"Because I could not stop for Death --
He kindly stopped for me."
And so he did. Emily had it right.
Yesterday was the day to show off Manzanillo to my niece Kaitlyn. For the past week, we have been familying around Barra de Navidad and Melaque. But Mom flew north on Sunday. So, we are now down to five members.
Our goal was the iguana sanctuary. We had all (with the exception of Omar) been there last year. The place was fascinating enough to call for an encore.
That is, if we could get there. The drive is not long, but it means driving through old town Manzanillo -- with its streets and traffic that would be right at home in a Zeffirelli recreation of medieval Padua.
We were almost there when I took a wrong turn. Not to worry, I would just loop around on a one-lane side street and get back on the main road.
But God had different plans for us. This hearse was parked in the middle of the residential street blocking any forward progress.
There was nothing to do but wait. And consider the meaningless emptiness of existence known as life. (For some reason, to me, hearses are always far more evocative of Kierkegaard than Dickinson.) After all, why was the hearse there? Where was the guest of honor? Would there be noshes at the reception following the funeral?
I only managed to get up to "worldly worry always seeks to lead a human being into the small-minded unrest of comparisons, away from the lofty calmness of simple thoughts" when the driver of the hearse appeared (sans casket or corpse) to pull forward just far enough to let us pass.
It was an auspicious overture to our day. After all, our first stop was one of those cores of human kindness. I wrote about it last year (st. francis of iguana).
Forty years ago, Ramon Medina Archundia decided to open a sanctuary for the iguana in the Manzanillo area. Iguana can live in lots of environments. But, in urban areas, they are subject to sudden death syndrome -- from cars, humans, and other animals. They often star in a rather stringy stew.
To give them a fighting chance, Ramon started taking them in as if he were the embodiment of an Emma Lazarus poem. The injured. The hunted. The healthy. All were welcome.
Four decades later, he has a sanctuary that houses up to 600 iguana. That is the number bandied about by the employees. And last year, it was quite credible.
Not so much this year. There were noticeably fewer dinosaur stand-ins this year. But those that were there were still the subject of the program's on-going educational program that the animals are worthy in their own right to be honored. Kant would approve.
The site is also home to several birds, raccoons, wild boars, and other animals. Some visitors to the sanctuary have written on social media hows the sight of the caged animals reduced them to tears -- followed by the usual "someone other than me should do something about it."
I understand the sentiment. The cages are not ideal. But most of the animals were brought there in an injured state. Several of the birds would be unable to fly if released. Like most things in life, there are hard choices that cannot be resolved by Disney reductionism.
But our day was not over. We stopped at La Marina (a department store in Manzanillo) to get some clothes for Omar. Because we thought one of our favorite eateries (Monster Burger) would not open for another two hours, we bought some game credits for Kaitlyn and Omar, and let them loose on the shopping center arcade.
Darrel, Christy, and I enjoyed the show. Both Omar and Kaitlyn are about as competitive as people can be without turning into one of those skating freaks who seem to lose all contact with reality.
I have probably said it several times now, but having my family with me in Mexico changes me -- and often for the better.
Probably not as much as death. But close.