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San Miguel writers’ conference Day Four

Saturday – a day of rest, more or less. Some have signed up for two intensive three hour workshops, but Curtis and I did not. So today, we set out with a driver for Las Grutas, a hot springs with a grotto about 12 minutes from the hotel. It was not what we expected; we were almost the only gringos there and there was little in English, so we wandered about trying to figure out where you changed and how it all worked. We did figure it out, but Curtis decided he did not want to walk around in his bathing suit, particularly as the morning was chilly. So he found a comfortable rock to perch on, and I plunged into the hot springs pool.

To find many floating Mexican families and couples, most with cellphones, some holding them above their heads, some with them in plastic cases, snapping endless selfies and pix of each other. One huge family, 3 or 4 generations including great-grandma, gathered in the pool for a portrait up to the neck in hot water. It was hilarious. I had a delicious float and then Curtis and I had coffee and gossiped, as is our wont, I admiring these beautiful people with their gorgeous cappuccino skin and black eyes and hair. This is a people that believes in public displays of affection.

Incidentally, I’ve seen two funerals, men carrying a coffin through the narrow streets, followed by a big crowd of mourners with flowers. Day of the Dead artefacts are everywhere here, many skulls and skeletons. Death is more a daily presence in this society than in any I’ve encountered.

Yesterday, two good workshops, one on being a “marketable author,” something about which I know very little, and the next on creating suspense in literary memoir and fiction, ditto. Very technical, full of valuable facts. Before and after, the usual enormous meals. At 3.45, readings by the Canadian faculty here, some terrific, some not so much, IMHO. And at 8, a big party. This is a huge conference; they’d built a stage outside, put long rows of tables, and an entire kitchen area – drinks, food, many interesting people. I met a couple from Sausolito, another from the Yukon, a third from Regina, a young Mexican woman and her mother, a photographer from Vancouver. We were treated to traditional Mexican dances, and then a solemn group of ten musicians played for a long time; unfortunately, we couldn’t hear them well, and it was getting colder and darker as we waited for the dancing to begin. But first, there was an unfortunately very long tableau of the Quinceanera, the traditional celebration for a girl’s 15th birthday, to celebrate the 15th anniversary of this festival. Only here it was a woman from the festival dressed up in glittering satin and a long hoop skirt like Cinderella at the ball, waltzing around the stage with the musicians for a long time, waving gaily to us and beaming. While we waited, and it got colder.

But then the music started, and the dancing. That was wonderful. Just to move my body is wonderful – it feels like I’ve been sitting, listening, thinking, and eating eating eating, for days. And in fact, I have. The mornings and evenings are very cold; everyone complains, especially the Mexican woman at dinner last night – until the man from the Yukon turned around and told us about two weeks at minus 57. Perspective, people.

Now a walk to town with Curtis, then an event I’ll write about later, and dinner. That’s the gruelling day. Tomorrow – back to work.



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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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