Upon moving to the Yucatan — having reluctantly left the Chiapan highlands, whose mountain air, agrarian soils and indigenous farmers captured my heart and consecrated my love affair with Mexico — I told myself I wasn’t suited for this climate; that hot, hotter, hotter still and hotter than hell HARDLY counted for a change of seasons, which (as anyone who grew up an autumn-loving yankee knows), is more or less essential for happiness and peace of mind.
During the first months here (it was fall, nonetheless), I built a case for myself:
“Look at this pathetic excuse for produce,” I’d scoff at the sparse and shriveled greens in the supermercado, recalling the lettuces of my youth and the more recent, though no less-glorious Chiapaneco chard…
“Oh look! Another palm tree!” I’d exclaim to myself sarcastically, having recently chatted with my sister as she described the colors of her Pennsylvania September.
The peak of my adolescent-esque malcontent might have been a phone call with my friend, Taft, during which — aware of my appreciation for such things — he enthusiastically described the addition of a pumpkin patch to the corn maze/fall festival he’d been growing, deepening both my longing for friends and some semblance of a season.
You see, for as long as I can remember, I have known my spirit to be intimately connected with the rhythm of the year and the lifecycle of plants. The fondest of my childhood memories include popping the flowery tops from chives and using the shafts as onion-flavored straws, experimenting with as many mulberries as possible before they purpled the porch and the parent plants were properly pruned and anticipating the reddening of our strawberries like other kids did the song of the ice cream truck as the official announcement of summer’s arrival.
Most of all, though — perhaps above all other girlhood wonderment — I marveled in the mysterious, masterfully-designed and clearly divine decent of the maple helicopter.
I collected handfuls, apronfuls, bucketfuls I tell you. When I grew bored of throwing them up in the air (my height and the time they required to catch wind were a bit incompatible), releasing them from the top of my treehouse and organizing them by size, weight and flawlessness, I would perform surgery on them; pealing, slicing and pinching paper from seed, then dissecting the source of life itself, as if it might just reveal to me The Secret.
I came to know the seasons, live by the seasons and move in time with the seasons, bringing that rhythm with me into adulthood.
So, thirty years later, a fish out of water in this evergreen land, I somewhat resigned myself to the monotony of the tropics, vowed to one day share the seasons with my grandkids (cue the world’s smallest violin) and figured the beach was probably sufficient to satiate my aesthetic for the time being.
Then, right about the time the first snows would have fallen upon my childhood home, something shifted. The season turned in Tulum, marked not by flurries nor a blanket of white nor frozen crystals on a single-pained window, but by the hardening off of poinciana pods…
…a second fruiting of limes since we’ve been here…
…and a fresh budding of hibiscus, like a reverse Christmas in July…
The change was surprisingly comforting to me, and with it came a total shift in my spirit.
- I felt suddenly alive and open and curious again.
- I began to notice beautiful people and rich opportunities all around me.
- My kids were notably more content and engaged.
- The resistance to this place in time left me.
And so, because you know I’m a sucker for all things metaphorical, I’ll not beat around the bush…
Each season of our lives has something unique to offer; to teach us. In this season, for me, the lessons were about trust in the unfamiliar and joy from a well within and the vulnerability that comes with growth and expansion. The fact that I couldn’t see the abundance around me at the time was all part of the lesson (I now recognize in retrospect).
Just a few short years ago, when I was in over my head with babies, the lessons were all about selflessness and personal truth and humility and strengthening my core, though I couldn’t have told you that at the time, either.
And before that? In the dreamy days of early adulthood? I was developing my passions, deepening my sense of self and searching for authenticity in a world of illusions. My idealism had to be born, and then tempered and now focused, each in its turn — each in its perfect season.
Back to Tulum.
This weekend, I received a most generous housewarming gift from a 40-foot neighbor. I’d have crushed it carelessly had it not been so beautiful as to catch my eye…
A woody flower, a seedpod from a Mahogany — first one, then dozens.
I had noticed and wondered about this tree for some time now. She’d lost her luscious leaves back in December…
…then grew seeds on her naked branches, and now, apparently, she planned to release each one after splitting them open like flowers.
“Estella, look,” I shouted in a whisper. “Wooden flowers!!”
Sharing my love of the small and the simple she, too, was awestruck by the gift.
“Wow!” She exclaimed quietly, twirling and inspecting and concentrating. “Are there more?”
I pointed to the treetop. Her eyes grew wide…
She cracked them open, one seed pod at a time…
…as I laughed and then cried at what she revealed…
Helicopters. Each seed pod was full of tiny, perfect, papery helicopters. I could hardly contain my contentment.
“What’s wrong, Mom?” she asked, noticing my glossy eyes.
“They’re just so pretty,” I confessed, saving my story for later. “Did you know that these seeds hold magic, Estella?” I sniffed, and then stood.
I grabbed a delicate wing, reached as high as I could and released the tiny wonder to spin to the ground.
She smiled with my same wide grin, gathered as many as her hands could hold and jumped as she released them into the air.
We were not in Wisconsin and she’d never seen a maple, yet there was nothing at all missing in this moment.
I sat next to my girl on the porch, dissecting seeds, peeling skins and marveling at the world, free as a five-year-old.
And so, here I am, sun kissed, barefoot and happy to announce that hot, hotter, hotter still and hotter than hell actually suit me quite well, that I was dead wrong in reducing Tulum’s seasons to a meager variation in heat index and that wind-propogated plants, like good people and depth of experience and inner peace and utter joy can be found wherever we are, if only we remember to seek them within the season we’re currently living.