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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Celestum, from 'Fragments, Faulty and Poetic'


Celestum is populated by fishermen, and their families, though there are a few hotels. I am at one of the newer ones, of quite a good design. Twelve rooms, face the sea. The constant breath of surf pours into the room making the floor tiles wet.

A rough stucco ceiling is my fresco. In the texture I see goddesses with baskets of fruit, birds, monkeys, mountains.

I've forgotten what day it is. The return of cyclical time.

I've been wondering, what is a mystic? The thought has me tossing and turning. It's an answer I want to get close to but can't. Is a mystic someone unhappy with the results of normal modes of thought? One that uses experience to distill truth from life? One that seeks conjugal harmony with all existence? One that seeks to fly with the heart over every plain and hill, to stand with the soul in every stream, to lie in the rushes with every tiny insect that chirps at night, to be at peace with every soul in their very own beds, to gallop with the mind across starry heavens, to fuse in spirit with wild birds and every great creature that prowls the forest, to be at one with all creation in a single burst?

I empty my mind when it is full, and when it is half full I also empty it. Even when it is empty, clearing it out does no harm.

During siesta, Carlos, a fellow who works here banged on my door. He is bored and wants to have a beer. So I hoof it out with him to the town. We stop at a bakery where some of his friends are working. I watch them knead the dough and arrange it to rise on floured boards. An older man runs the oven, inside the bread bakes near a heap a red hot coals. Then to the liquor store for a bottle of beer. We take two cups and two chairs and sit in the front of the hotel and drink the beer looking out at the green sea and the boats and the palm trees. Some frigate birds fly overhead, dragging sinister shadows with them across the sand.

My back's been bothering me a lot. It's a good reason to slow down, lie on my bed, look at the ceiling, and listen to the waves. Not much to do here except swim, sleep and eat fish. The restaurants are quiet, they get most of their business during festivals when the town fills up. The rest of the time their shadowed dining areas are a mosaic of bright enameled chairs, tile and holders for napkins, sugar and salt. They have paintings inside of the different creatures of the sea. The fish and whales and seals are distorted by centuries of mythos, and a paucity of books with photographs. This is the best kind of painting, direct uninhibited painting by an artist trying to tell a simple story with his colors.

After the first bottle Carlos gets up to return the empty for the deposit and decides to buy another. Midway through I feel bold enough to get my watercolors and try sketching the sea.

Maybe tomorrow I'll move on to other parts of the country.

The sky puts on clouds. A cold gray wind blows the tops off the waves. Flights of gulls perch on blocks of cement behind the hotel. The waves roll and roll and sing a cyclical song. The wind tosses and turns the curtains. Every so often the black shadow of a frigate bird darts across the sea.

I listen to the waves, thinking of cloudy days at Brandreth Lake, when a south wind blows and the waves crash against the stone breakwater. I remember times in the camp with Dad and Andy, when hours were spent looking out at the gray frothing lake, and the thick dark clouds of rain rolled across the mountains. I am remembering how nothing was perfect then, how everything we lived in and with was crude, or nearly worked, so that existence had a young precarious feeling. A day would be spent mending a pipe, or rigging the pump so there would be hot water, or pouring a foundation for the front porch. The mending, the repairs, the work, took on a spirit, a contemplative meditative quality, of "less equals more", of the minimal effort, the piecing together, the making do.

Jade water, and the coral sand, with broken shells, make a slurry where the waves break. Further on the sand becomes mud, with silt from the mouth of the nearby river. Pelicans, loons, gulls, cormorants, skimmers, frigate birds, fish just offshore.

Trousers rolled up I waded out into the water. Little barbs stung my heel, and draw pinpricks of blood. Baby catfish, dozens of them. Sorry little ones.

Carlos and I eat two fish for dinner, a sierra and a mackerel, rolled in maize and fried till the tails are crisp, draped with red onion, tomatoes, lime.

Near is the fish factory where the catches are weighed, sorted, packed in ice, and put on trucks for the long drive to Mexico City. We hear the clang of the truck doors being shut.

The fishermen put to sea at night in small flat-bottomed boats, with powerful outboard engines. They set gill nets, and put up generator powered lights to attract the fish. Then they sleep under the stars tossed by the waves. In the early morning they pull in their catch. Sometimes the nets are so full of fish they have to be cut loose. Other times the sea gets so rough the boat capsizes, and some of the men are drowned. Helicopters from Merida searched three days for a man whose boat flipped over during the night.

Carlos has an old friend named Juan who lives in a log bungalow beneath the palms. His hut has a car window cut into one side, and a lattice of poles supporting a variety of vines giving shade to a dirt porch.

Juan sat on a stump making a fishing lure from frayed bits of plastic cord. A plastic bucket sat next to him. The fine nylon fibers trailed and sparkled in the water. Then he buried a hook longer than his hand in the middle of the hunk of nylon. I asked him what sort of rod he uses. No rod. Can't set the hook right he said. We had some swigs of rum and talked about fishing for really big fish, with a hand-line from a small boat.

In the zocalo we talked to all the young girls and their mothers. Everyone took turns riding a scooter. It gets dark early here, at about six o'clock. There is nothing to do except stand or sit in the dark and talk. We had some Cokes in a refresceria on the park, but there isn't really much going on in a small town like this.

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