I'm struck by the triviality of my life. The tabs open on my computer when the earthquake hit included: Shopping for a new backpack because the one I have is faded and sags and has some holes. Then, a page that explains something I recall hearing about: using vinegar to wash and disinfect veggies. Finally, how to remove rust stains from clothes. And I think my life is meaningful.
Such are the concerns of a life with so much abundance and freedom it can spill over into decadence and mis-led energy investments.
When I finally made it out my door in my pink clogs and the ground had stopped shaking I called for my landlady who lives on the same property to know if she was okay. She was fine and wanted to go see what the horrible deep rumble had been, maybe a house had fallen. We went out to the street and neighbors were talking. A house that is being built across the street had cracks in some of the lower adobe bricks. Would they have to start over from scratch, I wondered? The men who had been working on the second floor told about how they couldn't get down for the shaking and wondered if the house would crumble and them with it.
Maria came back minutes later from down the road in the direction of the deep rumble and said that part of the mountain that faces us had broken off. Soon, her sister came crying, holding a plastic cup with a swig of jerez in it, sharing with Maria that their other sister's house had fallen. While Maria went in to get her house keys her sister turned into my arms for an embrace. They went off to see about Rosa's house.
I stood in the middle the street talking to various neighbors, some of whom I did not know, all of us sharing stories and agreeing on the degree of shaking and fright, and realized, "I'm not enough part of the community. I don't know my neighbors. I need to get out more, make more of an effort to interact with the people." In this moment of survival standing at the crossroads I saw: what matters is community and love. That's all.
I went to buy emergency supplies in Inez's tienda, just in case. She showed me where a wall had separated from the ceiling, revealing old timber. Then she told me about the church cupula and how it was damaged. We stood in the doorway together and I noted with sadness the poignantly crooked cross on top of the dome. Behind it, in the distance, la ventana, a sacred natural "window" high on top of the mountain. Inez told me, "All during the earthquake I was worried about our dear ventana, would it be alright?" The ventana is intact, but in our village and nearby towns, the poor crosses are eschew. As with all the natural disasters lately, with the crooked crosses it seems blatantly significant. I wonder, "What would it mean to right the crosses in a way that they felt heard, understood and respected? And our dear Earth?"
The darkness of night comes, the electricity is back and with it, internet. Many people have contacted me with concern, wanting to know if I was affected by the earthquake. I'm okay, physically. My house suffered minimal damage - a few adobe bricks and clay shingles fell off the top of the house. Being well, safe and sound I'm faced with "and now what?" How do I continue or live, now? Now that the work I was completely immersed in before this seems stupid? Now that I have nothing but time and freedom and the utter uncertainty of "Will another earthquake come and will I get out in time?"
I'm given another day. I decide I will go into the nearby town to see how life is there now, and to get some things on the errand list made before the earthquake, including:
• Food items based on preparation for some days away that who knows if that will even happen?
• Take a couple things to the woman who periodically does sewing for me?
It seemed ridiculous to think of putting new elastic into my pajama bottoms and skirt at a time like this, when people are trapped in buildings, dead, dying or hurt in other pueblos. I called her anyhow, rationalizing that at a minimum it was to see how she and her family were. We talked a long time and she said, "Yes, do come, it will be good to share a hug at a time like this." So I went, telling myself that in the name of my realization about the importance of community and love, this could be a meeting whose significance I didn't yet know.
Walking along the cobble stone street near Oliva's house I saw a huge hole in the ground. "If an earthquake comes right now, I'll need to be sure to try to steer far from it," I noted. Raindrops began to fall and a skinny young dog contorted itself trying to fit into a sheltered doorway. I wondered if she was seeking shelter because she had susto too, or whether she was calm and in the present moment and would have sought shelter anyhow. "If an earthquake comes now while I'm walking here on this street where I don't know anyone, is this a place I'd want to have that experience?" I thought. It hardly seemed worth leaving home. "Yet home is no guarantee of safety, either," I realized.
Back in my village, all sorts of dogs are greeting me. I'm stopping to pet and speak sweetly to them, giving them the attention and praise for existing that they always deserved. I'm trying to send love to the earth and all her creatures. I have a vision of being a pillar of light and love, and it's scary to risk feeling so much while cognizant of the utter vulnerability of life. I am not a solid thing that will be here forever, that veil is gone. Do I return to my preoccupations with laundry and deadlines or be in this tender time with open and gaping heart for all the loss and fear of more frightening, dangerous, potentially painful endings?
What I need is to seek the Divine among the rubble of my shakiness and incertitude, and abide there. That and to go out onto the streets to connect with the folks in my midst.
This story along with others about my journey to and life in an indigenous village in Mexico can be read in my memoir: Calling Myself Home: Living Simply, Following Your Heart and What Happens When You Jump.
Robin Rainbow Gate
I help people midlife and beyond to find their inner power, health and well being through slow living
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