Friday, August 24, 2018

tending the garden

I am on a walking kick.

In an attempt to gain a modicum of control over my health, I have altered my diet. Nothing fancy.  I have simply followed the advice doctors often give patients. Your plate should be half vegetables (raw or cooked, salad), one-quarter starch, one-quarter protein (chicken, lean pork, fish).

But, for me, a change in my diet is not enough. I need exercise. And my exercise of choice is walking, as most of you already know.

I do not use my car much in San Miguel de Allende. The traffic is too horrendous. So, I get a lot of steps just touring around town on foot.

But, not enough. I supplement my tourist steps with a daily walk at San Miguel's small shopping mall. Including the perimeter of the parking lot, I walk a mile each lap.

Today, I changed my venue. Going in circles around a mall can be extremely boring. Especially, when there is a much better alternative.

And it is El Charco del Ingenio. The local botanical garden. It has miles of trails through one of the prettiest semi-arid gardens I have ever visited.

The down side of trying to get exercise in such an attractive place is fighting the temptation of stopping to enjoy everything, which would only defeat the purpose of a sustained walk.

So, I did, as I so often do in life, compromise. The first five miles, I walked as if i was meeting Harry Truman's stride. The second time around, I stopped to smell the cactus.

There are plenty of species here. Some are local. Some are rare and were rescued from their original homes.

San Miguel de Allende sits on the edge of a great desert. But it does not have a desert climate. I am visiting in its rainy season. It rains at 4 PM almost every day.

Those rains will soon cause all of the fields around here to bloom with flowers in a week or so. Mostly cosmos of various colors.

Today, the blooming flowers were just budding up for their pageant. I thought a little Georgia O'Keefe might warm up my prose

But the cactus were in their high reproductive season.
Every time I see a prickly pear in full fruit, it reminds me of Christmas. Or Mexico. Or maybe Christmas in Mexico. The fruit provide food for a wide variety of wildlife in the garden. Including ants.

The gardens stretch over a large variety of ecosystems. The main part of the garden is a plain on a mesa. But there is also a reservoir that once provided water and electricity to a fabric mill at the base of the canyon.

And then there is the canyon itself that is mainly dry at the moment. But it was roaring with overflow water earlier in the summer.

There is also a plaza that honors the traditional myths of the people who were here before Columbus showed up with his Spanish friends. This may look like a Christian cross.

 It is and it isn't. When the Indians were forced into changing religions, they managed to drag a lot of their pagan symbols into Catholic iconography. The cross and that big "X" are but two examples.

It is impossible to spend much time in a garden this large without getting a bit philosophical. There is a large section of agave in the garden -- including some that Felipe battles every year.

They come in all shapes and sizes. But almost all of them will periodically shoot up a huge chandelier of flowers . The stalk appears almost overnight and attracts birds, bees, and bats to pollinate the next generation of agave.

And, for some species, that act of reproduction will be its last contribution to its race. The plant blooms -- and dies.

I have yet to meet a gardener who does not have a realistic sense of both life and death. To have one is to do the other.

All pf my concern about my diet and my exercise was put into context this morning. It is important to live wisely. But, whether or not we eat that pizza or miss a few days of exercise, we are still going to die.

But, until that happens, there are gardens to enjoy -- as a realist. Because in every garden, there is a serpent. 

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