piece/peace of mind
teaching, learning, laughing, thinking & writing on the road 
It’s a place where I write thoughts & ideas that wander around with me on the road.  It’s about reflections & making sense of stuff as I read, write, listen, talk, explore, observe, experience and travel to….wherever. It’s a tool to help me capture & record a piece/peace of mind—conversations, ideas, memories, tastes, smells, feelings, & perceptions.  It’s from an out-of-the-box educator who checks off things to do on a very long bucket list.  It’s from a woman of the ‘60’s who seeks new ways to teach, learn & live in a world growing smaller each moment.  I blog to learn.  I hope you will walk down the road with me—a piece.  I hope you will share ideas, ask questions, find answers-find answers, peace of mind.                                                                                                                              

Day of the Dead


"Mexico celebrates a yearly tradition called Day of the Dead during the last days of October and the first days of November.  As in many Latin American countries, Mexico commemorates the Day of the Dead or All Souls' Day on November 2nd.  The legacy of past civilizations is graphically manifested on this occasion through people's beliefs that death is a transition from one life to another in different levels where communication exists between the living and the dead.  This communication takes place once a year throughout the country.  The Day of the Dead in Mexico is not a mournful commemoration but a happy and colorful celebration where death takes a lively, friendly expression.  Indigenous people believed that  souls did not die, that they continued living in Mictlan, a special place to rest.  This is an ancestral tradition that blended with Catholicism to create a special time and space to remember and honor the loved ones by offering them an ofrenda, the fragrance of the flowers, the light of the candles, the aroma of special foods and the solemnity of prayers.  It is also a time to joke and make fun of death through "calaveras," poetry allusive to a particular person, generally politicians.  Between the lines are messages to the living.  No matter how attached we are to our lives (in terms of wealth, position, or possessions) we all end up the same.  Other activities include making sugar, chocolate and amaranth skulls which are given to one another with their friend's name so "they can eat their own death" and special crafts allusive to different aspects of the living, with skeletons representing daily activities."
[from http://www.dayofthedead.com ]

I'm excited about my first Day of the Dead celebration in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.  So far I've had the opportunity to experience Mexico through many fiestas and celebrations:  El Grito, Independencia, Fiesta of the San Miguel partron saint-- St. Michael.  So, here's my first Calavera.....


death tracks us
to the door

death sits a spell
waiting for us

death waits awhile
to knock

death greets us



Casa Karmina seems empty without Donna & Cheryl here to laugh and plan our day's adventure.  Baggans misses Cheryl holding up the squirt bottle to "threaten" her if she nips.  Pooh Bear wants to know where her walk-to-the-park-buddy is....and I'm busying reviewing verb cards for my tutoring sessions.  And so we're settling into our non-routine life in San Miguel de Allende....waiting for our next visitor....anticipating the next unplanned adventure.  After the late night chats and giggles over stories of our past escapades,  silence seems louder than the jostling on the streets. 

in these rooms there is silence
at last
it caresses my face
curls around
hugs me

in these rooms there is silence
friends are gone
i'm alone
but not lonely

in these rooms there is silence
it whispers above
ringing bells
booming fireworks
barking dogs
here silence speaks all languages

in these rooms there is silence
it speaks of old-new-friends
names colored with crayola brightness
outside and inside the lines of remembrance
silence melts into rivers of remembering
exchanges of reflections
with myself
silence burrows
into the corners of my heart

in these rooms thre is silence
i sit
oblivious to stirrings and storms
the quietest part of silence

i think

Mis Viejas Amigas

Defying news reports of death and drugs south of the border, friends continue to visit me in San Miguel de Allende.  Probably has something to do with "our" generation.  Risk takers.  Fun seekers.  Reconstructed hippies.  Friends taking the fast lane...not the check out lane.  JUST SAYING NO to age-limiting laments, they walk, run and saunter on down the road to the next adventure.  Laughing.  Loving.  Cheering.  Consoling.  Remembering.

Two long-time friends, Donna [NCHS] and Cheryl [WWC] visited me for almost 3 weeks.  Together we explored every street in San Miguel, took every tour available, ohhhed and awwwed at every park and pyramid, dined at every restaurant, shopped at every tienda and mercado.  Then, as a reward for our stellar tourist accomplishments, Donna passed out 3 chocolate-covered almonds at the end of each day.

Laughing out loud we treaded carefully on cobblestone streets...sometimes going some place...sometimes not...just taking in the sights and sounds of a new city with new and interesting people.  Chatting with them in English, Spanish and pantomime.  Learning as we explored.  Remembering why we are still friends after all these years.

The day Donna arrived we went to a favorite tienda up the street from Casa Karmina.  Donna is a big Halloween fan.  Perfect fit...Donna and Day of the Dead.  This store is filled with all sorts of fun stuff for Day of the Dead.  Donna reached for her credit card...MUY RAPIDO!  We both found a "perfect" T-shirt for us.  First and foremost it came in XL...remember...we are two-thirds of the "Boobsy Trio" from NCHS!  It had a really cute Katrina [skeleton dressed in vintage clothes].  Glancing at the text on the T-shirt, I asked the clerk:  "What does SOY COMMO LA CHINGADA mean?"  He said:  "Oh, it's just a Mexican expression for GO TO HELL."    Well, seems like an appropriate sentiment for a Day of the Dead T-shirt.  Right?  Read on.

We bought 2 T-shirts with a promise to return with our friend Cheryl when she arrived.  The next day Cheryl arrives and we go first to the MASK MUSEUM [www.info@casadelacuesta.com].  There was one other couple from Seattle, Jim and Martha, and us.  Bill spent 3 hours spinning stories of masks and ceremonial dances and filling our heads with lots of information about Mesoamerica.  Awesome.  Our new friends invited us up the hill to see heir fabulous house and the even more wonderful views.  Then, off to la comida at a great restaurant by the Jardin.  Seated on the rooftop patio overlooking the mountains that surround San Miguel, we were greeted by our young waiter.  He took our drink order and quickly returned with drinks AND 5 other young waiters who formed a semi circle around our table.  Our waiter stood staring at my boobs for a too-long-second, grinned...glanced sideways at his buddies.  All were grinning.  Finally, I got it!  "OK y'all...what does this T-shirt say?  Really?!!"  The waiter's attention-getting behavior was not boob-directed.  Our T-shirts were the focus of the grins.  With a bit of coaching, the waiter-chorus laughed and the-one-who-spoke-English stammered:  "It means--"I'M A BIG FUCKER."  We laughed with them.  Double checked the translation with our new best friend at the travel agency.  Yes, she said, "that's the translation...but it's sorta positive."  Later, on our tour to Guanajuato we discussed this with our guide Dali.  "Yes, the verb is CHINGAR...it has all the various meanings as your word in English."  He referred me to GOOGLE [see wikipedia.org/Spanish profanity].

On the topic of Spanish profanity...some of my teachers at the WARREN HARDY SPANISH SCHOOL will translate profanity, some change the subject.  However, Warren has a segment on his website.  We listened and laughed as Warren explains the various uses of the Spanish word for "asshole"....about the same as in English!  Check out http://warrenhardy.com/learning/videos/don-juean-de-la-voce Asshole-Cabron.php ] 

All good things come to an end...but in this instance, not without plans for our next adventure.  So stay tuned for "Adventures with Mis Viejas Amigas."  Now, I must sit and listen to the silence!

             Pooh, Bill, Donna & Cheryl at Mask Museum

Donna and Bill search for just the right mask

Cheryl tries out public bath

Pooh at B and B Hotel close to Parque Juarez

Cheryl, Donna, Dali, Martha, and Pooh tour Guanajuato

Hiking to La Canada de Virgen with EXTRME hikers, Donna & Cheryl

                                               Tres Amigas at Mercado

                                                     Tres Amigas Dining at Harry's New Orleans Bar


Three months in San Miguel de Allende have whizzed by at the speed of light.  Three months left.  So much to do...so little time...PERO...more adventures wait. 

Some random thoughts that flitted around my head as I sat in the Jardin today....


I'm here
Between somewhere
And nowhere
On my way to

Roaming the highways
Of my mind

I'm here
Between somewhere
And nowhere
Taking mental pit stops
Snapshots too
Of yesterday

I'm here
Between somewhere
And nowhere
Hung up in detours
On the the road
To anywhere
Marking time

I'm here
Between somewhere
And nowhere
On my way home

Escultura de Arcilla

My 1st Sculpture:  Male/Female Duality

"So much to do, so little time" is my refrain while I enjoy all that is offered in San Miguel de Allende.  Last week really bumped up my juggling act a notch or two.  The Spanish class, STORY TELLING, stretched me with loads of homework each night AND I had a four hour sculpture class each day! Oh pero...que divertido!  Sharon, the artist-sculptor-instructor has lived in San Miguel de Allende for many years.  She seems to know every one in San Miguel...made for very interesting conversation as we sculpted.  Her studio is filled with examples of her work.  I especially like the pots with faces.  Currently, the economy has inched its way south of the border.  Sharon is the lone artist in a very huge industrial building that two years ago had all workshops filled.  Nevertheless, her enthusiasm, optimism and creative spirit are contagious.  The other students came from all over.  Rae lives in San Miguel and she too is an artist.  Her watercolors are bright, bold and interesting paintings of people and plants.  You can see her creative edge in her sculpture of a woman.  All during the class, Rae regaled us with stories from her days in Hollywood working in various jobs.  As she moves toward 90, there is no indication that she will slow down...except to smell the flowers she paints!  George is back from New Mexico where he has a design business [interior & landscape].  He ponders a move back to San Miguel full time but is still on the mental fence.  You can see his designer's eye in his pear sculpture.   Ken is from Washington, but his family headed west from Tennessee to set down new roots and start orchards.  He jokingly refers to his redneck heritage...but with much west coast pizazz!  Ken sculpted; revised; sculpted; revised....and created a piece that would make his 2nd grade teacher proud.  All this talent with clay while maintaining a continuous comedy routine that brought smiles and belly laughs to each of us.  Beverly returned to the sculpture class for a second inning.  She took the class in November.  I met Beverly in Level 2 Spanish class and she's the one who gave me advice about the "next steps" in the sculpting process.  I'm not sure it helped much since the head fell off my piece as I scooped out the clay from the inside.  We made "slip" and glued it back on.  The firing will be the test!  If my sculpture survives, I'll have a male/female sculpture for my garden.  Beverly finished her sculpture and added "negative space"...new vocabulary word for me.  Beverly is from Galveston Bay and has retired to San Miguel.  Her cousin lives down the street from me in La Aldea.  Beverly & her family have been visiting SMA since she was 10.  She, too, knows everyone.  It's been great meeting her because she has introduced me to people & places and helped me figure out how to get around & get along in this wonderful town.  We all plan to meet for dinner next week at the FAT MERMAID, one of a gazillion fabulous restaurants.  Sharon will have news of our sculptures and we can touch base on everyone's comings & goings.   I started Level 3 Spanish this week and I'm determined to focus on Spanish ONLY...do my homework & habla Espanol.  No wandering off on tangents.  No other competing classes.  NADA!  Just study Spanish.  My reward is a 2-week break the first of September when my friends [Donna from Florida & Cheryl from Indiana] arrive to play in San Miguel.  Donna is a friend from high school and Cheryl is a friend from college.  Que divertido!  Las Tres Amigas!  Sounds like a story waiting to be written!

Rae's Sculpture: Woman                                  Beverly & Rae ponder negative space
Check out Sharon's Pot with a Face in upper R of pic with Beverly & Rae

  Ken sculpts

George waits for his pear to dry                   P gets pic of George in mirror as he sculpts

Sharon fixes George's pear                                  Last Class Comida @ Cafe Carmen

Green San Miguel: Organic Farmers' Market

Saturday I visited the Organic Farmers' Market on Ancha de San Antonio.  It's just around the corner from Casa Karmina.  This was my first visit.  The market was filled with music, kids playing and folks selling & buying organic produce, artisan breads & cheeses, natural beauty products, organic coffee, organic meats and traditional handcrafts.  After a taste test, I bought tomato soup and sourdough bread.  Saturday marked the Market's 1st Anniversary Celebration.  The vision of TIANGUIS ORGANICO is to provide healthy organic products from local sources.  The San Miguel de Allende market is the 21st market in the Mexican Network of Organic Farmers.  After visiting the market, I read an article in ATENCION www.atencionsanmiguel.org and then I read about Farmers' Markets in Polk County, NC.  There are 217 farmers' markets in NC.  Western North Carolina has a third of the markets.   The USDA announced NC as 10th in the US for farmers' markets.   It's interesting to find a growing interest in farmers' markets where I'm visiting and where I live.  Good ideas are universal!


Mask Museum in San Miguel de Allende

"Perhaps no object reflects the true nature of Mexican indigenous culture, ceremony and spiritual complexity like the Mexican dance mask.  Masked festivals dating back to pre-Hispanic time have played an important role in the social and religious life of Mexicans to this day.  Bill LeVasseur, founder and curator of LA OTRA CARA DE MEXICO, a wonderful Mask Museum here in San Miguel shares the evolution of masking in pre-history, the use of masks in Mesoamerica before the conquest, and the dramatic changes of masked ceremonies as a result of the movement to evangelize the native population.

Mexican masks are usually made of wood with leather, bone, and often with genuine hair and teeth.  They may also be fashioned from other materials such as animal shells and tin.  The masks can be painted, lacquered, or left in a natural state.  The art of mask making demonstrates imagination, fantasy and great decorative and creative talent.

During pre-Hispanic times the Aztecs used masks as part of their religious ceremonies.  After the Spanish Conquest, Christian symbols and traditions were incorporated into the art of mask making.  In the past, masks were worn in ritual dances and used by dancers to represent persons or animals.  The dance's purpose was to tell a story in which the desired result was achieved through the magic of imitation and transformation." 
Sources:  www.mexicolindo.biz/Artists/Horta ; www.casadelacuesta.com/ceremonialmasks ; www.creativitybeat.com/articles-artistic-expression/ceremonial-masks

One of the places Mady & I visited during her week in San Miguel de Allende was La Casa de la Cuesta.  This was one of the houses on the Biblioteca HOUSE & GARDEN TOUR.  Actually, it is a Bed & Breakfast built by Bill & Heidi.  The house charmed us all with its style.  Hosts Bill & Heidi welcomed us with southern hospitality flavored with San Miguel warmth.  During this first visit, I briefly toured the Mask Museum that is the result of Bill's growing expertise in Mesoamerican mask making.  When Ron & Robin visited the end of July, this was on the to-do list if they were interested. They were.  We went to the museum planning to stay for a quick tour.  Three hours later we were still asking questions.  We were so enthralled with the mask museum and Heidi's Folk Art Gallery that we lost track of time.  Heidi is an artist and art teacher who continues to share her creativity through her work with six of the most sought after folk artists.  Bill's expertise and enthusiasm for mask making open the world of rituals for all who tour the museum.  Bill's tour includes a brief history of mask making and there are notes with each mask.  The pictures are from his gallery, not the museum [no photos there].  Our tour included trying on various masks.  Fellow tourists are the "bird family."  My mask is one that I bought.  It's from Carnival in El Progreso, Puebla.  Robin made a fashion statement with a mask to match her pink blouse.  Ron chose the devil mask.  Hmmmmmmmm.

 Bill & Robin Chat

P's CARNIVAL MASK from El Progreso, Puebla

   Robin in Pink Mask

 Ron in Devil Mask

The Bird Family

Sunday Morning San Miguel

Now this rooster is not from San Miguel.  He's my neighbor's visiting rooster who used to dig in my garden.  Cute.  Not the every-day-garden-variety of rooster.  He's way too fancy, but a rooster nonetheless and one who joins the daily chorus of crowing in the mornings outside my window in Polk County, NC.  I just wanted you to know that I wake up every morning to a rooster chorale.  So, the Sunday Morning San Miguel chorus is just a different tune...until this morning.  The clanging of church bells, crowing of roosters, and popping of fireworks broke through my sleep-of-the-dead-snoozing...aided by the fur-balls Pooh Bear & Baggans.  Squirming, squealing and shaking they nosed under the sheets seeking solace & silence as close to me as possible.  I sleep the sleep of the dead--nothing wakes me.  Well, Pooh Bear licking my nose and pawing my shoulder does wake me.  Today the San Miguel cacophony broke through my dreams.  I answered the dogs' call to walk.  Off to the park we went.  Earlier than usual we were the first to arrive.  Pooh Bear could pee without any distractions on every plant, rock, post and bench.  Baggans could sniff and snack on grass at her leisure without intrusive people or pets.  I marveled at the early morning rays dancing off the trees and plants and the silence in the midst of noise.  It's another great day!

It's A Small World

A recent encounter in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico at the Warren Hardy Spanish School [visit www.warrenhardy.com ] amplifies the phrase "it's a small world."  Last week friends visited me here in San Miguel.  Their home is Spartanburg, SC.  I invited them to come to class to hear Warren talk about "What Mexicans Want."   In his talk, Warren shares insights about the values of Mexicans and Americans.  I thought they would be interested in his point of view.  After introductions, Tuli told them there were others from SC taking classes.  Did they know Marshall Chapman?   [visit www.tallgirl.com ]  "Of course," they replied. 

Small world.

Today during our break from Spanish classes, I asked Marshall if she knows Billy Ed [visit www.billyeddwheeler.com ].  Sprawled on the patio on her back, basking in warm San Miguel sun rays, Marshall yawned.  Then, she drawled:  "Yea.  Sure.  From Warren-something...in Swannanoa."

Small world.

Connections intrigue me.  So, I wandered with a friend down to the Jardin last night to listen to Marshall MC a tribute  to her friend at a Literary Sala.  During the break, I bought her new CD--BIG LONESOME. I listened to lyrics [Down to Mexico] that capture reasons for my travels here...

"I'm goin' down to Mexico...to San MIguel de Allende where the cool wind blows..."

Glad I'm here...temperatures are 90+ degrees in NC!  It's that itchy-sticky-take-off-your-clothes kind of heat.  Heat that makes you flop down with your dogs and pant.  Glad I'm here.

"Nobody there's gonna know my name."

Anonymous.  Invisible.  Solitary.  This is what I need to transition from a workaholic-no-time-to-smell-the-roses life.  Perfect place to wander. Think.  Study.  Pray.  Play.  Write.

"I'm gonna let my soul fly free...find out what's inside of me."

Soul-nourished self...searching and seeking...untangling the snarls...walking the forever-road to self-completeness.  Change of pace.  Change of place.

Small world.

Sometimes we need to slow down...amble a bit...stop...make connections...take a chance...enlarge our world...this world grows global...smaller...moment by moment.  Now.

Carolina Crowd @ Warren Hardy Spanish School. 
[L to R] Ron, Marshall, Robin, Warren, Paulette

Marshall Chapman @ La Literary Sala
Singing "Riding with Willie" from BIG LONESOME

TA DA! Mi Tapete Esta Hecho!

Instructor:  Sr. Jimenez, Instituto Allende
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico  8.3.2011

Amazing!  I finally finished mi tapete...  with lots of help from a very patient maestro and lots of encouragement from fellow weavers.  Now, on to my next project....clay sculpture.  I'll keep you posted on my progress.


April 2014

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Recent Posts

  1. Day of the Dead
    Wednesday, October 26, 2011
  2. Silence
    Wednesday, September 21, 2011
  3. Mis Viejas Amigas
    Tuesday, September 20, 2011
    Wednesday, August 31, 2011
  5. Escultura de Arcilla
    Thursday, August 18, 2011
  6. Green San Miguel: Organic Farmers' Market
    Monday, August 15, 2011
  7. Mask Museum in San Miguel de Allende
    Monday, August 15, 2011
  8. Sunday Morning San Miguel
    Sunday, August 14, 2011
  9. It's A Small World
    Saturday, August 06, 2011
  10. TA DA! Mi Tapete Esta Hecho!
    Friday, August 05, 2011

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