I don't know the name of the mountain in the photo above, or even if it has a name, though I suspect it does. The people who look down when I climb on the bus, people who don't want to meet my eyes, but do anyway when I say buenas dias, taking an empty seat if there is one, knowing no one will sit next to me on the ride into town unless they absolutely have to--these people who share this view with me--are the kind of people who name mountains. They have relationships with these mountains, unlike me, who is rootless here, a traveller between worlds who wants to feel settled on this mountain without settling here, not longer than for a couple of months, anyway. I suspect the task is hopeless, but am willing to try. Right now I am developing relationships with two large spiders who climb down from cracks in the ceiling of my bungalow to their daylight hunting grounds in the folds of my shower curtain. There are red beetle-like bugs that crawl across my floor and bed, welcome spots of color in this desiccated landscape. I am told it will not rain until May. My skin is parched even though I slather it thrice-daily with coconut oil. When I look in the mirror I see all my wrinkles have blossomed in this dry heat. There is no hiding my 46 years here.
I may not ever feel at home here. I am not motivated at all to learn more Spanish. I can make my basic needs known and that is enough for the moment. I am hoping my inability to converse in the local language will deepen my relationship with English, that my native tongue will give me the water I crave. Of course, Spanish, the conquerors' language, isn't the indigenous language here. It is Nahuatl, which I have not yet heard spoken, though I suspect it is the native tongue of the people on the bus who live higher up the mountain than me. I am between worlds. I will probably stay there. This gap between what I want--to be at home--and what will most likely occur (who am I to expect this land to know me without taking the time--the years--required to get to know it)--is where I will begin.
A Traveler Lives Between Worlds
When I came to this mountain,
I left a hole that needs to be filled
by another woman’s footprints.
She must be willing to follow deer tracks
through dunes, to wonder
if the herd would accept her if she
stepped off the path into the long grass
to lie with them in the hollows.
When the moon is full she must walk the fields
watching moths burn, return alone
to a cold house. She must be willing to love
a harrier that has no regard for her,
flying low over the thicket she is not meant
to enter, her skin fragile against thorns.
The knowledge of where the robins
shelter in snow must be enough
to survive the winter, and she must want,
at least once, for winter to never end.
Then she might see the snowy owl
she waited so long for she forgot
what she wanted. She is the one
shivering under goose down I write to now:
There are extra sweaters in the upstairs closet.
Layer cashmere under wool. Walk outside
and tell the brown thrasher who lives in the thicket
he is yours to watch now. My feet
are finding their way on this mountain
I want to call home.