Fate, Karma, Whatever

So call it fate, karma, the hand of God or the whim of the universe – I can see now that my lifelong love for all things Mexican was just the trailer for Living Real Life in Mexico. To wit:

I first read about vision boards in Oprah magazine last year, and before I knew it vision boards were everywhere. Basically, you cut images and words from magazines with no thought as to why you are drawn to them; later, you do work on the “why.” It often turns out that those random images foreshadow a real future, even years later.

Diego Rivera poster from Art.com

Diego Rivera poster from Art.com

• Right after my divorce seven years ago, when the walls of the big house were empty, I ordered online poster-sized art from Art.com. For no particular reason – except that I was smitten by its energy and movement – I picked out a Diego Rivera print of a couple dancing. Who could have known that’s Oaxacan dress

  • Twenty years ago, when my former husband and I finally bought our first dining room set after years of living with my parents’ furniture, I picked an unvarnished Mexican pine hutch and table. That’s muebles rusticos (rustic furniture) here in Oaxaca, where it’s the most common style of furniture – you can buy it in stores, in the open market and even from street vendors.

Pine hutch

  • My mom bought  Mexican pottery sometime in the ‘70s and I loved them so much that they’ve always made the cut to keep even when I downsized, several times, from the big house to a duplex to the tiniest space I can maintain.
  • Moving house in Oaxaca last year was a bit of an ordeal, as I’d been in the same furnished apartment for three years, not wanting to commit to . . . buying stuff. But the landlady rented the old place out from under me and I was going to have to move soon anyway, so when I passed a “for rent” sign in front a house just around the corner from the aqueduct on a cobblestone street that’s one of the prettiest in Oaxaca . . . I figured it was fate.

And the kicker: it turns out that the little family convenience store not 50 yards from my new front door is called “Susy’s.” The first day I met Susy – my name in Mexico — and tried to refill my empty water garafon, she was just filling in on the weekend and didn’t know the price but said I could  pay her dad the next day. His name? Ramón. My dad too.

The message in all this? (I have come to firmly believe in the hand of fate, karma or whatever through four years of adventures in Mexico where I am always, always being schooled by “coincidence”). For years, I loved all things Mexican – for no particular reason, I thought – until it became clear that what I really wanted was to be in Mexico, where the colors, energy and fabulous Spanish language are part of my daily world. Not a perfect world by any means, but a damn fine one by any definition.


I’ve taught English to women who wear their hair braided with blue ribbons, just like in the Diego Rivera print. I’d love to say I dance, but I’ve made peace with the fact that it’s something I just can’t pull off in this lifetime. I do watch as much dancing as possible, though. There’s common rustic furniture in my new living room, with exactly the same finish and hardware as the dining set I bought 20 years ago. I buy eggs (4 at a time), cheese and bottled water from Susy’s, where Don Ramón has called me by name since the day I first entered his store.

And oh, the new neighborhood. Why I was so resistant to move just shows you how hard it is to change, to let go of the familiar even when it goes stale on you. I’m no longer living on a noisy street with fuming buses, but in a secluded neighborhood with bougainvilla and cobblestone streets. The new place is half again bigger than the old one, but less expensive. The internet and hot water work pretty constantly, and the new landlady is named Luz Aurora, Light Dawn. My neighbors are Mexican, French and Dutch. The weekend organic market is just two blocks away, and I try to have at least an hour-and-a-half lunch there under the trees on Friday or Saturday. Alas, the transvestite violinist has moved on, but I hope that he’ll be back someday. In the meantime, there are the marimbas.

Xochi bridge

I may have to order an extra Diego Rivera print of that couple dancing, to hang here in Mexico (though with plaster walls, you need a drill and concrete bit to make holes). Just to remind me that even if you can’t identify what it is you want for a long time, something inside of you does and that’s where — if you’re lucky — you’ll end up.

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