ooking back on an experience that was bold in Oaxaca, Mexico

ooking back on an experience that was bold in Oaxaca, Mexico

I have a blog I’ve been writing in sporadically for over 16 years. It’s called “Women Who Eat Chocolate.” This summer marks 2 years since I published my book TOÑO LIVES, and I was reading through several blog entries from 2015. I wrote these entries when I embarked on my writer’s residency in Oaxaca, Mexico where I wrote the bulk of the book. I felt very bold as I started my solo journey and time there.

Today I share with you what was on my mind as I began:

“Wanting something and carrying out the plan are two separate things. I’m usually on the former end of this scenario and do a lot of wishing and dreaming. Doing? It doesn’t usually happen except if it’s baking. Chocolate always comes first, hence the name of this blog.

I am a gatherer of words. I love to parse each part of them and know their meaning, while rolling their pronunciation around on my tongue until I know it dearly. I’ve read thousands of books which makes words come easy, though I’m not sure if the love of reading or of words came first. I guess they all go together in one tidy package.

I’ve written many essays, columns, blogs, and poetry. I collect letters to form tiny vignettes around my home because I must be surrounded by things I love. Words signify home to me, as well as safety and comfort. There is never a moment I’m not “currently-reading” something. I’ve mostly stayed in the physical book realm when it comes to novels, though I have a Kindle and I’m known to use it when I travel. I read most of my articles online and find it hard to read a magazine that I hold in my hands. Otherwise, there’s nothing like paper in your fingers, the heft of the book a calming world that you know will satisfy. The feel, the texture, and the choice to stick your nose in its crease to smell the words coming off the paper. It’s bliss and it’s love rolled into one.

I have novels in me, but they can’t be written until my first one is completed. Until I feel it in my greedy ink-stained (okay, keyboard-weary) fingers and know the words I had pent up have been freed upon the backs of so many pieces of paper for all to read. The words, having spent so much time in my brain, seem to have taken up permanent residence. I admit I have no more space to store them so they must be gone and tucked away neatly into a Word doc so I can be free of them.

So, I’ve come to Oaxaca, Mexico to free them. I’m a resident artist at a writer’s residency tucked up in the mountains of our southern neighbor. I am ensconced in a house the locals call “La Casa de las Brujas” (house of the witches) because of how it’s built. The mountains, as I look out open windows on both sides of my room, are a midnight blue, and the verdant hills blink sleepily at me as I feel the atmosphere pervade my very thoughts.

This is epic and once in a lifetime.

I am here to write the novel of my husband’s life, that boiling mess of pain and shattered lives that ends with a rugged and ragged love, held together by stubbornness.

He is Mexico.

And I can feel him here, in the town of his birth and where he slept on the streets for three years, as surely as I can feel the Oaxacan wind brush my face. Today I write for me, I write for him, and I write to cast all nets out and write for the burning touch of the words I hold inside me.

I arrived yesterday after three flights where I was dropped into the most exquisite airport I’ve ever been. A crisp and clean jewel of white light was Xoxocotla, and then I was whisked away to the small villa that sits in the hills of San Pablo, Etla, where the lights of Oaxaca twinkle to me out the window and whisper in Spanish the harsh realities of the tale I came to write.

Today I awoke at 5:30 A.M. after a restless night filled with deep sleep and coming up for air in a strange room. The sounds of Mexico flowed to me through open windows, beloved and familiar sounds of roosters crowing and cannons booming. I opened my computer and after many weeks of writer’s block, the words flowed. Three thousand words today and my fingers still move quickly over the keyboard to write this blog.

Today I also visited the place where my beloved was lost, where he cried on street corners, and where I stood and could feel his little heart breaking, yet persevering, with a strength I am in awe of to this day. I haggled with a street vendor for a pretty blouse, and I looked up at beautiful cathedrals that reach for the blue Oaxacan sky. I bought a four-layered chocolate confection, and I rode on the Periferico and experienced the traffic that only Mexico can serve up. I did all this on my own, because to find little George I need to do it without big George.

I am humbled by this opportunity to do what I love. I feel bold in my quest. I love these words. They are hard. They are bloody. They are.”

Melissa Herrera is a columnist, published author and drinker of too many coffees based in Holmes County. You can find her book, “TOÑO LIVES,” at www.tinyurl.com/Tonolives or buy one from her in person (because all authors have boxes of their own novel). For inquiries or to purchase, email her at junkbabe68@gmail.com.