# 1. Mexico is a land of mystery. I quickly learned how different it was from my former hometown of New York City. There are things in this land that I will never really understand. There is, I believe, no better frame of mind for the writer than a wide-eyed, wide-mind acceptance of the mystery of the world around us.
#2. Mexico is a land of the here and now. My first week in San Miguel I saw two old men and a young boy building a wall of rough concrete blocks. There was a tumbled stack of blocks, and a mess of cement on the cobblestone street with a concave puddle in its center into which they would add one splash of water after another from a leaky bucket. They stirred with an old shovel. One block in place, some wet cement splatted on top of it, and then another block. In the New York City I’d left behind a wall would be pre-fabricated far away, shipped to the site, and clicked into place. But the block by block approach of these workers seemed so much like the word by word work that I faced every day, and I felt right at home.
#3. Mexico, or San Miguel at least, is a magnet for writers. I would run into Clifford Irving on the street, chat with Joe Persico in the Jardin, join in a writing group with Dick and Debbie Stein, Barbara Faith, Jack Slater, Donna Meyer, and Eva Hunter. Beverly Donofrio was often in town, and Pulitzer Prize poet W. D. Snodgrass hung out in my favorite café. New York, of course, has far more writers, but you don’t run into them buying veggies in the open market, or lounging on a Jardin bench in the late afternoon waiting for a black cloud of grackles to sail in over the old church and settle in the trees.
#4. San Miguel is a gentle place, friendly to the elderly and to children, and even friendly to outsiders from the North. While we Americans pontificate about family values, in Mexico the family is in fact valuable. Children are noisy and rambunctious and they make everyone smile. Ancient grandparents look after them with tender solicitude, giving mom and dad the time and energy to work hard and make more babies. This gentle world created a comfortable and nurturing place for me to be creative.
#5. Mexico runs on Mexican time. In a place where mañana doesn’t really mean tomorrow but “some time in the future,” time is a phenomenon not to be explained or understood by multi-tasking gringos. The laws of physics notwithstanding, time does actually slow down. It did for me in my San Miguel years. I got more writing done in an hour than I ever did in New York, and I had my lazy days away from the keyboard when I did nothing much, and it took me all day to get it done.
I’ve lived and written in other faraway places: Amsterdam, a tiny village in rural France (where Chocolát was filmed), Paris, and a tiny island off the west coast of Sicily, but nowhere else did I find the nurturing, magical world that San Miguel gave me. I go back whenever I can, and memories of the cobblestone streets that turn into rivers on a rainy day, the laughter and music of the Jardin, the smell of fresh tortillas and bountiful bougainvillea, are in my heart as I tap these keys right now!
--- Roy Sorrels
Be sure to check out Roy Sorrel's new blog. To read other guest-blogs posts on Madam Mayo, including ones by other San Miguel de Allenda aficionadas, writer and poet Sheila Bender and novelist Janice Eidus, click here.