I will miss him terribly. He gave me writing to do for the newsletter, and encouraged me in my writing, and always went to bat for us in our department, and always helped me out when I did something that was politically incorrect.

He hired me, along with five others who interviewed me. Now they are all gone, except for the HR person, but he was the person to whom I could tell stuff, even that I am in recovery. We had great conversations, and he was a serious, good worker. He cared about us.

You just never know when it can happen, that they find you expendable. I called him at home tonight to tell him that we love him, and that if I can do anything for him, that he has to know that. He is a true people person, and I can only imagine that he has a cadre of people he has worked with in the past who love him and will lend a hand. I have never had a boss fired on me before, and I just plowed through my work today, with handfulls of chocolate to keep my distress at bay. When I called him tonight, though, I let the tears fall.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Here are some photos I took when I was in Mexico. If you can't view them right away for some reason, you can browse by username, and my username is bashaz.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

More about Mexico.

We went to La Gruta. There we met Rita. La Gruta Rita.

The four of us piled into a taxi for the 8 km ride out of San Miguel to La Gruta. All of us like to take the buses, but we couldn't figure out where to catch one, so I offered the gift of a taxi ride. There was some bickering about where to find the bus, even after I offered, but eventually everyone caved in and we took the taxi, softies that we are.

Getting off at the dusty side of the road, we walked into the road near the large La Gruta sign. Not too far along, we came to pathways that turned from dust to stone, and followed the path down some stairs between raised beds of pansies, and Mary burst into tears. Her sister had passed away recently, and she explained to me that pansies were her sister's favorite flowers. I know how that sudden emergence of uncontrollable grief is, having lost a beloved sister, and for Mary, the grief was right on the surface of her life, even though she was in a new country, new travel experience, and having a lovely time.

We paid our 500 pesetas to get in, and walked down more stone pathways to the changing rooms. We could see a large swimming-pool full of steaming water ahead. We changed, and all met up at the pool. It was pretty large, but not as large as most public swimming pools, but around the size of a private back-yard swimming pool. There were a few people in the pool, some conversing in the way that you knew they had just met each other, and were trying to find common points of interest or connection.

At one end of the pool, which was surrounded by high stone walls, was a cave-like opening. We swam over to it, and it turned into a long tunnel that led to another pool, and that one was enclosed by a stone dome overhead. As I swam down the long corridor, and the water was up to my chest, so I could alternately walk and swim, the light grew dimmer and dimmer. At the end of the corridor, one could barely see, but I felt my way up some steps, and then one had to go down a few steps to the Grotto pool, dark, warmer in both air and water, with water rushing in down the side of one stone wall. As my eyes adjusted to the dim light, I could see my friends, and the stone dome overhead, with a few sun rays somehow finding their way in.

Not being able to stand the heat of the enclosed pool for too long, and being a little paranoid about my belongings, I went back out the tunnel to the more open-air, cooler-water pool, checked on our stuff, actually had worn my glasses into the water, and since I could no long see through them, as they were covered in steam, I put them in my backpack, and went back into the water.

There we met Rita. She had just moved to San Miguel. From New York City, my friend Mary inquired as to the nature of how she arrived in San Miguel. In our interrogation, it turns out that Rita lived in the West Village in New York, where all of us had lived at one time or another. She had worked at Bank Street up near Columbia, famous school known for its innovative teaching methods. She had retired, but was fairly young for a retiree--perhaps late fifties. She seemed to me that she might be gay, as did the woman with her. The woman with her had been down to San Miguel many times to visit, but did not live there. Rita had recently moved to a ranch outside of town. She told us about her maid, her gardener, her cook, and the man who watched over her house.

I liked Rita, she was smart, talkative, knowledgable, and funny. She felt obviously that she had made the right choice for herself, since after 9/11 she no longer wanted to live in New York City.

It seems like in San Miguel, it is possible to set up a life for oneself whereby the strain of living in a foreign country is minimized, as there is a large community of foreigners who can be tapped for advice, and companionship.

I found that in the AA meetings there. One fellow told us that it is possible to live in San Miguel for $1,000 a month, if you chose to live simply, and for two, it could be as little as $1500. Simply, without servants. Cooking at home.

This interests me, as I want to find the time and space to paint for lengthy periods of time. If we can rent our own house for a bit above what our mortgage is, and with my husband's social security, we could do it for a few months at a time.

Rita invited us to join her and her friends over in the grassy area where tables and chairs are set up, and a waiter comes to offer you refreshments that you can order. We dressed, and joined them, and ordered the breakfast special which is yoghurt, fruit and granola, with coffee or tea. After waxing enthusiastically about life in San Miguel, and talking more with us about New York City, Rita bade us goodbye, and drove off in her Miata convertible. I was envious for a bit, but I know better than to carry that illusion around with me. Mostly I know better, sometimes I get into it.

Later on in my week, when we went on a hacienda house tour, I met some artists who seemed to be doing what I imagine my husband and I could do, except they were living there permanently, and they were both Mexican. So they had a big advantage, but they were living simply, with the room for studios, and gallery space in their house to show their works.

But after leaving La Gruta, Randy waved a bus down and caught it to go back to San Miguel, and Mary and Bonnie and I went to the other side of the road to flag down the bus going to Delores Hidalgo, where the artisans make tiles and pottery. Talavera Pottery it is called.

We did go back to La Gruta on Saturday, and on that day, there is someone who will give you a lock for the locker, if you give them a deposit. On that day, it was all Mexicans there, families, and it was nice to be there with them.

I just want to write a bit about my impressions of Mexico, while they are still fresh in my mind. I flew into Leon, the airport closest to San Miguel de Allende, and saw ahead Bonnie, another woman joining my friends and I for a week (my other friends had exchanged their NYC apartment for a home in San Miguel for two weeks, but Bonnie and I came for a week).

We got through customs and immigration, and exiting the area, found a man with my name on a sign. We loaded all into his van and drove the one and one-half hours to San Miguel. It was night, so hard to see anything except that the land was rocky and dry alongside the roadway. The road was in very good shape. In fact, most of the roads I travelled over in Mexico were in far better shape than a lot of the roads I commute on each day here in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

When we reached San Miguel, the road turned to cobblestones, and steep hills. We drove straight up on and it looked like we would drive right through a big wooden door, but the van turned right, and we were on our street, Recreo. Like a lot of Europe I have seen, the houses touch, making a seamless unit of the whole city block. No front yards, only the entry doors, and some windows, either shuttered or barred, onto the street.

My friends were waiting for us, and they were delighted to share this beautiful house that we would have for the time. And they wanted to show Bonnie and me everything right away. Indeed, moving from one room to another, like a walk through a mansion. It was not a mansion, but it was beautiful, tiles everywhere, all the flooring, and other kinds of tiles in the kitchen, and in all the bathrooms (4). Interesting art everywhere, the woman who had bought the property was a painter and gallery owner, and now her daughter, husband and child live in San Miguel, the mother moved to Hawaii.

Gothic brick boveda celings, with skylights. Rustic Mexican furniture, lovely wooden tables, chairs, benches. The centerpiece of the home was a garden, open to the sky, with a towering palm tree, original to the property, and jacaranda and azalea trees and shrubs. A grassy lawn, surrounded by brick paths with cactus plants, and other succulents. The whole garden surrounded by a high brick wall, totally private. In the daytime, egrets would fly over the garden.

The space that I loved the most was the art studio on the top floor, running the whole width of the property, with a gothic brick boveda ceiling, and floor to ceiling windows overlooking the garden. I started a week-long discipline of yoga, body-work and meditation in this room, each morning before the others awakened.

The first place to visit is the Jardin, the main square. Everyone in San Miguel passes through this garden at least once a day, and it is the place to go, to read the newspaper, talk to other people, look at the various kinds of people who are either selling things to tourists (mostly Indians), sometimes there was live music in the center pavillion, there were shoe-shiners, Indian children selling gum and candy (they would walk around and approach the tourists in their shy way, but would not engage with us readily). The square was opposite the Parroquia, the parish church, with a folk-art facade, created by Mexico's version of Gaudi. The air is dry, the elevation is 6,500 feet above sea level, the sun is hot, but the temperature was hovering around 80 degrees f, and the nights were cool enough to require a blanket for sleeping.

Bells rang all night long at intervals. The city was noisy, with celebrations the rule, fireworks on the weekends or before festivals, and the many, many dogs of San Miguel joining in at times to bark ceaselessly, or even to howl. Dogs ran loose, and most were owned and well-fed.

The streets were hilly, cobblestoned, and it required that one be totally mindful as you walked, otherwise you risked falling, stumbling, and ending up with a cast on your arm or ankle. There were not street lights, or stop signs, and the car drivers were as mindful as the walkers. Some traffic cops were employed, but mostly it was a curious arrangement of each car coming to the intersection and having to make a decision to go or not to go, on the honor system, similar to 4-way stop signs here in the US.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

I'm back. Back at work, but not yet back in my mind. Luckily, I do not have a lot to do today. I wish I knew how to put pictures up on my blog, but there doesn't seem to be a way. I tried once to put pictures of my farm up on the MSN web site, but couldn't adequately follow the instructions. I have a feeling that the only way to do this is to pay, of course.

First of all, thanks to all who posted comments to me while I was away. I barely got a few e-mails out, so I didn't want to take any time, and you all know how sitting down to write on your blog can turn into hours of computer usage. I didn't want to spend neither the time nor the money.

Okay, now for the heart of the matter. I have fallen in love with Mexico. With the land, the people, and the silly town of San Miguel de Allende. Silly, because there are a lot of Americans who have gone there to retire, and have brought all their "stuff" with them. Stuff like their grandiose lifestyle, which serves to widen the chasm between them and the poor, and then there are ordinary people with ordinary incomes who have gone there to live because they can afford to have a Mexican woman come and clean their home, and cook their meals, and iron their clothes, and a gardener to tend to their gardens.

Wouldn't anyone like to have these servants? Honestly, yes. But what does that mean to the servant, and to the master? I don't like these things. I hate to do housework, and my husband also does the minimum, but what about the servant question?

Someone who lives there explained to me that there is a system in place, and you don't change it, and can't change it.

This is the system: you pay a woman $50 dollars a week to do all these things, and then when she or someone in her family comes to you and needs some medical treatment, or dental treatment, or legal services, you cough up the money, no questions asked. And then they know they can count on you, and then they are loyal to you. They are happy, and you are happy. He says. I wonder. Having been a servant once in my life, I think I need to live in a dirty house rather than pay someone to take that role. But since they count on the work, maybe I am wrong.

Regardless of the servant question, and since San Miguel is pretty expensive if you want to have a sizeable kind of house, in a pretty area, I think I could find a place to live where I can paint, even for a few months, at a cheap enough rent to make living there for a while, workable.

There are a lot of good artists living and working there. And some of them are moving to other areas. It is sort of like how SOHO was in the seventies when I lived in New York. Desolate areas, but good artist communities.

Now the pluses. There is a thriving English-speaking Alcoholics Anonymous community there, with two meetings a day with at least 10 people in each meeting. This creates a support system for one's life in a foreign land. I have always wanted to live in a foreign land; lived in Ireland for a short time, but this would require learning another language, which I am willing to do, if I can indeed learn Spanish. But to have the English-speaking AA meetings makes it immediately feel like home. AA is indeed a family. And it gives me the opportunity to offer my experience, strength and hope to those who have little time sober. That life is worth living sober, that a higher power is watching over us, and if we seek through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with that higher power, it will let us know what it's will is for us, and give us the power to carry that will out.

Also, there is Alanon, Overeaters Anonymous, Adult Children of Alcoholics, and Narcotics Anonymous. I met a number of sweet young Mexican fellows at the meetings, and am glad to see that they come. I met a few American women, and a few Mexican women at the meetings, who were interesting to talk with, not just because we share the disease of alcoholism, but because they are living in San Miguel, and can also tell me the truth about living there.

I liked the dry, warm weather, the bells of the churches, the Indians in the squares, the gardens, the steps of the old city, the stone, the surrounding flat, desert landscape with the high sierras in the distance, the expanse of sky. I hated seeing the poverty. There were a lot of older Americans, older than us baby boomers, and one said "old people go to Florida to die, but come to San Miguel to live."

Certainly there are enough of them who do volunteer work with the babies of the Indians, in the early intervention program, through hosting house tours, parties, and volunteering at the Centre directly with the children. Also, there are foundations that deal with the elderly and indigent Indians, abused women, drug and alcohol addiction, foundations that raise money to give scholarships to Mexican children to college, and music and art schools.

Falling asleep now, and I have some work to attend to. I will continue to write this out this week.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

I'm falling in love with Mexico. I am at an internet cafe right now, but I am not interested in blogging right now. Walking a lot, talking a lot, and looking.

Have been doing yoga, bodywork, and meditation every morning, and aim to keep that up when I come back. I have been to two English speaking AA meetings, so I know that if I wanted to stay awhile, I would have a place to go for support.

Hasta Luega,

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Dear Martha,

Now that you have been through the "justice system," and have been found guilty, I felt the need to write to you about an idea that came to me last night, as I watched the media gleefully show the metal bed you would probably have in prison, along with the "thin" mattress you would probably have to sleep on. They did say that the shots they were showing were from a men's prison somewhere, but they wanted to make a point. Also, they kept showing you in the K-Mart ads hanging your laundry, as if to say, "no more fresh-smelling sheets for you, for a while."

I have no judgement on what you did or didn't do. On the radio this morning, NPR person was talking about a book someone wrote, called "The Culture of Cheating," or "The Cheating Culture," I'll look it up if I get the time, to make the point that what you supposedly did was just part of the business as usual that exists in our country. The program talked about how everyone cheats on their taxes, and in the boards of business, the name of the game is to get as much as you can, forget ethics.

Old sayings come to mind, "Those who live in glass houses. . .' or "let he who is without sin cast the first stone. . ."

You became a lightening rod, just like Hillary Clinton. There are plenty of people out there who seem to relish humiliating powerful women, more than humiliating the men, it seems to me. But I guess there is enough humiliation to go around, and if one gets caught in the spotlight, watch out.

But I had a great idea. If you do go to live in that austere cell, with the steel bed and thin mattress, I have an idea for how you could spend your time, rather than do make-overs for your fellow cell-mates.

Here is my idea.

Suppose you use the time to meditate while you are there. Go inside, let go, surrender. Find the quiet voice within. Clean house, metaphorically speaking. You have so much time, you could really connect on a level that few of us have the capability to do (unless one is a monk on a mountain-top).

You have a genuine spiritual awakening.

You are released from prison, and you write a book about this.

Or you write the book about the spiritual awakening while in prison, never mind.

You have all the clout in the world. Women (including myself) follow your recipes and ideas. They will follow you inward to that still, silent place, where we can surrender to the force that is greater than us all.

You lead us out of the wilderness that is our corporate culture. You have the transforming effect that you, up until now, have only hinted at that we can have. You become your true self, and lead us into being our true selves, as well.

You transcend this charade that is being played out.

Thank you.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Friday--overslept and was late for work. No one noticed. Well, we had a super-perfectly-marvelous time in Philadelphia. First of all, got to the city, parked the car in a parking garage--$21 for 24 hours. Walked two blocks to the hotel, and my step-daughter and her husband were just coming out, all smiles. They had registered, and left their car in the hotel, valet parking, for $32 for 24 hours.

Michel and I checked in, and went up to our beautiful room, and dropped our things, and went down to join them in the lobby. We all took a cab to Univerity of Pennsylvania. My step-daughter remarked that the cabs are cheaper than in New York. We went to the White Dog Cafe, where she was to meet her colleague, and we discussed as to whether the talk was at 6 or at 6:30. Phone call on cell phone, and it was at 6--so we hurried over to the Kelly Writer's House, where the panel discussion was to take place. Made plans for later to eat back at the White Dog Cafe.

Panel on eco-poetics. I am not a poet, but I enjoy listening to poets. This panel discussion was about poets working with the impact that humans have on the environment, rather than poet-as-observer-of-beautiful-landscape. Very interesting panel, brought up lots of thought to me regarding painting, as I am inspired to do landscape painting, but want to be part of this current world, not stuck back in late 19th century--early 20th century, as most of the painters around me seem to be. In other words, how can one create a painting of a beautiful vista, and be part of our time.

Laughing Knees talks a lot about the impact of the human on the environment. My step-daughter talks about how, if we are to prevent annihilation, we need to address the impact we have on the world around us.

People purchase art. They want to put something beautiful over their sofas. But is that art? Or is it just a decorative object. Art has a history, a timeline. Can one create art that has already been gone over. Can one creat art out of landscapes while ignoring the perils that face us all?

That is the thinking I want to address in my painting.

Well, we all went out to eat at the White Dog Cafe, which is interesting, in that it is all organic, and the owners make it a point to use and support local organic farmers. It was very good and the restaurant was comfortable. Not a college hang-out feeling, but more upscale. I like to eat in upscale restaurants, but we rarely do, as they are too expensive. We rarely go out to eat at all, since we both like to cook, and grow a lot of our own food. Plus have eggs from our own chickens.

Later, went back to the hotel. We went to look at my stepdaughter and her husband's room, and then went up to ours. Incredibly comfortable bed, marble bath, nice to luxuriate in fancy surroundings. Can see how seductive they can be. Also can see the illusion around them. The Ritz-Carleton is nice for people like us--artists, farmers, because they put such an emphasis on customer service, that there is no snootiness about the place, whereby we avoid a lot of high-class things because of the snootiness involved, never mind that we don't want to spend our hard-earned money that way. Money is for buying time.

Next day, we struggled a bit with things like tipping, breakfast in the room, chambermaid, etc. We took a shower together, my husband and I, in the beautiful, glass-enclosed marble shower, using the nice fragrent gels, and shampoos, etc.

Then we checked out, after we got dressed, of course, left our bags at the hotel, and spent the day walking around Philadelphia. I had never done that, had been down to the art museum a couple of times, had been to a few other places, but never walked through the beautiful, historic areas. All brick. Lovely, and lots of apartments for rent, so we all fantasized different places to live. Don't really want to live there, though. Tired of cities, in general.

Went to Utrecht, bought some art supplies, said goodbye to stepdaughter and her husband, went to get our car, and came back here to work, where my husband picked up his truck and I drove off to teach computers to the newcomer. First class went well, like them all. It will be a good eight weeks to be teaching. Glad it is only once a week, and glad it is only for eight weeks. A hard job after working all day. I like the money, though, it helps a bit.

I bought a chapbook of my stepdaughter's at the reading to give to my boss. He was appreciative. We often talk about writing, he has encouraged mine, and I gave him a gift today.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

I'm stealing a few minutes to post here since the printer is down, and I need it to work to continue what I'm doing here at work. I put in a call to the IT person, since I wasn't able to figure it out myself.

Tonight I am leaving work early, my husband is coming down, leaving his truck in the parking lot, and we are taking my car to go down to Philadelphia. We will be going to hear my step-daughter lecture at the University of Pennsylvania's Writer's House on eco-poetics.

And we will all be spending the Christmas gift that the president of my company gives us each year: a voucher good for one night at the Ritz-Carleton Hotel.

I have only stayed at a really nice hotel once before in my life. So this is thrilling to me, to be able to have a room there even for one night. With a marble bath.

Not too important in the scheme of things, but fun anyway. We will explore the city center tomorrow, and then I have to teach tomorrow night, and back here at work on Friday. Then a really busy week next week, with lots of things to prepare before I go away to Mexico!

Feeling grand!
Whoops! got called back to work. I will check in after Philly.

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