MEXICO CITY

Jorge and I are spending a week in Mexico City prior to my departure for Canada on Saturday. This city is so amazing and over the next few days we plan to visit:

The Cloister of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. This is where La Musa – Mexico’s best known colonial writer lived and wrote her most beloved poems and letters.

The Dolores Olmeda Museum, which houses a superior collection of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo original paintings.

Cloister de Sor Juana Inès de la Cruz

Xochimilco, the floating gardens of Mexico City – always the setting for a good time

The Soumaya Museum  the museum built by Carlos Slim to honor the memory of his late wife. It showcases their personal art collection.

In the coming days, I will do my best to post a few pictures and anecdotes about our visits…

My Heart is in Two Places

This spring has been unbelievably busy and I’ve not had the chance to do much writing. I hope I can get back to blogging and other projects soon, but BIG changes are in the wings. In fact, until winter rolls around, I won’t be “Writing from Merida” .

I plan on spending the remaining six months of this year in Canada, and if the sun, the moon and the stars all align – winters in Mexico and summers in Canada will become my annual pattern. Some people have told me this shocks them because I have always been a staunch supporter of Mexico.

And I am still a staunch supporter. In 1976 I left Canada to marry Jorge, an amazing man from Yucatan. He taught me about the history, culture and geography of this unique country. We built a home, raised our children and founded a college in Merida. We have a rich, meaningful life here, but as I’ve already said, it is time for “Changes in our Lives”.

I will miss the colors, the music, the food and the flair of Mexico. I will miss my friends, my neighbors, people I know in the markets, and the countryside. Most of all, I will miss my family here.

Not all of them fully agree with my choice. Jorge would prefer I stay here full time, and he doesn’t want to spend half the year in Canada. He will join me there for two months this summer – maybe more as he gets used to the idea?  Our grown children are now building their own lives – they don’t want me to go either, but we will stay in touch by phone, facebook, and whatsap. I have to say though, my eyes fill with tears when I think about not being able to read, play, paint, read, laugh, sing and swim – whenever I want to – with my darling granddaughter, Emma.

I keep reminding myself and others that I’ll be back before we know it. But still, there’s no way to ignore the facts. This is a HUGE change and many wonder why I am making it.

The reasons are complex. I love Jorge, my family, friends and my home – I am truly grateful to have lived four magical decades in Mexico. Nonetheless, full immersion in a country where the language, culture, climate and politics are so different to what I grew up with – has not always been easy. Up until recently, with Jorge’s support and the insights he shares, I have always been able to deal with any challenges that come along. But now we are older, and my priorities are different than when we were young.

When I married Jorge at 24, health care was the furthest thing from my mind. At 64, it is an important consideration. IMSS, the national health care system in Mexico, provides basic coverage but it does not meet all my needs. At my age, I cannot purchase private insurance.

I am fortunate though – even after such a long time away from Canada, I am still a citizen, and therefore eligible for Canada’s health plan. To receive this benefit, I must reside in Canada six months each year. I think the Canadian government is more than fair, and I am  appreciative. I have kept up my relationships with my Canadian family and friends, so I don’t think living there will be hard.

However, as happy as I’ll be to live closer to my loved ones in British Columbia, I know there will be days when I’ll wish I had never left Mexico. As I check items off my to-do-before-departure list, the consequences of my choice weigh heavy.

Yes, change is complicated, and because I am no longer a sweet young thing, I can’t let fear or uncertainty dictate my actions. I have to follow what seems like the best course. I wish Jorge would be flying up to Vancouver with me, but he wants to live in Merida, where he grew up. He is respecting my decision, and I must respect his. Forty years ago, at our marriage ceremony, my aunt read from The Prophet, by Kahil Gibran, and this stanza stuck with me:

“Let there be spaces in your togetherness,

And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.”

This is not the first time Jorge and I have swum against the current – it gets harder as we get older – but we do have a lot of experience. Truth be known, we have been swimming upstream for most of our lives.

So, we’ll see how it goes – this time.

My new blog is (appropriately) called:

CHANGES IN OUR LIVES

https://changesinourlives.wordpress.com

Go to the link, and scroll all the way down to the end of the posts. When you arrive at the footer, you’ll find some general information about me and my writing. You’ll also see the FOLLOW button – click on it if you wish to receive an email alert each time I post.

I look forward to hearing from you.

The Miniaturist

What to do on a hot day? Maybe it’s best to give up on the idea of running errands and slogging through the chores? Why not play hooky and spend the day with a good book? I did that last week, and am still savoring my escape into the golden era of the Dutch masters, XVII century guilds, silk roads and sailing ships.

The Miniaturist, by Jessie Burton begins with 18 year old Petronella (Nella) Oortman, arriving into Amsterdam from the Dutch countryside. Poised on the stoop of her new home – with a caged parakeet and suitcases at her feet – she feels alone and out of her depth. Her husband, Johannes Brandt is a rich merchant, almost double her age. This is a marriage of convenience – and no one pretends otherwise.

When the young bride is given entrance, she feels overcome by the scent of pungent spices – especially cinnamon and cardamom – swirling through the opulent canal house. Johannes has commissioned so many paintings that they crowd the walls. Oriental rugs cover the floors and maps of lands unknown to Nella lie scattered about. The exotic feathers and dried bones she discovers make her curious about her husband’s travels.

She soon realizes that he, his sister Marin, and their servants Cornelia and Otto, have secrets that both fascinate and terrify her. Brandt does not make himself available to Nella in any way, but eventually Marin convinces him to take his wife to a splendid Guild banquet, where she again feels unsettled by the wealthy world she is now part of.

Johannes gives her an unusual wedding present – a dollhouse – a reduced replica of their own home on the Herengracht. Her sister-in-law provides her with the address of a local artisan, the miniaturist, who will make furnishings and dolls for the house.

Nella orders a few pieces and is delighted with the detail and craftsmanship, but she’s taken aback when she receives items that she has not ordered. She cannot understand the significance of the tiny pieces. But as strange events unfold around her, it seems as though the miniaturist is warning her of what is to come.

The Miniaturist is Jessie Burton’s first novel. As an author I am impressed by her writing style – her depiction of the historical period drew me right in. Because of my Dutch background, I found the tale absorbing even though sometimes the characters confused me with inconsistencies. Never to the point though – that I stopped enjoying the read.

The scenes of frigid canals and the even-chillier puritanical society that Nella Oortman has to navigate, captured my imagination and transported me to a world, both miles and eons away – a welcome diversion on a sweaty, steamy day in the month of May!