Wednesday, March 5, 2014

THE EDGE OF WETNESS – A Snowbird's Ode to Heat

My wife and I spend a month or so every winter in a warm place. A very warm place. In fact, the forecast for every single day of the past few weeks here in Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico has required just five words: high: 90; low: 72; sunny.

The very first thing we do when we get here—and it starts with that first hot breath that envelops us as we step out of the airplane—is sweat. And then we keep going, shall we say, with the flow, every day we're here, from the moment we emerge from our villa's air-conditioned bedroom into our open-to-the-elements living area in the morning till a few minutes after we go back in at bedtime.

For most of the day, every day, we walk—into el centro, to the supermarket, to the laundromat, perhaps to Las Gatas, the fabulous little beach around the other side of the bay.

          Sun and breeze wring the sweat out 
          of a body like water from a wet mop.

We love the walking. But the sun here at 18 degrees north latitude on the Pacific coast of Mexico is brutal. Add to that the humidity, lapped up from the sea by sun and breeze, and the very hilly terrain, and it'll wring the sweat out of a body like water from a wet mop.

It doesn't help that folks like us have just left a place where, if you're lucky, there's only about eight hours a day of wimpy sunlight and even Nature can muster no color. So we apply a layer of sun-blocking goo over every inch of our bodies. It feels like you're wearing one of those cheap transparent plastic rain ponchos, like not a breath of air can actually reach your skin.

Now we understand why so many native Zihuatanejenses manage to keep to the shade, carry umbrellas and still, many of them, practice the time-honored tradition of the siesta every day between two and five.

A siesta? But we're on vacation, too busy enjoying the absence of snow and ice and cracking skin to miss a moment. And so we walk…and we walk…and we sweat some more. In just the first block from our villa, up the long, steep hill toward town, it's already soaking through in dark blotches on our tee shirts.

  We know exactly where, and at what time of 
  day, every little patch of shade in town resides.

Walking in this heat becomes a kind of perverse meditation for us. We've memorized nearly every step of these two-or-so miles, how to pace ourselves and negotiate obstacles in the fewest number of them possible. Uneven cobbles, off-and-on-again curbs, exposed utility pits—all things OSHA would have a field day with back home. And we know exactly where, and at what time of day, every little patch of shade in town resides.

Our favorite of these little oases is right at the spot where the La Ropa neighborhood ends and La Madera begins. There, at the top of the steps leading down to Calle Adelita, between Kau Kan restaurant and a rustling stand of bamboo, the wall seems to catch every whiff of breeze off the bay and funnel it down to that hundred-square-foot remnant of Eden.

Not only is it shady and breezy there at Kau Kan; it's also the best place in town
for flow-through. Flow-through is that miracle of aerodynamics where a nice steady breeze catches your sleeve at just the right velocity and angle to puff it up, works its way across your back or chest prying the wet fabric away from your skin, and then flows back out the other sleeve.

It is heaven, our reward for all that sweating. Next to a cool shower, and perhaps a couple of ice cold Coronas, flow-through is the most refreshing break a wilted snowbird will ever get. You really should try it.

       One must find one's own ways to be cool.

As I've been jotting this all down, I'm thinking there might be more to flow-through than the mildly humorous image of a grown man standing by the busy Scenic La Ropa Road with a blissful expression on his face, his arms spread limply like a poor rendition of the Crucifixion. There's a kind of metaphor here, isn't there, a lesson in slowing down, opening up and letting go when one travels?

I'll let you draw your own parallels. Whether you do or not, suffice it to say one must find one's own ways to be cool.


Angela said...

You shared such a wonderful vision of Zihuantanejo! We have just been back less than a week and miss it already. You are right, the heat was, some days, almost unbearable. But the picture you painted of your arms spread wide, reminded me of my husband doing the same thing! He must have felt the flow-through as you did! Thanks for the report.

Jeffrey Willius said...

Thanks, Angela -- Always glad to hear from a fellow Zihuaphile - hope you guys had as wonderful a time as we did. We just got back too - to MN.

Dilip said...

A holiday every year to a warm place is beautiful thing to do. Your experience reveals it must be quite exhilarating and energizing.
Thanks for the share.

Jeffrey Willius said...

Hello Dilip -- Yes, we feel privileged to be able to trade our severe winter weather for warmer climes for a while. I took a look at your blog -- good job, my friend! Keep up the good work.

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