I woke up early Friday morning to what I thought was an odd syncopated rumba beat.
That is not unusual. My neighbors provide free music at some of the oddest hours. But this was not coming from outside. It was me ticker. Doing its best impression of a faulty starter motor. My lungs decided to get into the act with brief coughing spasms.
It was the Day of the Dead. And I guess my body just wanted to remind me that the day is not merely a tourist attraction. It is one in which we will all ultimately have a supporting role -- along with a cast of billions.
For the past few days, we have had one of nature's own death productions. A red tide. A phrase that always puts me in mind of Moses (you know, with his Red Sea ebbing and flowing tides) or even Whittaker Chambers (a completely different Red Tide -- with his saintly fingernails and flower pots*).
You can see the red tide in the photograph at the top. Red, it isn't. More like an indifferent coffee with a bit too much cream. Caused by an accumulated algae bloom.
But it can be deadly. Sucking the oxygen out of the water and leaving some fish to suffocate. For humans, the danger is the toxin that accumulates in shellfish.
What it does not endanger is plant life on land. We have come to the end of our rainy season. As a result, the local jungle is at its verdant height.
Anyone who believes that plants love peaceful coexistence has not paid much attention to the plant smother plant world in which we live.
There is a climax plant in every environment. A species, that without some intervening circumstance, will kill all of its rivals. The Tudors and Borgias are pikers compared to the vegetarian world.
Around here, it is morning glory. The kudzu of Pacific Mexico. Almost everything has a blue or purple flower coat these days. Road signs. Trees. Fences. Cats and dogs survive only because they can creep out of the way.
The intervening actor that prevents us living in a rather flat world? The sun. And the lack of rain. As a vine, the morning glory will be one of the first casualties as our jungle turns into a look alike of the Yosemite Burn by April. And the cycle of death will start again.
This spider is living off of the wealth of insects feasting on this year's leaf crop. I have not even bothered to do any research -- because I know one of you industrious souls will help me out. As a point of reference, he is as big as my hand. And as beautiful as a jeweled brooch.
All of that, of course, is preclude to yesterday's star attraction. Melaque is not big on a lot of Mexican traditions. Our local cemeteries do not take on the Las Vegas attraction of the cemeteries around Lake Pátzcuaro. But the school children here construct altars in the San Patricio square.
The booths always remind me of the science fair in my grade school days. But the teachers are trying to instill a sense of tradition into their students.
They seem to be little more successful than my physics teacher trying to convince us that memorizing the elements chart would one day help us get that big promotion.
The kids were there to socialize with one another. As usual, there were two or three girls doing all of the work while the boys stood around talking to the more attractive girls.
With all of the distraction, it is amazing that any of the booths were completed. But this was my favorite.
I know a few things about Salvador -- solely from the booth. The photograph shows a very old man with wise eyes. A cowboy at one point, I suppose, from all of the saddles and ropes. He may even be one of the locals who claimed a connection with the revolution.
All of the trappings are there. A picture of Emilio Zapata. A Mexican flag prominently displayed. And the knife and sickle of the red Campesinos of America union.
Undoubtedly, one of those souls who hoped that the revolution of 1910 would be red. Instead, what he, and the rest of Mexico, got was just another run-of-the-mill one-party dictatorship. Porfirio Diaz with a changing cast every six years.
My heart and lung episode this morning put me in a mortal state of mind. A mindset that added some real meaning to the fact that nothing lasts forever.
Who knows? I may meet death one day while she is walking through a crowd. After all, there is no doubt that she is female -- and attractive.
Or maybe she will walk up to a group of us and decide that there are plenty of seats in the carriage.
Either way, it was a marvelous day to be alive. One day there will be no more mornings. But that was not yesterday.
And it most likely is not today, either.
Happy Day of the Dead.
* -- If I have made the mention of Whittaker Chambers too arcane, I apologize. He was one of the early warriors against Communism -- having left its grasp to become a champion of freedom. He always thought he had left the winning side to join the moral, but losing, side.
It is idle to talk about preventing the wreck of Western civilization. It is already a wreck from within. That is why we can hope to do little more now than snatch a fingernail of a saint from the rack or a handful of ashes from the faggots, and bury them secretly in a flowerpot against the day, ages hence, when a few men begin again to dare to believe that there was once something else, that something else is thinkable, and need some evidence of what it was, and the fortifying knowledge that there were those who, at the great nightfall, took loving thought to preserve the tokens of hope and truth.