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(Old) Into the Mountains of Mexico

(Originally posted on October 27, 2007)

I wrote this for a scholarship. I’m a finalist!!!

Into the Mountains of Mexico
Quarter Finalist for Family Travel Forum’s 2007 Essay Contest.

Dusk sets in, a misty shadow of gray pierced here and there by the last flaming sun’s rays. Life seems to pause. My eyes are dry and barely open, though it is hardly the nineteenth hour. Memories of the past week play through my mind.

Dawn’s early light was not anticipated, nor did it find us as alert as Mr. Francis Scott Key. We piled into the van, a few awake and talkative, most of us paying homage to our zombie blood. The little airport was abandoned, desolate.

Hesitatingly, but with growing confidence, Apollo rode over the horizon. His crowning victory flooded the runway, the battle over night won. The Ansel Adams in me broke at the majestic sight. No cameras were allowed until we got into the plane.

Since I am gifted with a miniature stature, the back seat of the aircraft was where I sat alone. Four others climbed in, pulling on those ridiculous, rather geeky pilot earphones. I pressed my nose to the little window. Dewdrops clung to it, splitting the sun into a million pools of light.

Slowly we sped up, and then—flight. I was born to be a bird, I think. There is nothing like the sky. Every contour of the mountains, of the valleys, was stark in morning’s clarity. Though we had mikes, we were all silenced. The loud, soothing rhythm of the engine was the only sound in a place angels should sing. There was peace there, where we were elevated above our problems.

Too soon, we descended. Land rose to meet us—fast, even for a flier like me. Then it was over; we had settled on earth again. The magic began to wear off. I forgot wonderment as quickly as I felt it.

We wandered among the people, pale foreigners in a crowd of glowing skin. Their language was lovely, like music—words impossible to understand, but striking me. We stopped beside some traveling Indians. Like us, they were strangers to the town. Their clothes were vibrantly colored, as if to contrast the dull landscape.

Brown eyes did not attract me. In fact, brown and I butt heads often, since I am a writer and brown has few (pretty) descriptive words. But when I spied a young brown-eyed girl, grinning back at me shyly, I thought of amber: an unexciting brown brought to life by flecks of gold.

It reminded me of the first light in morning.

The grandmother put a hand on my little girl. She looked uncertainly at the group with me. Wrinkles like canyons creased her forehead. They were deep and few: distinct, proclaiming the years and memories she held. I wished I could speak with her, to hear what wisdom those lines had taught her. But all I could do was give her a gift of food, with a too-broad, nervous smile.

By midday we were boarding again. The lull of the engines closed my eyes, and I leaned against the window dreamlessly. Afternoon hours passed in a blur, mixing with previous days. I heard children laugh, I spoke to a few with broken words; I helped paint and clean. It was easy to forget the mountains and the morning.

The week fled from me, leaving me on a bigger plane, heading home. I looked out my window. The chariot was just ascending.

I realized, as I felt our wheels leave the ground, that I would never see the amber-eyed girl again. I would never be able to hear the stories, to discover the secrets of these people. All I would have was memory and photographs. I must be satisfied with that.

We passed their sleeping village as light raced over the land. Another display of dawn caught me without my camera. Tonight I would be landing in my nation’s capital. I would see my family, and we would drive home together. There would be a sunset, another dusk, another dawn. Life would take a breath, take my hand, and begin again.

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