Saturday, December 27, 2008

“Joy in My World”

Christmas in tropical Chacala looked like it was going to come and go without any of that “Spirit” that we equate with the season. Little did I know. On Christmas Day evening, I walked to the new Chacala Cultural Center— a little place with a big name and a big idea—and joined 100 locals and visitors for an evening “concert.”

When we arrived, a bit early for the concert, we learned we had just missed Santa Claus. A visitor had brought his outfit and enough presents for a huge passel of kids. Someone had contracted one of those uniquely rural cars with the loudspeakers to go through town announcing the event in Spanish, so lots of kids showed up for Santa! I was disappointed I missed it. The story I heard about it tonight was great. It sounded like it was an experience of a lifetime for many of the kids.

As the concert crowd gathered, it was fun to know and greet so many people I have come to know and love here, both local Mexicans from the village and gringo guests who have discovered and fallen in love with Chacala. The outdoor back yard of the Center was decorated with colored lights winkling on the fences, a little stage (was that the cover for the old septic?) with lights and microphones, and rows of chairs on both sides. An actual sound system was ready, crackling in pure local style, and beer and wine was being served in the back. Donations were accepted for the Center (it needs a bathroom! Hey, if you want to help, send a donation to my office in Santa Rosa, CA, and we’ll make sure it gets here).

I have no idea where 100 people came from in this little town. As we settled down, Rudy and Sandie began their first song, and I realized we were in for a treat. They sang for an hour, sweet songs, some rockers, original songs, some spiritual reminders, and Rudy brought out his Johnny Cash. The audience appreciation was clear. Nothing awesome happened, no records were broken, and no autographs were collected, as far as I know.

At the end, simple candles were passed out, and as we lit them, we began to sing Silent Night together, followed by the more up-tempo “Feliz Navidad.” As the final chords faded into the balmy night air, I realized that I was sitting in a plastic chair in a funky yard in a little (some have said primitive) village with a crowd of not-necessarily-like-minded souls a long way from “home” — and was experiencing pure unmitigated unquestionable JOY.

There was nowhere else on this planet I wanted to be and nobody else I wanted to be with, but right there, with those people, right then in that moment. I was content, I was happy, and I was feeling joy.

I still am.

Merry Christmas to us, and the joy in us, every day.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Life in the Slow Lane

From Chacala, Nayarít, Mexico

I was working on the internet as usual in the morning yesterday. As the day progressed, I knew when I would take a break, do my beach walk, buy some fruit, and stop to see if the woman at the trinket stand found any good yarn paintings for me in Tepic. I had a plan.

Earlier than the plan called for, a niggling feeling started that wanted me to leave the house. I recognized it as one of those possibilities that Life offers for adventure, so I let go of my project in progress and prepared to leave. Then, more e-mail came, a house detail was crying out, and time went by.

I was aware of a voice telling me I was blowing Life’s invitation, but I let it be, and continued to do what I was doing. In time, I walked out the door, in the flow, wondering what to expect. I have tenants in an upstairs unit here that are here from the previous owner. They are an architect and engineer working at a subdivision of villas behind “The Gate” at Marina Chacala. It was Saturday, and they were preparing to leave to be with their families in another town.

They were waiting for someone to arrive with their door key, so we had a chance to chat a bit for the first time. I asked them if they knew an English-speaking expert that might consult with me about some drainage problems in my back yard. The new neighbor has changed the grade of his lot, and now there is no place for the summer rain (deluges) to drain out of my yard.

After I showed one of them the situation, he said, When would be a good day? What? A good day to bring a machine in here, clean out the dead trees and trash, and then bring in the fill dirt you need? Er. . .uh. . .Tuesday? OK, we’ll be here.

A gift.

The key arrived, and they left to be with their families. And I stood in amazement. And simple gratitude to Life.

I thought, No point in stopping now. I walked into town, and my future neighbor was sitting on the stoop of his store enjoying a beer. I walked past, said Hello (well, Hola, actually), went about twenty feet (well, seven meters, actually) and Life tapped me on the shoulder. Ahem!

Oh! I went back, and we began our first real conversation, talking about his family, his building plans, my drainage, and more. He suggested that now would be a good time to bring in trucks of fill, before he starts building next month, so the trucks can cross his property to get to my back yard. I smiled and said “Tuesday.”

He gave me a tour of the very beautiful home he built above his store, which he intends to rent to Chacala visitors after we are neighbors. I left knowing that everything was in place as it should be in the universe.

The beach walk was great, even if it was ahead of schedule! And the two Huichol and Tepehuano yarn paintings were gorgeous, so I brought them home to grace my walls.

: In Santa Rosa, CA, if Life niggled me to walk outside, I would usually find an empty street because everyone would be somewhere else. So I would walk to my neighborhood Community Market, say Hello, and buy some chocolate. I like this better. However! Life does not care about location, only realtors do. Life is here, as us, always saying Ahem! to us through our bodies. I am grateful for this lifestyle that is slow enough and flexible enough that I get to listen.

Thank you, LIFE!

Now, back to that project.


Susana from Casa Pacifica just dropped by to let me know her breakfast restaurant, Mauna Kea, opens tomorrow on her rooftop overlooking Chacalilla beach, the ocean, and the whales. She will have great “American” breakfasts, wireless access and phones for those addicted, and flyers, maps, and event information for new visitors to Chacala. Photos to follow—after my first breakfast!

PS: Susana is looking for someone who wants to take over the restaurant. There is a living space on the roof, too. Ready for a new life?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

CHACALA: Where I Am and Why I’m Here

I first broke through my fear and resistance about traveling in Mexico sometime back in the early 1980’s. Where I grew up in Southern California there were angry young people from Mexico, and I was afraid of them. I surely did not want to go where there was a whole country full. Wow, was I wrong!

A Spanish speaking girlfriend convinced me to go, and a friend who was living in the state of Nayarít, on the west coast of Mexico, insisted we come visit. The train ride down and the time in the coastal village was the beginning of a life-long love affair with this country and its people.

After many years of vacationing in the beach towns of the west coast of Mexico, and one six-month stay, I met don Miguel Ruiz, Toltec author of The Four Agreements and other books (1995). My long apprenticeship with him meant many journeys to sacred sites throughout Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras. During that time all my travel was devoted to my work with don Miguel, and I missed my beach vacations.

During a six-month stay in Santa Cruz, Nayarít, in 1990, I bought a parcel of land, dreaming of creating a retreat center there. Because of my travels with don Miguel, and my focus on my work at home, the land came and went from my awareness and care for many years. In 2003 and 2005 I added small parcels to the land, and in the last few years began planning for the future. We have been planting trees again, adding many banana varieties, irrigating, and generally improving the land.

In the winter of 2007-2008, I was free enough to “risk” moving to Mexico for the winter. Santa Cruz is a bit isolated and lacks some of the amenities and social possibilities I needed, so I rented a house in Chacala, an hour closer to Puerto Vallarta. I used to say “I can’t move to Mexico until they have high speed internet access.” Well, it is here! I can work from “home.”

Three days before I was to return to California in March of 2008, someone offered to sell me their house in Chacala, and I accepted the offer with gratitude. I returned to Chacala in November 2008, and began painting and upgrading my new house. I love being back in Chacala. The new house has two vacation rental units upstairs—and I look forward to making them available to like-minded visitors. Right now I am living in one, and renting the other long-term, while I bring possibilities to life in the main house downstairs. Check here often to find out availability.

There is a beautiful half-mile beach here, with very few people on it most days

Chacala is a fishing village, so the palapa restaurants on the beach serve fresh fish and shrimp every day (and a cold beer or two if you are so inclined). The streets are not paved, and roosters are the main wildlife.

There are many wonderful small places to stay (and even a larger hotel or two) scattered throughout the village. A program called “Techos” (= roofs) has enabled local landladies to add a second story to their houses, with kitchens and often an outdoor patio. They rent for $45 and up per night.

Chacala is 90 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta, on Mexico’s west coast. It is part of the new “Riviera Nayarít,” a tourist designation recently created by the government. It seems unfortunate that development may come soon and without much vision for its impact on the community, its way of life, its economy, and its future. These things can best be evaluated in hindsight, so I will wait!

But I invite you not to wait to explore and experience Chacala, a jewel of laid back Mexican culture and environment. Be warned, there is no parasailing here, no discos, and no party animals at foam raves—simply a beautiful beach, with gentle surf and the sweet sun, palm trees, and a community of warm and happy people who welcome you to share and enjoy their way of life. We hope you will join us soon.

I invite and welcome dreamers, visionaries, visitors, investors, and hard workers who feel inspired to join me in this dream of now and the future—La Casa de las Aguilas, the House of the Eagles.


My First Night in Chacala- a story about no stories


For those of you following my adventures
, and my dream, here is the end of this traveling part of the saga.

After an exciting and boring five-day drive from home in northern California, I arrived in Chacala, Nayarit, in the late afternoon of Friday. What a relief to be out of the truck, to be "home" in Chacala, and especially to be able to move into my new house here.

Local people showed up to help me move all the boxes into the house, some downstairs, some up to the vacation rental unit where I will be living until the main house downstairs is improved, furnished and beautified.

It was getting dark by the time we finished, so I walked into "town" to welcome myself to Chacala. It was a warm and balmy evening-- just the way I like them. After saying Hello, I stopped by Las Brisas, wiggled a plastic chair into the sand, and ordered a real margarita to celebrate. The half-moon was hanging overhead, the moonlight was glistening on the gentle surf, and there was nowhere else in the world I wanted to be.
About the time I finished the margarita, I became aware of the word "Teotihuacan" drifting on the tropical air, and turned to discover a couple, his brother, and their two little kids at a table behind me. The brother had just been at Teo, and was describing his visit.

Of course I had to say: "Excuse me, but you just said my Magic Word." They invited me to join them, and we shared our stories. Suddenly, one of them said, "Hey, you must be the guy that wrote the book on Toltec Wisdom that is in the room we are staying in here!"

Yup. I knew I was home!

After we parted company, I slowly walked back to my room to sleep. The moon was bright, the air was so very soft, and I was in no hurry. I turned the key in the door lock and went around and around and around. The lock had broken. I couldn't get into my room.

As I stood there comprehending my circumstances, mildly buzzed on the tropics, I noticed that I was not telling myself any stories about my situation-- there was only curiosity about what Life would offer next. I liked that. And so, of course, I turned the key around and around again!

I walked downstairs and into the street, and thought: "OK, Life, show me." I turned right. I strolled. When I got to Antonia's, I knew she might be a source of a bed for the night in one of her rentals. She wasn't home. So, I walked a few more blocks, bought a bottle of water, came back, and waited in the dark.

When Antonia came home she was happy to see me, and I was happy to see her. She offered me a bed in a little unit, and as she moved the plastic chairs out of the from doorway with no door (it was in town being painted) she said: "Thank goodness there aren't any thieves in Chacala." It was hot, and I slept.

In the morning, the former owner of my house, borrowed a big rickety ladder next door, climbed into the vack patio of my carefully locked room, opened the door, and replaced the lock for me.

Later in the day, I noticed gazillions of tiny little ants streaming across the bed. I followed them until I found their secret lair-- under the mattress! If I had slept in that bed the nigh before, it would have been very interesting. "Man's Tropical Dream House Becomes Nightmare!"

Now, all is well.

Thank You, Life.