Monday, January 24, 2011

San Miguel de Allende

To leave a coldlocked, committedly gray world, which is Virginia in the winter, and to land via airplane onto a land of sun and color, was an electric shock to my beauty-starved heart. This town, for the second time, seduced and entranced me, so that there was a feeling of coming home when I found myself once again trodding its cobbled streets.

Why not paint each and every surface a deep shade of color? Why not wrap buildings around cool private courtyards humming with bees and the shreaks of parrots? In this most lovely of towns, strange amalgamation of Mexico, America, Europe, I was enthralled by its juxtapositions. We would take Sava to the park in the morning- the most bedraggled playground (slides half-broken, dirt surface, decaying wooden structures lacking even the most rudimentary forms of bannisters, but wild happy and free kids clambering everywhere and rarely ever getting hurt, and which Sava loved with her all heart, so that she kept on having to stop to say "I, having, so much FUN!") and then we would leave the playground and walk up the street past a store selling perfectly extravagant Moroccan and Persian imports and then past the open courtyard of a gleaming new modern hotel with a huge statue of a head floating in an immersion fountain, past a man weaving his burro through the streets selling firewood, then another tiny storefront spilling hardware goods everywhere amidst a candy display and gleaming, cloroxed lineleoum floors and portraits of Guadalupe brimming the walls: we would reach the Jardin, which is in the center of town, and find throngs of people milling about sucking on bags of fruit juices or corncobs slathered with lime and pepper, and a mariachi band milling about under a tree waiting for someone to serenade. Coming out of a dimly lit, cool gallery interior where the artist paints like a modern Pisarro, I enter the bright sunlight of the street to hear a piercing, melodic whistle coming up the street. It is the knife-sharpening man, making his rounds and giving advance notice to his customers to bring their dull tools to the door.
It is this strange personal paradise for me: all these cultures mixed up in a bewildering confusion, some of the most delightful aspects of Europe and Mexico all mixed up together, but glued together by a shared convival commitment to living life in full color and sound.

For instance: the night we arrived was New Years Eve, and while the rest of the family trooped home early to recover from the cross-continental flight,                                my dad and I took off to explore the night's festivities. When we got to the Jardin, we found ourselves at the beginning of a light and sound show being projected onto the cathedral (which is in itself a glorious, pink sandstone neo-gothic Something of a church) and it was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. Here I was, in the middle of the dry dusty high desert plain of central Mexico, and there was this utterly strange light show depicting in abstract visual imagery the history of Mexican independence, musical accompaniment ranging from Beethoven to Rachmanioff to Irish pipes (the Irish were an intregal assistant to Mexican forces in their fight for independence) to Banda. Jaw-dropping, holy wonder, that I wasn't at the Venice Biennale but in this tiny Mexican town. Which was going off for New Years. Afterwards all the ambulances and police vehicles lined up to get blessed by the priest for the upcoming year. And then set off their sirens in bewildering (for we had no idea at the time what was going on) and synchronous cacophany.

It was an auspicious beginning to a two and a half week trip sensory adventure and art immersion (so many galleries and uncountable artists and craftspeople) and new friends and roof terrace parties of liberally flowing tequila with the lights of the city and the palm trees silhoutted dark against the blue night. Waking up every morning and picking up strawberry scones at the local cafe (the best scones any of us had ever had) to either eat there or chomp with coffee on our own terrace, and then to pound the streets until it was time for Sava's nap and our siesta time (time for me to steal some moments to paint on the roof) before getting up to do it all over again.

   And now I am back and it is freezing and gray again, but I am grateful for my soft comfortable bed and gym membership and a fireplace to warm against the stark world outside, and I have a stack of paintings to paint and I am still carrying the embers of the trip inside me. But I want more. I want back there.