Music to my ears

By Molly Williams
I am a semi-retired history teacher, a part-time lawyer, an optimistic writer, a contented wife, a forever mom, and a joyous and open-eyed traveler.
I take the time today to try to slice through the layers of sound which make up part of the sensory immersion that is Mexico.
A few I have to listen hard for; some I hardly notice they are so present; all of them welcome me back here, tickling my ear memory.
The man-made ones are the most obvious, some more assaultive than others. Music, the constant.
There is the mariachi, of course, but a beach afternoon delivers more than guitar and horn. The sweet tenor from a pre-pubescent Romeo with his round shaker and stick travels down the palapas, blending evocatively with the strolling guitarist.
The most unlikely of beach serenades comes from the old gentleman wandering with his full size harp, trailing fingers seductively over the strings, tempting us to buy his classical lullaby. This morning the man who scavenges for empty beer cans from the beachside trash bins gave us a volunteer a capella performance, mainly for his own amusement.
Always in the background there is the lilting zampoña, floating on the air from an indistinct source.
Then there are the voices, in as many different forms as the people they belong to. The indistinct murmurings of the housekeeping staff working their way down the hall.
The hopeful “braids, lady?” of the squat woman in white, to which I reply no thanks again today, as I have every day for two weeks; maybe, she thinks, this will be the day I decide to spend an hour being tugged and combed into Bo Derek style plaits. The resonant bass rumble of Johnny, the impossibly gorgeous schlepper of oysters up and down the beach, who moonlights as a Sinatra style crooner (of course he does.)
The chorus of overlapping demands and confirmations from the open kitchen of our favorite bistro. And my favorite, my daughter’s laughing request to go to the beach NOW.
The traffic is constant, but changing.
The lumbering buses competing with scraping of the gears from an accelerating taxi, followed sometimes by the backfiring of a vintage VW.
After dark there is the thwump of the dance bar, a sound which disappears near dawn but I can never seem to trace the origin of at midnight.
Under it all but always within range is the sound of the ocean.
Although nowhere in town is far from the sea, those in the buildings fronting on the water enjoy a ceaseless water song.
Our open balcony doors provide us with a constant soundtrack of waves advancing with a crash, then retreating with a gurgle to curl into the next roar.
It takes us a day or two to adjust to the sounds of the ocean, and even after a week a particularly fierce wave will startle us out of its hypnosis.
For several days after I return to my frigid north I will have the sense of something missing; it is the sound of the crashing of the surf off the balcony.
Add in the cacophony of the swooping chachalacas and the yipping of the tiny Chihuahuas on the sidewalk and the symphony is complete.
This morning I will close my eyes and bask in the enveloping opus that is Mexico, surrendering to this most luxurious of senses, laying its waves of sound on my soul.

One comment

  1. Molly,

    So nice to hear you tell of your waves of sound on your soul. Mine , perhaps , is the sound of silence, so missing in this world of noise. Those sounds of thoughts on my mind; the sunbeams in the dawn and moonlight at dusk as they hit my eyes and face, or the sound of a swarm of thousands of ladybugs as they hatch from the snow banks in the high Sierra Mountains in California, and cross down the valley through my mountain home property, down to the central valley, only to be lifted up by the summer heat to be blown back inland to the mountains where they lay their eggs in the winter snow. Yes, there is the silence of falling snow , or in a summer afternoon when the colder mountain air comes falling down the valley and between the pine trees as the mountain air suddenly cools.

    Then there is the silence of my wife when she becomes angry at something I have said or done and glares at me. Her silence is devastating. Then there is the silence of the San Francisco fog as in enters the city and covers up everything, and looking out the window all one sees is fog. Open a window or the garage door, and in enters as a gray bloc of fog. Then there is the silence as the fog evaporates and the moisture of the water and due leaves the flowers and everything it has covered.

    Then finally, there is the sound of an empty wallet or money purse after the last dollar has been spent; or is it the sound of my silence described in these notes?

    If you have ever heard the thunderous sound of one of the giant earthquakes felt in Puerto Vallarta, or the thud of people who have jumped out of the high rise hotel building because they could not get down the stairs, or the sound of the damage to the buildings from a tropical storm or hurricane as it blows down whole buildings, or the sound of gun shots by the drug cartels , or the sound of a hand grenade that was thrown into the car of the Chief of Police in downtown PV , you would understand why silence provides peace to my soul.

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