Sunday, November 25, 2012

Only in Mexico?

Michael and I took off for a quick birthday weekend trip to Arroyo Seco to pick up some things for our time in Puerto Vallarta and to celebrate my birthday with a few friends at a few of our favorite restaurants.

Nothing worked out quite as we had planned --- nothing new there --- but we came home with stories to tell.

The new paved road into Arroyo Seco!
The biggest Arroyo Seco news was, of course, that the three kilometer road from the highway into town was now paved.

We just replaced the shocks and struts on our Toyota Tundra, which undoubtedly wore out because of three kilometers of washboard road to get in and get out of the village. So the smooth ride was fantastic.

But the planning? Only in Mexico.

Caution tape on the telephone pole
One side of the road is an arroyo or riverbed, so the road had to be widened on the other side. But the big concrete telephone poles had just been installed last year after the hurricane and no one wanted to spend about $1,500 (US) per pole to move about six of them.

So they didn't.

One is in the middle of the road. Another is about mid-lane in one place. One is almost off the road but then the guide wires are in the middle of one lane.

Hmmmm..... what's wrong with this lane?
At least someone thought to put some caution tape around the one in the middle of the road. How handy. But there aren't any street lights on the road between the highway and the village, and some are almost at the top of hills but not quite.

All in all, quite hilarious until the first fatality.

The pavement hasn't quite made it to town yet
Locals just shrug their shoulders, still delighted to finally have a smooth ride home.

Unfortunately, the pavement stops as it gets to town so we still have a dirt road by our place. But our neighbor reminded us that it is poco a poco --- little by little --- and it will arrive. I have patience. It's something else I've learned living down here.

My birthday itself was somewhat eventful. After our beach ride, we returned home for lunch to discover an invasion of tiny ants --- IN OUR BED! So instead of going out for a nice lunch, we were stripping, shaking, spraying. Ick.

Then this morning as I headed for a last bathroom break before getting into the truck to drive back up to Vallarta, I found this little friend IN THE TOILET! Thank goodness I looked before I sat.
Grateful to remember to look before sitting....

I was reminded that living in the country is not for the faint of heart, whether in upstate New York or coastal Mexico. And a mantra from sailing kept coming to mind.... 'it's not an ordeal, it's an adventure.'

That's what we always told ourselves when the trip was devolving rapidly. So the Captain is on notice that I'm taking a rain check on my birthday and that I'll get back to him with a new date and a new plan. No ants or frogs will be invited.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The legacy of our Valois 'frontier' women

I drove up to our lake cottage this week as we were battening down for Hurricane Sandy and a Nor'Easter to simultaneously arrive and I was once again struck --- awe and admiration --- for those hearty women who lived up here year 'round for most of their lives.

My mother at her 80th birthday party, with her neighbor and friend, Mary Crouch.
My mother, Louise Schwartz, chose to winterize our summer cottage in Upstate New York and make it her permanent home after my father died and after we had a brief fling living on Sanibel Island. She wanted to come home to her roots, her family, and this cottage on Seneca Lake was always the love of her life.

She shoveled out her car (no garage or carport) to drive over the icy Searsburg Road to Trumansburg to teach, and later even farther, to Dryden.

It was before the Finger Lakes Wine Trail was even an idea. Or legal.  No wineries, no local restaurants --- just Sheik's Oasis, our corner bar that occasionally threw a frozen pizza in a toaster oven. So it took neighbors and friends to make it through those long winters.

Mary Sullivan Crouch lived next door in a farmhouse her family had owned since she was a child. They would call each other daily to catch up on their news, make sure they were okay. Sometimes Mom would tell me they hadn't seen each other for weeks during the winter, even though they could probably have waved to each other out their bedroom windows.

And they did it as single women living in the country for many decades.

Our house on the left, Mary's below
One time Mom told me she hadn't been out of the cottage for a week. Literally. Not even as far as the mailbox. Way too treacherous with ice and snow, she said. I couldn't wrap my mind around it, as someone who has followed the sun to warm climates for most of my adult life.

But as I went up to the lake house to make sure nothing I left in the front yard would get picked up and smash through the front picture window, as I thought about getting the water shut down before the first real freeze this week, I was in awe.

Awe that this was such a challenging place to live and that she and Mary were up to the job. Didn't even question it.  That they would get snowed in until the plow showed up, that the water pipes would occasionally freeze, that Mom would shut off the second floor to try to keep the downstairs warm enough and the utilities affordable. And that they still loved it.

I stood on our overlook watching the northerly winds blasting down the lake, feeling the temperature drop, the rain come on. I looked up at the huge trees surrounding our little cottage, limbs swaying in the breeze. I thought about a story that my cousin's husband, 'The Bear' told me --- that when Mom was snowed in long enough she would call John and he would show up on his snowmobile with a pack of cigarettes for her. Otherwise, she was 'just fine.'

This summer our neighbor down the hill, Ruth Rundell, passed away at 87 years old. Mom died at 83. Mary died at 93. These three amazing women are gone, the three cottages passed on to the next generation. They were hearty, strong women, good neighbors always.

It's a beautiful legacy. One I hope to live up to....

Louise in her garden on the shores of Seneca Lake