Monday, September 12, 2011

Random musings of an early Autumn afternoon

My house looks out over fields of corn and alfalfa, and one plot in the middle lying fallow for a few days of rest before they plant and fertilize again. My neighbor guides his dull chestnut horse through the rows, churning its own clods of waste into the battered topsoil. Beyond that, there are bright green, purple, orange and yellow low-rise apartment complexes. Softer shades of the same color scheme flap mildly on a clothesline strung between two water tanks on the roof. From the other side of my own roof, the hidden sun casts a deep periwinkle shadow over the volcano and its dwarfed neighbors. This makes me think of my own blue ridges so many kilometers and cultures away.

The clouds build and fade throughout the afternoon. Despite the calm ambiance of the climate, there is never a moment of true peace for those who don’t work hard to find it within themselves. You can hear the mariachi music from the party salon in the next block. Trucks rumble on the adjacent avenue – a cut-through for those headed to the main drag leading to the capital. For the moment, only one dog is barking off in the distance, but there is always a cacophony of fights, yelps, guard barks, bicycle and car chasers (easier to spot with a hind leg usually tucked up in the back) and general reports of mayhem. It’s a 24 hour canine’s chorus.
Let’s not forget that Cholula is a quickly growing suburb of Puebla with constant construction – hammers, saws, sanders, etc.  And please don’t be alarmed by the fireworks and gunshots either, as these are a daily occurrence in celebration of a Christian saint associated with one of Puebla’s 365 churches. Other than that, you have the regular city sounds of laughing children, traffic, the recordings of gas and fruit vendors driving through town, the neighbor’s turkey, the neighbor’s dog that sounds like a dying bunny, exotic birds, shouts from campesinos resting in the fields as their goats graze, and far off rhythms of festivals and church bells. 

Down below on the cobblestone street, a daughter hangs her head out of her father’s 1980s VW; her black hair flying and sticking to the remnants of a purple popsicle in the corners of her mouth. Painters in their white splattered jumpsuits finish their task to enforce homogeneity onto the exterior of an apartment complex. The party is momentarily drowned out by the music from a bicycle vendor carrying pots of boiled corn (which are delicious – served with lime, parmesan, spices and a bit of mayo).  Sitting on my rooftop and soaking all of this in, my thoughts take me to the following track:

Maggie just read me an article about Buddhists who believe that you are continually changing your identity. You’re not the same person you were 5 minutes ago as 5 hours ago as 5 days or years ago. So how do you define “who am I?” Perhaps you can only preface that answer with “well, right now I’m…” And what would I say? 5 hours ago I’d say I’m a Frisbee player. One day ago I’d have said I’m a disgruntled volunteer, frustrated by the paradox of simple resolutions and complicated processes and why the hell can’t anyone seem to do it right? And in this moment I’d tell you I’m a writer and a dreamer. How do your selves relate? They must know each other because they share memories. The pissed off Rachel seeks the tranquil Rachel. It’s not personality disorders – that’s a whole different issue; and according to this philosophy, everyone would have one. Has the right now Rachel learned anything from the 1 hour ago or 8 months ago Rachel? Have the yous?

In Spanish there are 2 verbs for “to be.” Ser is used for fixed concepts like time and descriptions. Son las 3: It’s 3 o’clock. My dad es Jewish. Soy de North Carolina. Estar is for things that change. The pencil está on the table. The car está broken. What if there was only one verb for both? Everything is changing, everything is fluid, not just time or actions but people and who and how they are. Estoy Rachel rather than soy Rachel because we are always changing. Maybe it sounds like I’m on drugs, and perhaps the Rachel in 2 hours from now will be, but I can’t control that Rachel – I don’t know her yet. This may not make any sense, but it was just something I was thinking about and I thought I’d share. What do yous think?