tidings of comfort and joy

Since the post-Thanksgiving Season of Death, or SOD as I have taken to calling it, I have been volatile in a way that recalls my pre-Zoloft mood swingalings. Thus, Jeremy leaves my present on the train: “That’s it! Christmas is cancelled!” The engine driver gives it back: “You’ve saved Christmas!” We miss the dawn flight to LAX: “That’s it! Christmas is cancelled!” We get on our standby flight, sprint across the terminal and make our connecting flight to La Paz by the barest skin of our teeth: “You’ve saved Christmas!”

I swarmed over the Web before we came, trying to get a sense of what to expect from this part of Mexico, and it’s a measure of my failure that I hoped before the holiday was over to see a big, old Saguaro cactus. I must have seen a million as our tiny jet banked into La Paz’s miniature international airport. Remember the sagebrush-and-cactus desert from Warner Bros cartoons? Baja is just like that. I keep expecting Wile E. Coyote to appear with an Acme grenade launcher and a cunning plan.

(Let the record show that Claire and Julia survived the very stressful nine-hour journey south with astonishing grace and tenacity; so much so that when we touched down in La Paz, they were both peacefully asleep. This presented me and Jeremy with something of a conundrum, as our stroller was checked baggage and we had slightly too many bags to carry two sleeping children as well. Julia neatly solved the puzzle by waking up and toddling intrepidly across the tarmac, attached to my finger. The kid is awesome. Jeremy got a picture.)

So here we are at the Hacienda del Sol in La Paz; the house of the sun in the city of peace. Weirdly, the closest analogue in my experience is Turkey, another fast-developing tourist destination filled with Northern European retirees. Like Turkey, Mexico is startlingly poor. A lot of the houses have unfinished second storeys, waiting for more money to turn up, giving them crazy hairdos of cement blocks and exposed rebar. Huge lots are filled with building rubble like upturned puddings baked in a bowl. It’s easy to tell the unharmed desert from the waste land. Like Australia’s ecosystem, Baja’s is old and arid and obviously takes a long time to heal.

Yet yet yet! The wealth of it, the hummingbirds and pelicans and cranes, the honeyeater that just came to frisk me over for nectar, the opal Sea of Cortez, the bougainvillea and palm trees beloved of the retirees, the cactus! Eberhardt and Renata, our hosts, respect their cactus and have built around them, so the Hacienda bends to accomodate its ancient citizens. There’s a pool with tile mosaics and a centuries-old cactus on an island in the middle. There’s another pool with a concrete waterfall concealing the laundry. Staying here with Jonathan and Re, Knoa and Avi, Frankie, Tina and Noelle feels a bit like having a Burning Man camp in the middle of a tiny Hearst Castle. With tequila. And insane midgets.

A warm wind is blowing the winter fog out of my brainpan.

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