Easter at Rancho Cañada de la Virgen

I could not be more delighted to be aligned with Central Mexico’s only certified organic cattle ranch and federally protected sanctuary, Cañada de la Virgen. I’ve been aware of this ranch and it’s owners from the first month I began making grass-fed beef, because their products went in the shelves the same month as the beef products I was producing. In the ensuing months, I watched as their products became more professional; their labels became more informed and I remember declaring to myself, “they are in it to WIN IT.” I studied their pricing structure because I was basically winging it and following prices in America, which made no sense to apply those rigors in Mexico. I searched the internets to discover more about Cañada de la Virgen, and although I found much information about their sacred pyramid and the tourism it supports, I found very little about their beef production. I was intrigued.

I then found myself without a ranch and a place to do business. It was a terrifying time once again, as I had no idea what I was going to do and how I was going to support myself. I quietly crawled through this muck and mire of disillusionment, yet my determination to work in the cattle industry could not be extinguished. Somehow I was going to find a way.

A few weeks later, I received a message to contact Sophia Trapp, the owner and director of Cañada de la Virgen. I knew very little about her, she was this mysterious female cattle rancher living in Mexico, raising her children and carrying on her mother’s work. I had to know her.

I met Sophia and after some initial conversations, I learned her mission was to make and have available clean meat for the mothers of Mexico. Most of the good meat produced in Mexico is exported, leaving the sub-par cuts of meat here at home for the people of Mexico. Sophia has stayed true to this mission, as the meat is packaged for ease of cooking and consumption for mom’s making meals at home. I totally respect this mission and believe in it as well. On about our third meeting, she said, “Why aren’t you working with us? We love your passion and dedication to this industry, and where else in the world would I find someone that gets the spiritual side of sacrificing cows?”

It’s been an amazing education to work the Cañada de la Virgen team, and I will always think of them as my family and friends. We’ve done amazing work together, put the business on the national map, and we now sell organic grass-fed, grass-finished meat throughout all of Mexico.

I spent Easter weekend with the family at the Hacienda, and I absolutely love the opportunity to stick my hands and feet into the sacred and magical dirt of Cañada de la Virgen, and hope to return in the years to come.

Cows have a hold over us, and once you develop a passion for them, it will never leave you.” —Werner Lampert, The Cow, A Tribute

Urban Sketcher

@meagan_burns_

I’ve been an Urban Sketcher for about a year, and with each sketch I look at it as the foundation for the next; there’s no finish line, it’s just a way to get things out and on the paper. I’ve met some awesome new friends, I’ve traveled and drawn with other Urban Sketchers. I’ve helped organize San Miguel de Allende to be a Regional Chapter, and the group is growing daily. I organize traveling workshops to take Urban Sketching on the road — all super-fun!

Bottom line: I love to sketch and play with sketchbooks :))) follow along at @meagan_burns_

[envira-gallery id=”2056″]

What is a Modern Farmer

Two years ago, I was hit with a powerful waterfall of emotions and tears as I blurted out I wanted to be a Modern Farmer, in the last hour of the last day of a Sonia Choquette six-sensory workshop. A Modern Farmer, what the heck does that mean?!! Aside from the magazine of the same name, I was very unclear about where this explosion of feelings came from, and laughed and scoffed the entire way home, no way could I be a modern farmer, oh the audacity!

Truth be told, once I uttered those words, I felt as if I had been hit by lightning; the spark had been lit but I had no idea what to do with it. A modern farmer, you say!? Oh stop.

sonia_workshop
Moments after declaring my Modern Farming ambitions

I did spend the first few years of my life on a dairy farm in Huntley, Illinois, although I have little-to-no-memory of it. But now that both my parents were dead, the pull to be in the country was strong, much to my chagrin. I fought it, dug my heels in, as I really believed I was supposed to be in Chicago. I was a Big City Gal, in fact, I was afraid of the country and all its creatures that go boo in the night; the wide open spaces made me terribly nervous. Give me a deserted city street at midnight any time over a quiet country, star-lit night. Once while house-sitting for my brother and his wife in Hebron, Illinois, I called 911 because I heard noises and was certain I was about to be terrorized. After a brief inspection, the policemen said to me, “do you realize that’s the wind?”

I called the cops on the wind.

There had been such tremendous and rapid loss at this point in my life; jobs, addresses, jewelry, my truck — my mom — and through all this I could feel the magnetic pull back to the country. Or maybe it was fear? Or, I know, it was shame, because how embarrassing to lose my everything, so why not run to the country with my tail between my legs? And what was I supposed to do, pray tell, become a tomato farmer? Can I support myself on tomatoes? Maybe a sprout farmer? My track record with plants has never been great and now I think I can be a sprout farmer? Fat Chance. I may have been sitting squarely in the farmlands of Northern Illinois-Southern Wisconsin, but I had a snowball’s chance in hell to become a farmer, modern or old-timey, at this point.

I filed the day dream away and continued my desperate search of WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WITH MY LIFE?!

Days after Sonia’s workshop, it was Thanksgiving, and thanks to a wonderful invite from my generous ex-husband, Reed, I made my way back to San Miguel de Allende and then to Austin, which I now call home. I quickly forgot all about my farming declaration and moved on to the task of cleaning up the wreckage from my past. I was a fairly miserable girl when I was married to Reed and had felt terribly guilty about how our marriage ended. It ended badly. Certainly not the worst divorce in the world, but I never got over the guilt for my bad behavior and selfish ways. The years I lived in Illinois after the divorce were one big alcohol-fueled guilt trip. This was my opportunity to make amends for my harmful behavior.

frida_diego

Whether he would agree or not, I believe I have made amends to the best of my abilities, first and foremost by being kind to the deserving Reed, and then by trying to be there in ways I had not been in the past. Not everyone gets a shot at this, nor would many want one, and even though it’s been messy and painful all over again, I am super-grateful I had this opportunity to make right a few of my wrongs. This has helped me to grow up. I like growing up, it feels good.

In early August of this year, after returning once again to San Miguel, I overheard Reed on the phone making a deal to sell his Mexican cows to a factory farm in Northern Mexico. Wait, wait, whoa, whoa WHAT?! I said as he hung up the phone.

Reed purchased his ranch in Dolores Hidalgo after we married in 2005; there were little or few cattle when he purchased it, and he spent the past 10 years adding to and cleaning up the breed of Limousin cattle to create a fine, handsome, beautiful breed of cattle; in addition to drilling for water and creating a majestic, sprawling, lush, 250-hectare Guanajuato rancho. The sound of the wind is amazing out here; I would never call the cops on it.

RSN
Majestic Rancho Santo Niño

Given my recent experience with a thyroid condition and the need to eat paleo, yet finding little-to-no resources for grass-fed beef in San Miguel de Allende, I chimed in with, “we need grass-fed beef right here in San Miguel and that’s what you have. Why don’t we make meat right here instead of shipping them off to a feed lot, where the cows are mostly wanted only for their arrachera?” Reed responded, “If you can find someone to process the cows, you can have some cows.”

The next day I was at Via Organica, aka, Central Mexico’s Whole Foods, and within two weeks, the team was assembled to produce grass-fed beef.

RSN_cover
The handsome Limousin cattle of Rancho Santo Niño

And so began Rancho Santo Niño.

I had spent the past year living with the cows at Reed’s ranch in Texas; I practiced reiki on them, played crystal bowls for them, and especially loved watching the Texas sunsets with them within an earshot. I loved those cows and had (have) great regard for them. Reed says, “cows are dumb.” I say no they are not! They are amazing mothers and any creature that is a wonderful mother is not dumb.

crystalbowls
Playing the crystal bowls off the back of the pick-up for the Texas cows

While I have great respect for the cows and their place in the world, I do know why these cows are here. They are fuel for the people. Oh but how to get them to the people?!

I think factory farming is an unspeakable, horrible injustice to all the animals churned out through them, in turn turning out sick food; to which some people have responded, yeah but you kill the cows too! This is true, but how the cows are treated until it is their time to become fuel for the people is where I want to do it different. I see the hidden videos of how animals are slaughtered; it bothers me tremendously as well. Have you see the Temple Grandin’s movie? She understood this on an entirely different level.

The hard-working cattle ranchers out there producing responsibly raised grass-fed beef are my inspiration, and I don’t pretend for one moment to be a fraction of a rancher, nor skilled tradesperson that they are, but I have learned amazing things through them and with my own experience of working with the ranchers and butchers of Dolores Hidalgo. I have thrown my hat in the ring of producing responsibly-raised grass-fed beef and this makes me incredibly proud and I am excited as I forge ahead and learn new things everyday. I am in on every step of this process and believe it has made me a kinder person, a more mindful person and the gratitude I feel each day when I drink my bone broth is a feeling I don’t want to shake anytime soon.

Producing grass-fed beef been a profound experience thus far.

Cattle ranching done right can save the world’s global warming demise, so says Allan Savory; his TED Talk is extremely moving and inspiring.

Oh and that declaration I made two years ago? I suppose it came true…

reiki_cows

 

 

PicTweetArt September 2015

10-3-15a

 

Another month of the daily PicTweetArt’s! The point of this exercise, although I wasn’t really sure when I began, was to create a daily ritual of drawing each day. I didn’t occurred to me that my skill would improve, because why would I think such a thing? My skill has improved and my non-stop curiousity about drawing people is pushing me to study the human body. I draw ’em when I’m walking down the street, I draw in my sleep. If you catch me staring at you, I’m probably looking at the line of your neck errrr something.

This daily exercise has also highlighted my weaknesses and where I want to improve; mostly hands and feet. I am practicing drawing the body in one continual stroke, which has been nerve-wracking, but also quite thrilling when I nail the curve of a back or something similar. But almost always, I choke when I get to the hands. Feet are getting better, but hands trip me up!

I am in a weekly live drawing class, which has been great practice for (d’uhhh) drawing the human body, and it’s rather up close and personal. I feel high as a kite when I walk out after two hours of drawing. I am trying to persuade Henry Vermillion to once again teach a drawing class, because I totally admire his work and think his hands are amazing–the ones he’s drawn.

And so it goes….. thank you for following along.

[envira-gallery id=”1482″]

Remember that time my dog was kidnapped in Mexico?

henry

Friday evening, 7:30pm, I slipped into a bit of a staring jag after I paid for the piece of cake at Café Rama. A middle-aged Mexican couple caught my attention, eating their dinner at a small, window-side table. They were leaning in towards each other as she chatted a mile a minute, both eating their dinner, which is what caught my eye.  The kicker was that the woman was engaged in an enlightening conversation on her phone, tucked under her chin, as she ate her dinner looking straight through her husband. “How odd,” I mumbled as I gazed at them both.  “Aqui tienes,” the joven behind the counter handed me a piece of carrot cake and out the door I went.

Swooooooosh, I stepped into slow motion as my head spun around. I looked to my right, I looked to my left, Henry was not near the door, where I had left him moments ago. Just as I’ve done a million times over the years. Henry isn’t a roamer, he doesn’t trot away, he never leaves my side, well, not since I had him neutered in 1987 –errr 2004. He’s a very well-behahaved dog and he’s also 13 years old, so he’s in no hurry, ever.  I stood there in a stupor; my fever was still high and I really was in no shape to be out in public; I had been battling the worst flu of my life all week, and in fact this trip out was to finally buy some drugs at the farmacia because I could take the pain no longer. My thinking was fuzzy. “Where did I leave him?” I spun around in a circle. I went back inside and asked if they saw my dog. “Yes, we allow dogs, he’s probably here.” I took a spin around the place, Henry was not inside, which I knew because Henry doesn’t go anywhere without asking me. I was speechless.

This is not a busy street, in fact it was about two blocks away from home. I went up one block and two mariachi fellas were practicing on a bench. “Have you seen a little white dog run by here, wearing a leash?” “No, no ma’am.” I went to the other side of the block where a family had pulled their truck over to sell their hand-carved wood headboards, “did you see a little white dog walk by here, wearing a leash?” No, no dog.

Henry had vanished.

I was in shock when I arrived back home a few minutes later and asked Reed if Henry had arrived before me, “What? No, Henry’s not here.” Holy crap. Henry was dognapped!

Dognapping is big, easy money in Mexico; our little pampered pooches are a big bullseye for easy money to desperate thieves. They know all they have to do is swipe a dog, keep it for a few days for panic to surge, call for ransom, then arrange a hand off.

The first thing I did on this rainy Friday night was make a sign to post in Facebook. Then I posted the sign in Adopciones Perrunas San Miguel de Allende and Rescue San Miguel: Saving Lives One Dog at a Time. It was a Friday night, so there was not much else I could do. Except worry. And toss around all night.

Were they being mean to him? Was he out in the rain? Will they feed him? Was a angry dog going to beat him up? Or rape him? All my fears became louder and louder as the weekend inched by. This is a nasty little crime, yet don’t expect any help from the police; there are actual people being kidnapped all over this country for Pete’s Sake. Ahhh, but the social networks are alive and kicking, and many of my friends and acquaintances shared the message of the missing Henry in no time. How grateful I am for lightning-fast stretches of the social networks. I met some new friends along the way too!

And now, the waiting game. A little time needs to pass; the panic needs to surge. This is Mexican time and do NOT try to rush it.

Saturday morning I put signs up all over town and placed an ad at the radio station. The entire town listens to the local radio station, so when you lose anything or need to make an announcement, the radio station is where you go. I spent the rest of the weekend pacing and trying to recover from the flu; it didn’t work out so well because I was a runny, sneezy, teary mess. Sunday arrived with no new news, except my panic was ramping up.

henry_sign2

Oye Hark! The call came in around 3pm Sunday afternoon; the woman had Henry, wanted to know how much was the ransom, and to let us know we had to pay for her taxi to return the dog. (grrrrrrrr)

All Told:

$35              Print a copy of the original sign
$20              Make copies for distribution in Centro
$480           XESQ Radio San Miguel ad ($120 per announcement; I ran 4 ads)
$1,500        Ransom, puta madres!
$60             Taxi for Coyote (this was when I wanted to slap her, the nerve)

$2,051       Mexican Pesos
$120          US Dollars

Although it only cost roughly $120 to get Henry home, it was a very stressful and long weekend of worrying about his safety and whereabouts. Mexico has a way of reminding you who is in charge and it is never you, no matter what measures, nor precautions you take. The very legs of this wild-west country are built on corruption, yet for the most part, I admire Mexico and am calling it my home, with Reed, for now. Henry’s dognapping was a reminder not get too comfortable, because Mexico will always pull the rug our from under you. Donnie Trump may want to watch his back because the country also has ways of exacting revenge that I wouldn’t even wish on that baffoon.

People move here because of a lack of rules (sure, there are other reasons), but there’s a price for that lack of structure, as in things that disappear in the middle of the afternoon. And then I find myself questioning whether or not I’m a fit dog parent, onto shaming myself for ignoring him all those times I went out carousing and left him on his own. Brutal. Henry didn’t reminisce about any of this nonsense; he, naturally, was THRILLED to see me when he arrived home

It’s no scene from Law & Order, but the moment Henry was returned by the Coyote:

[envira-gallery id=”1454″]

It was a huge lesson in the importance of being aware at all times, something I take great pride in, as I am a big proponent of strengthening my six senses. This particular day was especially off for me because all of my senses were compromised due to the flu; my throat was super-swollen, nose plugged, eyes watering, ears jammed, skin crawling; my 6th sense was practically DOA, and yet Mexico chose to kick me when I was down, as it does. Still, awareness.

While in the restaurant, I focused on the odd couple and how they were so intently ignoring each other, yet had I expanded my focus just outside the window behind them, perhaps I could have seen when Henry’s Captor made the dastardly move. Or not.

Aside from appearing a bit beat and dirty, Henry was the same Happy Little Neurotic Guy, although he did let me hold him a bit longer than usual. I’m getting back on my feet after this bout of flu (or whatever it is, Mexico) and will continue to ask of myself the following, “eyes-see, ears-hear, nose-smell, skin-feel, aura-interact.”

Gotta stay sharp! xx

home

 

Temazcal we meat again

tem_6
Survived the Temazcal!

This past weekend, there was a “Festival of the Spirit” event happening in the park across the street from our casa; how handy was this? Incredibly handy!

It made for a really lovely weekend in the neighborhood; the sounds of pan flutes, conch shells, drums and kirtan came softly wafting through the house, as opposed to super-loud Mexican music. I enjoy the weekend mariachi sounds, but why-oh-why can’t a country the size of Mexico have one set of speakers that work correctly? Maybe they all go to ELEVEN and then some, but the sounds of this weekend were quite pleasant and I of course spent a bit of time in the park chatting with the healers, dancers and merchants. This was a delicious weekend!

I signed up for the temazcal and it turns out it was being hosted by Gustavo, the same man who ran the temazcal I participated in at el Charco del Ingenio (the botanical gardens) last year. Gustavo was looking much leaner and his muscles were more strongly defined; I mentioned he looked thinner and he excitedly told me his girl friend had helped him change his diet. Ahhh I am gluten free now too, save for a few cheats I’ve had since arriving in SMA.

Reading my post from last year’s temazcal reminded me of how fearful I was about recovering my health; my fears have quieted a bit, but there’s always more to do. Being diagnosed with a low thyroid condition BEFORE I needed to go on medication was a Godsend and pushed me to make the changes I had been entertaining; getting off wheat and sugar. Faced with the idea of daily medication, I jumped in with both feet. I started asking around and was absolutely floored at the number of women I met with auto-immune conditions and/or diseases, and the challenge to discover a new way of eating.

I don’t like being the weirdo at the party, the one who has to take five minutes to discover what’s in the food and then how to change it to my specifications, is there anything more annoying then THAT person? The world of living gluten-free is alive and kicking and the ideas are swirling all around me; thankfully it’s a lively community!

I successfully survived my 30-days of no wheat, no sugar, no grains, no caffeine on The Myers Way program, and came out on the other side a lighter and brighter person; I no longer cry at the drop of a hat either, which is a good thing for all those considered. I like this lifestyle; it works well for working with my energy and the energy around me because I no longer feel fuzzy from sugar, nor wheat. I’ve lost about 10 pounds and can run, skip and jump so much better. However, the challenges of maintaining this lifestyle are a bit challenging in Mexico, however, San Miguel de Allende is probably one of the more advanced cities in the country, even rivaling Mexico City for the access to gluten-free, organic and grass-fed options. People are moving here from all over because it is a forward-thinking community.

Reed has had a cattle ranch outside of San Miguel de Allende in Dolores Hidalgo for a number of years. I told him I needed a cow because I need to eat grass-fed beef and it’s hard to come by on a consistent basis. He then told me if I could find someone to process the beef, the project is MINE. I had a meeting the next day with Via Organic, the local organic shop that has far-reaching tentacles around the world, as they have initiated and are involved in many projects and educational efforts to reverse the effects of global climate and provide a more organic and clean way of living in Mexico and beyond.

We struck a deal and currently have gone to market and soon you will find our Rancho Santo Nino grass-fed beef at Via Organica. I am excited to be a part of this project, which is leading us to be involved in other projects in the community and elsewhere. Stay tuned for more information!

mb_cows
Reiki on the cows:))

“The word Temazcal originates from the Aztec, “calli”, meaning house, and “temas”, meaning vapor or steam. The structure, made from mortar and stone, is symbolic of Mother Nature’s womb. Through the use of steam and healing herbs, the Temazcal ceremony purifies the body and the spirit.”

Amongst eighteen strangers, I once again was the only American and now felt very much at ease as I crawled into the ceremonial hot hut, while wearing barely nothing. It should be noted that I believe the Mexican woman is the strongest and hardiest of all the creatures there ever existed; this sweat lodge becomes unbearably hot and we are in there for over three hours, yet the Mexican woman remains unswayed and fully-clothed. Jewelry too. I am in awe of their ability to endure while the rest of us fall all over each other from the sweltering heat and pitch darkness.

I now understand and appreciate the community aspect of a temazcal, to be so close to each other, respect each other and to quiet the fears if you think you or your neighbor is going to freak out — and believe me, the idea is right there.

It’s an amazing feeling to crawl out of the hut after I’ve sang songs, cried and prayed to my Gods. I have been walking on clouds ever since and feel incredibly grateful for the experience and how it makes me feel. I am getting involved in some exciting projects in the community and am excited to move them forward.

Jump in that temazcal if you get the chance, it’s a wonderful opportunity to shed some unwanted skin!

[envira-gallery id=”1424″]

And then there’s the #PicTweetArt, exploring even more deeply the energy between people. I am learning anatomy and how to draw emotions. My first set of balls ever!! :DD

tem_9
#PicTweetArt going deeper! xx

Drift Out of Driftwood

dirty meag

This week I am closing up life at the ranch and joining Reed in San Miguel de Allende for the next few weeks. It’s hot as a witch’s breath here in Austin; everything’s gone and dried up and blowing in the dust. I hear cackles in the wind, it’s that hot.

I’m so very happy to be heading down south; when the news sank in, my spirit shot up about three stories high. My time in Central Texas has not been easy, oh but it has been highly educational.

It’s been challenging to find work in and around Austin, THE hottest, hippest city in America. Countless interviews later, I was probably giving off a much bigger vibe of “no, I really don’t want to work for your company” than their vibe of “now wait, who are you?” After years of working for companies I could not be more opposed to, I find it difficult to pretend to be excited about someone else’s company. Throughout many of the interviews, I could see exactly why I would leave, or more specifically, why they wouldn’t ask me to join. I have had small project work here and there, but mostly I have spent a heck of a lot of time expanding my repertoire of energy, energy, energy, gimme more of that arty-energy-jui-jui-jui.

My fear of failing after being fired a handful of times a few short years ago has had a fierce grip on me, almost smothering at times, but my backbone has returned and I’m ready to get forward move ahead. I failed at being able to succeed in a corporate job; I never liked it, but that’s what I was supposed to do, right? My mom’s voice still haunts me, “for crying out loud Meag, why can’t you just keep your mouth shut?”. This internal struggle has led me to work for some terrible people at some awful companies and guess what? I could not keep my mouth shut and was eventually shown the door.

My inner conflicts reflected as all my outer struggles. I have been in my way forever.

Another challenge to finding work was “being so far away from Austin” in Driftwood, Texas, a small po-dunk Texas Hill Country town, about 22 miles southwest of Austin. Yes, TWENTY-TWO miles, not TWO HUNDRED AND TWENTY-TWO miles. Driftwood truly has a gritty feel of the wild, wild West; it’s rugged and quiet, hot and empty — for now, the real estate wars are heating up all across Hays County. The Salt Lick BBQ is here and that’s a huge claim to fame for Texas BBQ fans, but there is little else besides ranching, cowboying, and stealing water. Reed’s family has had property here for a number of years, so I have had the privilege of living on a gorgeous National Park, in a state with very little national parks. I have tremendously enjoyed my ranch explorations with Dito Bandito at my side, Henry in the car; I will always think fondly of this little internet-providerless town, ideally from afar.

You get dirty when you live in Driftwood, it comes with the territory and the terrifying shower I avoid like the plague. Here, I have lived precariously close to scorpions, spiders, snakes, fire ants, lobsters, chiggers, kissing bugs, cows, wasps, mean donkeys, mean HORSES, oh and an angry Reed Burns, but the latter has started to mellow as he ages like a fine wine, errr rather a full-bodied, potent, añejo tequila. We have had a rough road together, Reed and I, but we’ve also made great strides as we break down our walls — huge graffiti-filled walls from the early days of our spontaneous, mostly reckless, tequila-fueled, rowdy marriage. I am excited to meet Reed; he’s in his element in Mexico and it is something to behold, when he holds his court.

[envira-gallery id=”1336″]

In early 2001, I moved to San Miguel de Allende to teach Gabrielle Roth’s 5 Rhythms dance class and develop my artistic talent. However, in reality, after 10+ years of sobriety, I decided to drink the vino tintos and life took a turn towards a very different path than I had envisioned. It wasn’t awful, but sometimes it was painfully awful. I certainly had some glorious times, but many of my demons came back to haunt, they took a hold and directed my life for a number of years and through a number of scenarios. I eventually made my way back to Chicago after our divorce and I spent the next few years directionless and heart broken.

I am not these things anymore; my heart is alive and looking straight ahead. I take my dedication to all-things-energy very seriously and have experienced some tremendous healing as of late. I was recently attuned in Reiki Level II in Wimberly with Melissa Kleen; I am very aware of the strengthening eyeballs in the palms of my hands. An intensely powerful shamanic surgery with a clairaudient shaman healer has created new pathways in and around my heart during a mind-expanding experience. A traditional cacao ceremony has elevated my heart and I can’t stop giggling, nor crying tears of joy, for that matter — it has also changed my approach to my art and how I see the world. An autoimmune friendly approach to eating has relieved some long-time anxieties and discomfort, in addition to helping me drop some weight I had been struggling with. Curious to see how I will fare when face-to-face with the delicious street tacos of Guanajuato olé!

—> I am totally ready to get to work — I need to get to work.

ANDALE! Nos vemos!! Saying adios to my NIA Dance pals, until next time xx

New Energy in 15, Valentine’s Mambo of Love

I’ve started doing t’ai chi with fans, because it helps move the stagnant energy out and away from my body, and on this Valentine’s Day, my guy Reed joined me with his ice cream cone to dance a little t’ai mambo. There are classes on this in San Miguel de Allende btw. Hearts & Loves to you!

Adios Dirty Bird!

IMG_3099
RAWHIDE

Once, many years ago, when I returned home from Mexico, my mom told me I looked dirty and weathered….. and I was deeply offended. Even shed some tears. Today, as I prepare to head to Texas after a winter in Mexico, I laugh because I AM dirty. And I love it!

I’ve got the dirt and dust under my fingernails and the sand from the ocean lines the bottom of my suitcases. I haven’t really done my hair since I was in America, and although I got dolled up a few times while I was here, for the most part, I rolled out of bed and galloped off to yoga or t’ai chi, and then began my chores upon returning home.

I like getting dirty, it feels good. Keeps me young 😀

It’s a dirty I am grateful for because it has taught me things and brought new experiences. Whether I was climbing the mountains to greet the full moon, stretching in the morning sun while standing in the ocean’s edge, eating street tacos with salsa running down my arm or riding in the back of a pickup to get out to the country, I have enjoyed my time in San Miguel de Allende, Taxco, Mexico DF, Puerto Vallarta and Bucerias tremendously!

Maybe I have always been too sensitive, this is probably true. I am dirty and weathered and it feels great. I would not be offended by my mom’s words today.

This Dirty Bird is ready to go home, and is profoundly grateful to Mexico for it’s lessons. ANDALE get me home to that bath tub so I can scrub my weathered, sun-kissed face!

And aw geez I gotta get to work! Adios Birdies! xx

bird
Adios Birdy! Weasel too!

 

Sweat out the muck in a Mexican Sweat Lodge

Temazcal at el Chaeco

If I think about it too much, I can get totally freaked out about the amount of collateral damage I’ve done to my body over the years, even though I strive to do the right thing now — I have had many mortal failures. I was quite rowdy in my youth even though I always knew that was not my right nature, I did it anyways.  I have not always treated my body with the respect it has deserved and my struggles in the wee hours of the night are how I hopefully have not done irreversible damage. I always keep getting back on the well-being horse. The human body is a miraculous healing machine with magical powers and I will always look to improve and heal thyself — even though I still stumble.

Being here in San Miguel de Allende this time around, I am all about taking better care.  I am experiencing this town with different eyes and a whole new world is available to me here, when once I had very limited vision.  There are many places to heal thyself and I am on a mission to experience these people, places and things.  It has been challenging living in my old house that is full of my old behaviors, but I am making the best of it. I am grateful to my ex-husband and the opportunity we’ve had to mend our relationship. It’s been a glorious and exciting couple of months here in the city of St. Michael the Archangel.

Once a month, on the weekend closest to the full moon, there is the opportunity to sweat out all the muck in a three-plus hour sweat lodge ceremony, called a temazcal, using aromatic herbs and wood-burning steam in a hut made of clay, at San Miguel de Allende’s 170-acre botanical gardens, El Charco del Ingenio.  The gardens themselves are not quite lush or perhaps even all that interesting, but it becomes more endearing to me each time I visit. When I mentioned to a Mexican friend that I was going to spend the afternoon there, he looked at me wide-eyed and said, “What?? Are you going to bring your cane and wear a big floppy hat?” So maybe it doesn’t have a great reputation as a hot spot, but it IS a place away from the bus and car fumes of Centro, and I am all for escaping the city buzz and taking in the many species of cacti, birds and even the cafe has a great little (mostly) organic lunch.

One really cool tidbit, in 2004 El Charco del Ingenio was proclaimed a Peace Zone by the Dalai Lama during his visit to Mexico. Five Peace Zones were designated in the country, places free of violence and arms, dedicated to the conservation of nature and community development. In a country that is being somewhat ravaged by a fierce and on-going drug war, it’s nice to know there’s a few places free from the violence and mayhem.

I attended the temazcal ceremony in January, 2014, just two days before the actual full moon.  Upon arriving and registering for the event ($350 pesos), I set out across the preserves to the historical ruins of Hacienda Las Colonias on the north side of the park and meet the Shaman who leads the ceremony, as well as his helpers, who keep the fires aglow.  The ceremony is in Spanish, and I was the only American in the group of 11, which was fine as I understand Spanish, but am not so great when speaking it.

A temazcal is an ancient cleansing ritual of Mexico’s indigenous people, very much like a sweat lodge. If you think you are going to freak out about being in such a tiny enclosed hut for a long period of time with a bunch of almost-naked strangers in unbelievably hot conditions, you are not alone.  I almost backed out, but Humberto, our Shaman who led us through the day, assured me that I could leave if I wanted to, but it really is okay once you get settled.

He was right. It was unbelievably hot and I thought I was not going to make it, but I’m so glad I did because I felt AMAZING when I emerged 3.5 hours later. I felt as though I was being smothered and freed all at once, and my mind kept playing freaky movies that I knew were in my head, but I watched as if they were on a screen. A scorching-hot-flame-engulfed-screen. We sang songs, doused ourselves in herb-soaked water and could lay down if we needed to, because the air was cooler at the ground. Suddenly time had gone by and we were able to emerge from the hut. I crawled out on my hands and knees and kissed the ground and thanked my God, the Clouds and Guides Above.

As I walked through the land after the ceremony, I felt high as a kite and precise as a falcon. I ate a nopal omelette at the cafe and drank a liter of water. I slept like a rock that night and hope to experience this again, but not every month. Twice a year sounds about right to me.

I sweated out all the demons that afternoon and felt completely grateful and sparkly to be alive. I highly recommend this experience!

Death Does Not Become Her

Muertos

I am not going to review all the death and dying I was close to this past year; I’d rather focus on what it has inspired me to do.

I came to visit my ex-husband in Mexico rather unexpectedly, and I certainly did not plan to stay as long as I have, but my lessons are starting to appear in front of me and I do not want to miss this opportunity to grow.

Watching my mother’s death was a huge wake-up call for me. I changed everything about my life and felt like I had the opportunity to elevate myself to higher spiritual lessons.  I was completely inspired and ready for such a drastic change, so I suppose it’s no coincidence that I lost everything in my life at the same time.  Well everything except my good health.  I lost my job, my apartment and my reason to be in Woodstock, Illinois, but this situation afforded me the opportunity to extend my stay in San Miguel de Allende. I felt guilty about this at first, but not anymore.

When I first came to Mexico many years ago, I was a healthy and spiritually minded woman, eager to achieve many things in life. I am still this same woman, but I certainly did lose myself along the way for a number of years before waking up and seizing my potential once again. A few weeks ago, I said to Reed, “this is a country full of bad decisions.” He responded with, “perhaps you just made bad decisions while here”, and I agreed he has a point.  I can’t really blame Mexico for the decisions I made, I alone am responsible for my choices in life and want to make sure I make the best choices moving forward. I know I have not been alone in making bad choices while here; I have seen so many Gringos destroy themselves when they move here.  I have seen some ugly things and now is my opportunity to heal thyself and come full circle.

I made a joke in yoga class that I needed lots of yoga while here because I need strength to combat the devil. Everyone laughed because they know.  This country, this town makes it so easy to fall into trouble.  It’s a lovely pretty little colorful town, with lots of artists, writers and free thinkers and you can absolutely get caught up in the charm of it, but if you are not strong in your personal convictions, you can get swallowed up by the never-ending fiestas.  After Reed & I were married, I needed to leave this town because, well because I had had enough of the party and needed to get back to real work.  Looking back, I didn’t fare so well in Texas either; it was not the place for me, just as San Miguel is not the place for me.

Here I have been presented with an opportunity to come full circle.  A chance to fight back the devil and be the woman that I want to be.  It was easy to be super-healthy while I was living in Woodstock; I never saw the party and was very comfortable with that — but I was always alone, and I was not comfortable with that. Here in Mexico; the party is everywhere — and especially at Reed’s house.  I see him struggling with his health and with feeling good. I am being the good wife that I was not while we were married and attempting to make him comfortable without enabling his behavior.  I had my own little slip with smoking when I first arrived but have stopped that outrageous behavior because smoking sucks donkey dicks.

A long-time frind of mine who lived here in San Miguel for many years, but returned to her home town in Northern California, has recently been diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer.  She is essentially me and there, but for the Grace of God go I.  In my few weeks while here in San Miguel, I have been writing long, detailed emails to my friend, filling her in on my adventures and news of the town.  It has been a positive way for me to share what’s going on and to stay honest about my intentions.  We don’t really talk about cancer, we talk about adventures.  She has been gearing up to begin her aggressive chemotherapy treatment but was just haneded the news that her heart is not strong enough to endure the treatment and other options must be reviewed and decided upon now. NOW.

When I read her email yesterday, it launched me into a mood I was not quite prepared for; I sat in stone silence for quite some time before I found ways to distract myself.  I had horrible nightmares and woke up in tears.  I did not respond to my friend after she sent me that email to tell me her “heart-stopping news”, but when I awoke, I said to myself, “imagine how she feels” and reached out to her on the spot.

I want to have no regrets.

I want to make good decisions, no matter what country I am in.

I want to have more children in my life (not mine, silly)

I want to live a full life, full of loving relationships.

I want to be barefoot in the grass as much as possible before I die.

I am so very grateful for all the lessons of 2013 and whole-heartily look forward to the lessons of 2014.

hi, i'm meag
hi, i’m meag

Under the Spell of the Mexican Moon

Venus at el Charco del Ingenio

When I lived in San Miguel de Allende ten years ago, I started to write a book called, “Under the Spell of the Mexican Moon” and my personal downfall was that I showed it to too many people and the fear I experienced from hearing the feedback caused me to set it aside indefinitely. Until then, I kept all my writing under wraps — and since then I mostly have kept it private.  I’ve written AMAZING letters to friends over the years. And to my mom.

I had forgotten about the letters I used to write my mom, but while cleaning out her condo earlier this year, I found all the letters I sent to her.  I was hilarious — and still am.  I laughed and cried as I read my letters and postcards.  Here’s a postcard from I sent from Santa Fe, New Mexico after arriving via Amtrak from Chicago:

Hi Ya Ma! If it’s an Indian you want, get your buns out here! They are so beautiful! This town is beautiful! The weather is beautiful! What can I say, I am in love. I met a guy from Italy on the train, we will stay in touch! I’ve fallen in love 8 times in Santa Fe and I’ve only been here 2 days. I think I’m going to move here if I can get my migraine to stop. Love you like an adobe Ma xoxo

Over the past few months I have been told by friends and complete strangers I should write a book. It’s always been in me, I’ve thought about it over the years but again, the fears have stopped me.  “Who wants to read what I have to say?” Although many many times, when I share a story of my past, the response I hear often is “you should write a book about that.”

Since my mom’s death, this idea is coming more into focus.  My mom apologized to me and said she wished she had been nicer to me.  Said she was wrong about me.  These words have completely changed my world — even I am surprised at the impact of her parting words.  I mean I was knocked flat on my back after she spoke these words.  My mother’s apology has been life-altering for me and I no longer want to be that passive girl. I want to be the woman who moves through grief and loss without losing herself. even if that means I lose my way for a bit.

I had thought for a spell that I was choosing to “duck out on life” by returning here to San Miguel; returning to my ex-husband’s home and this town that I angrily departed from several years back.  But this is so not the case.  This was the perfect time for me to come back here and make peace with my past.  For years I had been feeling bad about who I was as a married woman — that I was the sole reason why our marriage did not survive, let alone succeed.  Good Lord this is not true.  I love Reed dearly and we are family; we are just not the “one” for each other, nor do we “get” each other.  I care for him deeply and I know he does for me as well.  We are family and sharing this holiday with each other has been healing beyond belief.  Well for me it has been, I don’t think Reed would ever admit to this, but when I ask him if he wants me to leave, he says no.  We have fun together! I also cook for him, I don’t ask a lot of questions (!!!) and I busy my time out of the house with things that are important to me — and he provides me the resources to pursue my interests because he likes to see me happy.

I have been using this time of unemployment to get right in my head.  The recent deaths in my family have broken my heart and then to have lost so many jobs at the same time….. I was operating from a place of desperate grief and needed to step out of my hamster-cage life. I cannot take another job with a fear-driven company — because honestly it offends me to the core and I then operate from a place of asking to be fired. “But you’re not independently wealthy, Meag, are you!?”  No, I am not, but the desire to not work with these four companies was so huge, my time with them was no more than six months, when in the past I would suffer for years with miserable jobs.  This last job was probably the quickest in terms of synchronicity; I had thought I found my tribe, it was a healthy foods company and seemed to be generally interested in living a healthy, complete life.  I quickly realized this was so not the case and my time with them was under two months.  This was my personal tipping point.

(note: no disrespect to the companies I worked for; there is nothing wrong with them; I was not the appropriate person for the job.)

So when I leave this pretty home, I spend my time doing the things that make me happy and peaceful.  Yoga, swimming, hiking, walking, looking at art, meeting up with old friends, etc.  But I recently took a huuuuuuuge back step.  I smoked some cigarettes — the thing I hate the most and have since been berating myself that I’ve destroyed all the good work I have done.

I am flawed. I have more work to do.

Everywhere in Reed’s house, there is an ashtray. And a pack of Marlboros. They have been taunting me. It’s no excuse. Well I made it an excuse. And I could TOTALLY sit here ALL DAY and beat myself up and tell myself what a damn loser I am and how I’m going to die a horrible death… whoops, I’ve already done this…. but this is a HUGE waste of time and I want to do things that will get me out of the hole, not keep me in it. I don’t normally use ALL CAPS, but I am totally fired up about this as I pound out the words.

Smoking makes me feel bad.
You know what I don’t want to do anymore?
Feel bad.

This quote found me this morning:
The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.” ~~Ferdinand Foch

My soul is on fire so that must mean I am still alive and that I care deeply.
I’d rather my soul be on fire than my lungs.

All is not lost, I just lost my way temporarily, but I am determined.
I was under a spell.
I can no longer blame the Mexican Moon.

Full Moon in San MIguel de Allende

I now will be more focused about my writing and tell my story of being flawed yet never settling. Mending my broken heart. Always growing, always looking for a way to improve — at the same time while not damning myself to the depths of hell for being human. I need to stop over-thinking every little detail…. and this is the hardest thing in the world for me to do.  I have struggled with this my entire life.

FEAR FEAR FEAR fuck everything and run.

I really want the fears to stop stopping me from being awesome, know what I mean?

After I did my morning thing to get right (journaling), I like to listen this this because it lifts my spirits.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgWeNEHcsh8<

Two books by John Amodeo Ph.D. have been recommended to me by Sonia Choquette, to get me through these next hurdles: “The Authentic Heart: An Eightfold Path to Midlife Love” and “Dancing with Fire: A Mindful Way to Loving Relationships“.

Respiro profundo Meag… Exaaaaah

(deep breath, exhale…)

Deep in the Heart of Mexico

Oficina en Mexico

Buenas Dias from Mexico; I wish I had this office space in Chicago!  But no, this is the house I used to live in, when I was a married woman living in  San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico, with my Texan then-husband, Reed Burns.  It is a glorious gift to be back here after all this time and I am grateful for each day here as I not only do my part to heal this once-rocky relationship, but also take time to explore the things I never made time for when I lived here all those years.

This town is a wild explosion of colors, culture and people and it really is a wonderful haven for artists and those you prefer to live outside the American box.  I first came here 1999 to explore the scene after a friend of mine that I had met during my two months at Escalen came down here to teach yoga.  I was working a big corporate gig for AT&T at the time in Chicago, so I could only visit for five days, but that was enough for me to decide I wanted to spend more time here.  When I returned to Chicago, I focused my time and efforts on taking a two month sabbatical in San Miguel de Allende to teach Gabrielle Roth’s Five Rhythms dance class; a style of dance I had been studying for a few years in Chicago and had taken a two-month workshop at The Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California.  Little did I know this two-month sabbatical would become my life for the next several years.  Still to this day, my heart and thoughts are a part of this magical, colorful town.

I arrived in San Miguel for my sabbatical in June of 2001.  I rented a house with my friend who was teaching yoga and soon after, I began teaching the dance class at Bellas Artes and had such an incredible time; I was living the dream!  About one week later, I met the most crazy and hilarious Mexican named Juan Nieto and decided I didn’t want to go home.  9/11 hit and my fate was decided; I did not want to return to America.

I flew to Chicago in October, flew to New York to see my friend Andrew and to see how he was doing; I even walked as close as I could to Ground  Zero; a very solemn and moving experience. Even now it seems like it was just a dream, to be that close to such massive destruction and radical emptiness.  I’m not sure it was such a great idea to get that close, but what did I know? I still have the cross I bought at one of the only stores that seemed to be open so soon after the attacks.  I returned home to Chicago, put my stuff in a storage unit and off I drove to Mexico all by myself, with my zippy Honda Civic jammed to the gills with what I thought would be important to me in Mexico.

It took me 3.5 days to drive from Chicago to San Miguel.  It was….. in a word…. SCARY.  Crossing the border is scary. Driving through the mountains of Mexico is scary. Stopping at the very few gas stations is SCARY; I even once had to stop at a hand-drawn sign gas station because I was out of gas.  A gaggle of boys walked up to my car and started looking in it as some kids used a funnel to pour gas in my tank; I looked up and said, “please help me get out of here.”  I handed one of the kids some pesos, got in my car, sped off like a BAT OUT OF HELL.

It’s not scary like this anymore to drive though Mexico, but there are different scares; the drug wars and their escalating violence have dumped out into the highways and public venues.  I would not drive through Mexico today but back then I did it about three times by myself.  Never again.  The scariest incident was probably when crossing the border at Laredo, a bunch of guys ambushed my Nissan Pathfinder and dumped black oil on the windshield and then all jumped on my truck to rock it — and they ROCKED it.  I screamed as I peaked through a tiny portion of the windshield and hit the gas.  They eventually jumped off and I drove with the black oil on my windshield for about 20 miles; until I felt I would actually take my foot off the gas pedal and stop to wash the window.  Terrifying. What was I thinking?

The San Miguel de Allende I live in now and over the past few years was very different from my beginning years here.  The relationship with Juan lasted about two years and then I was a starving artist.  Mostly starving. I then met a big laughing Texan who I found sitting in the streets one day, and his name was Reed.  I had no idea who he was or what he was all about, but I immediately loved his kind eyes.

And now here I am visiting him as his ex-wife but one of his closest friends.  My life has changed drastically since we parted ways in Corpus Christi, Texas in 2008; I’ve often wondered who that girl was that was unable to accept happiness in any form. It is only now that it is starting to make sense to me and if possible, I want to make amends for that girl and her short-comings.  I was not a bad person; I was just messed up and unable to be at peace in the world — no matter what I had in front of me.  I believe I always preferred the struggle — but had I been told that, I would have flown off the handle in rebuttal.

This is the most non-crazy I have ever felt in my life — and I like it.  Being back here in San Miguel has given me a chance to make amends and how wonderful is that? I have been punishing myself for years for being a lousy wife and now I can do my part to be a better person to myself and those who love me.  I don’t know that there will be a next time for me to see Reed, so I am making the most of this time here with him, in his home, in San Miguel de Allende.

When I first arrived in November, I celebrated with him and our friends and made a glorious Thanksgiving feast, but soon after I realized this was not who I am anymore, and so I have resumed my search and exploration of the higher vibrational side of life.  Reed looks at me funny now, but I suppose he always has. I am peaceful and enjoy creating a peaceful environment — even in the middle of his outrageous chaos.

I am going to stay a while longer.  It’s 25 degrees in Chicago and 75 degress here in Central Mexico.  I’ve done the math and decided to stay, xoxo.

All Aboard the WOO-WOO Train!

meagburnt ham

Being your true self is the coolest decision you’ll ever make.  — my yoga teacher, Leslie.

That’s it! I have officially acknowledged myself as a WOO-WOO. I have the sweat and guts and tears to prove it and I couldn’t be more delighted about it!  This is my reality and I have decided to finally embrace it.

I uploaded my first vlog about my past few months and I look forward to adding this medium to the mix, because sometimes words should be spoken. I recently attended a night of storytelling by three seasoned storytellers and it really moved me.  Good ol’fashion spoken stories, like the days before we all stared at tiny electronic screens.  No really, something in my heart jumped, I loved it.  I’m knocking around the idea of trying this artform live on stage — a lost art that appears to be making a comeback and I welcome it.  From wiki:

Storytelling is the conveying of events in words, and images, often by improvisation or embellishment. Stories or narratives have been shared in every culture as a means of entertainment, education, cultural preservation and instilling moral values.  Crucial elements of stories and storytelling include plot, characters and narrative point of view.”

I also watched a beautifully made documentary, “Mythic Journeys” that looks at the role of mythology and mysticism in modern society and storytelling — very informative and pretty too!

mythic-journeysr

Twenty years ago I embarked on a spiritual quest that took me from Chicago to San Francisco to Europe and back; I learned so many incredible lessons about growing up, relationships, personal responsibility, shamanism, religion, spirituality, the 12 Steps, Gabrielle Roth’s 5 Rhythms, FeldenkraisLaw of Attraction, ETC., so now I am adding on this foundation I started a few decades ago.  I admitantly walked away from all of it for about a decade.  I was frustrated and felt like nothing was working.  This past decade had it’s own lessons and the journey carries on.  How lucky am I that I have this opportunity? Thankyou Universe! xo

I participated in a “Trust Your Vibes” workshop with Sonia Choquette this past weekend and also saw Sonia in London a few months ago.  She is brilliant and her courses require brutal honesty, something I have now become prepared to face.  This is not easy.  I saw Sonia 20 years ago before I moved to San Francisco and I recall only ONE THING she said to me, “I would suggest eating more spicy foods because you are smothering yourself with all your self-imposed rules and your soul wants to live.”  Lord that was true, I was the biggest food nazi around and I’m happy to say that even though the search for healthy foods is a wee challenging, I do allow myself some comfort foods because I no longer think it’s cool to punish myself.

There’s no lying about this; this is no weekend-warrior-self-help-workshop-stuff that allows me to compartmentalize my internal calling for knowledge and compassion, and then allow me to slip back into the comfortably numb mentality, come Monday morning. No Siree Bub, this is all or nothing and as much as it’s kicking my ass, I have officially surrendered to the process, have great trust in the plan and am super-excited about the adventure that lies ahead.

I’ve lost it all and I’m not dead or nor without hope.  I still have a sparkle in my eye ;D

I also respect all the folks who are doing the weekend workshops and whatnot to improve their personal well-being, because I believe my years of participating in those made me ready for the commitment to greater health possible today.  Baby steps.  I applaud them and take them.

In this weekend workshop, I broke through some huuuuge barriers and let my intuition (read: psychic) flag fly high — I loved it and have been told that now that I’m proudly waving it, there’s no going back.  It was brilliant and I saw and learned things I will never forget.  I will write about these experiences some day, as soon as I swallow them all.

The other day I received a “thanks-but-no” letter about a job I believed I was P-E-R-F-E-C-T for, and also heard absolute crickets on another job I was really hoping to hear a good word on.  After a good cry and stomp-about over a slap of rejection, I stood up and said, “FUCK IT, LET’S GO HAVE SOME FUN MEAG.”

I am off to San Miguel de Allende tomorrow to climb the Mexican mountainside, breathe the high altitude air, swim in the healing hot spring waters and cook a turkey dinner with my ex-husband, whom I still adore and am very excited to see.

View of lovely San Miguel de Allende, from the Rosewood Hotel
View of lovely San Miguel de Allende, from the Rosewood Hotel

ANDALE! Happy Thanksgiving, peace to all.  Don’t forget…… I see you!! xoxo

How safe is Central Mexico these days?

View of lovely San Miguel de Allende, from the Rosewood Hotel

In 2001, before 9/11, I set off on a 2-month sabbatical to San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, to teach a dance class and take a well deserved break after completing a project on a global business theater in New Jersey.  I chose San Miguel because I had taken a Gabrielle Roth workshop at Escalon in Big Sur the year prior and wanted to further my studies.  One of my friends from Escalon had already moved to SMA and was teaching yoga.  She called me one day and said, “Hey Meags!  The dance teacher here is about to leave because she’s having a baby, why don’t you get your butt down here and teach for a while?”

After planning and whatnot, I arrived in San Miguel on June 29, 2001, ready to begin my two-month sabbatical and to get to know Mexico, a place I had not yet seen before.  It’s a beautiful mountainous town, not desert-ee or covered with cacti and lazy donkeys, but rather it’s considered to be the San Francisco of Mexico; it never gets too hot or too cold (well, not for too long because I certainly was hot and cold), has a bustling international artist community and has a big gay community.  Oh and Texans, plenty of Texans. Gay and straight.

I was not afraid of anything about this Mexican town yet had I listened to my mother, I would have never gone, which is why I have never listened to my mother.  Oh wait, there was one thing I was terrified of and that was scorpions.  My roommate didn’t even think of them; I looked for them all the time and guess what?  I found them all the time!  And usually in my bedroom! On the wall above me!  In the middle of the night!  I can still literally hear them stitching across the walls… even today the thought of it gives me shivers. Blaaaaah scorpions.  And fuzzy spiders. Ok I’ll stop!  But other that insect fears, I was totally at peace with this little town and all the new sights and sounds it offered.  I adored it.

Today there is a much bigger community of younger people as well, involved in all sorts of digital and technological art projects, but this community has dwindled compared to about 5 years ago.  When I arrived for the first time in my mid-thirties, I was considered one of the younger ones, but that would not have been the case had I arrived 10 years later at that age.  I was there this past March and saw how the town has exploded with people and construction, yet had also crumbled.  When the US has an economic sniffle, Mexico has full-blown pneumonia.  And the US had much worse a sniffle.  So many businesses have shuttered their doors, much like here, and people have packed up and returned to their homelands, including the people of Mexico.  When jobs are scarce here, the Mexican men cannot send money home so it’s a quadruple whammy of hardships in Mexico.

I’m not going to pretend to be educated on the exact reasons why the business of drug cartelling has exploded in Mexico, nor am I going to get into the stats of it, but it’s fairly obvious that this is where the money is in Mexico, if you can stay alive.  To read any mainstream news you would think that they are all killing each other throughout the entire country and hanging the bodies over highways so the public can see them die as they shoot them from hidden hillsides.  The stories of heads rolling into a night club or even night clubs being set on fire — now these stories make it to our media and it sends a chilling message that all of Mexico is completely corrupt and extremely dangerous.

Ever watch the 10pm Sunday night news in Chicago?  It’s a death toll of how many were shot or wounded in the city in the past few days; how many children were injured, buried, mourned.  It is perhaps the saddest time slot on TV, which is one of the reasons I don’t watch TV anymore.  The killings in Chicago are completely out of control; in a city that claims guns are illegal.  Does this news stop people from visiting Navy Pier? Water Tower Place? Wrigley Field?  No. No it does not.  It may stop some people from getting on a train to come to the City, but for the most part tourism is loud & lively in Chicago.  So while there are certainly precautions that need to be taken when heading off to Central Mexico, by no means is it a 24/7 blood bath.  Like it is on the South Side of Chicago.

The places that I would avoid in Mexico right now are the border towns and the main highways to move north/south through the country.  Although the violence is rather widespread yet focused on the northern part of the country, because this is the main and final push to get the drugs into our country and some would say it’s an all out war zone at the borders.  So avoid the border towns.  I wouldn’t even do a day trip there as many people used to so, it’s just not worth it.

I would no longer take a bus to Central Mexico as I have many times in the past, because of  the growing presence of the Mexican Army and Mexico Federal Police on the highways.  And the growing number of rogue police, army or cartels who impersonate these groups so you can never be sure who or what you are looking at — or dealing with.

Once on a bus to Phoenix in 2003, I was awakened in the middle of the night somewhere in the State of Chihuahua, by a machine gun nudging my shoulder, asking for my passport.  I did not flinch, I simply reached for my passport and handed it to the soldier.  After checking everyone’s passport, the soldiers hauled four Guatamalian immigrants off the bus and then we were on our way.  Looking back, I wonder why I wasn’t more freaked out.  I had never seen a machine gun before let alone be awakened by one.  But when I traveled the buses throughout Mexico, I always went into some sort of altered state, knowing that you have to roll with the punches becasue weird things happen out there in the middle of nowhere.  I have also driven through the country a number of times by myself and suffice to say nothing majorly scary or even close to heart breaking happened.  Today I would never drive through the country I once called home.

The buses and trucks that travel through Mexico are always being stopped and searched for drugs and immigrants, but these days you can’t be sure if the Mexican solider who is pointing a gun at you and asking to see your passport is an actual Govenrment official, a cartel dressed as a Government official or a Government official who has been paid off to act on behalf of the cartel.  Which is why it’s best to avoid busing around Mexico, a once very popular and economical way to travel the country, ever since the train lines were discontinued.  These days I would fly directly to the city I am headed for, and for San Miguel de Allende’s it’s Leon/Guanajuato Del Bajio or BJX.  Then take a taxi directly to your destination, because no one picks you up from an airport in Mexico, even if they are crazy head over heels love with you!

This past week, I learned of an incident of a Canadian couple that was severely beaten and robbed in their homes in San Miguel.  These incidents happen here and there and are never a story we want to hear but it’s especially sensitive when it happens to ex-Pats living in a foreign city.  One thing Mexico has always known is that you DO NOT MESS with the foreigners that are visiting or who have chosen to live in Mexico.  They are putting money into the country and economy and again you DO NOT MESS WITH THE TURISTAS.  But it happens, unfortunately. There is speculation — and only speculation at this time —  that it is a small group of disenchanted policemen that committed the crime.  So another couple has now returned to their homeland and the stories will be shared, as they should.

Would I go to Mexico today? Yes.  If I had the sufficient funds to get me from Point A to Point B directly, and had a secure and safe place to stay.  Do I want to go to Mexico right now?  No.  I think I’ll wait until things start to turn around.

I love Mexico and think it takes a LOT of hits for being a reckless, careless and violent country, but it is a big country, full of many people, places and things and you simply cannot place a generic label on a country of its size. It’s complicated.  It’s gorgeous.  It’s ugly,  It’s rich and it’s poor.  And unfortunately there are places in the country where violence is out of control, so just like the South Side of Chicago, I will avoid it for now.  But not forever!