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Life in a Small Fishing Village

It’s not that pictureque, actually. Oh, but it can be. I was naive to think it would look like a painting, with colorful masts studding the ocean’s swells, happy moppet children playing with their untoys, and beautific faces in church on every Sunday. Those idyllic images do occur. There have been afternoons when fishermens’ families are meeting boats onshore at sunset, a dynamic tangle of babies and line and used up bits of bait and I feel myself to be outside of time. I have witnessed brothers roping each other in the front yard and little girls rolling coconuts down a slight incline. We’ve watched the townspeople parade around the square the patron saint of ____ in her ornamented glass box, banners waving and old friends in huipils bringing up the rear together. Some days are just lovelier than others.

Last winter came a red tide, and the destitute went down to the water with buckets and barrels and nets to collect sickly fish washing up from the terrible-colored ocean. Collectively their effort made a serpentine track in the sand spanning my peripheral vision; for the first time I could imagine the end of the world. Almost every day I see the wild boy and his family, who sometimes haul away our garbage. They are the color of clay and I wonder if they speak though I know they have voices. And of course the dogs – skinny, mangy, sick and sometimes mangled in the road. Almost worse is when you stop seeing the packs of strays, because you know the poisoner’s work has been done. Garbage buried in the sand, stacked awkwardly and scattered at the roadside dump, sometimes on fire burnining your nose and eyes. The squalor doesn’t seem cheerful, thought it isn’t threatening either. It’s like nature in that it cares not a whit about you.

Some of the sights defy, transcend, or subvert my expectations. The blind man comes to mind. He drinks and ends up supine next to the rope. But as often as he is walking alone he has a companion guiding his way and holding him steady. He looks like no one else in Chelem. Also, he is handsome. The laundress’s house is a little filthy. However, if ever I need an article of clothing washed and dried in an emergency, she goes out of her way to help me. Her family calls her Anita though there is nothing diminutive about her appearance. And the ocean. I’ve never seen an ocean that changes more than the Gulf. Within minutes and over months it is so variable, sometimes as brown as the Mississippi in my mind, then roiling and crashing foam from the west, moving gently away in the gloaming, and every so often gives us a glimpse of divine green blue. It has at times frightened me; it is constantly in motion; it spits up prehistoric creatures with spiny bloated bodies.

Walking with this ocean I have experienced many facets of earthly beauty and found a peace I would not expect from a place such as this.

It’s a tenuous, temporary town built on a marsh between an unforgiving sea and the rio. It could go at any time. But what couldn’t?

There Are 2 Responses So Far. »

  1. Your prose leaves me stunned. The word pictures turn me around and leave me spinning. Such a wonderful post. I am sad you are leaving, happy that you are starting a new adventure.

  2. Saved some fine writing for the end I see, a very well done post.

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