Saturday, October 31, 2015

Caribbean House

     CARIBBEAN TIME:  I spent an amazing time in an abandoned house on the Caribbean, on the Yucatan peninsula, Mexico.  It was a fabulous experience among the Maya, and I daily spear fished on the Palancar reef, shooting lobster and snapper, while typing out my first novel on a little manual typewriter.  I have drawn heavily on that time for my new novel, which, of itself, is a personal journey to find love.

     At night I listened to the Caribbean surging onto the sand.  A breeze usually arrived in the early morning, when the heat of the day had finally surrendered, and a slight coolness filled the old house.  The breeze danced with the mosquito net around my hammock and made everything look hazy, as though  I was floating in a cloud.         
     Each morning I awoke singing, a dream song spilling into the day.  When I climbed from the hammock there was no rush to find warm clothes.  I stood there in my underwear, smiling at the tropical light filling my house with a warm candle like glow, listening to tropical birds, papaya leaves scraping the mosquito netting over the kitchen window, trade winds warm on my chest, feeling free and alive and content, a man with so little, living in an abandoned  house; but rich with love and life.
     At my drift wood table, barnacles stuck to a leg, I took a piece of bread, lifted the coca-cola bottle filled with raw jungle honey, a piece of corncob stuffed into the opening, and tapped it on the table.  The ants surrounding the cob ran down the bottle and I pulled the stopper and poured honey.
     After breakfast I opened the front door so Slinky, my feral cat friend, could visit and search for food.  She didn’t enter like a house cat with a meow.  She was all business, sneaking in low to the ground, cunning, hunting.  And while she hunted lizards, I sat at my manual typewriter and traveled in my mind to Germany, my experiences there having sifted through the filters of time.  How strange it was to sit in cut offs, spraying mosquitoes at my ankles with Bug and Tar Remover, while writing about a highly organized society on the other side of the world.
     Every time I walked into town, I could not be certain I would end up there, so full of possibility was each day. Maybe a friend would drive by with the jeep loaded for a cenote trip, or crazy Mike would need help building a fish-smoker in the jungle, or a lost tourist gringa would pull up needing directions, and I’d be pulled into the Caribbean flow of life again.  A simple trip to the store might end with Mike, being eaten by mosquitoes in the jungle while shoveling concrete, or jumping through the ceiling of a hidden, egg-shaped cenote, bursting to the surface of water untouched for a hundred years, feeling so alive that energy and joy poured from me with the water as I climbed into the sun.
     When I finished writing each day, and the house was too hot to stay in, I brushed sand from my feet, tapped my sandals on the floor to make sure no scorpion was hiding in there, and slipped them on.  With a few pesos stuffed into my salty cut-offs, I carried my 20 liter plastic container to the tap on the street, filled it and struggled up the path, feet sinking in the warm sand.  Back in the house I set it in the sun for a warm afternoon shower.
     It was not until I returned to California did I understand how much my time beside the Caribbean had changed me.  One day I was speaking to a Mexican man about his country.  As he told stories of his village, an odd look came over his face, as though he were watching a beloved child drive away for the summer. 
     “You know,” he said, staring into memory.  “The days are longer in Mexico.”

     “Yes, and more full of life."