February 15, 2022
Hola, buenos dias! I’ve been taking an intense course in Spanish, which I’ll tell you about later in this letter. But I first want tell you about my experience with covid. I’m sure many of you out there have had your own unique experiences, and if you want to write to me about them, please do.
It seems to me I now meet as many people who have had covid as those who have not. Remember in the beginning how rare it was to know someone who had had the virus?
Every day I appreciate how hard the last two years have been for all of us, and because I now live in Mexico, I am seeing how this country and its citizens, including the ex-pats, have lived and dealt with the pandemic.
Most of us, everywhere, have been good soldiers: we buckled up and did our part. But now we are tired, and it’s become hard to remember the way it was — standing close to someone, freely hugging friends and sometimes even total strangers. I could go on, but I don’t have to point these things out to anyone who has been halfway conscious throughout these days and, now, years of adversity.
Many things have changed forever, it seems. Many are good changes, and many are not. One change I would classify as not-so-good, and one I identify with, is the effect covid has had on us isolators. And whether your solitarian case is mild or chronic, the pandemic cemented another good reason for your cherished isolation. It will not be easy when this understandable excuse is no longer a valid one.
We will all eventually be fine — changed forever, but fine. I feel sure of it, I really do.
Someday we will know much more how the pandemic affected our societies. The sad part is it could have brought the world’s population together. But because of corrupt politicians, who saw this tragedy as an opportunity, it regrettably did not. Yes, once again, leave it to humans to do the most selfish and backward-thinking thing.
Mother Nature has no choice now — she gave us a Hail Mary test, and we failed, bigly. She will be the victor in the end; she always has been.
In my last letter, I had just contracted covid, and at that time, I thought I had the proverbial mild case. Well, that was not to be — I was knocked on my ass on the fourth day. I have a suspicion I had delta, not omicron, because it was not only in my upper respiratory tract; it was also in my chest. I was in bed for at least five days, but luckily, I never had a fever. That would have scared the bejesus out of me; it could have meant pneumonia.
I am fortunate to have landed in my neighborhood Los Frailes, in SMA, because my neighbors were fabulous! They grocery-shopped for me, walked my dogs, and one neighbor brought me flowers one day! It was a rough two weeks, but I am pretty much free of the lingering symptoms most people get who had a medium to serious case. I also had a very good friend on the Vineyard (she contracted the virus two weeks before me) to talk to everyday. Her shared experience helped me more than any medical or holistic remedy anybody offered at the time. It took us both a month to get on this side of it, but now we are both good and symptom free.
Until covid was truly behind me and I could go out in public again, I did not realize I had, understandably, been carrying around a good deal of paranoia. Before getting covid, when I left home, in my not-so-deep subconscious, I sensed a stalker — a “virus stalker” — and it was out to get me! It did finally get me, but after I won the battle, there came with the victory a sense of freedom. And even if it’s only a reprieve for a while, it is a welcome freedom. People I know who have recovered completely will tell you that, in the end, they’re glad they got it because they feel relieved to have it over with. This, of course, is only said by those, like me, who lived to tell the tale.
My gray-water irrigation system!
Okay, now what is she up to, you may ask. Well, I did a dumb thing when I bought my Mexican house — I did not bother to ask about the septic system. And having lived on the Vineyard for forty-one years, how could that have not been my first question to the realtor? I have no excuse, none, except I just had to have this place. And when all is said and done, I would have bought it anyway.
The “septic system” was actually just a 5,000-liter cistern that needs to be pumped every so often. This every-so-often deal quickly became a very-often deal. We are getting a sewage system here in Los Frailes in a year or less, so I was not going spend big pesos having a for-real septic system put in my beautiful, pristine courtyard.
What to do, what to do.
Eureka! I will separate my “gray water” from my “black water” and divert the good gray water to my gardens! And that, of course, will mean fewer pump-outs of my cistern.
What is gray water? It is the water you use throughout your house — except your toilet water; that’s called black water. People all over the world use their home’s gray water for their outdoor gardens. I’m not sure how often this system of separating the good water from the bad, and using it in helpful ways, is done in the U.S. There are so many stupid regulations in the States, and I understand why people get upset about it.
Before we began the construction of the gray-water irrigation, I had done quite a bit of reading on the subject. Once I committed to it, I began ordering the biodegradable cleaning products, shampoos, and even toothpaste I would be using for the foreseeable future. I found these incredible little berries called soapberries. They’re about the size of a dried cherry and come in a big box, along with a couple of muslin drawstring bags. You put eight in the little bag and throw it in with the wash. They’re amazing! My laundry is just as clean as it was with all that nasty detergent we use. I got the soapberries on Amazon, by the way. I hate to buy anything from that Penis-Rocket-Man’s business, but we’re kind of stuck with it down here for now. But I love my Amazon delivery man — he stands out in the street in front of house and calls my name when I have a package. Also, it is another good job for a hard-working Mexican.
So, I called my house manager, Oswaldo, who came over with the plumber the next day. I showed him my plan for diverting 85% (at least) of the good wastewater out to my gardens. The trick was finding the PVC pipes in the house. This is an easy thing to do in houses like those in the States, where there is easy access to most plumbing pipes.
But here in Mexico, the pipes are mostly buried in the brick and mortar when the house is built. My plumber, Jacinto, and Oswaldo figured out where they were by running water and listening to the outside walls. Thankfully, they were fairly easy to get to, and we avoided knocking a whole lot of unnecessary holes in the outside walls.
This became a fun project for the three of us. Actually, there were four of us — Pedro, the gardener, had an important role to play. He was the one to dig the irrigation trenches and fill them with stones. He was so funny; he understood what we were doing and happily jumped on board!
I also had a beautiful outdoor shower installed, for several reasons: I love outdoor showers, the gray water from it goes to the opposite side of my courtyard gardens, and it’s the perfect place to bathe Pearl and baby Ruby, who are doing great by the way. Oswaldo and Jacinto had never seen or even heard of an outdoor shower. Now they have!
One of my favorite things in Mexico is that there are very few regulations when it comes to your house. The rule of thumb is “Don’t fuck with your neighbor’s property.” I now have PVC pipes running on the outside of my house (painted the color of the house, of course) and nobody cares. Why should they? I’m not trying to siphon my gray water onto their property. There are many simple freedoms here in my adopted country, like not having to get permission from some power-gone-to-their-head town jerk for every goddamn thing you want to do.
What can I say? Learning a new language is hard at this age, that is one thing I can say, though it’s a good thing to be doing for the obvious reasons. I live here, so I should learn the language, and it’s great for my brain. Well, hell, so is Wordle, for that matter, and it’s easier!
I told my instructor, Patricia, yesterday, “A difficulty for most people my age is word retrieval. But at least with English, I am trying to retrieve the words I’ve used most of my life. Now, learning Spanish, I am trying to retrieve words I just learned and barely even know!”
But it is fun, and the classes are in the most beautiful setting you could dream of — high on a hill overlooking the town of San Miguel de Allende. There are twelve of us, Americans from all over the States. A few are in SMA just to go to the Warren Hardy school — a very famous and go-to place to learn Spanish for English-speaking people. I’m taking the classes with my Vineyard friend Georgette, who is living here for a year or so.
We have two more classes, then there will be a graduation party after the last class. Some students go on to the second level after the first, but I’ll continue my learning with Duolingo classes online, as a friend recommended.
In a few days, I will have finished all my house construction and my crash course in Spanish (for now) and cleared the decks for my true love, writing — one of my reasons for giving up my life on the Vineyard and moving to the wonderful country of Mexico.
Next week, I begin the book I have been chomping at the bit to write (I wrote the prologue last month) and continue to indulge my love of writing screenplays and, of course, my essays and Letters from Lorraine. A few writer friends have suggested my essays could be collected as a book. I am beginning to agree and have ideas for collage artwork similar to my writer’s site homepage to go along with the essays.
I miss the Vineyard, I will miss my store this summer, and of course I miss all of you!
Always your friend,