Tabatha Deans

Bringing Integrity to the Written Word

Update from the huerta

The weather has cooled again over the last few days. We spent yesterday gardening and cleaning the pool. I was very brave when it came to digging in the dirt and pulling weeds. Becky was out raking under some of the trees/bushes, and as I watched her I knew there had to be something crawly in them that could come out and get her. My big sisterly instinct kicked in, and I was horrified to hear myself say “sure,” when she asked me to hold the branches up so she could rake under them. I got my stick and held them up, and after the first couple of trees I started to feel better about the whole thing when nothing jumped or crawled out and got me. So I ventured out on my own and started raking under the trees and areas that I thought looked safe. There’s a weed, actually a ground covering, called “ice” that is used to fill in around the base of all the trees. It was growing out onto the patio, so, as we were told to do by the locals, we simply cut it off and moved the pieces to other parts of the garden. The ice plant has long, round, rubbery like leaves and stems, so it was like picking up pieces of rubber and scattering them around the yard.

The pool involved vacuuming the bottom and making sure there’s no algae growing. It’s time consuming and about a third of the way through the pool I was already bored and my arms were tired from muscling the vacuum around. Again with a tedious vacuum! I spent a good portion of my vacuuming time wondering how I could get out of vacuuming. Would it really make that big of difference? What would happen if I missed a spot? But vacuuming the bottom of the pool is much like vacuuming a dirty floor. You can see the results immediately, and its mentally impossible to pass up and disregard a dirty spot. By the time I decided I was going to do a half assed job of vacuuming and quit, the pool was done and sparkling clean.

When I left Salt Lake and landed in V town, I started noticing that animals seemed to be more attracted to me. When I was camping at the dam I would wake up with deer and chipmunks in my camp, and of course the elusive river otters came to see me regularly while I was there. The same thing is happening here, only the critters aren’t cute or fuzzy. I can’t believe that I feel guilty for having Becky kill the scorpion, but I do feel bad. Mostly because I haven’t seen another one and I’m feeling pretty safe. I’ve stopped sticking my head out the patio window to scan every corner of the porch before I go outside. The boots are just inside the door and the stick is never far away, so I’ve regained my confidence that one creepy crawler intruder was enough.

And then I went outside. Becky and I and a friend were hanging out on the patio after a nice dinner of fish and rice. The dogs were milling about, Southy was sniffing the bushes and securing the perimeter of any creature that may not be welcome. He does a fine job of patroling the area for critters, creatures and lurkers, so I won’t admit it to the other dogs, but Southy is quickly becoming my favorite. He has a brown and white head, and is similar to many dogs in the huerta, except that his look like they’ve been perfectly outlined with eyeliner, giving his face the appearance of a pharoah. He’s trying to get into my good graces I think so I’ll let him have my stick, so whenever he’s allowed in the house he starts in one corner of the house and sniffs his way all the way through it. He makes sure I know when he’s secured my room, he’ll come over to me and look at me with his pharoah eyes and wagging his tail. I don’t know what to think of him, and he’s not sure what to think of me, except that I have a really cool stick that I refuse to throw into the ocean for him to chase. We’re still feeling each other out, but that night he was patrolling and I was happy.

Then he went on point. His tail went straight up into the air and he stuck his nose against the cooler and the wall. Yes, the exact same cooler, in the exact same spot that the scorpion was lurking. Dammit! I immediately jumped up on the same sturdy table that I’d been on just weeks before, and was ready to yell for the boots an the stick when Becky moved the cooler out and took a look. “You’re kidding,” she made an exaggerated arm movement and looked at me with a smile.
“What? It’s another scorpion isn’t it?” I knew I was right.
“Come look at this. Come here, it’s okay,” she tried to coax me to come take a closer look.
“No! I don’t want to see it. What is it?” I stood my ground on top of the table.
“I don’t know? I’ve never seen one of these before,” Becky said. She didn’t know? What did she mean she didn’t know? Judging by the scorpions, if it was nothing she’d ever seen before it could be anything. Any manner of horrible beast it could be. It could quite possibly be worse than a scorpion. I refused to jump down from the table. She hunched over the offending beast, and pulled the trash can back so I could see it from over her shoulder. She was right when she said she’d never seen anything like it, I’m at a loss for words to describe what it was. It was round like a worm, and didn’t have an identifiable head or tail. It was about as big around as a man’s thumb and a couple of inches long. It was gray with dark stripes and a body like a big potato bug, with ridges that enabled him to curl up when we poked him. He writhed around ineffectively, and after deciding he was no risk to us with a stinger, stabber or poison; well we weren’t sure about the poison, but we couldn’t find any kind of poison delivery system on the poor slug. So we put him in the bushes under a tree in the garden.

Today’s the day! July 1, my brother’s birthday, I’m officially beginning to quit smoking, and I mean it this time. Disgusted with myself for not quitting, I’ve decided to pull out all the stops. I’m willing to go to any length to quit. I’ve decided I can’t do it alone, I need some intervention. I need a relentless, nagging, never ending force to drag me out of the chains of addiction. I need Becky.

I took a leap of faith and gave Becky all my cigarettes, all my pesos, and permission to do whatever she deems necessary to help me quit, including mind games, programming, persuasion, rewards and consequences. She spent ten years hiking troubled teens and addicts in the wilderness to help them change their lives, so I’m putting my faith in her knowledge, as well as her stubbornness, to finally break me of the bad habit.

She’s been brutal. It’s 1 p.m. And I’ve only had two cigarettes today. I earned the firs tone by getting up and taking a two mile walk through the back street of P Town and back up the beach. For now I’m allowed three cigarettes a day, morning, noon and night. She’s also banished me to the top patio of the house as the only place I can smoke my cigarette. I have to climb two flights of stairs, then when I get up there I can see the ocean and the huerta around me, but I’m all alone and there’s no furniture to sit on, as opposed to the two smoking lounges around the pool, where I could smoke and be part of what was going on around the pool.

She immediately created checklists, and rewards included an extra cigarette, a trip to the snorkeling beach, a set of binoculars to watch the water with, among other things. Serious about my decision, I dug to the bottom of my bag and brought out some things I’d bought at the Oxxo earlier.
“To show you how serious I am about this, i’m going to give you these. They’re the ultimate weapon, and I don’t recommend using them to taunt me.” I set the Hershey’s chocolate bar and a package of M&M’s on the table. I’d planned to save them for later, but I hardly ever save them for later anyway, and I was committed to make this work, so I handed them over.

Becky was getting ready to go to town to conduct some business, and having gotten up early and walked, and sin (without) nicotine, I was thoroughly vacuuming the couch. I thought long and hard about taking on the task, I’ve learned not to attempt vacuuming unless I’ve committed. One swipe with FRED and you had to vacuum the entire house. There’s no little bits with vacuuming. If you don’t vacuum the entire house, the sand that is on the floor just travels from room to room, pretty much canceling out any efforts at vacuuming. So not only did I vacuum the entire couch, but I also gave FRED a good cleaning. Like a vacuum colonoscopy. I cleaned out the attachments and hose, but I must have done too good of a job, because when I was done and resumed vacuuming, now the suction was so strong that he emits a high pitched squeal whenever the end attaches to the floor.

I wanted to make sure Becky wasn’t going to leave for the afternoon and forget to leave me a cigarette, so wiping my brow from working up a sweat vacuuming, I turned FRED off and drew her attention to all my hard work. She admired it dutifully.
“Can I have a cigarette?” I threw it out there.
“Is it afternoon?” she responded.
“It is. It’s about 12:30. And I’ve vacuumed the entire couch, and gave FRED an enema, i’ve been working hard,” I knew she was softening, but she can be very stubborn. I really wanted a cigarette and wasn’t in the mood for her to deny me, but I had given her permission…
“Are you finished with your chore?” she halfway say mocking, the other half sternly.
“Yup. The couch is done, all I have left is the rest of the house.” I said.
“Look at you, look at you asking for a cigarette when there’s work to be done!” she said in a fake regal, and believable voice. “Back to work Cinderella, come talk to me when your work is done.”

I couldn’t help but laugh as I was scolded, she played it brilliantly and I couldn’t really come up with anything to argue with. I turned Fred back on and vacuumed some more. Her ride to town showed up to get her, and on her way out she told me “your reward is on the wall between our rooms.” I waited until I was sure she was on her way out of the huerta and I smoked my cigarette. Then, just because she left me alone and it’s my nature, I went looking for the cigarettes. I did a quick pat down of the pockets of the clothes in her closet, but didn’t dare venture too deep in because it was dark and a perfect hiding place for scorpions. Scolding myself both for looking and for doing only a half assed job of looking, I stood in the center of the room and looked around. Bingo! On Becky’s chair I saw a shoe box, covered with other boxes and a bag, that I knew had been in the kitchen. Perfect hiding place. Sure enough, there were the cigarettes and the chocolate. I had another afternoon cigarette and went back to vacuuming.

Today is day two of my smoking diet and daily exercise routine. I tried hard to be excited when that alarm on my phone went off, letting me know it was 7:30 and time to get out of bed and go for a walk. I don’t understand why its so hard to maintain a daily routine, I’ve fought to establish one for years. Its not like I’m even still asleep when the alarm went off, and it’s a rather catchy tune that rings out to wake me up as well. But I lay in bed hitting snooze a couple of times, battling with myself about the importance of getting up and taking a walk. I know if I get the walk out of the way first thing in the morning then I’ll feel better all day long. I know that my blood sugar will be better and I’ll need to take less insulin, and I know that my body will feel better from working my muscles. So I hit snooze again and listened to the sounds of Becky making coffee.

The sky is gray and it doesn’t even really seem like it’s past six a.m. We’re experiencing what the locals call June gloom, which involves overcast mornings and a bit of chill in the air. When I step outside the air and dirt smell wet, like it had rained or is going to rain soon. The rain never actually forms into droplets though, and it feels like a fine mist is falling from the sky. After getting up and drinking a cup of coffee, the morning walk started to finally ignite a little bit of excitement in me. Especially if I can talk Becky out of a morning cigarette before we go. I feel better not smoking so much yesterday, although I snuck back to the shoebox several times; lucky Becky didn’t notice. The walk is actually very nice, winding on dirt roads through the back of the huerta, or the part of the huerta that’s closest to the ocean. We pass the “Tropica de Cancer,” what looks to be an abandoned church or mission of some sort. The white paint is chipping off the cinderblock building, and dirt and sand have taken up residence in the corners of the steps and patio. It sits just off the dirt road, across from the tequila farm, and has obviously been abandoned for quite some time. The tequila ranch is surrounded by an 8 foot brick wall, with decorative spikes in the shape of an agave plant, with razor sharp edges on the leaves, implanted along the top of the wall. The intent is to keep anyone from passing over the wall, and the decorations are pretty high class for this area. Most properties around here that have cement walls around at least some of the property, and for security they stick bottles of all sorts and colors, a lot of tequila bottles I’ve noticed, upside down in the wet cement along the top of the wall. When it’s dried, then break the bottles off, leaving jagged edges of glass poking up along the wall. The rest of the property is secured with bushes, weak fences of sticks and wire, and barbed wire strung along the vulnerable places of entry. It reminds me a bit of the Indian reservation near V Town. They would put their empty bottles and cans on the top of the fence posts along the road, then supposedly used them for targets while they were out driving around and shooting it up.

After this morning’s walk, Becky went to town and I stayed home to water and write. Of course I snuck into the cigarettes and smoked like a fiend, and now feel really guilty. I’m mad at myself for playing this game, and decided the best course of action was to tell Becky immediately upon her return and she could scold me and give me a consequence. She fired me. She’s not going to be my coach anymore. She’s feeling put upon by the world, and I think getting a little irritated with my presence. But I really thought she’d at least fight me a little harder.

It was overcast all day and actually cold. Cold enough, in fact, to merit wearing my black leather jacket. Jessica got it for me for Christmas a few years ago and it truly is the perfect jacket. It was in and out of my suitcase several times between V Town and P Town, but I defended its place in my suitcase of life. I’m glad I did because I really felt like I was extraordinary when I found myself in a beautiful garden in Mexico, sipping coffee, watering and wearing my favorite jacket. I was also determiend to bring my walking stick to Mexico with me, and although we had to cut it down at the last minute so it would fit in the tank that Marci lent me, I’ve been glad I brought it from the moment we arrived. I also brought my boots, which established their necessity within the first week, and my water shoes which I bought to hike the narrows with Jessica and Leanne. I brought my jewelry box full of trinkets that I’ve received from loved ones throughout the years, and of the course the picture Jess gave me for Christmas. It all weighed in at 52 pounds, three pounds under the airline guidelines.

After the final downsize at my parents house the night before we left Salt lake, I found myself with a tightly packed suitcase, freshly showered, and with no clothes to sleep in. My dad gave me a pair of boxer shorts, blue with yellow stripes, to get me through. They’ve turned out to be the perfect pajamas for Mexico. And last, but not least of all the necessities that filled my suitcase of life; my blankie. Barbara Luck made Jess and I travel blankets for Christmas last year. They’re made of flannel and has yellow stars and moons on one side, while the other is white with blue stars scattered about. I laid it on top of the bed and under my sheets, so when I sleep each night I’m sleeping on the stars.

Today we’re hosting a birthday party for Tonya, which involves the gathering of the ladies of the huerta.
We’ve spent all day watering, vacuuming, sweeping patios and cleaning the pool in preparation for the fiesta, I volunteered for the watering and sweeping since I needed a good upper body workout. While I was watering I ventured out to the very back edge of the property, near the garden covered with black nets to keep it cool. There’s a small pile of weeds and yard trash, and I spotted a big lizard near there the other day. So I’m a little nevous about the pile anyway, and today when I got near only jumped slightly in surprise when a six inch iguana/lizard darted ahead of me in the path. I let him go along his merry way, he stopped at the fence line, just outside of the reach of my water stream, and watched me for a few minutes. He looked pretty harmless, and I wondered if he needed water. I’m not exactly sure of the difference between a gecko, lizard and iguana around here, but I was getting used to them, especially after everyone told me they eat bugs and spiders. But then I saw the black lizard. It was about two inches long and standing on top of the trash pile, looking right at me. He was black all over, and if he hadn’t moved I would have mistaken him as just a shadow. I couldn’t make out his eyes or any features, they all blended together with the pitch black of his skin. I got shivers down my spine, but I resisted the urge to spray him off his perch with my water stream. I just watered the plants near the pile and hurried on my way.

While taking a break between chores, sipping tea on the farthest patio, I saw my first roadrunner. It was about a foot tall, with a gray body spotted with black dots, and a big black mohawk of feather or something on top of his head. He had a pointed beak and did run pretty fast through the garden, straight toward Becky and I.
“Look, there’s a roadrunner,” she pointed out. “He’s coming to see you.”
“I’ve never seen a roadrunner before,” I told her.
“Really? Never?” she asked.
“Well, on t.v. But never in real life,” I replied.
“They’re fast, but they don’t trick you,” she explained.
“Oh, that’s good to know. I’d hate to be outsmarted by a roadrunner in the garden,” I smiled.
“Honk, Honk! Beep Beep! Zziiiinnng….!” she teased me.
It seems strange that I’m cuarenta e dos (40 and two), and haven’t seen a roadrunner. Of course I didn’t see a lightning bug or a dogwood tree until I was well into my thirties and jess and I took a bus trip to Alabama. I’d read about them years ago in a V.C. Andrews novel, but didn’t see them until years later.

Being here reminds me of a road trip I took many years ago with Jess when she was a pre-teen I think. We drove through Utah to New Mexico, then across and back to Denver to visit with Tim and the family for a few days. I was driving moki—the brand new 2000 ford Escort I bought right off the lot with only 2 miles on it. The trip was meant to provide jess and I with some vacation time, but also to serve as a sign of independence and authority for me. It was the first long trip I took after I was diagnosed with Diabetes, and so I seized the moment, or the 10 days in that case, to show the world that diabetes didn’t scare me and wasn’t going to slow me down.

I regret now that I was in such a big hurry to prove my fearlessness, that we didn’t take the time to detour off the road to see the site where a crater had crashed into the earth, or spend time in each little town we came upon wandering or shopping. The trip consisted of getting from one place to another, just to say I did it. I’m gettting the same feeling here. Now that some of the newness has worn off, the excitement of waking up every day to something new and a day full of writing is not quite as strong. I miss the first days when I arrived here and everything was new and fun. I feel like a veteran here after nearly a month, and everything isn’t as quite as shiny as it was when I arrived.

After spending all day yesterday cleaning and preparing for the pool party, there came a point where I had to decide if I was going to shower before the party or just put on my suit and get in the pool. I opted to skip the shower since the party was just getting started as I finished sweeping three levels of patio. So I threw on my sundress and we started the party. Between the food and good conversation, we never made it into the pool, but chatted well into the night. Never getting a swim or a shower was no big deal, I figured I’d just shower this morning when I got up.

We were dedicated in our early rising and morning walking last week, so we gave ourselves today to sleep in and slack. I heard Becky get up and head to the kitchen, then heard the gurgle of the water bottle as she filled the tea kettle to start her tea. I joined her in the kitchen to make myself some coffee, and after loading the coffee pot up I hit start, but nothing happened. No lights came on, so I checked the plug. Then I noticed there were no numbers lit on the microwave, so I tried pulling the string on the overhead light. Nothing. The power is out. No problem, I told myself. I planned on spending the day puttering about the house and writing anyway, so I headed to the bathroom to shower before I got to work. All of the water here works by way of pumps, and apparently when the power’s out, the water’s also out. No running water for the toilets, and no shower for me anytime soon. No shower, no t.v., and in judging by the battery signal on my computer, no laptop after about 30 minutes.

Although my days here are numbered, my daily hours and minutes are not. The days blend together, it’s been a month already, and the the hours and minutes don’t seem to matter. There’s the old saying about “too much of a good thing,” but I find the lack of urgency regarding time to be both freeing and restraining. I feel free each moment when there’s nothing urgent that I know I have to do. It inspires me to write more and pay attention, but then there’s that nagging in the back of my head reminding me that the day will come and I’ll wake up and my time here will only be a memory. And my experience as I grow older is that time flies quickly, and before I know it it will be time for me to leave.

This is the first time in 42 years that I’ve been alone, completely alone. Sure, Becky’s here, but this is the first chunk of time I’ve spent all by myself, focusing on myself and what I want, without having Jess or a boyfriend or friends along. The time alone in my head can get overwhelming, as I see all of the wonderful opportunities that lay ahead of me, and realize that my only problem now is deciding which great chance to take.

Becky bailed on our morning walk, opting to go back to bed for an hour, leaving me to my own devices. Having been here a month now, I felt confident that I could manage a morning walk without any mishaps, so I put the Ting Tings on my iPod, laced up my running shoes, grabbed my stick and headed out. It was one of those rare mornings when I felt like jogging as soon as my feet hit the dirt road. So I stepped up to a slow jog, and headed down the road. I was careful to watch for any snakes as I left our property. Across the dirt road from our front yard is a big open field, full of dead bushes and cacti. I’ve gotten pretty good at identifying tracks in the sand, and each morning I’ve seen a squiggly line in the dirt that’s obviously a snake track. I’m pretty sure its a big snake by the size of the tracks, and I’m pretty sure the tracks are heading toward our property instead of away from it. But I made it past the snake tracks and down the road without any reptile sighting.

I was headed for the tequila ranch, which is mostly downhill on a small decline so the jogging was made easy. Unfortunately 8 a.m. Is the prime commute time for locals, so I shared the road with all manner of vehicles passing. Old, rusty trucks, cars that look like they wouldn’t make it a block, a bicyclist and several men walking down the road. Luckily all the cars here have had their mufflers rattled off, so even with the Ting Ting’s blasting in my ears I could feel the rumble of an oncoming vehicle before it actually reached me, giving me time to move to the shoulder of the road so they could pass.

My jog was invigorating, until I looked up in the distance at a flashing light. It looked like a welding light, but when I got closer I realized it was a transformer on top of one of the electric poles that had sparked and was burning itself out. I didn’t know if it was something I should tell somebody about, or if there was someone to call like an electric company. I’d seen trucks around with the logo MPE or something like that on it, and I remember seeing a yard in Todos that was full of white trucks with the logo and thinking it must be the electric company. I stopped to check out the burning transformer, and while I was pondering whether or not I needed to take action, a brownish red dog came from around the corner of the house I was standing in front of. I’d encountered several dogs along my walk, most of whom kept a respectful distance as they checked me out. They all seemed curious but not particularly mean.

This one, however, looked like it wanted to kill me. It has tiny yellow eyes that immediately reminded me of the eyes of a monster from a horror movie, and it seemed like she was staring straight into my soul, seeing my fear and apprehension. She lifted her lip and snarled at me, baring her teeth as she bore right through me with her piercing eyes. The hair on the back of my neck stood up when I realized that I was in the middle of nowhere, with no one around, facing down a mad dog. Who would I call if something happened? I could call Becky, but the dog could have me down and dead before I got her on the phone. Then what would she do? Hop on the bicycle and rush down to gather my mangled body? Ride me out of the huerta on the handlebars? This might be the end, I thought briefly. Determined not to be killed and drug off into the fields of the huerta, I grabbed my stick firmly and as I backed away down the road I pointed it at the dog. “Go ahead, try it. I’ll take your head off with my stick,” I tried to sound mean, and given the fact that I was genuinely frightened, I came off sounding pretty tough. She snarled again but lowered her head and seemed to shy away. I kept talking mean to her as I backed down the street, and when I was sure she wasn’t going to follow me, I started jogging again, looking back to make sure she wasn’t in pursuit. Finally I was confident that she wasn’t following, and went on to enjoy the rest of my morning jog.

Becky was still sleeping when I returned, so I grabbed a cup of coffee and headed for the beach. I was feeling great about my morning exercise, and wandered down to the water. The water was incredible today, although there was some carnage on the beach in the form of several dead puffer fish and jelly fish. I didn’t realize what the jelly fish were at first. They look like blobs of Jell-O just sitting on the beach. Their tentacles have been ripped off by their stranding, so there were just a bunch of blobs on the beach. I sat down to watch the water and several buzzards that were foraging on the beach. I noticed a large fish a few yards from me, beached apparently in the evening’s tide. It was a large fish with a square head as big as about two of my hands. Its coloring reminded me of a trout, greenish brown with black spots on it. Either it had been beached so that it conveniently faced the tide, or it had been beached and squirmed its way around to face the ocean. It was dead now, but I couldn’t help but think how bad that must have sucked to be stranded on the beach, facing the water, waiting for the tide to come take you back to safety. Watching the water come up within inches of you then receding, hoping the next wave would be big enough to reach you and return you to your home safely. This poor fish wasn’t fortunate enough to have been pulled back into the water, and its lifeless body sat on the beach, its empty eye sockets hauntingly looking out over the water. I considered pushing the carcass back into the water, but decided there were probably all manner of bugs and creepy crawlies that had taken up residence in it.

So I sat and watched the waves. Apparently whenever there’s a large feeding frenzy farther out in the ocean, the blood, guts and remains are churned up by the water, and the result is what I’m told is called “Red Tide.” Yellow bubbles of debris ride the water in to the shore, where its pounded up onto the beach, leaving a trail of yellow foam wherever the water touches the sand. Today’s water was very yellow, and as the waves formed it was incredible to think about how much death and destruction had to occur out in the water to turn that much water yellow. I avoided getting wet as I watched the waves, and felt very lucky that I’m human and not a water animal.

July 6, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments