Newsletter #9 Winter 2022

Mary Jane Gagnier

The New Year is Hopeful

Chosen

David Attenborough is my hero
He says we must re-wild the earth
Yesterday, a woodpecker,
a female Ladder-backed worked away
Drilling a drying agave stalk to make her nest
Today her mate, dazzling red crown,
is busy on the job
Fingers crossed
May she lay some eggs
May they rear some chicks
They chose this inflorescence
The one-time flower an agave will ever make
I chose not to harvest them from the land
I let the agaves mature and die
They let the wind spread their seeds afar
I let this acre of land re-wild
Nopal, copal, cazahuate all thrive here now
Those birds have chosen here-now to build their nest
I feel chosen
What more could one ask

Mary Jane Gagnier
Rancho Pitaya
December 2021

Chosen

David Attenborough is my hero
He says we must re-wild the earth
Yesterday, a woodpecker,
a female Ladder-backed worked away
Drilling a drying agave stalk to make her nest
Today her mate, dazzling red crown,
is busy on the job
Fingers crossed
May she lay some eggs
May they rear some chicks
They chose this inflorescence
The one-time flower an agave will ever make
I chose not to harvest them from the land
I let the agaves mature and die
They let the wind spread their seeds afar
I let this acre of land re-wild
Nopal, copal, cazahuate all thrive here now
Those birds have chosen here-now to build their nest
I feel chosen
What more could one ask

Mary Jane Gagnier
Rancho Pitaya
December 2021

Oaxaca continues to navigate these bewildering times with bold precaution. Isn’t that a contradiction? Not here. Face masks, social distancing, taking temps and hand gel are the norm in public establishments yet commerce thrives and tourism flourishes in this place where outdoor living and very much open-air dining doesn’t get much better. Private healthcare is readily and expertly available.

While restauranteurs are struggling in many places, Oaxaca has seen a boom of inspiring venues helmed with creative and conscientious young chefs serving delicious food.

The city of Oaxaca has never looked better. Merchants outdid themselves dressing the historic center to the nines for both the Day of the Dead and the Christmas holidays. The barrios of Xochimilco and Jalatlaco have become delightful destinations to soak up these charming old neighborhoods now made up with accomplished murals that embellish facades with hummingbirds, orchids and gregarious skeletons.

Being tourists in our own town - Barrio de Xochimilco
Being tourists in our own town - Barrio de Xochimilco
Any old day in Oaxaca’s historic center
Any old day in Oaxaca’s historic center

We survived, with rightful embarrassment, a garbage strike and associated road blocks but alas nothing is for free. With a new city mayor, the street corners are once again trash free and the rhythmic stroke of street sweepers ushers in each day throughout the historic center.

Some but not all museums have reopened and the ethnobotanical garden offers regular tours in both Spanish and English. Many guides and tour companies are offering interesting day trips outside of the city and walking tours are more popular than ever.

Casa Murguia is mostly full this winter but there is a vacant bungalow. The new solar panels keep the pool a comfortable swimming temperature and María Antonia lovingly maintains the property. Remember, Oaxacan summers are fresh and cool!

Rancho Pitaya has, interestingly, been busier than pre-pandemic – country lodging is on the radar! My re-wilding efforts continue with now hundreds of organ cacti thriving; the endemic Gray-breasted woodpecker has guaranteed nesting habitat for many decades to come.

We stopped for lunch with our new friends Yanet and Julian the makers of Sin Querer Queriendo mezcal in Guila.
We stopped for lunch with our new friends Yanet and Julian the makers of Sin Querer Queriendo mezcal in Guila.
White-tailed kite hovers beneath perfect winter skies
White-tailed kite hovers beneath perfect winter skies
Rare January rains have left welcomed puddles in the midst of our dry season
Rare January rains have left welcomed puddles in the midst of our dry season

Just a few days ago, I returned from guiding my new weeklong ride – a 7-day adventure that circumnavigates Piedra del Sol, the distinctive cordillera that separates the valleys of Tlacolula and Ocotlan. We rode as high as the oak line and as low as the Rio San Antonio lined with Moctezuma Bald Cypress. We  cantered over rolling hills bordered by agave plantations and grazing goats, traversed age-old trails in the heart of Oaxaca’s thrilling biodiversity, were hosted at Hacienda Guegorene, nestled into comfy digs on the edge of Mitla and rested in the ecotourism cabins high above the Zapotec town of San Miguel del Valle. This new ride only reaffirms how multifaceted Oaxaca is and how, after 35 years ( yikes ), I am still discovering new, wondrous places and friendly people without even leaving the interior highlands. 

In a nutshell, I’ve never loved the city and state more! I invite you to come, enjoy, eat, explore and of course bask in Oaxaca’s great weather. 

As a sequel to my poem Chosen written in mid December, the nest is now occupied and I eagerly await the fledgling’s debut. 

Mary Jane Gagnier

owner and manager of Casa Murguia Rental VillaRancho Pitaya Country Lodging and Horseback Mexico Riding Tours.

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