Wednesday, October 01, 2014
Every Wednesday morning I climb a mountain in Bugambilias, a community on the southwest side of Guadalajara, Mexico. Actually, technically, I drive up the mountain. There are people who climb it by foot, and others who ride their bikes up the winding road, but most of us drive it, struggling our way up and around the sharp curves with more or less success. This morning I passed a woman pulled to the side of the road with the hood of her black SUV lifted. My minivan always smells a little hot by the time it has puffed and chugged its way to my destination: "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!"
It is my favorite drive of the week.
The morning begins with dropping the kids at school, usually avoiding the initial snarl of rush-hour traffic. Once I've dropped them off and head back to the main road that takes me to the highway that goes south to the mountain, the cars have packed in, and I'm lucky if I can drive the quarter-mile to the highway in ten minutes. But at last, I ease out of the crush and drive with little hindrance toward Bugambilias. The road passes by industrial areas, a squatter hut in a field of cows and horses, a long plateau, and old neighborhoods and local stores. Buses hog the sides of the roads, overloaded trucks trundle by, motorcycles zip through narrow pass ways between larger vehicles.
Finally I turn right into Bugambilias and my soul expands and breathes. Here, the road is quiet and open. The boulevard flanks a central berm lined with various palms and bougainvillea bushes. Each bush shines with blooms of fuchsia, violet or crimson, little flames casting light even on misty mornings like today. The palms stand stately and prickly, and farther on are some impossibly tall cypress, spaced to catch and draw the eye toward the mountain behind. Gracious homes line the road, closed behind ornate iron gates, their walls painted in tasteful creams, pastel oranges, and deep terra cotta.
I drive around a glorieta (a round-about) and am at the foot of the mountain where the manicured public gardens give way to wild grass and sheered rock. Now for the drive. I take it slowly, partly because my minivan has no "umph" or "hutzpah" as my mom would say. But it's also because to my right is a sharp drop-off down the mountainside. The road is always dry, but I'll take no chances. The view, though, is worth it, particularly when there is little haze and the sunlight dances across the city in the valley below. Mountains rise up across the valley and I always look for the skeletal structure of a conference center under construction that clings to the side of one of those mountains like a giant cicada shell, graceful and ugly at the same time.
At last the steep road levels enough to wrap around another glorieta. A mall rises to the right, and communities close in again. We've been to the top of that mall which boasts three restaurants that look out over the valley. The food was delicious, but I'm not looking for that food on Wednesday mornings. My eyes are now bent toward my goal and a different kind of food. I aim for a home of creamy plaster and accents of terra cotta and cobalt blue, and for a group of women who are gathering there to pray and chat and dig deep into the Bible's wisdom literature for a couple hours. Our hostess has a smile that goes much deeper than her kind eyes and mouth. We are joined for these hours, hanging lightly above the world in the rarified air of the mountain.