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Over a pot of tea …

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Last Saturday afternoon began in a ceremony to greet the Spring season. The setting was Charco del Ingenio, a protected area nestled just over the hill and out of sight of San Miguel. The Charco is a botanical garden, an archaeological site, and has even been named a peace zone by the Dalai Lama. Pre Columbian stone tools found in its caves attest to its antiquity, and hacienda ruins signal its past on New Spain trade routes. Now, it’s the perfect moody place for this ritual to honor Gaia.

Though the music came from pow wow drums and ram horns, Tibetan singing bowls and rattles, the group was decidedly gringo. Many participants were dressed in white. They seemed to know all the chants, because many similar rites happen at this “ Plaza of the Four Winds”, overlooking the canyon. There were prayers, poems, hand holding. People wrote their good intentions on slips of paper to be consumed in the fire. Arms were raised with calls for the opening of the doors of the four directions. Gaia was thanked with foreheads in the dust and bottoms pointed up.

I admit it! I felt silly and out of place and new age weird, so I hung back in the shade of the mesquite tree and observed it all. For me, it was the concert I had come for. I eagerly waited for the moment when the drums would be silent so we could start moving into the canyon. It was to be an equinox classical concert, an event that has been staged at sunset for 15 springs. I watched the growing line of concert goers waiting for the signal, and hoped there would be a rock left for me. At last it was time to move.

It’s a long way into the canyon, but I was not alone. I was in a long snake trail of Mexican men, women and even some children, and the usual cast of culturally creative gringos. We picked our way from rock to rock, helping each other. An old man leaned heavily on his cane. A stylish woman in stiletto heels leaned heavily on the arm of her man. A mother fed the baby snuggled in her colourful rebozo.

I’m delighted to be in this crowd and so it appeared were several other Island Women. I didn’t catch the name of the two ladies working their way along behind me, but they were both from Gabriola. We chatted about the strange happenings at the ferry last week. Since many Canadians, including Islanders, make San Miguel de Allende their home for several months a year, I’m sure there would have been many more of my Northern neighbours at the event. Who knows? Perhaps we can share this experience to start a concert series in the canyons of Englishman River or the crags of Mount Washington!

If the setting of the concert was adventurous, the music was spectacular.  It featured two musicians playing a flute and a cell. Their repertoire included variety of pieces from Bach and Vivaldi and they surprised us all with Penny Lane when the crowd chanted “otra otra” (more! more!) at the end. Horacio Franco, a swarthy young Mexican with tight white pants and a leather vest, studded with piercings and sporting a tattoo or two, is one of the best flautists in the world. His pop star style was balanced by the cellist Asaf Kolerstein, an Israeli, who looked a little hot in his tux.

The two were a perfect team as they crouched on the little wooden stage set up between two rocks at the very bottom of the canyon. No concert hall could reproduce the acoustics of this space sculpted by nature’s forces of wind and water. There was no water in this dry season, but we all experienced the wind. Horacio danced around the stage, explaining that it was not because he was a ballet dancer, but because a flute “loses its notes” if it encounters a head-on wind. Meanwhile, Senor Asaf’s score, clipped to his music stand with clothes pegs, flapped and tangled and even flew off to be collected by intrepid concert goers. But even with these incidents, the music was unearthly. Even though many in the audience might have been uncomfortable on their granite outcrop perches, no one wanted to have it end.

But end it did as the sun went down and the full moon started to glow over the mesquite and cactus. Hundreds of people without lights now had to find their way to the lip of the canyon. I wondered how this could possibly happen in the rapidly gathering gloom. Then the bonfire started. Set in a pool of deep green water at the very bottom of the canyon, it was the torch we all needed to get over the more difficult terrain to the narrow paths above.

Trust the Mexicans to get it just right! At the top of the canyon were a phalanx of Red Cross first aiders. Some held a backboard stretcher with a cervical collar. There was even an ambulance waiting at the gate. All for about $10 Canadian dollars.

One of the things I’ve learned about life is that the more experiences I can have, the more alive I feel. From the perspective of my adventurous life in Mexico this winter, I’m feeling I have grown and stretched in important new directions. I love my brave new world!


Janet Dunnett Janet Dunnett has lived in Qualicum Beach since she retired from the Federal Government seven years ago. Now she likes to write and have tea with friends, often talking to them about how to create a better world.


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  1. Hi Trish. Yes it was. There is a different Janet inside the Janet shell that operates and gets along on this home turf. I’ve been very interested to tap into the “before”(I left to come home from Mexico) and the “after” (now that I am home two weeks.) Trying to recapture whatever that difference was that energized me. I’m wondering how others feel after they get back from a long time away? Any Snowbirds want to comment?

  2. I hope this winter away was all that you hoped it would be and more,thank you for shareing.

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