Island Life: A Mexican Addiction

In the early 1990’s my husband Lynn and I vacationed in various Mexican locations; then discovered Isla Mujeres and are now hooked on island life. This Mexican addiction is not about heroin and cocaine, drug lords and border patrols – it is far more subtle, seductive. This addiction slows the pulse, then the pace – heals, unlike its evil cousin.

I call Isla Mujeres the poor man’s island. Tourists, like us are frugal, not seeking the glitz and glamour of resorts and nightlife, which one can find in Cancún, Mazatlán, or Puerto Vallarta.

Lack of choices simplifies our time in Mexico. For over two decades vacationing at least once a year in Mexico, our lives in Iowa (and now Texas) have changed and so have we. Our reason for returning each year changed. The island changed as well, but at a plodding velocity – just as we wanted it.

I have written about how Isla Mujeres became our home-away-from-home and how our relationship to the island and its people changed over time.

~~~

You can find many website by searching for Isla Mujeres, Mexico, but for some of my specialized links to Isla Mujeres, to people whose services I use while there, and/or artisans who portray the island, see the following:

Carol Loiselle, artist at http://islaimpressions.com

Map Chick at http://www.mapchick.com/isla-mujeres-map/ 

Meg Declerck, yoga instructor extraordinaire, offers sessions at Elements of the Island and at her studio, The Red Buddha. Find her at http://www.islamujeresyoga.com/Isla_Mujeres_Yoga/Menu.html

Penny D. Burnham, writer of Jaded Diamond: A Journey Out of the Darness and Into the Light, a novel based on Isla Mujeres, find the book on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Jaded-Diamond-journey-darkness-light/dp/1927635004/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1403368710&sr=1-1&keywords=Jaded+Diamond%3A+A+journey+out+of+the+darkness+and+into+the+Light

Nirit Ben-David at Roots Clinic for acupuncture, shiatsu, and reiki: email her at rootsclinic@gmail.com or call at (044) 998-105-5610

An annual women’s conference, We Move Forward, is held each March on the island, find out more at: http://www.wemoveforward.com

 

 

~~~

In early February 1991, my husband Lynn and I fly into Cancun for the first time ever and file from the plane in a damp, though rainless twilight, across the tarmac and into the international terminal. Mexican immigration officials herded us through queues to immigration booths, which remind me of Dad corralling cattle through chutes into his truck. When we emerge from Immigration to Ground Transportation, the taxi drivers attack from several directions, barking offers simultaneously.

One approaches, “Where you want to go?”

Another says, “Where to, señor? I take you there. Fast!”

One driver takes my bag and wheels it away, while another one grabs Lynn’s bags and heads in the other direction. Lynn and I glance at each other startled, and run after our departing bags. We retrieve them from the greedy grasp of competitors.

In control of our luggage, Lynn asks another, “¿Cuanto cuesta?… to Puerto Juarez?”

“Sixty dollars.”

“No! Highway robbery!” we turn and run into another hungry hawker.

Surrounded by stalking wolves, we walk away, confident we will find a better price. Some drop off to attack other tourists, while the remainder persist and compete. The price hangs on the forty-dollar mark.

I insist that we settle; Lynn, deflated, gives in. I peel two twenties from my wallet, while Lynn mutters, “I thought Jesse James lived last century, not this one.”

Our driver speeds out of the airport and onto the highway where red taxis vie for the road. We white-knuckle it to the puerto. We drop into ferry seats and watch the lights of Cancun fade. The wind is strong; the water, choppy. The aging, wooden ferryboat grumbles and groans in the channel between Cancun and Isla Mujeres until the lights of the island emerge and we dock.

We employ an old gentleman with a large tricycle and rickety attached baggage rack. We follow closely, not knowing our destination. The streets are pockmarked and uneven, so six blocks feel like a mile. We trot behind the old gentleman, who leisurely peddles our load of luggage. The next street becomes cobblestoned, and then it T’s and turns to a dirt road. There are no streetlights, but a single light hangs from a building in the distant dark.

This lonely, dark path puts us on edge. Our daypacks get heavier, as we limp along. We wonder what intentions this man has for us; and whether we have left the stress of work behind or simply brought different anxieties with us.

Happily, under that single light bulb sits the clerk for the Maria Del Mar Hotel. He has our reservations. I lick my salty sea-mist-covered lips as the clerk hands me our singular key. When we ready ourselves for bed, we open the windows to the gentle slapping of the surf as we fall wearily into bed to sleep by that ancient, rhythmic timepiece.

~~~

It is not until morning that we glimpse the ocean we could only taste and hear last night. Today is shining white sand and bewitching sun. We flop on the beach and do not venture far for the first few days. No phones, mail or meetings, no evidence of work. The hot sun thaws the Iowa winter cold in our bones; the sand offers just enough exercise and the water beckons for a gentle swim. This is sufficient to satisfy us.

The view is spectacular in more ways than expected. Golden brown, bronzed and lobster red bodies relax on the beach, some topless. How did we overlook this point of interest in the guidebooks? Lynn is sneaking peaks for the enjoyment and I from jealousy – synthetic swimsuits are sweaty and miserably uncomfortable to me.

Lynn makes an acquaintance with a beach vendor, who was once a farmer in Chiapas, but could not provide for his family there. He moved to Cancun then Isla Mujeres to sell beaded jewelry on the beach. His native language, a Mayan Indian dialect, required him to learn Spanish first to survive; then English and a little German. Lynn asks, if he had to learn Japanese. He says, “Saben que los números.  Yo escribo en la arena.” “They know numbers. I write in the sand.” It turns out he sent three kids to college by selling his wares on the island.

The beach merchants that captivate my curiosity are Mayan women, carrying their babies swaddled in a sling in front of them. Each woman balances her inventory of headbands on a crown atop her head. She carries another sling of fabric on her back filled with wicker baskets or serapes. She drapes each arm with her stock of purses, necklaces, and bracelets. They each wear long, black woolen skirts and often even long-sleeve blouses. These women may never have felt the breeze on their bodies; maybe they don’t miss it. Is it resignation or resilience that keeps these women working under these conditions?

(See Carol Loiselle’s paintings of the island and especially her Mayan women in full dress at http://islaimpressions.com.)

Our week is withering away from us too quickly. Lynn mentions how his shoulders just seem to have dropped an inch – the muscles in his neck melting. Hmm, I feel my body melt like a Popsicle, puddling in the sand. Island life is working its magic deep in the fibers of our bodies.

While I read, I sense the rhythm of the surf and unconsciously match it with each inhale and exhale. My breathing slows and joins the metered time of the surf–with the repetitive sloshing of water ashore and breaking as it meets an invisible line of gravity. Moreover, while my breathing discovers a newfound timing, my eyes burn, and eyelids drop slowly. I fight to finish a chapter; but the ebb and flow creates surrender deep inside me.

The book drops from my grasp, lays across my chest, and my head slumps. My breath becomes one with the island, with the surf, with the air itself. It is as if I am floating, bobbing with each new wave – inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale – more slowly now in time with the ocean. I become sea creature restored by the Caribbean. In this moment, I have everything I need: breath, air, water, and time – rejuvenation.

~~~

During our second trip to the island, we investigate several boat tours that exist. We select the island’s iconic captain and the Contoy Island tour, the bird island known for one-hundred types of birds that migrate each year. We drop anchor and snorkel in route to Contoy. Snorkeling is something that I must re-learn each time.

I hyperventilate shortly until I regulate my breathing – a steady rhythm that is unnatural through a mouth tube. I paddle my feet in slow motion with arms at my sides enjoying the fanciful, Disney-like excursion without the price tag.

I join the sashaying schools of four-eyed butterfly at my own speed, along with the sergeant major fish. I trail the iridescent parrotfish moseying around the coral reef, observing the shifting light’s effect on its color. The opaque bottlenose fish on the surface startles me when we meet eye-to-eye. I hunt for an elusive starfish painted on the sand in bold relief, sometimes motionless, sometimes sprinting.

After I acquire that relaxed breathing, it takes an act of God to get me out of the water. As a Pisces, I wonder if I was water creature in another lifetime. I leave the water exhilarated and then find my mammal-self spent beyond my limits.

On Contoy, the boat captain grills a fresh white fish, while we explore. Surprisingly and sadly, at this time, the birds are absent – perhaps visiting another island, I guess. Iguanas entertain us, but are not the expected feature. (This is not the typical experience of visitors, I learn over the years.)

The Captain serves the fish with rice, grilled vegetables, salsa and tortillas on an aged wooden slab. Food tastes better cooked and eaten outside, especially when hungry from swimming and hiking. Revived and re-energized, we snorkel again on the return trip.

~~~

Over the years on the island we explore the island and its villages in the southern parts of the island, acquaint ourselves with its residents and their culture. El Centro, the town square, serves as the hub of community life. The San Francisco is the local grocery market at El Centro in the 1990s. Locals call it their super mercado, but it reminds me of the cozy Piggly Wiggly where I grew up thirty-five years ago in northeast Arkansas – not very super by today’s standards. We acquire our supplies, as the San Francisco spews folks in and out, all day long.

The Catholic Church across the square from the super mercado does the same on Saturday night, Sunday morning, and for weddings, baptisms, and special services. The basketball court just outside the church attracts games or simply children shooting hoops at all hours of the day and night. The sound of a basketball dribbled or breaking from a missed shot off the backboard does not disturb those attending mass, any more than the whispering or talking by tourists at the entry of the church. The sounds of life provide a backdrop to church services. These reverberations remind us that church should sit in the very heart of community life.

Sunday night in Mexico is family night. Locals arrive at El Centro to see and be seen. Everyone from grandmamma and grandpapa to bebe is there. Toddlers waddle; little girls parade; boys run in packs; pre-teen girls learn to walk in heels (clack, clack, clack, like walking on stilts); while teens court in public. I love the prissy little girls. Mamas dress them in pink or yellow lace dresses with cancan suspending the lace in air to reveal matching panties; white lace anklets topping black-patent Mary Janes. One little girl’s ensemble seems not quite right – below her pastel frills and lace she wears thick, flat-black, combat-style shoes.

Sunday nights we join the throngs to observe a microcosm of life in one square block.

~~~

Hot, windy, thinks the fisherman of the warm air of the New Year. The catch of the day delivered, and fish enough to take home. He smiles thinking of home.

Midnight is near and home is far from here. He and his boy are the only ones to hear the last ferry to Isla Mujeres pull away from Cancún, and then silence claims the dock. Moments later the voices of frustration tumble from arriving taxis. To the man and boy it is only clatter, the agitation wafts on the breeze, disregarded. Without fully understanding the English words, the fisherman and boy know these gringos have missed the last ferry of the night.

Then a silence fills the late night breeze again, while the absence of the disappearing ferry makes the gringos wonder what to do. It isn’t long until, the chatter reclaims the empty dock. It comes haltingly, one voice at a time until it reaches a crescendo of unleashed frustration. The fisherman, ready to depart for home, hears the ruckus, as if from a distance over the channel wind and over waves breaking on shore.

He dreams of his wife’s arms, her joy over the surplus from today’s catch, the smell of warm tortillas awaiting him. He longs for the tiny arms wrapped around his legs, both little chicas claiming his attention. He struggles to pull his eyes in the direction of the man shouting, “Señor, por favor, can you help us?”

The boy, more curious, runs to his papá. Their world goes unnoticed to the turistas most days. But there is pleading in the man’s voice for his papá, which is excitement in this boy’s usual day. He is eager to learn of the request.

They, the turistas, have come on this moon-filled night to ask his papá to ferry them in his fishing boat to Isla Mujeres, their final destination. His papá needs to go home for more reasons than one. The boy is hungry, but curiosity is greater. His papá would have ignored the turistas, he would have played the “I don’t understand” card; but his boy insists that he respond. Wearily, papá calculates the risks and the reward.

~~~

One traveler finds words, “I can’t believe it. Six hours late, never thought we could be this late.”

Another gentleman takes charge, “I’m going to ask the fisherman to take me across. Anybody else want a ride?”

Eight of us huddle there undecided. Puerto Juarez ferry dock sets in an undesirable part of Cancún , not the kind of place one wants to spend a night, even a short one.

“You got to be crazy–on this channel, in the dark?”

“Well, it’s either the channel or a bedroom across the street. The channel seems safer to me.”

“I’m in,” says one tourist.

Lynn and I look at each and agree without words to this calculated risk. We nod to the idea guy. “We’ll go, too.”

The man takes off and returns with the fisherman and a young boy about twelve.

“He says he’ll take us.”

“What will it cost?” one woman asks our guy, then quickly turns to the fisherman and says, “Cuánto?”

Diez.”

“Pesos or dollars?”

Dólares.” The fisherman understands the English word, I suspect, but chooses not to use it. We know enough Spanish to negotiate.

“Per person or couple?” Lynn asks.

Por persona.”

The deal is set for eight of us.

The fisherman just made the best catch of the day, eighty bucks.

The man and his son load our luggage. Then they welcome us aboard, hand outstretched to steady our entrance to the boat.

He cranks the motor, one, two, three, four, five, on the sixth draw the engine turns over. We might just make it. The fisherman offers a hand-held flood light to the boy and points to the front. The boy takes his station at the bow, stands as tall as he can, points the light above his head on the water, and then nods to his papá . We back out, turn around, and head for the dimly lit horizon.

The evening tide breaking on shore now lifts the boat on each wave and then lowers the boat with a slap on the water. It is clear our bags will not be dry when we land. As the boat gains speed, and enters the channel, the swells gain momentum and then we level out a bit; but with the rise and fall of each successive wave we experience the slap, bounce, and splash sequence all the way to our destination. A rhythm takes over, lulling me, if not for the intermittent surprising spray.

We, the eight of us, line the bench seats of the boat sitting above our luggage or someone else’s, lean back and steady ourselves by grasping the rail behind us facing the bow, allowing the sea breeze to blow the weariness of waiting and then hurrying right through us. The sea spray bathes us in salt water, collecting on our faces. I lick salt from my lips and wish for Chapstick. But I know digging in my pocket right now can be hazardous to what little balance I hold.

The boy wavers from side to side but keeps the light on the water, while his papá steers and adjusts the speed as needed. We can’t talk over the motor and the water, so we each retreat into our own thoughts, intent on staying in the boat and off the lap of the stranger next to us.

Momentarily I am mesmerized, adrift on an open ocean illuminated by a full moon. The evening sea air is cool, cooler with the sea mist. The water tonight is murky ink, a place for creatures only imagined. The wind cleanses me from the tiredness of schedules, deadlines, and expectations of myself and others. This wet womb assures me of comfort and ease if only for a short while.

I like the idea of “while”–it offers space and time away from everyday mundane things. This vessel, lifted and plummeted by the swells of the Caribbean abyss, rocks me as a baby and I am ready for bed anyway, when…

We see the lights of the ferry returning from the island to dock in Cancún for the night, creating a substantial wake, as it plows the midnight waters. Can he see us? Is he watching for a fisherman’s boat full of disappointed travelers? We can’t be sure.

Papá yells at the boy. He does not hear, so one of the passengers pulls on his shirttail to get his attention. Papá motions for the boy to swing the lantern widely. He slings the light as big as possible without losing his balance, as another passenger helps stabilize the young boy. Papá veers the boat out as far as he can with the direction of the waves dictating just how far but maybe not far enough.

The ferry is bearing down on us. Wide eyed, we wait breathlessly. The distance closes between our tiny boat and the bigger ferry. And the ferry steers slightly, just enough. The swells rush our boat. It heaves and lands with a dull jolt, not once but successively until it claims each wave of the wake the ferry leaves behind. Now the lights of Isla Mujeres beckon us welcome.

Alas, I am no longer afraid, yet the journey is not yet over. Vigilance, still necessary. My teeth begin to chatter softly. I smile at myself, wondering if this reaction is to cold and wet or fear and trepidation.

Perhaps it is delight.

Delight that we dodged the impending ferry. Delight that we might still make it to the island. Delight to explore the channel by moonlight, unintended though the trip has been. Delight that soon the frazzled feeling from home and work will be washed out to sea.

Relieved, we arrive. Bodies and clothes are soaked, as is our luggage. Bodies and clothes will dry tonight, but luggage and contents will take days. We have all we need on the island, both time and sun.

(The anthology, Cuivre River VI, published by Saturday Writers selected this story, “Midnight Jaunt” for their 10th Anniversary Edition in 2012. You may note that the first part of the story from the fisherman’s and boy’s perspective is fiction. The rest of the story is memoir.)

~~~

 (The midnight jaunt inspired a poem from me later.)

Island Choices

As we ride the tide, ferried in a fishing boat,
The isle of stone maidens winks in the distance.
While the midnight big dipper ladles a pledge of idle time,
Gusts of wind drive tired thinking aside.

Sun rays pierce my body with welcomed warmth.
Palm trees and sea breezes, with no intent to please,
Shade and cool me from that midday heat.
Mañana, tomorrow, I’ll swim with a school of fish–
The only learning I need.

The lighthouse on shore releases a rhythm of
Slow, repetitive light each night.
And siesta sleep feeds my spent self.
Déjàvu, a view of the same day, every day.

Cerrado, closed for siesta.
Cerrado, closed till eight o’clock.
Cerrado, closed until mañana.
No sign at all, just closed.

Island choices: slim, but sufficient.

~~~

 

Mayans, who came to harvest salt from the salt lagoons, first inhabited Isla Mujeres. They built a sanctuary, which still stands on Punta Sur, South Point (though damaged by Hurricane Wilma) for their goddess, Ixchel, and her daughters; and erected stone idols of women clothed only from the waist down as Mayan women dressed at the time. When the Spaniard Francisco Hernandez de Cordova sailed from Cuba to the island to procure slaves for Cuban mines, he named the island after the stone idols he discovered, Isla Mujeres, Isle of Women.

Before Cancun became a tourist destination, older residents of the island recall years ago, when tourists would hail the attention of islanders from what is now Puerto Juarez in Cancun. Fishermen or their sons would venture over the channel to pick up the wistful wayfarers in their small fishing boats – just like the one on which Lynn and I risked a midnight trip.

Today the island has come to feel more like a second home for me, than tourist destination. One year upon arrival, we go to the Bistro Françoise for breakfast. The owner placed a menu in front of us and asked, “Cafe?” We reply, “Si, señor, por favor.” He returned with our coffee on a tray. He placed a cup at my elbow and one in front of Lynn, and then set the pitcher of la crema on my right. He recalled how we ordered our café from previous years. It feels more as if we are locals at the neighborhood coffee shop, than tourists thousands of miles away.

~~~

Next year upon arrival, the sea salty air triggers an automatic response – a sense of that holy-leisure of mañana time. There is no hurry to get rid of the stress, so we unwind at the pace of the island. Even the local ship captain, enterprising businessman that he is, will take time from his repair work on a boat motor to discuss with locals or tourists the weather or the local economy evident this year by the increase or decrease of tourists.

Days in Mexico seem long and languorous, time for everything we want to do today. Of course, our To-Do list is short. Nights seem just as long—long enough for a refreshing sleep after a hard day’s work sunning ourselves. I feel the stress from home leisurely melting away.

As an adventurer once upon a time, I am shifting to a comfort-seeking creature. Though travel to our island is easier than some travel, I find distractions and distresses.

My feet complain of the uneven, cobble-stoned streets that require more muscle action that our level sidewalks at home. I have to pay attention to where I am walking for fear of stumbling, landing myself at the clinic.

Then there are the steep and irregular steps up three flights to our room this year that creates a tender Achilles tendon within twenty-four hours. (On the upside, these stairs do remarkable things for slimming hips and thighs.)

I sleep restlessly from platform beds in some places, set with a box spring foundation, instead of a mattress — and without a mattress pad in some hotels.

The pain syndrome, fibromyalgia, has also taught me the necessity of taking control of my comfort during travel.

I now travel with my flat feather pillow that serves as butt cushion when doubled on pre-fabricated airport chairs, or as back or neck support when rolled on plane seats. I prefer my temperature temperate, so I carry a lightweight throw for warmth and a fan to cool me when an airplane sits on the tarmac with the air conditioning off. I intend never to be hungry or thirsty, so I do not leave home without nuts, chocolate, fruit, and a water bottle to fill after going through security.

With years of experienced packing, I can carry everything I need for two weeks in a backpack and a roll-on suitcase. I have devolved from adventurer to reluctant traveler, but I am not ready to quit trekking just yet.

~~~

Another time, another year, as often we do, we leave our beach bags on the beach and walk the shallow water out to swimming depths with our snorkel gear in hand. While snorkeling in deeper waters, I look up to locate Lynn’s snorkel. I see him walking the shallow water back to the beach.

I yell—no answer. I swim, stop, and yell again—still no reply. I can see he drags himself through the water, pushing but struggling. I rip my gear off and yell louder. Lynn turns, says something I cannot fully hear; but I discern distress.

I catch up to him as he approaches our pile of stuff on the beach. Doubled over and carrying his hand, he forges ahead. He drops his snorkel with our other belongings. I load it all; water bottles and gear into beach bags with towels; both shoulders and arms are full. I stagger and stumble to keep up.

“What happened?” I ask him to his back.

He says over his shoulder to me, “Don’t know. Something’s got me. Gotta get to the hospital.” We know the way; it is just blocks from the beach.

“How bad is it?”

“BAD. Hope I can make it.” He shoulders stoop; he drags his feet through the sand.

He veers in the direction of a fishing boat anchored on the beach. He shows his hand to the fisherman on the beach, as I approach. I can now see it is double the normal size.

A fisherman looks and says, “Yes, yes, guitarrita. Hurt, hurt bad. Not kill you.”

That is enough to keep Lynn going. The hospital, just four blocks up the street, is a long haul when one is in pain. My load slows me down, so I stop to catch my breath.

Lynn reaches the ER ahead of me. He is pacing, holding the hand, rocking back and forth, and crying.

The nurses assess the situation and talk among themselves in Spanish. To Lynn I say, “I’m going to get someone who can speak English.”

“Just hurry. Hurry!”

I race to the Francis Arlene Hotel back down the street, where we have stayed several years before. Jerry, one of the owners, looks up and smiles, “Hi, I …” He sees my face.

“Jerry, Lynn’s hurt. At the hospital.”

Jerry drops the pen in his hand, circles the desk, “I’m coming. I’m coming.”

I am crying because I feel so helpless. Jerry pats my back, “It’s OK. It will be OK.”

“I know, but there’s no one, no one to speak English. We don’t know what happened.”

When Jerry and I arrive, a young man with a white coat has already diagnosed the situation. The doctor smiles and in perfect English with a Spanish accent says, “He’ll be fine. We know this guitarrita, a type of stingray. The sting is very painful, but he will be alright by tomorrow.”

I am embarrassed I have cried false alarm to Jerry, but he reassures me he is happy to help and leaves quietly.

I tell the doctor, “I haven’t seen my husband in this much pain since I closed his fingers in a door jamb years ago.”

The doctor explains, “That was nothing compared to this.”

After almost two hours of treatments in a simple, unsophisticated Emergency Room, Lynn walks back to the room alone and I wait to pay the bill. I am fearful I will be overcharged.

While I wait, I see a list posted in Spanish of services and treatments with prices in pesos. I have time enough to loosely translate and estimate that the doctor evaluated him and he had two kinds of injections. I total those costs and within $4.00 USD of being correct. The total cost of the time in the ER and my run to the farmacia came to only $28.00 USD.

~~~

This is the year we had planned for Lynn to stay and me to return to Iowa without him. He has more vacation time and wants to explore added time on the island to see if he wants to spend part of his retirement here. I am all for him doing this, but it is more difficult now after his accident.

I return home to dropping temps, falling snow and more to come. Though I’m disheartened to have to shovel snow twice a day and walk the dog, I’m still content that Lynn is “practicing” retirement living to see if it fits him. I’m betting it does.

~~~

During the two decades we have been part-time residents, the city paved streets one by one, sometimes taking three years to complete; dug up old sewer lines and installed new ones. A city Mayor installed a fountain with dancing lights in El Centro with the unintended consequence of taking out seating in the park that promoted Sunday family night. Without seating, a tradition faded.

We too have experienced a subtle but definitive shift, a sea change. The island becomes a village or neighborhood to us. We have made friends with locals and other tourists like ourselves. We know people on the island and are known. I have friends I can call on in an emergency. I have a seamstress. At least one restaurant owner recalls how I like my coffee from year to year. Lynn and I now experience the island as community instead of an amenity.

Not everything changes though. Each year when back on the island, I nightly gaze at the moon whether waxing or waning. I recall one night leaning against a fence listening to a band on the street. A full, brazen moon peered from behind a sculptured tree, long dead and leafless. Moon sightings have been precious moments, better captured in memory than on Kodak paper.

Lynn and I relish the nothingness of wandering the beach looking for gifts from the sea; basking in sun that ages us prematurely, but feeds our souls nonetheless; seeing old friends and meeting new friends each year; and making this island our home away from home.

~~~

This year I attempt yoga. The dolphin Vinyasa, awkward at first, matures into a rhythmic flow of body in air, collapsing in the exhale, extending in the inhale. The body holds a pose of opposites; the movement incorporates the rise and fall of the breath, as well as the extension and retreat.

Our United States culture holds an either/or view of life. Yet for a few moments during yoga, I hold a both/and worldview in my body and breath. Life does indeed allow paradox.

The island has become an addiction for us to mañana time, time enough for life. It is not as necessary to escape Iowa winters and work, as it once was now that we are retired and live in Texas, but an addiction of this nature is a healthy pause, a parenthesis in our lives.

In years past, I looked out at the ocean as I left the island on the ferry. Now I look down into the water in a newly designed ferry with windows to the floor. The rising-falling motion of the boat is reminiscent of my newly acquired yoga move, the dolphin Vinyasa.

I become a part of the water, as I peer into the waves, meeting, colliding, overlapping, and breaking. I feel the climb and descent. I fancy a dolphin bursting through the water, laughing at me in mid-air, suspended for the blink of an eye, and then vanishing. It surfaces, lifts, dips, and dives, swimming in tandem with the rise and fall of the ferry.

Then … I become the dolphin, marine mammal that lives in two worlds. I am the dancing creature that glides between air and water, surviving in both. I play hide-and-seek, splash, and twitter. I am at home in my sleek body, comfortable navigating two worlds. I surface, lift, dip, and dive. Surface, lift, dip and dive, all the way to Puerto Juarez.

_______________________________________________________________________

Isla Lovers, this is the last installment of Island Life: A Mexican Addiction. I hope you have enjoyed it. Please share your memories of time spent on Isla Mujeres for other readers. Let’s see how many “Isla Lovers” we have reading this.

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