Monday, May 23, 2005

The Cat Coyote

I think I'll write about what happened, recount a bit of the zany trail of breadcrumbs that led to now, to "How We Got Where We Are".

In Intra-Border parlance, a "coyote" is not a marauding scruffy canine looking for a free meal but one who transports people clandestinely across the border....usually INTO the United States. A CAT Coyote would be one who performs that service for cats, if such a person existed, and we, being who we are, naturally had to do this in the opposite direction.....sneaking cats INTO Mexico.

So two years ago last July we left the beautiful, Green Mountains of Vermont for the dry, once volcanic mountains of Michoacan, Mexico. There were my husband and myself and our Wolf Dog Daisy in the bright red Firebird convertible, towing a homemade trailer like a bunny hutch on wheels. This trailer was divided down the middle and even carpeted in bright red berber from the Carpet Barn's remnant bin. There was room on top for a luggage carrier. Inside the carrier were 8 cats. Yes, dear one....8 cats.
Two cats were "mine"....they were the Montpelier cats, both gray, one a shelter kitty and the other a fancy pants papered long fluffy haired Maine Coone cat. The other 6 were my dear husband's cats from before we met, all but one related to each other, the hugest, fattest, black and white farm cats I've ever seen. These were the Morrisville cats.
So there we were, a happy caravan, fresh on the road, full of dreams and even higher hopes! This is not the story of everything that happened on the road but a story about the Cat Coyote and smuggling cats into Mexico.
Before we left Vermont we read up on bringing animals into Mexico and everyone we spoke with, everything we read, seemed to tell us that as long as we had documentation of the animal's clean bill of health,and records of up to date didn't seem to matter. Dogs and cats...nobody cared.Sounded good and EASY! That should have waved a flag as red as the carpeting in our dream sodden eyes...but of course, it didn't.

So....several weeks later we meandered into our Texas border town to meet the BIG Moving Truck and orchestrate the MOVE. In tow were the 2 gray cats and the now pink and black cats. These cats did NOT appear to be happy to be pink....these cats are big, fat bruisers.....these are ruff-tuff macho kitty cats, who, when they jump off the kitchen counter, the floor rumbles.
The culprit was, obviously, the crimson carpet. Bowls of spilled water in the hot summer sun, through New York and Pennsylvania, Virginia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and through the great expanse of Texas.... water that slowly seeped into the alizarin remnant, bleeding it's pigment onto the white bellies and legs and paws of black and white cats. So one hot as habaneros, dry as paper bags, sunblasted afternoon we ripped up the carpet and threw it in a dumpster behind an HEB store.We hosed out the trailer and a good thing it was it must have been over a 100 degrees out. The poor cats were panting like lions on the Savannah under the shade of a lone Thorn tree......We hosed down that trailer and we hosed down those cats and drove that dripping trailer back to our motel where a kindhearted young desk clerk let us park it under the entrance portico in the shade. Kind indeed as we probably, at that point, looked like the wrong side of town come to visit. We'd watch curious people walk by, stop and nudge each other and point. It's not every day that you see a bunny hutch on wheels full of 6 sopping wet enormous pink and black cats and 2 dripping much smaller gray ones....and all meowing loudly in indignation.
So.....the next important and pertinent thing that happens is that we try to cross the border into Mexico. Now we were the greenest Gringos to come down the pike. We knew nothing. We didn't about red lights and we didn't know about green lights, which lane was which....we didn't have a clue. So.....there we were and there was a big flashing RED light and a large man with a larger mustache motioned for us to go park off to the side, where we were joined by 6 more Mexicans in fatigues with great big, visible guns who were not smiling!
They did not care about Daisy the wolf dog who was barking at them. They cared a lot about the 8 cats in the trailer.
Our Spanish is not great now....but two years ago it was not just bad, it didn't exist....we had no Spanish. Finally after about half an hour,it was finally explained to us that the regulations had been changed...that a week prior, a small circus had attempted to smuggle a sea lion and an elephant and a tiger into Mexico and since then, there were new, strictly enforced RULES. We could bring in only two animals. 2 dogs, 2 cats, a dog and a cat but not a dog and 8 cats. I wanted to ask if one could have an elephant and a tiger...2 sea lions.....a sea lion and a tiger...2 elephants....but I kept my mouth shut. Somehow I intuited that the man with the big black boots and the gun wouldn't laugh at my joke.
We were told to turn around and we drove sadly back to our Texas border town motel and our sweet young desk clerk looked a bit alarmed to see us back again but he gave us a room, and a shady spot for our cats. We headed for the bar next door to come up with Plan B.
Now I know that at least half of my dear readers will be shaking their heads in bewilderment that one could be travelling with, let alone changing their plans and their lives around for 8 cats. I know a lot of people would have booted those cats out and been down the road. That seemed awfully heartless to me. I like cats okay.....enough to have had 2 cats, but I am not mad about cats....I'm not what some people would call a "cat person", really but I especially am partial to Stella CaraBella, my fluffy gray Maine Coon cat because she's so very pretty. That cat is a joy to look at! I never lived with the Morrisville cats...they have their own story.My husband is the cat person. So I was as perplexed as anyone would be to find themselves on the Texas/Mexico border with 8 cats and a dog and no idea what to do next.

We called our moving agent, who was as surprised as we were. He thought that since we had papers on all the animals.....there would be no problems.Rules are mercurial at the like marital discord,someone being fired,a lowcut, clingy T shirt, a hangover or maybe just Mercury retrograde can all exert a powerful influence on who or what crosses the border on any given day.
One idea was to apply for some sort of "special dispensation" from the Health Department in Mexico City but that would entail boarding the cats somewhere in Texas and going to Mexico City with someone who spoke fluent Spanish and filling out a million papers and forms and making 1000 copies and then going on without the cats and waiting....someone said, probably 6 months, to hear back about if our permits were granted. No good.
Another idea was to go on with one dog and one cat to Michoacan. Then to drive all the way back up and pick up two more cats. And then do this 3 more times. No good either"
Another idea was to pay a "fee" to some guys at the border crossing. This might and might not work. The suggested "fee" was high...about $500.00 US spread amongst a few people. Problem is....we wouldn't be "paying the fee".....someone else would be meeting with them the day before...and if perhaps this person's boss appeared at the moment we were to cross over...oh well, the person couldn't very well let us cross with the supervisor there and our "fee" would be lost. Plus....perhaps there would need to be a "fee" at the 30 mile line in Mexico as well....30 miles over the border there are more checkpoints....once one passes the 30 Mile Line, they're Home Free, so to speak.
Definitely no good.

Yes, I think I'll have another tequila.

Enter the Cat Coyote!!!!!!

Of course, there is no such thing as an actual Cat Coyote. Who else but us ever even Needed a Cat Coyote?
Earlier I mentioned our moving agent. This dear, helpful person came from a family of import/exporters on the border in Mexico and now ran a business in the States. Needless to say, most people move in the other direction but there are those, like us,who swim upstream. It is a motley crew we have come to learn, people, Gringos, move to Mexico for all sorts of interesting and often curious reasons. Our dear and helpful friend had an even dearer and more helpful wife. Now, whether her charity was genuine or she was merely eager to see the back of us and our cats once and for all, is not clear....what is clear is that she volunteered to be our Cat Coyote. She had a mother and sisters and cousins all living on the other side of the border, she had a perfectly average looking white mini van and several small Mexican looking children. She did not look American, or like a jazz drummer (my husband) or an artist (me) or drive a bright red convertible or have a Wolf Dog.
On the appointed day we drove our cat filled trailer to a pre-arranged rendevous spot on the American side and handed off all 8 cats. They ALL went into the back of the mini van where they were corralled by a large net so they couldn't escape and wander about the van. The net was then covered by some blankets so that no cats were visible. Then, into the van went the 2 children and the 4 children of the sister. Finally, our Cat Coyote and her sister. The children were instructed to be as noisy as they could as they crossed the bridge, to sing at the top of their lungs, to goof around, to talk a lot...all at case any suspicious meowing from the rear might be happening.
We were then instructed to meet them at a certain parking lot in a town about 10 miles into Mexico.
Everything went off without a hitch.....easy as pie...come pan bread for dinner.
We met and one by one the gray cats and the STLL pink and black cats were all returned to the trailer. We bid our fond goodbyes and thanked them profusely and drove into Mexico.We drove 20 miles until we came to the little outpost that is the Thirty Mile Line. Three men were sitting eating tacos and barely looked up at us as we sailed by the beautiful green light with our trailer full of Mexican cats.

That is the story of the Cat Coyote and how a bunch of Vermont cats made it deep into the heart of Mexico.
Now....we have to figure out how to get them out!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Jesus and The Big Bang

Kickboxing is such a phenomenal way to start the day. When I have blown it off for a bit and then return to it...I can never remember why on earth I missed a day. Endorphins are a wonderful thing...... so is oxygen!

There are so many things that strike me as alien here. Things I simply cannot wrap my mind around. One is the connection between the fact that virtually everyday here is a Catholic Saint's Day, a Feast Day.... the Celebration of the Blessed Trinity, a Mass for Holy Relics, a day for Sacred Blood...and why these these events need be celebrated by pre-dawn mortar explosions is a deep and unfathomable Mystery to me.
We live in a colonia, a neighborhood, on a hill above the bowl that contains the Cathedral dotted Centro of the city. This city is ringed by once volcanic mountains and it is known as "La Zona Del Rayos"......the Zone of the Rays which sounds positively spooky to me but seems to refer to the fact that when it finally begins to rain......this area attracts amazing and powerful purpley silver lightening and incredible thunder.But...this rain has yet to arrive and the air is still and HOT, the sun blazes away and the leaves hang from the trees like bits of dry brown wrapping paper.....that's another thing....there are NO brown paper bags here! No one asks..."paper or plastic?" at the store....either you get a plastic bag or you bring your own gaily colored mesh plastic shopping bag with you. Mine is the favorite color of Mexico...Rosa Mexicana....a deep, bright PINK with the ubiquitous Frida Kahlo face on it. I digress... is Bone Dry out there....and the air is full of dust.
Lately I have been painting until about 3.00 in the morning. I find I simply snap into creative overdrive around 11.00 and suddenly it's 3.00 and I figure I better go to bed. Sleep comes quickly and last night, early this morning I was jolted awake by what sounded like mortar fire. It was nearly seven but still dark.....the pinky morning sunrise all but hidden here by the mountains and I suspect by being below the Tropic of Cancer. Around 6.30 the sound of trucks backfiring or slipping gears and motorcycles and all manner of cars and buses without mufflers fill the air with an amazing cacaphony of traffic noise and from the Seminario down the block come the roar of huge skyrockets . I understand the color and the excitement and wonder and magic of fireworks....the oohs and aahs that come from watching flowers of light bloom in the night sky but this something else entirely. This is merely a flash of momentary blue light and a huge report that shakes the house and fills the already dusty air with smoke.All the dogs in the neighborhood begin barking and car alarms are set off and beep and wail in concert with all the dogs that live on rooftops and behind garden walls.Occasionally a rooster will join in.
So this morning there must have been about 5 or 6 of these explosions.....I know that I am not in any danger but it makes me think of how people in war torn places must this sound, but louder and more of them, coupled not with sleepy annoyance but with fear. I am grateful that this is merely religious fervor that I don't understand and not insurgents or an invading army. I do wonder what might happen if an errant sky rocket's trajectory landed it into a bone dry tree.
Daisy the Wolf Dog, however is very afraid. This morning she hid her head beneath the dust ruffle of the bed so only her back and tail were showing and trembled like a tiny puppy. There are explosions probably 5 days out of 7.......Daisy will share our happiness to be, finally, home again.

One funny thing.....up in the village is a place that makes "popsicles".....a pink and lavender box of cement on the corner that is alwys surrounded by a small crowd. I am extemely fond of the coconut ones.....basically, I think, just rough chunky shreds of fresh coconut held together with a bit of sugar water....maybe coconut milk and frozen on a stick. What's funny is the stick.....not a uniform , smooth, flat "popsicle" stick....but a piece of a shingle, square at the end....rough, whittled with a knife, each one is slighty different.....the scent of coconut oddly mingling with the scent of lumber. I imagine someone doing that....spending their time making sticks, and I wonder about that.

Monday, May 09, 2005

On Water, Actual & As Metaphor

Yesterday evening the water began flowing again.
The end of the "Dry Season" here is, supposedly, approaching. This is very good as the predominant shade of the world is now a sort of ochre. Include also umbers and sepia...all earth colors and siennas against a turquoise, a pthalo blue, sky so sharp that objects against it seem to have been cut out with scissors.
Beneath the lavanderia, the laundry patio,is the alhimbe. It is merely a cement holding tank into which the city water flows. The City Water Dept. is known as Oompas.
Next.....there is a pump, the bomba, which due to the amazingly antiquated and taped together must turn on and off manually. This is done by flipping the on/off switch on a power strip extension cord into which the pump is plugged. The pump, when turned on, pumps water up to the tinaco, a cement water resevoir on the roof which gravity feeds the water into the pipes of the house.
In the past month, during this very hot dry time, the city water has been turned off several times, for days at a time due to low water levels, backed up pipes, corroded pipes.
As an American woman, accustomed to the under-acknowledged affluence of life in most of America.....I have underestimated the beauty and wonderfulness of seemingly unlimited fresh, abundant, clean water.
Here, even when, like today, the city water is flowing is only good for flushing toilets, showering, washing dishes, laundry, watering plants. One can drink the water if one boils it for 20 minutes first. When purchasing any fruits or vegetables one must always soak them in water for 15 minutes to which has been added drops of water purifier to kill the bacteria, parasites etc.. The water trucks deliver large plastic bottles of drinking water for drinking , making ice, making coffee.

Never have I given so much thought to water.

Here, now after I wash my face, it feels a size too's skin feels dry and one becomes a lover of oils and creams, coconut and avocado oils, shea and mango and cocoa uses hair conditioners by the handful. The air is so dry that one notices the lack of moisture in ones' lungs, in ones' nasal passages, in ones' eyes.
Palettes of watercolor paints are dry in no time...I was accustomed to covering my palette and the puddles of paint would remain until I returned and uncovered the palette to find the same puddles, waiting for me. Now I need to add purified water with an eye dropper, reconstituting the evaporated paint.
Painting a wash over a large area, once is forced to act quickly, without hesitation as the window of opportunity shrinks.Frisket dries quickly, stretched paper dries in no time as well.

Without water life withers, witholds, becomes less magnanimous.
I appreciate and bless and love water with a new found wonder and depth of feeling. Water is life and water is a metaphor for flow.
Unimpeded flow, uncontaminated, crystalline, abundant flow.
There is only abundant Flow, there is only Source.....
Flow of water, flow of resources, flow of energy and creativity and flow of ideas. Free flow of heartfelt love and attention and empathy and understanding. Valves wide open with no blockages. Lack and Scarcity are merely the valves blocked, shut down, the pipes corroded. Abundance chafing against resistance.

I am picturing Life as Water today.
Filling me with happiness as the tinaco fills with water.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

In Memorium

Mother's Day 2005

At the risk of appearing maudlin, I am posting this photo of my only
child, Gabriel Merlin Edelson Kosdan who died of complications/an infection,
3 years after undergoing a double lung transplant. Gabriel was born with
Cystic Fibrosis.

Gabriel was an amazing being, an artist and I am honored to have been his

Gabe, I love you where ever you are.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Shooting off "Rockets of Desire"

A Saturday unfolds in Mexico, a hot and dry morning...there has been no water for 3 days now....yesterday the muchachos at the water plant up the road said...."Manana" the universal answer for the question, "cuando??"..."when??". I have found that people here hate to say "No"...hate to disappoint..and will almost always tell you what they believe you want to hear....regardless of it's connection to what may actually occur.
A friend and I were having a conversation about my desire to return to theUnited frustration at not possessing enough $$$ or an alternative so that I could leave PRONTO.
Some thoughts...

She said;
<< My thought is that you are saying, "once I am back in the states, then I will be happy with my life." And Abe would say, "first you have to be happy where you are, then you can move to the next wonderful place." >>

Okay now my thoughts about this are as follows.....Actually... I am really happy. I am incredibly happy with my talent, my choice of career...calling and feel immense joy that I am able to manifest and live my beingness 24 hours a day......that I am my work and my work is me. I am joyful that everything I do is a manifestation of my creativity and that it bubbles up like a spring in my artwork, in my writing, in gardening, in cooking , in my passion for life. I love my husband and our marriage, I love the people I have attracted into my life.... I am extremely happy with my life...I just would like it to be in another setting.
It seems very peculiar to me that one shouldn't have an opinion about where they would like to live.....that if one is an avid reader and loves everything about books and loves bookstores that if they pretend that they aren't shooting enormous "rockets of desire" towards living in a place where there are many wonderful and well stocked bookstores well that just seems silly to me.
I completely "own" that living in Morelia served a purpose and it truly served me well and I truly believe I am in alignment that where I am now would be unlikely if I hadn't followed the seemingly impulsive and "illogical" path that led me here......however I do not love that there are no bookstores here.
There is nothing intrinsically wrong with tiny limes with many seeds but I am very thrilled that I will be living in a place where one can easily buy bright yellow, fragrant lemons which I love which are unheard of here.
It is quite picturesque to see burros laden and piled high with burlap bags (costales) filled with "dirt".....actually bone dry ground wood chips, leaves, pinecones etc with a small amount of pale brown dry soil ...going around the neighborhood with a man on a horse.......selling the bags AND I am hugely looking forward to being able to purchase large bags of potting soil or even ordering truckloads of it.....with the texture of crumbled chocolate cake, moist and deep, dark brown that my plants would love and thrive in, where worms would burrow and tunnel......I suppose I could SAY I adore cactus that thrive in barren soil and neglect and scarce rainfall......but I miss flowers and rain and seeds germinating and thriving and growing.
I know that it is an extreme comparison......but that is like saying a person in a prison camp could only expect freedom when they "chose to love" incarceration. So.......I do feel better when I don't dwell constantly on why I don't choose to live in Mexico any longer.....what makes me feel wonderful is to think of my new home with plenty of safe, drinkable water, a climate where gentle rains fall and the sun does not scorch tender seedlings that grow in rich, dark soil. I thrill to think of going to a large, well stocked bookstore where there are myriad books in English on every subject and on the way home I can stop at a super market where I can purchase lemons and tender, young spinach and organic produce and different varieties of things and free range chickens and good olive oil.
One decides what things are for them and what things are not for them............and shoots off rockets of desire towards the things that please them. I remember reading some "Abe' quote about not accepting "Reality" if "Reality" is not what pleases you. That's where I'm at......."reality" here is the taco stand with corn tortillas filled with "borego" barbecued sheep meat and chopped raw onions and chiles. I choose to think instead of fresh Italian bread, toasted and drizzled with fruity green olive oil and piled with tender baby arugula leaves and ripe tomatoes and fresh basil and a slice of fresh white mozzarella.
It's those small details that I am fine tuning, that I am desiring now. I have never been so totally and completely crystal clear about exactly what I am IS , all of it, the absolute next logical step and I am ecstatic about that. So...that is good and I can't imagine that I should pretend that I Love to eat sheep.

Friday, May 06, 2005

First Foray

the canterra remains cool. the pink and gray stone walls relax in the soft lone jacaranda bloom glows purple next to the Quinacridone coral of the pomegranates....blessed relief from the sun.....the rains are approaching.
Afternoon in Michoacan......the rustic hewn beams abovewith thin strips of wood like braids in between, the rest of the studio covered in lamina.....small birds pecking over my head.Everyday, did I come to choose this unfamiliar place, what unseen rhythms and inarticulate voices beckoned me here?
Me...girl artist and illustrator, writer and lover of flowers and gardens, good wine, good food,moonlight, rain.....the scent of jasmine and datura in the twilight...all things truly well done and honest, admirer of passion in all things and curious always.
First foray here , this my first and maiden post.....the beginning of a chronicle from this point forward into the creation of the,shooting off the first and initial rocket of my desire that will launch mefrom the here and now of central Mexico back home to the United States.
Drawings stapled to boards, wait to be beckons.
Toes dipped into this pool can get wet again later.