Thursday, 15 April 2010


Today, has been a wonderful day.
First we got to see and talk to our children Angharad and Steffan for free on Scype. Thankfully, they couldn't get to see us. I haven't  managed the visual bit of the technology yet and as I rushed out of the bathroom wearing just a shower cap and towel to answer Angharad's call, it was probably for the best that I haven't.
Secondly, we took a short taxi ride to the Jardin Botanico, called El Charco del Ingenio. It is dedicated to the conservation of nature, especially Mexican Flora. It consists of 220 acres, divided in three zones: the dry chaparral, the canyon and the wetlands.
 We wandered about this beautiful area, admiring different varieties of plants, cactus and succulents.
The cactae are in so many interesting forms. Some have fruit and flowers on the same structure. Some look like groups of Balinese dancers, bodies leaning into each other, their faces fringed with a red and yellow head dress. Others resemble groups of tall guys making high-fives. Others like oblong ancient coins. Others just look like cactus. In the market women de-prickle them so they can be cooked and they are delicious. Others, like the Agave variety are used for their alcohol content in drinks such as tequila.
There are a lot of different types of  trees too. The most common was the Mesquite, particularly attractive to bees, with medicinal virtues and the seed pods are used as animal fodder. Apparently, in the region of San Miguel there is a delicious and nutritous drink called 'atole' also made from the pods. We'll have to look out for it.
We saw many exotic birds,which we later identified in our Audubon bird book as a White-Faced Ibis,The Black-Necked Stilt, the Black Phoebe, Barn Swallows, the Golden Fronted Woodpecker, the Snowy Egret, Kildeer & the magnificent Northern Cardinal, totally scarlet and apparently a newcomer to this area. We saw fluttering yellow butterflies as big as birds, velvety black and turquoise ones and green dragonflies. We even saw two squirrels but they had bigger heads than those at home and sported number 2 haircuts.
There was an area dedicated to 'Rescue Plants,' brought over from Queretaro in 1991 at the time they were building a dam there. They looked like giant green hedgehogs that had been kicked randomly into touch. We wanted to pet them like rescue ponies that had had a hard life and were now in retirement but they weren't responsive.
We didn't see any snakes or lizards. We could have gone into a special exhibition of reptiles in plastic cases but were too mean to pay the extra entry fee.
On our two hour saunter around the gardens we saw only two people, one Gringos and one Mexican. Guess it's different at weekends. The Mexican man was painting posts on the bridge across the lake-once a reservoir for San Miguel de Allende.  The Gringo carried his own fold-up chair. We heard a few children's voices from the depths of the canyon where El Chan, a scary mythical creature with supernatural powers is said to reside in a deep pool that changes colour throughout the year. It is also the source of an original spring that quenced the thirst and watered the needs of San Miguel residents.  It's the place of a sixteenth century mill, a piece of engineering (Ingenio) installed by the Spanish to grind seed and make cloth.
At the Cafe,while sipping fresh orange juice and recovering from the heat we met another Gringo, an artist, Agnes Olive, an American who thought Rhys' accent was Scottish. Her father was from Paisley and she's been living and working here for fourteen years. In her art, sculptures mainly I think, she uses indigenous materials. The Gardens are also a focal point for local ceremonies and rituals. They have rituals at the time of the full moon at the 'Plaza of the Four Winds.' There's a mozaic there inspired by Toltec, Pre-Columbian symbols and a huge cross. The space symbolises the unity of the local communities.  Agnes is involved  in building a huge 'nest' for 'The Day of the Land', an event on the 22nd of April. Its poster symbol is of a pair of clasped hands painted in blue and green like a distorted planet earth. Sadly, this is the day we leave San Miguel. While we sat the excavators were digging out the nest, a hole of about sixty metres in diameter. In the nest she plans to help people make hands of clay and within each pair of hands will be pressed a seed.
Being out in the gardens, with signs telling us about the area, of the damage being done to the environment and the conservation work being done there we felt enormously priveleged to be experiencing such a connection with this land and with its ancient history. It's interesting for me that a two hour walk in these gardens caused me no hip or back pain, only joy and wonder. It's so sad that unless something extraordinary happens to limit climate change our grandchildren may never experience this.  Oh, how I wish we could be there at full moon! This year, one of my projects is to write a poem at every full moon, wherever I am. I've written three so far. Hopefully, the next one will be in Mexico City.

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