Bailes Con Chihuahuas
By Bill Sheehan
As we step out into the early morning darkness, she’s afraid that I’m going to get lost or do something stupid so the dog makes me hold on to one end of the leash so she can lead me home if I go terribly astray. The streets are quiet save for the roosters calling out their morning prayers, and the only other sign of life is the flash mob of street dogs appearing, disappearing in the spotlight of the street lamps as they rush frantically, noses to the ground, back and forth across the cobblestones.
The narrow view down this Mexican street as night meets day and the pink rip in the sky slants toward orange, makes me question once again, “Did I forget to unplug the toaster?” I’ve seen this before. Was it the footage of the wildfires raging across California, or that spectacular pipeline explosion in Texas?
It makes me wonder if Dante Alighieri once lived here. Was this the ethereal light that he struggled to describe in the final canto of the Paradiso? Did Homer walk his dog here, too, in the early morning hours but neglect to mention Ajijic as the forgotten town in the Odyssey as the source of the repeated epithets extolling the “rhododactylos Eos,” the “rose fingered dawn”?
Some mornings arrive as an explosive spectacle, a fiery chariot drawn by powerful horses blazing into the sky accompanied by the endless scheming and chattering of Homer’s gods, this morning she appears as a waif, pale and thin, arriving silently, hesitantly, a lonely refugee from the night. Still, not a bad way to start the day.
We follow the malecon home but our morning tango is brought to an abrupt halt as we stroll onto the bridge and nearly fall into the arroyo. The entire structure is deteriorating. The surface looks more like a cheese grater than a bridge, with several holes large enough to swallow a small dog. We approach the largest hole and stare into the void half expecting to find a Wile E. Coyote clinging precariously to the edge of the abyss, or perhaps, I thought, this is the opposite end of Dante’s extraordinary poem, the place that inspired the opening cantos of The Divine Comedy, and I kneel down placing my ear close to the hole, listening for the eldritch voice of Virgil murmuring an invitation to descend into the nine circles below.
I think about trying to block off the hole or at least put up a warning sign, but all I can find is a large paper cup. I think about scrawling a message on it and placing it over the hole, “Lasciateognesperanza, voich’intrate,” “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here,” but I figure the message along with the cup would be lost.
Safe at home, as the dog nudges aside the cat and heads for her water bowl, I sit with my coffee, and relate our morning adventure to my wife and I’m delighted to hear that the Garden Guild, of which she is a member, is (not surprisingly) way ahead of me on the need for bridge repair.
Apparently it was guys like me, at least partially, that the Garden Guild had in mind when they decided weeks ago that the two bridges on the malecon were in dire need of repair. Too many aging and daydreaming husbands wandering aimlessly down the malecon was just one of the reasons this concerned and dedicated group of women decided to raise the money and forge the necessary partnerships to eliminate any abrupt intrusion on our contemplations, or fatal pause to our many distractions, by eliminating as many hazards from our lives as possible, as helpfully suggested in the latest issue of AARP.
But of course there is always a larger, more communal purpose to the projects that the Garden Guild takes on. The malecon is, in many ways, the heart and soul of Ajijic. It’s a place for families to gather and celebrate on Sundays, for kids to skateboard, to play soccer and basketball, it’s a place for watercolorists to use the swaying palm trees to frame the riders on horseback, the dog walkers, the lovers on a bench, the row of fishermen lined up along the shore jousting with the pelicans for the best catch of the day.
And despite the crowds it’s also a place of solitude, a place to get away from the bustle and dust of the village streets, a place to daydream, to sort memory from imagination, remembrance from desire.
The bridge, like the hole in it, is of course a metaphor for many things. It’s a meeting place, an outstretched hand, a possibility. Caring for and building bridges whether across arroyos, across cultures, or to the future of the community is something the Garden Guild has excelled at for many years, and this latest project will be no exception.
So the dog and I look forward with great anticipation to the completion of the project in the next few weeks when we can stroll the malecon once again, crossing the bridges without being provoked to contemplate the void, but instead turn all our attention to yet another spectacular rose-fingered dawn.
Our dance card is full and we practice the notorious eight-step sequence each morning from salida to resolución. But the leash is still a problem when we try “leading the cross” so I practice hard in the hope that one day perhaps the dog will let me leave home without it.
Sheehan Bio: Born and raised in Boston, educated in Washington D.C. and after several intermittent stops moved to the Pacific Northwest.
After a lifetime of traveling the world and sure that we would retire to Chaing Mai or Goa, my wife and I bought a home in Ajijic in 2011 and have never looked back.
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com