Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Further South - Christmas in Mexico (part 3)

There were cactus fields all over the hills lining the road that led south into Mexico. I walked into one of the fields and could see the owner peaking out from behind the rags that were used for curtains in his mobile home. Apparently he didn't mind me walking through his cactus for a few pictures of the straight green rows. I stood among the cactus and just had to take a quick self shot standing among the thorny plants. The owner peaked out again from behind the raggedy curtain and quickly closed the curtains again to leave me to my pictures. Apparently he didn't mind me taking shots of myself among the prickly plants either. I chose to walk into this thorny field and there was no smile on my face beneath the setting Mexican sun.

Several miles down the road there was another field of cactus. It was very different from the other. This field had a sturdy fence around it and the rows of green plants were parallel with the road and they were planted on a hill that went up away from the road. I almost drove by it before I noticed this lone farmer standing at the very top of the hill beside his horse and plow. He stood there still, not plowing but standing looking down on the road. He just stood there as though he were waiting for me to take his picture. The picture looked so cool with the green rows and freshly plowed soil in front of him, that for a moment I thought that the photography gods had stepped down to make this scene just for me. This is a self centered way to look at things but sometimes when the picture is that right...you gotta wonder. I did wonder and I also took several pictures of this working man on a hill taking a break from his plow to let me take this picture that could have been framed from on high...or it could have just been a man plowing his field and taking a break. I wondered if it mattered how he got there or why he stood there. Probably not. If he's going to stand there, I'm going to take his picture. Walking back to my car I came across a dead wolf laying in front of the fence. I am not one to find beauty in dead things. Especially animals. But this wolf lay alone in front of the field with no indication of what killed him except some blood trickling down his mouth. He was still like dead things are...very still. I took a few steps back and looked at this dead wolf with the farm hand far away in the pretty field behind him, still standing next to his horse and plow...still..like farm hands are. I didn't wonder about this picture at all. I left the wolf behind and kept going south as the sun slowly sank down the Mexican sky.

There was a giant rock painted white with a white cross on top. There was no sign or anything, and it was outside any property on the road side. I pulled over and without thinking sat down in the shadow of this rock. My butt hit the dirt and I looked up at the cross to find that that the sun was directly behind it on it's way down the sky. I sat in the shadow of this white rock looking up at that cross. I am not Christian but there are times when I can sit and understand what a Christian feels for their savior as I can also empathize with other religious symbols and how they connect people with their Gods. I sat there in the shadow of that giant rock for a few minutes using the sun to create a beautiful picture. I turned around and walked into my long shadow towards my van and the sunset.
I knew that there was water to my right as I was driving. At a few points there were signs with arrows to turn off to some marina or camping spot....”12 miles to the water”. The sun was setting and it looked gorgeous. I saw water far off in the distance but there was no road in site leading towards it. I drove and the sun sank lower and lower. My frustration mounted with each mile and the sun got closer to the horizon. There was no road in site and the sun hit a patch of clouds that caused an amazing sun burst. The orange rays shot down onto the water creating a golden glimmer that was unreal. I looked across the fields and couldn't believe the sunset that I was missing. It looked so amazing for a few minutes, while the sun was behind the clouds, I almost cried at the lost picture. But it was still settings. I know that the sun will set tomorrow...and the day after that too. But as I drove south, deeper into the country, I wanted to catch this one. I turned off on the first dirt road that looked like it would take me there. I drove frantically over the grated dirt until it turned into pothole laden mud. The sun was sinking in front of me and the road was going nowhere fast. The mud road beneath my van narrowed into a small dirt road along a barbed wire fence. I drove in vane towards the sun setting over the golden waters. I had taken the wrong road and ended up alone on a little dirt path that was nowhere near the shiny water under the setting sun. I stopped my van, turned off the ignition, and lit a cigarette. Why did I think that this sunset was so worth chasing? By this point in the day I was tired of being alone in my car. I got out with my cigarettes and walked back a ways along the barbed wire fence. At some point I stopped and sat next to the fence with the missed sunset behind me. It was so quiet. Even my brain was quiet for a change. I smoked several cigarettes sitting Indian style, hunched over beside that long stretch of fence. And I cried a lot. And talked to God out loud for a couple minutes. The darkness took over the light and then the moonlight took over the darkness. And the new light was beautiful over the distant waters.


I sat in my van and smiled. I smiled to myself and for myself. I think it was one of my first true smiles in a long time as I drove back down that muddy road. Some things had occurred to me sitting by that fence with the sun setting behind me. My life is full of roles and choices...A father-how do I raise my kids?...A working man-what is my true passion?...A man-what kind of man do I want to be? Going on these trips alone was running away from myself. I was running from all the roles in my life to be alone and get some peace...take some pictures...breath a little. But as I sat there with the moon rising over my head, I knew that even in the running there was still a mask that I chose to leave on and if I didn't take it off now it may never come off. There was still this kind of hiding behind my camera that allowed me to be alone but not really. I rarely took that last mask off. I hardly remembered who I was anymore. I had been looking at myself, and my life, for so long through other peoples eyes, that I forgot what I looked like through my own. I had spent so long wondering what life was about...what were the “answers”?...taking on any role that my life threw at me...wearing mask after mask...that I lost sight of the one role that matters...mine. Driving down the highway for a while I almost couldn't stop smiling. There were no decisions to be made that I could not make. I needed nothing else...nobody else...no more answers...to know who I am and what I want. I know who I am and am not. I know what happiness is and what it is not. I don't need to know the mysteries of the universe to know what happiness means to me.

And yet I decided to go a little further south. It was already dark so I told myself that I would drive until 7:00 and stop wherever I was at and take a picture before heading back to a city area to park and sleep. It was 6:30. For some reason I wanted a clock to tell me when to stop...it was arbitrary and unbiased about finding the next great picture or leading me down some muddy road. I just had a minor epiphany telling me that there were no decisions that I could not make and yet I still wanted to go a little further south until the clock stopped me. Every minute that ticked by on that drive felt worse than the one before. I was driving down a dark road deep into Mexico just to see if there was anything interesting left...and letting a clock tell me when to stop. It was my final bit of running. My gut felt wrong and I knew that I didn't want to go further south. I knew I wanted to turn around and go home. But I was still running from something. The clock finally hit 7:00 and I stopped on a pitch black stretch of highway in the middle of Mexico and turned off all my lights. And there I was for the highway robbers to pounce on. They didn't. I got out of the van, lit a cigarette, and stared back towards where I had just come from. Far down the road I could see the blink of tow truck lights helping a stranded motorist. I stared at the stars for a while and put out my cigarette. I was tired and I wanted to go home. As I drove by the stranded motorist next to the tow truck, I wondered how he got stranded out here too.

Standing Among The Thorns
 

A Farm Hand All Alone

A Lone Stillness


The Sunset I Didn't Miss

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