Perplexed by water

How can we know the dancer from the dance?

William Butler Yeats from Among School Children

The days have been warm, the nights cool, typical high-country weather and, except for one cloudburst, there’s been no rain. The casita has been a tad ornery: Sunday I had intended to go to the UU service but the hot water burner’s pilot flame had been extinguished by a breeze, so there was no hot water. You might think I would rough it and take a cold shower, but you would think wrong.

Yesterday there was no water pressure on the second floor of the main house and the casita, and the water pressure was low on the first floor of both as well.  Today Jesús came to water the plants and he had plenty of water pressure; there is now no water pressure and/or water in either building. I checked for leaks wherever pipes are visible and there were none.  I don’t know whether the house is supplied by city water, by city water and a tinaco (water storage tank), or by just a tinaco that’s on the roof of the main house.


While walking to the supermarket last week I found a bankcard on the dirt near the now-vacant field that was once a campground. The card had been issued by a Mexican bank and, certain that I didn’t know its owner, I thought I’d return it to the bank during a trip downtown.  Just before turning it in I looked at the name and saw that it was someone I knew!  She’s an American woman of color married to a Mexican. So yesterday I took it to her and she spoke at length about her worries regarding the future for her and her husband, for Mexico, for the U.S., for the world. She said they are likely to close whatever financial accounts they have in the U.S. out of fear for what the future U.S. president might do.

Imagined Lives

While I was away from San Miguel two women, at different times, rented the casita. The first, who stayed the longest, was annoyed by the school children and the sounds that come from the schoolyard—shrieks and squeals of chases, the shouts while dodging a ball or another child: sounds, as I’ve often mentioned, that bring joy to my soul. These begin about 7 a.m.,  sometimes serving as my alarm clock.  There are recesses during the day  which mark the day’s progress and one can learn to distinguish the peals of a mid-morning recess from those later or earlier in the day. So the woman moved on.

The second woman said the casita was too dark, too cold, too … whatever.  Two weeks after moving in she wanted to sublet the casita to others through AirBn’B or some such service. The owners said “no” and so I was able to return to the casita. And its quirky water supply.

One or the other of these women left behind a partially consumed bag of cat food, which I surmise was fed to the cats who roam our privada and scale our walls, pee and poop in our gardens and patios, and procreate almost everywhere.  The casita’s owners have done a good job of landscaping to make life difficult for these cats—who happen to be well-fed by the owners of a pet supply store at the corner of the privada and Las Moras, so it was another instance of well-meaning norteamericanas interfering with the balance of nature without learning the local rules and habits.  Please: no hate mail from animal lovers as I’ve just finished caring for four cats that live at my son’s house.

Among School Children

I walk through the long schoolroom questioning;
A kind old nun in a white hood replies;
The children learn to cipher and to sing,
To study reading-books and history,
To cut and sew, be neat in everything
In the best modern way—the children’s eyes
In momentary wonder stare upon
A sixty-year-old smiling public man.
I dream of a Ledaean body, bent
Above a sinking fire, a tale that she
Told of a harsh reproof, or trivial event
That changed some childish day to tragedy—
Told, and it seemed that our two natures blent
Into a sphere from youthful sympathy,
Or else, to alter Plato’s parable,
Into the yolk and white of the one shell.
And thinking of that fit of grief or rage
I look upon one child or t’other there
And wonder if she stood so at that age—
For even daughters of the swan can share
Something of every paddler’s heritage—
And had that colour upon cheek or hair,
And thereupon my heart is driven wild:
She stands before me as a living child.
Her present image floats into the mind—
Did Quattrocento finger fashion it
Hollow of cheek as though it drank the wind
And took a mess of shadows for its meat?
And I though never of Ledaean kind
Had pretty plumage once—enough of that,
Better to smile on all that smile, and show
There is a comfortable kind of old scarecrow.
What youthful mother, a shape upon her lap
Honey of generation had betrayed,
And that must sleep, shriek, struggle to escape
As recollection or the drug decide,
Would think her son, did she but see that shape
With sixty or more winters on its head,
A compensation for the pang of his birth,
Or the uncertainty of his setting forth?
Plato thought nature but a spume that plays
Upon a ghostly paradigm of things;
Solider Aristotle played the taws
Upon the bottom of a king of kings;
World-famous golden-thighed Pythagoras
Fingered upon a fiddle-stick or strings
What a star sang and careless Muses heard:
Old clothes upon old sticks to scare a bird.
Both nuns and mothers worship images,
But those the candles light are not as those
That animate a mother’s reveries,
But keep a marble or a bronze repose.
And yet they too break hearts—O Presences
That passion, piety or affection knows,
And that all heavenly glory symbolise—
O self-born mockers of man’s enterprise;
Labour is blossoming or dancing where
The body is not bruised to pleasure soul,
Nor beauty born out of its own despair,
Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil.
O chestnut tree, great rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?

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