It is more than Mexico’s constant sun and the bewitching landscape that entrance us. It is the people.
October is revival month. We are at the tag end of six months in Canada the province of British Columbia to be precise — and joyfully are getting organized for the trip south to Mexico where the ever-present sun will bathe us for the next half year.
Its an exciting time for a couple of people who are mainly retired from work. We’re like kids preparing for a camping holiday. Our Volkwagen Westfalia campervan has been shod with new treads, its innards replenished with fresh oil and coolant, its skin, inside and out, scrubbed fore and aft and otherwise has been made ready, except maybe for the inevitable last-minute details.
We never prosaically refer to our beloved van as the camper or the car or the van: It’s Frida, named after the iconic Mexican artist. A medallion of Frida Kahlo dangles from the rear view mirror, swaying to the rhythm of the road, a well-worn notebook bears one of her many visages, this one a severe self-portrait during her tumultuous Mexico City sojourns, and we even have a number of paper matchbooks displaying yet another image of her mercurial persona.
“Is Frida ready to go?” Vera says two weeks before departure. “No, No,” I reply. “I still have to replace the wipers, and I have to check the propane, and maybe give the fridge a once-over.”
“Anyway,” I add, “There’s still two weeks left.”
Just like a couple of kids who just can’t wait to get going. (Are we there yet?)
These approaching months are survival months for us and a time of cleansing.
We never are far from rain in our coastal paradise, and although we happily leave the winter behind we always will love Vancouver Island, set between sunrise and sunset with seas sparkling on all sides. While we are renewing last year’s faded overall tans, the well-soaked British Columbia landscape will be progressively repainted in photogenic velvet green; emerald variations brushed onto sky-reaching cedars, ground-dwelling ferns and stubborn mosses by the tempests of winter wind and unrelenting rain.
As we get behind the wheel in Frida, and the minuscule compass stuck onto the windshield points south, we let go this north of our lives. Our transition from an anglo today to a Mexico tomorrow always is a rediscovery of a personal spiritual cleansing. This comes both in the guise of a vaguely anticipated reinvention of ourselves and, as the days pass and the highway behind dissolves into the distance, in the approaching reality of our re-entry into this land of such captivating changeability.
Having survived decades of north Pacific seasons, we now willingly offer ourselves to the shy yet warm embrace of Mexico. It is more than the constant sun and the bewitching landscape that entrance us. It is the people, mysterious to the observer who cares to look closely and is willing to engage with wonder the cultural mosaic, who is able to travel widely and when he pauses to study the faces, gaze into the eyes, try the language, trade smiles, put new tastes on the tongue, to reach out, to touch; yet to accept the unfathomable, try to bridge the chasm and, as fellow humans, still seek to grasp the connectivity of them to us, the strangers.
These are the months of Mexico, welcome months of renewal.
Soon an overloaded Frida will be fat with the food, drink and myriad odds and ends that are desirable, if not requisite, for a long stay in Mexico.
From Vancouver Island, the ferry to the mainland must be caught early, around 5 a.m. At the U.S. border, we unfailingly are treated with warmth and are bade good journey (we are one of many snowbirds flying south and are recognizable) and the tires will hum with urgency as we make up the miles through Washington, Oregon, California and Arizona. We have made passages to Mexico many times — by sea, by air and by land — and the voyage always is made with exhilaration tempered with a serenity promised by our destination, our other home.
“Is Frida ready?”
“Yes,” I said.
Nogales, here we come.