“The place where gods come and go” or the ‘ iikaah (ee-EE-kah) for the Navajo people is a meticulously constructed design drawn out on the ground by releasing handfuls of colored sand. Usually lasting no longer than 12 hours, it is considered to be a gateway for spirits. From this place they affect change in the physical world, healing illness and absorbing toxic energy and once this has taken place the sand is scattered. A similar tradition also exists in Tibetan Buddhism where monks can sometimes spend weeks depicting hundreds of deity and religious symbols in brightly colored sand, once finished it is also scattered. Some Hindi women across India also take part in the spiritual patterning of the earth with Kolam. Early each morning blessing their homes with elaborate powdered lines before the traffic of the day eventually deconstructs their design completely. The spiritual importance of embracing cycles of construction and deconstruction has long been a foundational belief throughout the human world.
Upon returning from my travels in Europe, I was engulfed in one of my father’s heavy cycles of deconstruction which in turn generated one of my own. The gods visited, initiating the painful process of extracting toxins, some of which had been feeding with profoundly deep roots. To see my father in his best light is to see a freckled blonde surfer projected onto a middle-aged John Wayne standing at the dark wooden counter of a micro brewery. He has built a boat, a motorcycle, a bed… shops for clothing at Costco and does not believe in using band-aides. He has married and divorced three times, has six children and cooks Mexican with a vat of lard he stores on a top shelf in the kitchen. His view of the world is innately artistic and overtly romantic. Without his even noticing the scrutiny of his paternal eye could both inspire and traumatize. And that past year had swung me like a pendulum between the two until I felt ready to snap as a result of the extreme cycles of tension.
Seismic effort helped me “sweep” the sacred space of my psyche and regain the longing to draw colored lines on the earthen floor of my life again – I needed a way out. To this end I consulted my options with the international studies department finally committing to a program in Mexico, and then called my father. For the previous 30 years of his life, my father worked with a man from Tlaquepaque, a small town now enveloped by the Guadalajara metropolis. Antonio had met my father at the beginning of his quest to locate independently sourced Mexican artwork for his restaurant designs. They spent the next three Quixotesque decades traveling Mexico and commissioning an incredible amount of local artwork from an uncountable number of artisans. Tony was accustomed to my father calling up with urgent requests and seemingly impossible proposals, so when he called asking to send me to them for four months, he probably laughed …claro que si – of course. I arrived a little over a month later.
In order to save up enough money to extend my travels once completing the semester in Guadalajara, I had been working as a mural painter to compliment my other part-time job while I was in school full-time… even so money would be very tight. My plan was to travel some in Mexico during the four months I lived with Antonio and his family, but then to head south – as far as my money would take me. I had never been to Guadalajara, met Antonio or his daughter Rocio, but it was rather simple for them to spot me at the airport – light-blonde, blue-eyed and shouldering my travelers pack scanning the crowds.
Anotnio had for many years run a papeleria or stationary shop, on the main plaza of Tlaquepaque and lived with his wife and two of his children in a three bedroom apartment on the second level a few doors down. After refusing resolutely an offer of their personal bedroom, I settled into the living room couch and the following day a mattress borrowed from family friends. It wasn’t long and we were all falling into a rhythm together, they had after all known my father before I had. Although both Rocio and Abraham were around my age, both in their early twenties, I connected right away with Rocio. She was studying psychology in the nearby University and working at a children’s facility during her time off. The family computer was in her room and she did most of the driving for everybody, outside of working hours.
Anotonio had recently stopped driving as he suffered from worsening seizures and because of this one of his employees had taken over the regular visits to the wholesale warehouse for the papeleria. Until I grew accustomed to the long public bus ride home from school the boxy white van would make a detour to pick me up and I would accompany them, trailing behind them as they made selections for the shop. Then we returned to the house for the enormous mid-day meal shared at the table in their upstairs apartment, the window open and a breeze shifting the crowns of palms planted along the plaza. Usually I spent the rest of the afternoon reading or napping on the mattress in the living room. In the evenings I joined Rocio to lift weights and ride stationary bikes in the local gym. Sometimes we passed by the taco stand where I ordered the regular with beans instead of meat or pick up a corn tamale and we would snack together at the night table. Once cleaned up, I studied and then went to bed. The metallic echo of church bells passing through the colored glass panels at the front of the house, woke me every morning. I did yoga, took a shower and walked to the bus, rode to downtown Guadalajara and then walked to class.
My days went on like this, smooth and steady one after the other, just like sand falling through careful fingers.