A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Mexico - The Smell Of Hot Humid Earth
Tuesday, July 22, 2008

As I watered my wilting garden today in the somewhat reduced heat in comparison to what it was in Lillooet last week I could almost imagine being in Mexico.

Thirty seven years after having left Mexico (I have returned quite a few times) I still feel the pull of the dry earth of the winter season and the smell of humidity in the summer. I especially remember that smell and the noises of nocturnal insects when Rosemary and I would drive down to Veracruz on a Friday night as we did quite often. We would leave Mexico City in the late afternoon and within three hours we would go down from 2240 meters to sea level. Passing through the capital of the state of Veracruz, Xalapa, the change seemed almost immediate. The humidity was palpable as I rolled down my window. We could smell that hot humid earth. The port city of Veracruz beckoned a few miles away. Arriving in Veracruz my mother would greet us, sometime around midnight and Rosemary would instantly go for a cold shower. At the time she minded the heat. Because the air is so much denser at sea level noises seemed (and they were) louder. Mexico City altitude muffles sound except perhaps the incessant car horns and rumbling diesel buses. In Veracruz the smell of humidity was coloured with the smell of salt and the port. Sometimes Rosemary and I would go for a stroll on the Malecón which is what avenues that hug beaches in any Spanish speaking country all called. One time, when we returned we were greeted by hundreds of flying cockroaches in the bathroom. In the tropics you learn to live with insects.

It was last week that Hilary accompanied us with her daughters to visit Ale in Lillooet. Both Ale (Alexandra) and Hilary were born in Mexico but Ale is the most Mexican of both. Even her Spanish is peppered with the chilango dialect of Mexico City. But Hilary instantly raved and loved the 32 degrees and never complained. I think both of us would have enjoyed even a few more degrees.

Rosemary now admits that she quickly adapted and loved the heat (40) that we experienced in Mérida, Yucatán last year.

While trying to find some misfiled transparencies (I did not find them) I found thre strips of b+w negatives of very fast 120 film. One of them caught my eye. Rosemary says I took them in the winter of 2003. When I look at the picture here of Rebecca I think, smell and almost feel that Mexico heat and I long for it.

I took the picture at the MacMillan Bloedel Conservatory in Queen Elizabeth Park. I look at Rebecca and that maguey and I can imagine the Pico de Orizaba (also called Citlaltépetl), Mexico's highest volcano looming over Xalapa, Veracruz. It would seem to me that perhaps Rosemary, Rebecca, Lauren and I will have to experience it. Imagining it is not enough.

The other picture is the real thing. That's Rosemary and Ale (she was about 1) sitting in a Malecón bench in Veracruz during a norte or wind storm. When nortes came with the dry winds and sand would get under the doors I was transported to my childhood memories of Beau Geste but then that's another story.


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Rebecca & Lauren Visit John Tuytle


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The Education Of A Gardener - Circa 1992

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