Tuesday, November 03, 2009

It's a thin line between

Dia de los Muertos has come and gone. My third one here in Oaxaca, but it felt so different this time around. I understood more, for one thing, particularly some of the symbolism behind the altar objects and the stories behind the folkloric figures.

But there's something else, too, and it has to do with how terribly slow I am to feel part of what's around me. I watch and watch and definitely enjoy describing what I see and hear, but fully participating requires another leap.

So it was somewhere in the midst of the calenda processional with the brass band and my dear friend Liz hissing dance instructions to me that I realized I had become what I typically observe. We were jumping and spinning, with kids dressed as death, devils and skeletons winding around us, and I saw the cameras pointed at us.

Max noticed it, too, while playing and dancing at the San Felipe cemetery. "Mommy, the people took movies of me!"

There's always a kind of limbo in being here, stretched between two cultures, really not fully immersed in either one, and it takes something as beautiful and enveloping as Day of the Dead to make me forget to be an outsider.

Perhaps it was Alba welcoming me to sit at his ofrenda, a gravesite he and his family decorated with symbols representing fire, water, earth, the living and the dead, and the narrow lines between all of them. Maybe it was the red wine! The swirl of goings-on and the constant music and flowers and candles and copal incense began to feel like something out of a painting, or maybe a dream. It reminded me of an Aztec belief that life is just a dream and only upon death do we awake.

If so, I imagine Jenny on the other side of that thin line of flower petals, a line that a puff of wind or a bit of water could blur or break, even if it's just for one night.

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