Life short

William Vincent Carleton

Life short

William Vincent Carleton

Just when things feel good and relaxed, Mexico City throws a hail storm at you. One of biblical proportions.

And the one that hit us two weeks ago was the most brutal I've ever encountered in my 5+ years living here.

We watched the destruction of our beloved plants, as they were hit with ice chunks the size of golfballs for 45 minutes straight. We had to reassess our approach with the plants, before the obra that is transforming this beautiful old home into a self-sustaining temple is completed.  

When I say that the granizos did damage---they stripped the bouganvillia of its beautiful purple and violet flowers, and the leaves that came with them. Whatever greens left hanging on at the ends of the branches were beaten to a brownish-wet bruise. Leaves folded in on themselves, giving up on whatever image they had just an hour ago when I swear the garden was more beautiful than ever. Everything was thriving. And the hydroponic system had gotten installed that afternoon. And I commend that technology now, as it protected itself. It was granizo-proof. We learned something from this example, after watching the plants that were exposed to the elements take a beating.

Ice punched holes in our plumeria; scarred the branches of our lemon and lime trees---hammered away at the coffee plant as I did my best with the adrenaline in my blood to move the oversized pots to whatever shelter we could find in the moment. I did my best, but the hail decimated the Virginia tobacco for which we had hopes of a bountiful harvest, along with the pomegranate which had one beautiful fruit that got hit repeatedly with ice until it gave up and fell. And the guayabas got stripped bare. Broccoli was battered down to a single leaf. The blueberries with their tiny leaves were hit so hard they were split down the middle.

And the roses. Let's not talk about the roses. At least not while the hail continues falling in my mind.

In the aftermath, we decided to do an energetic house cleanse; constructing an altar underneath the main spiral staircase in this beautiful Californian home from 1947---a work in progress that's been handing out lessons on the daily, including today, when a 7.4 magnitude earthquake rippled its way from the Pacific Coast of Oaxaca to our barrio in Portales, Mexico City.

Yesterday, the curator of this home, Joui Turandot, asked me to please clear out the cuttings from the roses that I had pruned back. I could sense she thought what I did would cause them to give up. But I knew they would bounce back, and so I cut away the morning after the hail storm, putting blinders up and staying focused amongst the destruction. I was tired of looking at the branches that now looked up at the sky with confusion like lost sticks. And the best cuttings; the ones closest to the earth, were the ones I planted in the Garden of Dolmen, which I landscaped a few week's back, when Joui decided to have the entire cement lot in the back alley of Womb filled with dirt that was excavated from the cistern replacement dig---where close to 200 bags of dirt weighing 50 kilograms each were filled with earth that was dormant for 70+ years and full of nutrients (and love) from the home's previous owner, Josephine. And so, the plants have been responding very well to her dirt, and several of the rose cuttings I am proud and happy to say have already established and popped new growth.

In one to two month's time, the garden will be better than ever. And here is why:

1) When you damage a plant, and its leaves and flowers are stripped, it sends nutrients to the roots. It fortifies itself in the earth, and prepares for another try at growth---this time with greater strength and determination to survive, flower and fruit.

2) When a plant has a branch cut, yes, it will go into shock for a moon cycle, and then it will start to grow again---however this time, with two shoots instead of the original one. Doubling the chances of reaching its goal to flower and fruit. And the roots develop further.

3) I have been spraying aspirin with caffeine on the foliage, and the growth has been amazing. All the plants have responded in kind.

4) All life that endures in Mexico City becomes stronger and more able after an unexpected set back. And most folks here suffer a lot, and work to earn to eat and survive. It's a day to day thing. And because of that, most admittedly do not want to see another progress, and they laugh when someone else suffers. They are tell-tale signs of suffering, but those who stand up to the bullies and make cuttings out of the destruction soon find they are better off from taking the damage---and not giving up, as eventually roots will be so well established that no one will be able to interfere.

5) Josephine left her love in this garden. It fuels it.

6) Joui and I are strong, intelligent and capable guardians of plants.

A beautiful example of #4 came this morning, at around 10:30am, when I asked Joui to please send me a photo of the "Vida" mosaic that she had designed with plants from the garden, impressed into the cement in real-time as the mason poured steady after the cistern was placed underground. I had unintentionally covered this work with the extra rosebush cuttings---the ones I was sure wouldn't take, and I left them in a pile, moving on to plant repair, forgetting about this work that Joui did, and so after I cut up the pieces enough to place in the compost bin (feeding it lots of minerals and carbon), I washed off the mosaic and as I was finishing this job, the alarm sounded---one I hadn't heard in years, but it sent everyone in the streets. An earthquake en route from Oaxaca with 7.4 on the Richter behind it.

At first we felt nothing. Joui laughed as we observed everyone with their face masks standing in the middle of the street. And after about 90 seconds went by, people started trickling slowly back into their homes. That was when I called over to Joui, and asked before she went back into Casa Womb that she please take a photo of the "Vida" and send it to me--

And then the world started shaking. Undulating. Bringing some trippy resolution to an otherwise normal walkabout through the garden. And we hurried into the middle of Calle Reforma as the distant cries of mothers were heard urging their children to get downstairs and out of the house.

This time the power lines were swaying like a baby's crib, and the old antennas from the rooftops took on their own rhythm. I looked down at the streets and felt warmth, imagining asphalt splitting apart, and I believe it would have if it weren't for the wave-like nature of all things in Mexico City, since it's sitting on a semi-dried lake bed that sinks an average of 5 centimeters per year. This was not like the earthquakes I remembered during my time in Santa Monica, California where the dogs started barking in the adjacent apartment minutes before a severe rattling sent books and boxes shuffling, falling off the shelves. We felt like drunkards at sea here. And this is the way it's always been---in Mexico City---sitting atop of three plate tectonic faults 7,000 feet above sea level. You can only look on with awe and hope that you make it out alright.

Happy to say, everyone is well and the garden is growing again. We shall have harvest in two months. We shall see the life turn triumphant in due course. And many photos shall accompany this. For now, it's best we use this powerful week of Sun energy and the Summer Solstice to highlight our dreams, as we make our affirmations, and know that with every blow we receive, we become stronger. Our roots grow deeper, and we learn to roll with the punches. And eventually every level, no matter how difficult the game may seem to others, will be a cakewalk for us.

Welcome to our journey.