Thursday, August 13, 2015

So What's New?

We  haven't been able to return to Banámichi since May, so all the things, both small and large, that that have changed since we were last here really stand out. Also, this is a natural time of reflection, since it is just one year since the toxic spill from the mine in Cananea devastated the Río Sonora. (This week, there was another very similar spill into the Animas River in southwestern Colorado.  It will be interesting to see if the US government does any better than the Mexican government at dealing with it.)

Roadside beauty
The most immediately noticeable change since we were last here is that the season has shifted from the pleasant dry heat of early summer to the swampy inferno of mid-monsoon. Along the roadways, the wild grasses have grown green and high again, and the hillsides are covered with cottony tufts of pink and white shrubs. The air vibrates with insects. A desert tortoise plods into the bushes as we drive by. A red tailed hawk takes flight and narrowly misses our windshield. This is nature at its most extravagant, reveling in the oppressive moisture.

Arriving at our little home in Banámichi, we are horrified to see what time and the changing season have done to our backyard. The yard is once again filled with waist high weeds. A giant branch from the dead tree in our neighbor's back yard has fallen across the block wall in a windstorm. Mountains of leaves fill the back porch. Our work is cut out for us. Ugh! For the first time, I feel too old and overwhelmed to deal with this.

Backyard jungle
Waist-high grasses

But there are happy changes as well. Our peach tree has gone from being newly green to bending low with more peaches than we can possibly use. Just coming up on ripe, they are odd little peaches, not at all like their big and often mealy, tasteless US supermarket cousins. These are somewhere between an apricot and a plum in size, yellow and tinged with green, and have a crunchy bite.  Yet the flavor is sweet and peachy.  I am told that these are an older type of peach, highly desired by some horticulturalists in the states. There is a friend of a friend who actually wants the seeds to grow these in Arizona. While we are here, we will pick and process piles of them for the freezer. Peach jam and peach pies are  in our future!
Peachy keen!
We begin the process of cleaning the backyard at 6:30 the morning after we arrive. It is exhausting work pulling the tall grasses. We ask around to find someone younger and stronger to help, but all able-bodied men are working at the mine these days. It used to be easy to find people who were anxious for a day's work. Now it takes days to find someone. But we certainly do not begrudge folks their jobs at the mine. Banámichi desperately needed a source for jobs, and the mine has provided plenty.  In the last couple of years there has been a new prosperity in town. Houses have been re-painted, repaired and refurbished. There is new construction. The area is flourishing anew.

But even with that, there are changes. Silvercrest Mines, which has owned and operated the Santa Elena Mine in Banámichi since it started, was recently bought out by First Majestic, another Canadian mining company. People here seem concerned that their jobs will not last, though that seems unlikely. Unknown to us, however, is what will happen to our own modest investment in Silvercrest which has been tanking of late.
Dan removing tree branch from the wall

After 3 days of yard cleaning activity, when we are ragged and exhausted, a lovely woman named "Bicky" arrives to help. I gratefully slink into the house, tail between my aging legs, to take a shower and cool off. She powers through the forest of weeds and mountains of raking apparently not at all fazed by the heat and humidity. When I offer her work gloves she looks at me scornfully..."I don't need those!" She does accept the cold water, though. Eventually the yard is transformed from a veritable jungle back to its old self.

Meanwhile, there are more changes. San Judas, our abarrotes (grocery) of choice here in town has a new addition. These days, they have to compete with the new OXXO convenience store. I don't much care for the OXXO (although they do carry bagged ice!)...its like a Mexican Circle K filled with junk food. New and shiny. Corporate. Sterile. San Judas has character, with its dark aisles, crowded shelves, and friendly owners. Hopefully tradition will triumph and they will continue to do well.

Another positive change is the state of Calle Obregón, the street our house is on, which runs the length of Banámichi from north to south. Ever since the great water project a couple of years back, the street has been a potholed disaster just waiting to bend rims and eat tires. There were piles of dirt and rocky places with no pavement. Then someone somewhere decided it needed work and it was even more torn up plus closed to traffic for months. Now it is newly paved, and nearly finished. Looking good! No more twisted ankles after dark!
Calle Obregon, newly paved.

New mayors have been elected in all the towns along the Río Sonora. The state of Sonora also has a new governor. And, friend Tom has opened an Italian restaurant at Hotel Los Arcos serving excellent lasagna and New York style cheesecake. There is also a new carne asada stand on the road to Huepac. This is not a surprise. In a recent Edible Baja Arizona Magazine, there was a quote from José Vasconcelos that the state of Sonora is the place where “civilization ends and carne asada begins.”

Everywhere I look these days there is change and more change. Sometimes it all is too much, and I feel old and world-weary. But life has always been changing this way. In truth, the most troublesome change for me is my own body. I no longer have the strength and resilience that I had when we started out here in Banámichi. My energy runs out sooner and can't push through like I once could. This reality has been creeping up on me for some time, but it all it took was a week of work in Banámichi's monsoon season and a sea of weeds to break through the denial, and admit out loud to myself: "I am getting old!" Boo! I hate it!

My mind and spirit are still young and not at all ready to throw in the towel. I still love Banámichi and our little house here and hopefully I will find the strength to come back again and again for many more years.

Here is one last upbeat moment for today: check out this photo of Americans and Mexicans playing volleyball across the border will make you smile at the absurdity of our petty human preoccupations!

1 comment:

  1. Sweet June. The peaches, the love for community and the appreciation of nature. I too have been struck by being old while still feeling so young inside. I believe more and more though that aging is the stripping away of the material self so as to ultimately free us for so much more. Like how the fragrance of an onion or a peach lingers in the air beyond when the fruit has disappeared. So will be our essence. Enjoy for as long as your body and the world allows you to. Then be in the fragrance.