My wife is not what one would call outdoorsy. A New Yorker by birth and inclination, she is, in fact, what the Jack Palance character Curly in the movie City Slickers refers to with a snarl as “city folk.” She believes the whole point of evolution was to get out of caves, stand erect, and make one’s way to a nice hotel with room service. I took her camping once, shortly after we were married, and have never since tried to duplicate the experience. The camping trip didn’t start well and it didn’t end well and in between there was what scripture conveniently refers to as the weeping and gnashing of teeth.
This is not news to anyone who knows us.
What was huge news, however, was when we sold our downtown condo in Portland, Oregon, disposed of just about everything else we owned, dropped out, and moved to the middle of Mexico. Especially since, to belabor the point, my wife is not the roughing it type and most people up north imagined our lives down south to be the very definition of roughing it. Will you be able to access the Internet, more than one friend asked, with a horrified look? Never mind shopping at Trader Joe’s.
As it turned out, nothing could be further from the truth. We are hardly roughing it and still enjoy most of the same amenities that helped to comfort our lives in Portland. And yet, although we are not roughing it, we do live high in the mountains, in a semi-arid town, in a somewhat rustic location that has more than its share of bugs. Or, as my wife would say in disgust: “Things with wings.” She hates things with wings and is somewhat terrified of them all, regardless if a thing is packing venom or just floating aimlessly through life like the Dude in The Big Lebowski.
And yet—bear with me, I’m almost there—we spend a good part of our time in Mexico outside. We walk just about everywhere. We have a delightful interior courtyard that’s open to the sky, where we have our morning coffee or afternoon happy hour. And we have a larger and equally pleasant back courtyard where we sometimes have lunch or dinner. It is in that back courtyard where it happened.
To pause for a moment, the weather in San Miguel at this time of year, early October, is darn-near perfect. We are long past the hot and dusty season, have just exited the rainy season and only recently entered what I consider to be weather nirvana: brisk mornings, warm and sunny afternoons, cool nights, with no rain in sight. Such weather working in our favor, we elected to dine in our back courtyard.
With lunch a done deal, a small bird or bat flew right at us. I ducked, Arlene screamed. At the last second, the winged thing veered off and flitted up the side of our house. That’s when we got a good look at the UFO.
It was an enormous and magnificent Monarch butterfly and for a moment we were both speechless. We had seen butterflies before, of course, especially Monarchs but never one that size or quite that impressive. It flew back at us one more time before flying over our high wall and out of sight, heading south as part of the annual Monarch butterfly migration from Canada to Mexico. I read someplace that the Monarch butterfly is the only butterfly to do an annual two-way migration the same as birds (and some expats).
We talked about the butterfly in awe and my wife admitted it was the kind of thing with wings she could learn to appreciate. Since then are seeing more butterflies, smaller ones, with each passing day.
I thought back to many years ago when we were visiting a relative in South Florida. On the way to their house from the airport, we passed several strip malls. One mall had a fast-food restaurant with an unusual name: Wings and Things. As we passed it, I noticed something even more unusual. “Wings and Things” was closed and totally covered in a tarp―they were spraying for termites. The sight of the big sign promoting “Wings and Things” next to a huge exterminator’s tent was a delicious Kodak-moment. Unfortunately, I did not have my camera with me.
I didn’t have it with me when the giant Monarch joined us for lunch, either. But next time I will… because those wings were something.
Article submitted by Mark Saunders, San Miguel full-time resident and author of ‘Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak’, a humorous memoir about dropping out late in life, selling almost everything, and moving to the middle of Mexico.
‘Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak’ is available in both paperback and ebook formats from FUZE Publishing (www.fuzepublishing.com), Amazon, Barnes &amp; Noble and iPad.
CLICK THIS LINK to purchase the book.
Butterfly Photo © – Yvonne McLeod – Photographer – Ottawa, Ontario