Early morning, long walks, and a great question
My body might be described as regulated. It wants to get up at the same time each morning, no matter where I am in the world. So, like clockwork, I started releasing the bonds of my dreams around 5 am and by 6 am got up. I had the idea of doing an early morning walk with the phrase “the early bird gets the worm” in my mind. My thinking was that I might get some great bird action in the first hour of light.
What I discovered is that first light isn’t quite enough to get good pictures. It’s also decidedly cool early in the morning.
I walked down to the botanical garden about a kilometre east and then circled back through the wild desert scrub land. I saw a few birds and took a few pictures, but quickly I know that an “early morning” photo adventure needed to wait until the sun was fully up.
My second long walk started closer to 9 am and stretched all the way to 2 pm. I took the desert scrubland path to the short cut to my favourite cappuccino spot near the viewpoint. The thought of the foamy coffee drink with sprinkles of cinnamon is a great motivator.
“How are you friend?” Ask the old gentlemen sitting with his wife on a bench at the viewpoint.
“I am doing fine,” I answered.
He jumped right into a robust conversation like we were old friend. In a short 15 minutes I had Edward’s life story. Raised in Los Angeles in the 1940s, he was an accomplished climber, swimmer and football coach. A tradesman his entire working life he had survived two knee replacements, prostate cancer and open heart surgery. He is now 80. His wife, Mexican and much younger than Edward, is encouraging him to get out and walk.
“I started getting fed up with life in L.A.,” he shared. “I started thinking about where to retire. As I speak fluent Spanish, I considered moving to Spain, but it was too far away. Then I started considering Mexico. Everyone I asked said the same thing. Move to San Miguel.”
After five years, life in San Miguel has been kind to Edward. He doesn’t look 80, more like 20 years younger.
“What is your favourite thing about San Miguel?” Edward asked me.
I think I answered something about the art and the birds, but after saying goodbye and going to my hummingbird watching spot I reflected on the real answer. I went back to share it with him, but he and his wife were already gone. Instead I went down the hill to visit another transplanted good soul from L.A.
As Parque Juarez was situated on the way, I spent a fair bit of time looking for birds before carrying on to the Ted Davis Galleria. Ted was in his office when I arrived to share my story about Edward and the insight he inspired.
“Do you know what my real favourite thing is about San Miguel? It has been the conversations I have had, like the one I had with you. Those I will never forget.”
As we talked, he shared several personal thoughts on what makes San Miguel special.
“Did you know that his town is built on a massive deposit of quartz?”
With the abundance of quartz comes the abundance of positive, life-affirming energy.
“People go to Florida to die; they come to San Miguel to live.”
He told the story of his two elderly dogs that had to bear many hours on an airplane when he moved from the U.S. Virgin Islands to San Miguel. Old, limping and in a lot of pain before the move, within days they sparked back to life and went on to live several more happy years.
“There is something magical about this place. I’m convinced of it.”
I said my goodbyes and carried on through the central square, down the border of Guadalupe to Le Aurora area. I was looking for a particular gallery that we had visited on one of our first days down here, but had failed to find.
I stopped in the gallery of a portrait artist that I quite admire before finding the elusive works of Juan Aragoza. His wife told me that he starts almost every painting with a wash of orange and uses shades of brown to sketch out the subject. The results are some of the most beautiful landscape paintings we have seen representing the natural environment of San Miguel.
“You will see one of his largest works at Le Aurora,” she told me. In fact, it is the first painting you see when you enter the west entrance.
My primary goal is going back to Le Aurora was to visit Alejandro Anaya. It being Thursday, he would likely be watching over the gallery.
“Russell!” he said as I walk in.
“I think I saw you and your wife out walking the other day,” he said. “I couldn’t stop because there was too much traffic, but I turned to my wife and told her that I thought it was you.”
It turns out that Alejandro lives near our little neighbourhood. As we talked, I told his the story of the two big birds that flew over me earlier that morning. As soon as I recalled four white markings under the wings he immediately said that they were likely turkey vultures. He also said that it is super rare to see them so close to the ground.
He shared the he and his wife were married in a little chapel on the hill between Parque Juarez and the viewpoint. The chapel is a great spot to view egrets. He also shared that you can stumble upon flocks of parrots in San Miguel. I have two new objectives for our final few days in the area.
The previous night, Heather and I were sitting in the square across from the parroquia when we both notice a photographer with his telephoto lens pointed in our direction. We tried to act natural to give the fellow what he was looking for but eventually he gave up and starting giving up hand signals, directions for what he wanted us to do. Put your are around her. Give her a kiss. Look at each other. We found ourselves laughing and feeling a little awkward. He came over and showed us the snap he had taken on his camera and kindly offered to send it to us. Frankly, it is one of the best couple shots of us that has ever been taken.
Photo by Crystian Montfort (@montfortphoto on Instagram)