Mornings in Mexico by D. H. Lawrence
I should confess right off the bat that this one is out of print. Amazon.com doesn’t have any copies. However, I’m sure it’s still available in libraries or used bookstores. In any case, it’s worth looking for.
It’s a collection of essays and travel pieces that resulted from Lawrence’s visits to Mexico and New Mexico in the early 1920s. Some wonderful descriptive writing is to be found here.
Lawrence was a good traveller in these parts and he spent a lot of time carefully observing the Indians he found along the way. He was particularly interested in the ways of thought of the Indians and their religious beliefs and the ways their ideas differed from yours and mine. On simple concepts like time and distance, for example:
“….to an Indian, time is a vague, foggy reality. There are only three times: en la mañana, en la tarde, en la noche. There is even no midday and no evening. But to the white monkey, (that’s you and me) horrible to relate, there are exact spots of time, such as five o’clock and half past nine.
“The same with distance. To the Indians, there is near and far and very near and very far.”
Pay for work is another concept that the Indians didn’t understand.
On a more profound level, their concept of God is totally different from ours.
“With the Indians…there is strictly no god. The Indian does not consider himself as created, and therefore external to God, or the creature of God. There is, in our sense of the word, no God. But all is godly. There is no great mind directing the universe. Yet the mystery of creation, the wonder and fascination of creation shimmers in every leaf and stone. There is no God looking on. The only god there is, is involved all the time in the dramatic wonder and inconsistency of creation. God is immersed, as it were, in creation, not to be separated or distinguished. There can be no Ideal God.”
And: The Indian is completely embedded in the wonder of his own drama.”
Lawrence does a wonderful job of digging into this exotic culture and explaining the significance of Indian dances and rituals.
Another gem to be found here is Lawrence’s essay, "Market Day,” which is a wonderful example of descriptive travel writing. The leisurely prose reminds you that in the days before radio, tv, films and the internet, this was the only way to learn about other places. You actually have to slow down your reading pace to savor the descriptions of small things, such as flowers in a doorway, or a bird’s flight, or the pleasures of bargaining for fruits and vegetables in the market. I guess this is the difference between reading and information-processing, which we do so much of today.
And, if you would like to enhance your appreciation of D.H.Lawrence, let me also recommend a book called, "Out of Sheer Rage,” by Geoff Dyer. This one is available from Amazon.com in paperback. Its subtitle is "Wrestling With D.H.Lawrence.” As a jazz fan, I had previously read a lovely book of Dyer’s called, "But Beautiful” - an appreciation of various jazz musicians. Still, I wasn’t quite prepared for "Out of Sheer Rage”, which is a wonderful, offbeat read and I’m glad I found it around the same time I was reading "Mornings in Mexico.”
Dyer is an English academic who set out to write a book about DHL and found it a difficult task. The result is what Amazon.com calls "the best book about not writing a book about D.H.Lawrence ever written.” Dyer pretends he couldn’t manage to write a book about DHL but actually does do just that, protesting all the way, about his inability to do so.
It’s a rant, an homage, and a meditation on many topics, both trivial and profound. And it probably has more to say about Dyer himself . However you learn some interesting things about DHL along the way.
My only caveat with Dyer’s 'dyer-tribe’ is that, in visiting the various places on the planet, where DHL lived, he just didn’t like Oaxaca. Until now, I’d never heard of anyone who didn’t like Oaxaca. However, later in his book Dyer confesses that he was suffering from depression at the time he was there. So, he’s excused - I guess.
Verdict: Both books have become part of the A. Cogan permanent collection.
Mornings in Mexico
Published by Gibbs M. Smith, Inc. Paperback, 1927
By D. H. Lawrence