As I was going up and down the stairs today, busy with emailing, doing Crime Writers of Canada work, imagining plans for the next few days or weeks or months - even years (as I am wont to do), making some chicken-lentil soup for tonight’s dinner, I began to think about some of my favorite things about being here in Las Brisas, Colima, Mexico. Here’s a top ten list; although I will probably miss some of the important ones, maybe you’ll never know. I did think about including the Wifi in the list, since it allows me to keep in touch, but I have that at home.
1. Our Neighbours: It’s the most delicious feeling having Maire and John right next door and Scott downstairs. I can run over to their places in seconds, holler down to Scott that dinner is ready or cards are about to being, borrow clothes pegs or potatoes, bother them with loud music and singing. I am the only extrovert in the group, so I can be annoying, but they are very tolerant. For me, it was even more fun when Maire’s sisters, Cathy and Rosaleen, and Cathy’s husband Bernard were also neighbours. Or last year, when all the units were filled with family and friends. I try very hard to remember that it’s okay to do nothing, to sit back and relax, to leave my poor neighbours alone. But I have to admit that I am not very successful, which really has a great result: I write a huge amount and read copious numbers of books. Every day, I love doing Aquafit in the pool with Maire. Reminds me of summers at home, though we do miss Helen's singing.
2. Nacho and Family, Graciella, Natchito, Marta, Andres and Camilla: Camilla is actually the new puppy, but she’s added a lot to the fun: poop on the stairs, brushing suddenly by our legs in the dark, nipping at our toes, howling to be released from her cage, running up and down and all around. Hard working, friendly, and truly caring, Nacho and his family provide a comfortable, intimate atmosphere that can’t be matched. I will always remember how they got up in the middle of the night to see us off last year when we had to return early for our sick pet. And the look on Gracie’s face this year when she saw me and asked how I was after my illness. Little Andres runs around on his four-year-old legs, calling or complaining, laughing or crying. He makes me homesick for my grandchildren, but he’s also a source of joy.
3. Las Brisas: The openness of our units allows the ocean breezes to drift through all day and night. The wind is kissed with salt, making our skin soft and everything slightly damp. It smells fresh, perhaps cleansed by the sand-filtering water, and warmed by the sun. Sometimes it’s rough and tricky, but most of the time, the breezes are friendly and soft. Our doors are always open, overlooking the street and the hills, or the ocean from our balconies. We can run freely up and down the stairs to the pool or the beach.
4. The Ocean: I know I’ve waxed poetic about this before, but I love the Pacific. I could live beside it for always, despite the occasional danger (or maybe because of its temperamental, unpredictable spirit). How I will miss the sound of the waves, the spray of sun on the water, the soft brown sand, and the life that weaves all around the sea.
5. My Grackle: He sings outside our bedroom window every morning. He has so many voices! A gorgeous lilting melody, a wicked laugh, a whistling call, or a deep-throated chuckle. He’s so talented! One day while Maire and I are doing Aquafit, he comes down to talk to us there. I laugh at him and he laughs back.
6. The Pigeons: Yes, I know I’ve told you about them before. But they are so beautiful and funny. They ruffle their feathers and a thousand colours gleam out at us. Their gentle coo is like a purr as they line up on the bridge for a turn at the “swim up bar”. They always come to watch as Maire and I do Aquafit, which is very polite. Sometimes I think they applaud as they flap away. They also have different personalities. There is one fellow, who looks deceivingly plain with his grey overcoat – until he ruffles a bit and purple winks out – is a bossy old bugger. He likes to push the smaller ones around, especially at the swim up bar. One day while Maire and I are in the pool, he starts to chase one of the others, which looks like a female because of her tinier size. She runs up the bridge and around the edge of the pool, with him close behind. Their bobbing heads are ahead of their tiny bird feet steps, racing awkwardly along the pavement. Going past the fence, we can see their necks and heads in sync as the scrabble past. Maire and I laugh out loud: we wish we had a video. They are hilarious.
7. Dinner and Cards: We eat together a lot, because there are only five of us, and because we like each other’s company. We have been out lots of times too: for seafood, pizza, tacos, hamburgers, pollo morto – anything we fancy. Every place has been quite delicious, some better than others, but the beer is almost always cold and the wine is usually good. When people say you have to be careful in Mexico, we tell them you have to be careful everywhere in the world. Afterwards, we almost always play cards, laugh and tease each other, drink tequila.
8. The Music: We play music here more often than at home. I don’t know why. Maybe we’ve just gotten out of the habit. Maybe it’s because of the new iPod I bought for Vince for Christmas: it’s very convenient and loaded with our favourite songs and artists. On the Tuesday when the Martins and Rosaleen are here, we go to Bar Social and listen to the local singer who has a magnificent voice. At Mariscos de Huerta, a group comes by and serenades us, as does another trio at Miramar Beach. We’re surrounded by lovely tunes and sing-a-long favourites and dancing harmony. Oh how I love to get up and wiggle and dance and sing out loud! The tantalizing air simply demands a performance.
9. The Other Birds: The swallows are back outside, answering the demands of an insect that must hatch in March. They sing and hunt and squabble, lined up on the telephone wires. Turkey vultures, cormorants, pelicans and seagulls storm up and down the beach, splashing into the water now and then, always busy with feeding. It’s glorious to be surrounded by their beauty, the way they glide on the air.
10. The Whales: They only drop by occasionally, tease us with their sleek backs glinting in the sun, jump and wave and splash and thunder in the ocean. What a gift when we see them in the distance!