03 Sep Desert Life
Our sweat wicks away immediately, though we sweat non-stop. One second we are wet, dry the next. Repeat ad infinitum. Dust swirls around us, billowing up from the ground, filling our mouths, ears, eyes.
It’s one of those environments that reminds us to be grateful for what we have. Not because it’s lacking in its own treasures, but because the environment is so extreme that without doing much of anything we are exhausted and the simplest of things feel like luxuries.
San Miguel de Allende, where we call home, is semi-arid, high mountain desert – but it’s nothing like this. This is bone-drying, sleep-inducing. Our first stop is Cuatrocienegas, Coahuila where we stay in a quirky campground, owned by a welcoming and historic family, called La Maquina. We camp in our tent and they invite us, without qualm, to come inside, escape the heat, share some conversation, cookies and local wine from the recent harvest.
We usually keep to ourselves – just American, I guess. Mexican culture is open, inviting, always ready to get to know someone new. Both the tenant couple and the owners are the picture of Mexican hospitality.
While we battle the mid-day heat, we set up the tent. They must think we are insane, doing such a thing at that time of day – but we just don’t know. We are babes to this desert life and in less than 20 minutes, the tent is broken and we are about to pass out.
That’s when Luis comes over and offers to help. Between conversations about life, the universe and everything, we work in the shade, constructing a solution to the broken tent pole with good ol’ human ingenuity (i.e. electrical tape, wire, rope and a stick). We are impressed by his wisdom and kind, generous heart. He doesn’t think twice about helping us out of a predicament.
Our next stop, feels somewhat the same (though totally different). We are in part of the Biosphere Reserve of Mapimi, the Zone of Silence, in the Mexican state of Durango. Apart from the spectacular beauty, we can’t help but notice how worn out we are, how little of the desert heat we can actually take.
We stumble on Ejido La Flor, a communal piece of property owned by people indigenous to this area. The land is phenomenally beautiful, so well-kept. There isn’t a piece of trash to be seen (a common downfall of natural areas in Mexico) and for being a desert, it is vibrant with life.
We meet Cleo, a wonderful woman, one of 5 generations living on this land. She talks of community, caring for nature and the riches that the desert has to offer. We love her positive energy and the consciousness she has cultivated on the land. We are honored to be in this wise woman’s presence. She invites us to share a watermelon with her and her family before we even tell her that we want to stay. Just because. She wants us to leave with a good taste in our mouths, she says.
Of course, we decide to stay. It’s too beautiful to leave.
But, again, the mid-day sun sucks the breath from our lungs. It’s so hot and dry, we can barely breathe. My skin feels like someone else’s – so dry, my own touch feels foreign.
In this wildly harsh environment, survival feels only one misstep away. Between heat and exhaustion, our bodies sway in need of water.
“We wouldn’t survive out here,” I say.
“Not without them,” Sean replies.
Of course. He’s so right. And suddenly it all makes sense. If we don’t help each other out, nobody survives. That is the rule of the desert. That’s why these desert people have such kind ways, always offering to help. That’s why communities of the desert stay ready to lend a hand.
They know their web of interconnectedness is necessary to survive and without one another it will collapse.