The jacarandas are in bloom. The pale purple blossoms on the bare branches take me back to Mexico. They awaken my longing, never far from the surface. Is it because it was a foreign country Mexico is so often evoked? Is it only because there is so much overlap between here and there, so many parallels? I don’t remember ever missing a place like this. I miss Sonoma County, yes. But I don’t see an acacia or an apple tree in bloom and ache to be back there. It doesn’t make me hurt.
I had never lived among jacarandas before. I remember that first spring, standing beneath a pair in San Antonio Tlayacapan looking up. Their immensity stopped me. I was amazed to see such bare branches so alive in lilac. There was something about the combination–the bigness of the trees, the hard roughness of the bark, the delicacy of the blooms–that took my breath. I see them now, and I think of Mexico. I think of Mexico again and again, so much so I finally called Ana last Sunday, the first time in almost 14 months. I hadn’t known it was so long. I’d only known I thought of her and Rodolfo and their family casi cada día, almost every day. And each time my heart ached. Each time, I didn’t pick up the phone, didn’t write, didn’t finish putting together the Christmas package I’d begun. The little metal Christmas penguin and the packets of fruit and vegetable seeds are still sitting on my table.
On the phone, Ana sounded like she was down the street. It was so good just listening to her voice. She started telling me their news. Something awful had been happening to Mariana. It sent me to the dictionary, fumbling through the pages, muttering into the phone, asking her how to spell the words I didn’t recognize. Once I’d found them, I thought Mariana was unconscious. Was she in a coma? Later, I heard her voice in the background and spoke to her on the phone. So much for the dictionary. Or maybe she’d been unconscious but was better now? I didn’t try to ask.
But god it was good to hear Ana’s voice. And I haven’t forgotten how to speak. I was able to say what I needed to say. I told her I thought I had left part of my heart in Ajijic with them. Twice I got teary while I was talking. I remember when my Spanish wasn’t good enough for that, for being able to feel deep emotion while I was speaking. At one point I told her it was hard to use my mind and have my feelings and talk in Spanish all at one time. “It’s so much easier in English,” I said.
“Sí,” she said. “Pero no para mi.” Yes, but not for me. I could hear the smile in her voice, could see her teasing me as though she was across the room, not a country away. That moment held all the life, the heart, the easy fun of our past exchanges. No, not easier for her to try to do it all in English. We laughed hard together over her joke. After I hung up, I cried. But I’m so glad I finally called. Her voice is fresh and alive in me now. Later, I went for a walk in the warm, dry dusk. A breeze cooled the sweat on the back of my neck. I rounded one of my favorite corners, filled with fan palms and tall hedges, the bougainvillea and lantana and honeysuckle a wild mingling. The cicadas were loud there last summer. They will remind me of Ajijic when they return. But as I walked through the warm almost-dark, I was not sorry to be here. This place holds its own deep charm. I wonder, if I leave here, will it hurt to see a fan palm? Will the sight of tall, stark mountains make me ache for this valley? I wonder. Will I leave?
[Editor’s note: These jacarandas are in Brooklyn. I couldn’t find a name or copyright information, but this is the webpage they are on: http://www.cs.up.ac.za/cs/jbishop/Homepage/Photos/Jacarandas/Jacarandas.html.]