The list isn’t long. An upholstered chair with enough cushion to sink into and read or knit or gaze out the window at mountains higher than I can climb. An ottoman where I can rest weary feet after walking for miles around this rural Mexican village where I live most of the year. An intricate tapestry rug woven by a friend who uses wool dyed from the leaves of nut trees, wild marigold flowers, dangling moss and the dried bugs picked from prickly pear cactus paddles to adorn a concrete floor the color of earth. This rug is golden, lime green, cherry and peach, patterns form the glyph symbols of an ancient nearby archeological site.
In the distance, church bells ring, a donkey brays, street dogs bark, the beat of a loom is like a drum rhythm, steady, strong and melodic. A cooking fire sends smoke curls to the clear blue sky rippled with white clouds. A hammock on the rooftop terrace welcomes me on winter days when the sun is strong enough to penetrate bones that seek heat. The sun is a blanket of comfort. I wonder lately where I might die and be buried.
Long ago in the growing-up years, there were the straight-backed, cushion-less chairs at the dining table. We escaped quickly after each meal. There was a two-seater sofa opposite the dining table, upholstered in rough, gray plaid cloth designed to repel spills. Five of us competed to get there first but mother and dad had proprietary rights.
It was the carpeted floor in the empty living room where we stretched out on our bellies to compute arithmetic and later algebra, spell words, conjugate verbs, make papier-mâché animals and carve cane that would become oboe reeds.
The carpet was wall-to-wall gold wool, sculpted with scrolls and flowers. I remember tracing my fingers across its hills and valleys, a bas-relief of loops, feeling its luxury. It cost a year’s salary and as soon as it was installed, my mother quit her job as a secretary, never to return.
In the cupboard were mismatched dishes and glassware. Sometimes, tableware was pieced together from redeemed Green Stamps books, the taste of that paste still on my tongue. Few came to visit or stay for dinner. Outings to FEDCO, where public school teachers got free membership, yielded discounts our father loved. Mother preferred gourmet fare long before the word became part of the lexicon. Our father’s meager salary provided for a well-stocked refrigerator but no place to sit.
What I have is rooted in who I am and who I didn’t want to become. The small comforts, the cozy chair, a pillow-backed sofa, bed draped in down comforter, refrigerator filled with fresh, local vegetables sold at the daily village market, Talavera vase filled with fragrant lilies, a home filled with the laughter of friends, give me comfort. It’s more than enough.
Norma Hawthorne writes and photographs from a small indigenous Oaxaca, Mexico village where she lives most of the year. Her blog, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC (http://oaxacaculture.com), offers commentary, arts workshops and a July 2015 Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat. Her home base in the U.S.A. is Graham, North Carolina. Norma’s work, “In the Eyes of Mother,” can be found in Issue 4: Mothers.