I had to go to La Peñita today. The two tables I'd ordered from the wood workshop were ready, and so was the Weedwhacker. Also we needed to have some keys made for the gallery, and I had two belated Christmas presents to buy.
The presents weren't belated because I'd forgotten to buy them. I hadn't even known about them before Christmas. It wasn't until the 26th, when I'd been driving down a teeny little dirt street nearby, that I had been accosted by one of my little girl buddies who is tiny and bossy and has no problem whatsoever expressing herself with high emotion. I like her. She reminds me of me.
She was going on and on in rapid Spanish about presents, and, as I was somewhat distracted by an errand I was trying to run, I seem to have agreed that yes, I did need to buy her a Christmas present. Then somehow her best friend got involved as second Unexpected Gift Recipient. I managed to stall them all of last week by insisting that they were the ones who had promised to give me a Christmas present, which they vehemently denied. Yesterday, they blockaded my car yet again and we made a deal: I'd buy both of them something for Christmas, but they had to make me something in return: a drawing, a painting, or whatever else they wanted to create. They were thrilled at the prospect, so the game was on.
So anyway, as I was saying, I had to go to La Peñita to accomplish all these things. La Peñita is one of my favorite nearby towns. It's a working town much more than a tourist town and is my go-to spot for practical things like having Weedwhackers fixed at a reasonable price and buying pine side tables for less than twenty-five dollars each.
I drove out of San Pancho at 1 pm. One of the best things about going to La Peñita is that, if you leave San Pancho at 1 pm, you arrive in La Peñita at 12:30. I'm trying to figure out how to do that all the time but haven't had much luck yet.
My tables were supposed to be delivered to the roadside stand at noon, so I was giving them a thirty minute grace period, which was fairly optimistic of me. I was zipping along the carretera at my usual pace, rounding curves fit for Mario Andretti, when suddenly I saw immediately ahead of me in my lane a line of traffic at a dead stop. Since driving in Mexico is a lot like playing Frogger and I always stay alert for the unexpected, I flipped on my emergency flashers and glided to a halt six feet behind a car from Nuevo Leon.
And there I sat. Now and then, the line of cars crept forward, maybe fifty feet at a time, then stopped again. This went on for quite a while. We were stalled at the top of one of the hills between San Pancho and Lo de Marcos when I noticed this tree silhouetted against the sky.
I did a double-take. Aha! That's where those nasty giant thorns come from that wash up on the beach now and then! So I took out my camera.
With each small creep forward, I had a new vantage point through the car windows.
Sometimes it was only a view of the line of cars stretching so far ahead of me I never spotted the beginning.
But there were other sights more interesting to photograph.
This curve is considerably less dangerous at 4 mph.
What was going on up ahead? I wondered. They couldn't be doing road construction on one of the busiest travel weekends of the year. Or could they? Maybe it was another tipped semi like the banana transport truck that turned over a couple of months ago between San Pancho and Bucerias, leaving hundreds of broken fruit crates and thousands of bruised bananas strewn beside the road. I hoped it wasn't an accident brought about by speed or alcohol. There was no way of knowing, so I kept taking pictures instead.
By this time, I discovered I was grinning, which made me start to ponder. Odd how life throws things at us, I thought. Things that can seem important, like being delayed by a traffic jam, and things that really are serious, like the life-or-death battles a couple of my friends are waging at this moment. Odd how our perspective can tilt and whirl. Amazing that some people are so resilient and courageous in the most unimaginably challenging circumstances, while others are thrown off balance or collapse in self-pity at the smallest of inconveniences. Astonishing that in the midst of calamities both real and perceived, the ordinary world goes on shining.
Bumps in the road, landslides across our chosen path. How do we manage them with grace? I'm working on it. Aren't we all?
It seems simple attention is key: awareness always of the good stuff, the love and the miracles large and small. Acknowledgement of the gifts that abound just because we're lucky enough to be here and be human. Gratitude, of course, when we're able to summon it, which we must take the time to do. Hold it close.
Back on the road--after forty minutes of stop-and-go, which was mostly stop, and during which I also pondered turning around and forgetting the whole trip--the cars suddenly began to move. I never saw any reason for the halt: no construction, no accident, no police stop, no nothing. The traffic just started to flow again at a normal pace. How is that possible? I wondered. How is anything possible? I answered myself.
I finished all my errands. The two tables were still stacked in a truck under dozens of pine chairs when I arrived to pick them up, but they were there. A couple of the guys clambered around and extricated them, then loaded them into the back of the RAV4. The Weedwhacker, all clean and reconditioned, was presented to me with pride and a full explanation of what they'd done to earn their payment.
While the excellent La Peñita key maker was making my keys, I went across the street and found gifts for the two girls self-appointed to my Christmas list. I'm looking forward to seeing what they've made for me, as their eyes were shining with anticipation when we parted and I know they will create something delightful. I'll wrap their presents in Christmas paper and put them in the car. I could deliver them to the house, but I think I'd rather wait to hear through my open windows the calls of "Candi! Candi!", to see those precious eager faces ready to give...and to receive.
Happy New Year.