The Sunday ride

church
Church in a town called Huecorio.

WHEN I WAS a kid, I often spent summers with my maternal grandmother in rural, southwest Georgia.

We had a routine on Sundays. After lunch, the two of us would get into the old Ford with me driving. I may not even have had a license at that time. I was 14 or 15.

We’d head down the red-clay road about half a mile to her sister’s place. We called her Bubba. Bubba would get into the backseat with her cigarettes and Coca-Cola, and off I would drive. Bubba likely did not weigh more then 85 pounds. She rarely ate, but she loved cigarettes and Coca-Cola.

The car was straight-stick. It had no air-conditioner, so we all had the windows open for the hot summer air. Nobody ever felt uncomfortable. We weren’t spoiled.

We’d travel through red-clay roads for miles before heading home, dropping off Bubba at her place, and parking the Ford in the wooden garage that leaned a bit. It had gray tarpaper on the exterior with a fake brick façade.

At times, my child bride and I take Sunday drives through the Mexican countryside. Instead of an old Ford, we use a 2009 Honda CR-V, a far nicer ride. It sports automatic transmission with air-conditioning and cruise control.

We are spoiled.

We did that yesterday, and I took some photos.

casa2
This house rests alone in the woods near our large lake. It’s been abandoned since I moved here almost 19 years ago. It’s probably haunted.
1889
Departing the grounds of the church in Huecorio.
candles
Inside another church. This one is in Santa Fe de la Laguna.
lakehouse
The owner of this place is one fortunate S.O.B.
church2
The entrance to the church in Santa Fe de la Laguna.

The final town we visited was Tzintzuntzan. Can you pronounce that? I did not take any photos, and we didn’t visit any churches. We did buy blue-corn gorditas on the street. We ate them while sitting on plastic stools on the sidewalk.

Then we came home.

Night oxygen

starsOFTEN I AWAKE, usually temporarily, about 5 a.m. or so.

If I’m on my side, I turn to face up. If sufficiently awake, I take a deep breath. No matter the month, the air will be cool to cold at 5 a.m. And the air is remarkable, nice.

There is no central air at the Hacienda, of course. It’s pure mountain air. It is clean. There is no heavy industry here or anywhere hereabouts. Virtually none down the mountain at the capital city either. The air here is how the Goddess made it. It smells real good.

Here is another thing:  We see stars. I never saw stars in Houston, of course. Not a prayer. I remember decades back at my grandmother’s farm in Georgia, I would stand in the yard nights and oh-so-many stars. You don’t get that in big cities. Too much light competition and pollution.

If you’re out in the Hacienda yard on a cloudless night, there are stars from horizon to horizon. You spot dippers big and small. The moon is as it should be, from a sliver to full, depending on its druthers.

In Georgia, fireflies were common. They’re rather rare here, but sometimes you see them too. But it’s the air that’s particularly striking, its clarity, coolness and good smell.

Below the floor

I WENT TO church yesterday. Basilica, actually, but I went to basilica doesn’t sound right, bounces off the ear funny.

Driving down the cobblestone street, I passed the basilica and got a hair up my backside, so I parked and went up the long stone walkway to the huge old door. I didn’t have to doff my hat because I’d left the hat in the Honda.

dahliaI went inside and sat on one of the shellacked pine pews, in a spot where the place to kneel was flipped up because I don’t kneel and because the kneeling things make it a tight squeeze for feet. I like legroom.

The basilica ceiling is very high. In spite of its being a small town here, the Spaniards built a first-class operation. You can’t have a puny basilica. It makes a bad impression on God, or I imagine that’s how it would be seen.

It was late afternoon, too late for Mass or perhaps too early, or both. Not a priest in sight. There had been a powerful rain, and few folks were inside the basilica with me, perhaps seven or so. It was grandly decorated with massive buntings, red, white and gold, hanging from on high. And floods of fresh flowers.

There were three confessionals and electronic candles because wax candles have gone the way of most full-penguin nuns, a thing of the old days. Nuns want to be comfortable, and nobody wants to burn the basilica down.

You do forfeit the nice smell of hot wax.

We have our own Virgin Mary. She’s named La Señora de la Salud. All over Mexico, towns and villages have their own local Virgin Marys. I really don’t get it, all those Virgin Marys instead of just the one. Our local Virgin Mary, made of cane paste and very old, sits up high in a glass-enclosed perch in the basilica. People here take her very seriously.

I sit in the basilica every couple of months, and I always look at the marble floor and think of who’s beneath it: my brother-in-law, the one who accidentally shot himself to death with a little .22-caliber pistol some years back. There are tombs down there. You descend narrow steps under a ventilation grate in the floor.

If you didn’t know it was there, you’d just walk right over it, thinking of other things, not of all the rotting corpses below. I’ve been down two or three times, those tombs where Catholic people spend eternity.

On leaving the basilica, walking back down the long stone walkway, you have the option of crossing the cobblestone street and continuing ahead. Four blocks down a hillside, on a perpendicular street, sits another church, almost as big, but not a basilica, just a normal Catholic church.

I don’t visit there. I don’t sit. I know no one below the floor.

Praying place

pray3

MY CHILD BRIDE had a little medical issue a few days back, so we called a new clinic here on the mountaintop and made a same-day appointment, high noon, with an internist.

The doctor arrived about five minutes after we did and, while she was being tended to, I stepped out into the too-small parking area where I noticed the prayer place in the far corner, a chapel.

So, if the doctor can’t help you, perhaps the Virgin Mary can. I mention the Virgin Mary instead of God or Jesus Christ because I often think Mexicans feel far closer to her than the two guys, Father and Son.

I too generally prefer the company of women to men. Actually, at times in my life, women have provided me heavenly moments. Men, never. But let’s not veer off-topic.

As you can see below, there is no pew, no spot to sit at all, so you must speak to the Virgin standing up. If you want to kneel, that ceramic floor is hard, but many Mexicans believe self-abuse of that sort speaks of devotion.

I simply stepped back into the clinic, picked up my wife, and we went home. She’s much better now.

* * * *

(Note: Prayer is oración in Spanish, so Oratorio is a place to pray.)

pray